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September 02, 2003 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-02

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6D - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2003


Blockbuster sequels fight to live up to hype


M. I ..L.. O-ZAf.

By LUk emith
Daily Arts Editor
Last year "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship
of the Ring" was the finest piece of filmmaking
the world saw. While the focus is incredibly dif-
ferent 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 T1) E L OR OF
r ep r isin g,
recapping orC
reiterating l
the major events of "Fellowship of the Ring,"
Peter Jackson's "Two Towers" instead opts to
deposit viewers right into the tumultuous Middle
Earth, and deep inside the Mines of Moria
where Gandalf battles the Balrog of Morgoth in
a dizzying effects demonstration.
Ringbearer Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and
his loyal companion, Samwise 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 pro-
vides the voice).
It is from these three primary charac-
ter groups that the narrative of "The
Two Towers" bounces around, partition-
ing its time heaviest toward Aragorn.
The wise (now white) wizard Gan-
dalf (Ian McKellen) returns to the fold
in the film's first hour in a scene that
would have been far more potent, had
The RiNQ S=tb e e n


O shown in the film's
trailers. 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}
We meet Theodenw
(Bernard Hill), king
of Rohan suffocated
under the mind-poi-
soning spells of
Grima Wormtongue
(Brad Dourif). 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
K ,~ 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-
r. thin gangly creature, tracking the
Fellowship since the Mines of
Moria, finally catches up with
the Ringbearer. The very same Ringbearer who
gets busted temporarily by Faramir
(David Wenham), captain of Gon-
dor and little brother to "Fellow-
ship"'s best character, Boromir.
As much as the fate of Middle
Earth hangs in Frodo Baggins'
hand, the success of "The Two:
Towers," and perhaps even the final
film "The Return of the King,"x
hung on Peter Jackson and his
team's ability to create a believable
and realistic Gollum, a computer generated
character fully integrated into the film. Gollum
is everything he needs to be, and everything the
digital characters 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 ven-
omous to sugary as he
wages his own inter-
nal war. The strife is
between Smeagol, a
loyal, relatively harm-
less personality and a

shadow of the evil of which Gollum himself is
capable. One dazzling sequence, a shot-reverse-
shot between Gollum and Smeagol simultane-
ously showcases Serkis' acting and the
technological 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 symbiosis both
propelling the story, neither capable of
standing without the other. Like it's
predecessor, the performances in "The
Two Towers" give the film gravity in
the environments 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 "Fellow-
ship" was Frodo's movie, "The Two
Towers" is wholly
Aragorn's. The future
king of men is played
wonderfully by Viggo
Mortensen, who brings legiti-
mate 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.
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 new-
comer Stephen Sinclair adapt the love story
beautifully, placing it in "Tow-
ers" as a series of flashbacks,
memories and dreams.
Despite Jackson's reliance on
familiar character archetypes
(the anti-hero, the comic relief),
the bond between Aragorn,
Gimli and Legolas is established
perfectly in "Towers." Viewers
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.
The battle of Helm's Deep, an incredible sight
to behold (and largely the product of the com-
puter program MASSIVE) shows Uruks moving
too quickly up ladders, looking somewhat jerky,
erratic, and unfortunately, generated. 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 "Fellow-
ship" the narrative of Tolkien's "The
Two Towers" needed a makeover in
order to succeed on film. Were it sim-
ply 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 Mor-
dor. Criticizing Jackson's interpretation and
selective editing of Tolkien's text is fruitless.
The changes made to the text only improved it,
making an otherwise un-filmable book an
inconceivable filmic masterwork.
Photos courtesy of New Line Cinema

Pnotos courtesy or warner Bros.

Who's the cat who won't cop out, when there's danger all about? Morpheus? Right on!

