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Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers
starring: Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen & Christopher Lee

by david    December 16, 2002

Holy fucking shit.

So, I saw the Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers a little over a week ago. How, you might ask? Well, it's hardly the most important part of the story, but, if you must know, my wife and I are both Screen Actors Guild members, and she was randomly selected to be in the Nominating Committee for the SAG Awards this year, so we've seen a whole slew of awesome screenings in the past month or so, among other perks. Anyway, it doesn't matter how I saw it -- all that matters is that I saw it, last Thursday, December 5th, and it kicks ASS!

I'm certain you won't be surprised when I tell you I was, once again, a bit frightened about this flick (I had similar fears with Fellowship). I mean, FOTR was absolutely wonderful, but I knew the Two Towers would be a different beast. Fellowship was a wonderful, long, beautiful exposition piece, full of history and characterization and sweeping scenery, inturrupted only occaisionally by gritty, bloody battle. The Two Towers, I suspected, would be just the opposite -- primarily an action flick -- bloody battle interrupted by infrequent story and characterization. Plus, while the special effects presented in Fellowship were astonishing, I wondered whether they'd hold up in the face of the monumental challenges TTT faced: two entirely CGI characters in Treebeard and, more desperately importantly, Gollum. Given these two large and scary obstacles, coupled with the looming Helm's Deep battle, would TTT hold up to the beauty and power of FOTR, or would it become more a disappointing cartoon? The question was real, and frightening.

The answer was clear from moment one. TTT opens with the camera panning slowly across the majestic Misty Mountains for a few long and beautiful minutes. Then it explodes. For nearly three hours, I was sucked in completely. I perched on the edge of my seat, often with my mouth hanging wide open, as minute after minute the story raced by. I looked to my right, taking my eyes off the screen for a few seconds, and saw my wife doing the same. The sad reality, for this review, anyway, is that it's difficult to describe what I was watching, or just how good it was. I really don't have any point of reference. It's sweeping. I don't know how else to say it. I was right about it's content -- the TTT is primarily an action piece. In fact, hardly a frame of the film goes by without somebody running or shooting or screaming or yelling or dying. That isn't to say it has no other elements -- the characters, old and new, and the story, are compelling, but the action, and its consequences, are overwhelming -- Shannon was teary-eyed at several points during the flick, at both sad and beautiful moments (I might have cried, too, were I not so manly, and made of cold, hard granite).

The CGI was wonderful as well. From the Ents, to the Warg Riders, to the hordes of Isengard, the unreal in TTT was rendered beautifully. More important than all of those, though, was Gollum. And he was ... indescribable. It's not enough to say that this is the most realistic of any CG characters in any film to date. The only thing I can really think to say about Peter Jackson's Gollum is that he is not only so realistic, but just so fucking good, that Shannon is seriously considering nominating Gollum/Andy Serkis for Best Supporting Actor. Nothing else I could write about him would adequately describe how just fucking cool he is.

As with Fellowship, every aspect of this film is incredible. The acting (with the ongoing exception of Hugo Weaving, who acts as if we need to be able to discern every syllable from space) is impeccable, the cinematography exquisite, and the direction deft. Not that any of this was unexpected -- it was true about FOTR, and it's true about TTT.

So, after all of this unconditional praise, is there anything bad I can say about this epic flick? Well, yeah, I guess. The dialoge, in a few moments, is a little trite and cheesey. During the battle at Isengard, Jackson spent too much time on long shots, and not enough on the griity close-ups I wanted to see. Sometimes (only very rarely) you become aware of the CGI. And, well, that's about it.

The Two Towers is, all in all, wonderful -- full of humor, and tension, and excitement, and drama. And I cannot wait to see it again. Only three more days!

Peter Jackson better get his Best Director this year, or there'll be hell to pay.

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