THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS directed by Peter Jackson, produced by Jackson, Fran Walsh and Barrie Osborne, written by Philippa Boykens, Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair and Jackson from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, with Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen and Sean Astin. A New Line production. An Alliance-Atlantis release. 179 minutes. Now playing. For venues and times see First-Run Movies, page 78. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
the two towers is spectacular. It also suffers from narrative slump. In essence, it's a two-hour set-up for a pair of climactic battle scenes, the defence of Helm's Deep against Saruman's Orc army, and the Ents' attack on Saruman's stronghold at Isengard. Beginning where The Fellowship Of The Ring ended, The Two Towers tracks the situation as the fellowship is broken and dispersed all over Middle Earth: Frodo and Sam are on their way to Mordor in the company of the treacherous Gollum; Merry and Pippin have been dragged off by Orcs; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are in pursuit of said Orcs when they run into a gang of knights from Rohan, a country we haven't really heard of before.
Gandalf, of course, fell down a deep hole in the mines of Moria and has not been heard from since. Still, he is on the poster for The Two Towers (hint, hint).
It's not that The Two Towers isn't enjoyable, but it does have that middle film problem. It's busy setting up the cataclysmic finales of The Return Of The King -- the battle for Gondor, Sam and Frodo against Shelob, and Frodo and Sam against the Orcs of Mordor.
In effect, it's two films, a small one involving Frodo's growing anguish over the ring and his mission, and a big one in which Aragorn's regal nature is forced into the open during the defence of Rohan, one of the darkest and most perfervid battles ever filmed. An army of 10,000 Orcs moving on Helm's Deep is, let's be honest, more impressive than machinery blowing up, which is the climax of Star Wars: Episode II, where Christopher Lee plays almost the same part he plays in LOTR.
If The Two Towers is a bit disappointing, it's as much because of our expectations as because of the film itself. At this point, I'm so hooked I'd watch it if Jackson just decided to film three hours of New Zealand landscapes.