Warning: Spoilers ahead, my precious!
This review is for the extended edition. If I talk about something you’ve never heard of, I haven’t gone mad. I just saw the longer version of an already really long movie.
Here’s a summary of the plot, slightly edited from the one I wrote for my review of the book:
In The Two Towers, the remaining members of the Fellowship continue their journeys. Merry and Pippin were captured by Orcs, so Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas look for them. Eventually they meet up with Gandalf, who came back from the dead. There are talking trees, lots of horse-riding, and the battle of Helm’s Deep. Frodo, the Ringbearer, and his friend Sam decide to simply walk into Mordor, where Frodo will destroy the Ring by casting it into the Fiery Mountain. Their guide is a creature called Gollum, originally a hobbit named Sméagol. The Ringbearer before Frodo was his cousin Bilbo, who stole it from Gollum. Gollum wants nothing more than to get his “precious” back.
This is not quite what happens in the book. It’s not a bad adaptation – and I’ll get back to that later – but some stuff was changed. It had to be. J.R.R. Tolkien originally wrote Lord of the Rings as one long book and it was split up into three volumes, of which The Two Towers is the second. The Fellowship of the Ring is clearly an introduction; The Return of the King wraps everything up. The middle book/movie is obviously important because it connects the two, but some of its events were moved around for more dramatic effect, I guess.
In the book, the first half deals with everyone in the Fellowship besides Frodo, Sam, and Boromir (who’s dead). The second half is about Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. This wouldn’t have worked in the film because the audience would be confused or bored or even forget about some of the characters. This leads back to moving around the events. In the book, Part I has the Battle of Helm’s Deep while Part II has Shelob the psycho spider. (More about the Shelob scene in the next review, but here’s a quick explanation: in the book after Frodo and Sam get away from her, Frodo is captured by Sauron’s Orcs and the book ends. In the next book, Sam rescues Frodo. This doesn’t work cinematically because the audience would forget about their being separated in the first place.)
So the book begins with Boromir dying. This isn’t in the film because he died at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring film. Again, Tolkien’s weird style of pacing didn’t work for a film, but again it’s not quite so weird when you remember that he wrote one long story that wasn’t intended to be split up. Tolkien also has a lot of behind the scenes stuff. Gandalf fights the Balrog in the book and the movie, but we only see it in the movie.
I want to write about The Return of the King! No, no, nevillegirl, you liked that one even better but stay focused and quit scolding yourself like Gollum!
Yes. Gollum. Andy Serkis did a great job with the voice and the animators did a great job with, well, the animation. He was just as good as he was in the first Hobbit movie. (I’d only seen him in that one up until now.) He was creepy but more importantly (because there’s more to Gollum than creepiness), the filmmakers did a great job showing Gollum’s two sides. He kind of has two personalities – Sméagol is the nice hobbit he once was while Gollum is corrupted by the Ring and has a disturbing tendency to strangle anything that moves. Unfortunately, Gollum is usually the predominant personality. There was a cool scene where Gollum and Sméagol argued and the image flipped between them, so you got a good idea of what was going on, namely that Gollum isn’t just talking to himself because he really has two selves.
Treebeard the Ent (talking tree) is one of my favorite characters in the book, but I have to admit that I was bored by his scenes. The thing about the Ents is that they do everything slowly, I guess because they’ve been around forever and will continue to be around forever. I loved the Ents, but read through their scenes quickly. I wanted to hit my head against a wall during their scenes in the movie because they were so slow.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep was awesome. You get a good idea of how overwhelmed the good guys must have felt as they saw thousands of Saruman’s Uruk-hai. (Big Orcs, basically.) I was happy that it didn’t go on too long, either. I mean, it’s the conclusion of the film so it should be big, but unlike, say, Thor, the fighting didn’t go on so long that it got boring or ridiculous. Also I thought the Uruk-hai looked perfect.
Speaking of things that looked perfect – that would be just about everything in the whole film. The people and places and props either looked just as I’d imagined or even better. For example, I’d pictured Théoden differently, but thought he was perfect. Actually I’d seen pictures of him before but hadn’t realized who he was. Similarly, I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ve seen Éomer / Wormtongue / Faramir before, but I didn’t know who he was!” I’m stupid that way.