By Ryan Lewis
Daily Film Editor

Four years ago, an unsuspecting populace entered theaters
and became enveloped in the world of a film unleashed with
nearjyzero anticipatign. Jhose,,diene~syiewed what hast,
become part of the new cannon of blockbuster action films.
The story and visuals the masses were privy to became one
of the most beloved, most sampled and most analyzed cul-
tural phenomena at the end4 f4he cen*tury4
That same blessed thrall of moviegoers everywhere
finally finds fulfillment in one of the most highly publi-
cized and anticipated sequels in cinema's history: "The

Matrix Reloaded."
Directors Andy and Larry Wachowski reset the bar for
action/fighting/science fiction films with the release of the
original "Matrix." Innovative fight choreography and the
debut of bullet time forever changed cinema. Stiff, realistic
brawls and normal explosions were no longer enough - if
it didn't have the style and flash,,it wasn't wprtbwhile. In
every facet of the mass media, from movies, to commer-
cials, to music videos, 360-degree photography was a must.
Always envisioned by the brothers as a trilogy, the suc-
eess of the first film provided -both, the want -and the means
for the follow-ups. The public spent years salivating for
more, and the studios doubled the funding to provide newer,
sleeker special effects.

(Carrie-Anne Moss) battling agents, climaxing with a
seemingly fatal bullet wound.
Soon enough, the action cuts off as Neo (Keanu Reaves)
awakens from the nightmare. Morpheus (Laurence Fish-
burne) and his slim numbered crew return to the last human
haven of Zion to discover that the machines are burrowing
down from the surface for a final battle to destroy mankind.
For the first time, we discover that doubters exist amongst
the population as to whether Neo is truly "the One."
Certainly the Wachowskis' penchant for action becomes
apparent in the Zion scenes, because the film drags terribly
and loses focus in the time spent dawdling in the sacred city.
Plot becomes muddled in endless questions that find no
answer and the annoyingly contraction-less
speeches of Morpheus. Superfluous
scenes like the rave juxtaposed with ;.
Neo and Trinity inter-coitus are devoid
of pertinence and, therefore, do little
more than prolong the time between
each amazement.
Finally, Neo receives a mes-
sage from the Oracle, and
the ship returns to the
outer world. Back in the
Matrix, Neo receives
instruction on how to
fulfill his destiny,
and the story
resumes with the
tpurpose of, finding
the Keymaker to open
the door of light.
Re-enter Agent Smith (Hugo
Weaving). Defeated by Neo, Smith
went into exile instead of submit-
ting to self-destruction. Back to
exact his revenge/duty, he now has the uncanny ability to
replicate himself using any human form within the Matrix.
This brings about the incomparable and aptly-named "Burly

else will find the anticipation shattered and bested beyond
what was once deemed impossible, much thanks to fight cho-
reographer Yuen Wo Ping and his team. Not only does the pio-
neering Universal Capture process make each individual
Smith snarl and grimace look unquestionably real, but also the
battle, the choreography and the cinematography incompara-
bly one-up the original. Luckily this translates into forgiving
the fact that the scene itself is pointless to the story other than
to reintroduce the specific anti-Neo.
New characters like Monica Bellucci's Persephone, the
Twins (Adrian and Neil Rayment) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett
Smith) are more than welcomed, adding
interesting subplots to rejuvenate the.
story after its initial lull. The other
highly-discussed chase sequence,
not to mention the altogether
more-real-than-Superman flying
of Neo, and the climactic finale
twist and turn "Reloaded" into a
worthwhile and meaningful
extension of the
Wachowskis' amalga-
mation of philosophi-
cal questions, anime
and numerous other,
A I t h o u g Ii.
"Reloaded" does
provide a strong
case~to-stapd onits,
own, it finds fault in.
having neither a
beginning nor a con-
crete denouement. Since
the brothers originally
planned "Reloaded" and
"Revolutions" as one story broken into two movies, audi-
ences must suffice with what basically serves as little more
than a two-plus hour preview for "Revolutions."
Hopefully viewers will be satisfied with the open-ended-
ness of the story. The onslaught of eye-candy makes even
"The Matrix" look dated, and I even found myself saying
"Wow!" at some points. Even though the story struggles
through the first hour and falls short of its intricately woven
predecessor, the questions posed linger long after the end,
and the payoff makes it all worthwhile.

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For those select few who neglect-
ed to see the first installment, don't
expect an introduction. Fantastic
visuals fill the opening scenes in
bullet time intermixed with quick
cuts of the ever-beautiful Trinity

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