8A -The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 6, 2003
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor
Last year "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship
of the Ring" was the finest piece of filmmak-
ing the world saw. While the focus is incredibly
different in this year's model, the effect is the
same. Peter Jackson's "The Two Towers" is
more than just the best escapist film of the
year; it is the year's best film.
Without reprising, recapping or reiterating
the major events of "Fellowship of the Ring,"
Peter Jackson's "Two Towers" instead opts to
deposit viewers right into the tumultuous Mid-
dle Earth, and deep inside the Mines of Moria
where Gandalf battles the Balrog of Morgoth in
a dizzying effects demon-
Ringbearer Frodo Bag-
gins (Elijah Wood) and his
loyal companion, Sam-
wise Gamgee (Sean
Astin), carefully navigate through Emyn Muil,
a treacherous series of razor sharp rocks en
route to Mordor, where the ring must be
destroyed. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo
Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and
Legolas (Orlando Bloom) track a party of Uruk-
hai westward across the plains of Rohan. They
are following an accosted pair of hobbits in
Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and
Billy Boyd) headed toward Isengard, by way of
Rohan. The two halflings escape, falling into
company with an Ent named Treebeard (John
Rhys-Davies provides the voice).
It is from these three primary character groups
that the narrative of "The Two Towers" bounces
around, partitioning its time heaviest toward
The wise (now white) wizard Gandalf (Ian
McKellen) returns to the fold in the film's first
hour in a scene that would have been far more
potent, had it not been shown in the film's trail-
ers. He rejoins with Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas
as they venture deep into Rohan.
For all of the exposition in "The Fellowship,"
"Towers" introduces viewers to a number of new
characters very quickly and with minimal pace-
altering explanation. ,
We meet Theoden (Bernard Hill), king of
Rohan suffocated under the mind-poisoning
spells of Grima"Wofnitongue '(Brad Dodrif).
Grima rules Rohan through Theoden's decrepit
form with Saruman (Christopher Lee) presiding
over the two. Only when Gandalf, Aragorn,
Gimli and Legolas arrive in the Golden Hall is
the spell on Theoden broken and the age and tear
of Saruman and Grima's magic washed away.
While Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas encounter
an unexpected guest of their own in the reborn
Gandalf the White, Frodo and
Sam gain a party member of their ,
own, Gollum The paper-thin
gangly creature, tracking the Fel-
lowship since the Mines of
Moria, finally catches up with the THE L
Ringbearer. The very same Ring- THE RIN
bearer.who gets busted temporar- TWO 1
ily by Faramir (David Wenham),
captain of Gondor and little At Showca
brother to "Fellowship"'s best 16 and M
As much as the fate of Middle New Lin
Earth hangs in Frodo Baggins'
hand, the success of "The Two Towers," and per-
haps even the final film "The Return of the
King," hung on Peter Jackson and his team's
ability to create a believable and realistic Gol-
lum, a computer generated character fully inte-
grated into the film. Gollum is everything he
needs to be, and everything the digital charac-
ters of George Lucas' "Star Wars" prequels
should have been.
Andy Serkis provided the movements,
voicing and the basis for Gollum's facial
expressions. The raspy voice of Gollum
slides from venomous to sugary as he wages
his own internal war. The strife is between
Smeagol, a loyal, relatively harmless person-
ality and a shadow of the evil of which Gol-
lum himself is capable. One dazzling
sequence, a shot-reverse-shot
between Gollum and Smeagol
Serkis' acting and the technolog-
ical feats behind the character.
Like Gollum himself, the
"Lord of the Rings" trilogy
hinges on the tender meeting
place between technology and
acting. They function in symbio-
sis both propelling the story, nei-
ther capable of standing without
the other. Like it's predecessor,
the performances in "The Two
Mortensen, who brings legitimate humanity
to the.role. Aside from Gollum, the film's
best introduction is Theoden, king of Rohan.
Bernard Hill's king is misguided and blind to
reality, resembling Lear at some corners, and
Arthur at others. Brad Dourif's Wormtongue
and Christopher Lee's Sauruman are more
than adequate manifestations of human cor-
Surprisingly powerful are the sequences
between Arwen Evenstar (Liv Tyler) and
Aragorn. While not contained within the
actual text of "The Two Towers," much of the
love story between the two is outlined in the
work's appendices. From those appendices,
writers Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens
and newcomer Stephen Sinclair adapt the love
story beautifully, placing it in "Towers" as a
series of flashbacks, memories and dreams.
Despite Jackson reliance on familiar charac-
ter archetypes (the anti-hero, the comic relief),
the bond between Aragorn, Gimli and Lego-
las is established perfectly in "Towers." View-
ers get a sense of this comaraderie, whether
through jokes between characters, or Legolas
staunch defense of Gimli in the face of the
Riders of Rohan.
Howard Shore's score is responsible for as
much of Middle Earth's atmosphere as the
film's visuals. In addition to the revisitation
of themes from "Fellowship," Shore has craft-
ed a new series of themes tracking the frac-
tured fellowship into the world of men. The
violin theme of the Rohan plains almost equal
the melody "The Ring Goes South" from
"The Two Towers" is not above reproach.
The quality and cinematography is on par
with "Fellowship" (as well it should be, the
trilogy was filmed concurrently). But, the
story of "The Two Towers" isn't as com-
pelling as "The Fellowship of the Ring." This
is no fault of Jackson's, or that of anyone
involved in the project. The middle "Lord of
the Rings" film isn't nearly as emotive as the
first film. There are no moments rivaling an
empty, solitary Frodo wishing the ring had
never come to him while Gandalf's voice
echoes in his mind. There is nothing compa-
rable to the moments in the wake of Gandalf's
fall into shadow, and certainly nothing on par
with Boromir's death.
The battle of Helm's Deep, an incredible
sight to behold (and largely the product of the
computer program MASSIVE) shows Uruks
moving too quickly up ladders, looking some-
what jerky, erratic, and unfortunately, gener-
ated. Which is not to say that the sequence
isn't an amazing portion of an even more
amazing film - but it is flawed.
Even more than last year's "Fellowship," the
narrative of Tolkien's "The Two Towers" need-
ed a makeover in order to succeed on film.
Were it simply a strict adaptation, the battle of
Helm's Deep would've wrapped up midway
throughout with the latter half of "Towers"
being Frodo, Sam and Gollum's approach
toward Mordor. Criticizing Jackson's interpre-
tation and selective editing of Tolkien's text is
fruitless. The changes made to the text only
improved it, making an otherwis n-filmabl .
book an inconceivable filmic masterwork.
Towers" give the film gravity in the environ-
ments of Middle Earth.
Ian McKellen is painfully absent from
much of "The Two Towers," making each
moment he is on screen that much more of a
treat. Elijah Wood's big eyes more and more
resemble Gollum each time we return to him.
Where "Fellowship" was Frodo's movie, "The
Two Towers" is wholly Aragorn's. The future
king of men is played wonderfully by Viggo
Iknnnnni i ikcAtnrhj irn rnm (ATVI) 1 I ""I V I/ A 1 1 11 1 1., s