A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

September 5, 2010

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Ever since I was a young lad and my father read these books to me and my sister The Two Towers was my favorite of the Lord of the Rings books. It has so much going on, with so many divergent plots as the fellowship all go their separate ways. It has a less enigmatic bad guy in Saruman, who is so much fun in his twisted attempts to take power for himself. And it has by far my favorite character in any of the books – the Ent Treebeard who shepherds Fangorn Forrest. So when I was waiting for this movie to come out in the theaters it was with the greatest anticipation and the greatest trepidation.

I said in yesterday’s review that I wanted to talk about the changes that Peter Jackson wrought upon the source material to make it work as a movie. The reason I wanted to leave that for today was that this movie, more than the other two, is filled with radical changes. There’s Aragorn’s fall in battle. There’s the inexplicable presence of the elves at Helm’s Deep. There’s Faromir’s radically altered attitude towards Frodo and Sam and their detour to Osgiliath. There’s the postponing of the battle with Shelob to the third movie.

I can understand why the changes are there. It’s all to make the movie more tense and cinematic. Aragorn has to fall so that they can have all these flashbacks to Rivendell and keep his romance with Arwen in the picture (not that romance is a big part of what Tolkien was about.) The elves at Helm’s Deep are there, I suppose, to re-enforce that the threat from Saruman and Sauron is to all Middle Earth and not just to the race of men. In the books Faromir is a worthy and upstanding man who simply acts to re-supply Frodo and send him on his way, which doesn’t make for much dramatic tension.

But there are a couple changes that sadden me somewhat. Mostly to do with the motivations of Saruman and Sauron. The movie says several times that Saruman is a puppet and a pawn of Sauron. It is implied that his mind has been taken over, or that he sees himself as subservient or thinks there is some advantage to be had for throwing in his lot with the side he thinks will inevitably win. It’s not at all how I recall Saruman from the books. In the books it’s pretty clear that he wants the ring for himself so that HE can rule all of Middle Earth. I’m not sure why this fell by the wayside. Perhaps Peter thought that the saga should have only one chief bad guy and that it lessened Sauron’s impact to have infighting amongst the evils of Middle Earth.

Then there’s Treebeard. Hoom. The depiction of the Ents in the movie never quite matched up with the pictures I had in my mind. Treebeard in my imagination was a vast, powerful force of nature. A broad wide rumbling wall of bark and leaves. And of course there are his eyes. Like deep pools of still water I remember them being described. The Treebeard of the film is all lanky and tall. Not at all what I had in my head. It just goes to show how brilliantly everything else must have been realized that this is the only thing in the entire trilogy that doesn’t live up to or exceed my expectations. Still… the Ents were always my favorite part of the book – nature literally fighting back and all – so in this one small way the movies never quite lived up to my expectations.

In most other ways, however, this movie is as awe-inspiring as the first one. It has things like Andy Serkis’ unforgettable turn as Gollum, supported by the huge team of motion capture artists and animators who distilled his performance into the digital character we see on the screen. It has the siege at Helm’s Deep, which is the primary focus of most of the action in the film. It has Grima Womtongue. It brings Theoden, Eomer, Eowyn and the rest of Rohan into the film world of Middle Earth. Where the first movie concentrated on introducing the world and laying out the stakes, this is the movie where things begin to take on an epic grandeur. It’s got larger battles, more characters, and deeper peril. And it lays the groundwork for the sheer unbelievable scale of the conclusion in Return of the King.

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September 5, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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