My favorite place/set/thing from the film is definitely Edoras, in Rohan. It was – I keep saying something is ‘cool’ or ‘great’ or ‘awesome’, so I’ll say Edoras was spectacular. Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand and that country’s scenery is so amazing that it makes you forget that Middle-earth isn’t a real place.
Film score nerd time! Howard Shore is an amazing composer. That said, the only pieces I’ve really noticed while listening to the score CD are Evenstar and stuff with the Rohan theme, like The Riders of Rohan and The King of the Golden Hall. But I haven’t listened to much of the CD yet. Back to the Rohan theme. It’s so pretty and sounds like the beat of a horse’s hooves which makes sense since everyone in Rohan is in looooove with horses.
I really liked the scenes with Aragorn and Arwen. Yeah, yeah, I know, they were a lot of snogging and whispering sweet nothings but honestly that’s not so different from Frodo and Sam minus the snogging. Ha ha. But I’d just read the Aragorn-Arwen loooove story in the Appendices and fallen in love with it. It’s so sad and I’m glad it was included in the films because it’s important and sweet.
Moving on to Éowyn and Faramir. Éowyn is the niece of the King of Rohan – that’s Théoden – but because she’s a girl they won’t let her fight. No one thinks she’s stupid and she has plenty of important responsibilities and she can fight, but they don’t want her to. She was portrayed really well in The Two Towers but other than that I can’t think of anything to say about her because most of her awesomeness is in the sequel. Wait, yes, I can. I liked how you could tell she had a crush on Aragorn but she wasn’t Bella Swan-ish about it. I don’t hate romance, but there’s only so much of it I can take before I scream, “QUIT SNOGGING AND GET BACK TO FIGHTING!”
(Speaking of Éowyn, the military’s ban on women fighting in combat was lifted today! I feel weird about that. I don’t like war but on the other hand I’m glad that people aren’t being ridiculous anymore and think that women can fight just as well as men.)
On to Faramir, whose name I like typing better because no silly accent marks. I thought Boromir was cool – imagine how surprised and happy I was to discover that he has a brother! He wasn’t in the movie much because he isn’t in the book much. Remember what I wrote about Shelob not being in this film? That changed Faramir’s character a bit. Shelob’s removal meant that he had to become an obstacle for Frodo and Sam. They have the Ring and Faramir decides that it should go to his father in Gondor. Let me back up a bit and explain that when Sauron made the Ring he poured his evil into it so it corrupts nearly everyone, even if they intend to use it for good. Even Galadriel, the most powerful good character and wisest of all, struggles to deny it. In the book Faramir realizes what it would do to him so he has no problem denying it. That probably has a lot to do with knowing that his brother died because of the Ring. So that’s a big reason why I like Faramir.
But – there’s another way to interpret what he does! Faramir’s dad, Denethor, is a bit of a nutcase. The difference between Boromir and Faramir is that when there’s a conflict Boromir is like, “Dude, where’s my sword? WE FIGHT FOR GONDOR!” and Faramir will try all other means of resolving the conflict, like talking and negotiating, before fighting. Boromir is cool but his little brother is far kinder and wiser. They get along really well, but while their dad thinks Boromir is the greatest thing to happen to Middle-earth since sword-forging (to coin a term), he hates Faramir. For no real reason. I said he was a nutcase. (The extended edition did an excellent job of showing how Boromir tries to stand up for his brother and while he may be loved better by his dad, isn’t treated much better. He only became part of the Fellowship to bring the Ring back to Daddy.) What this all means is that you can decide to think that film-Faramir wants the Ring sent to Denethor so that he’ll finally be recognized as just as good as his brother. But you can only come to this conclusion if you watch the extended edition, because it explains things better.
Does The Two Towers make sense to someone who hasn’t read the books? My brother and parents haven’t read them and they watched with me. My brother seemed to understand what was going on but my parents were clueless. They were reading during part of the movie, though, and then my mom fell asleep even though it was only about 8:30. This tells me two things. One, if you want to watch this film without having read the books, you should watch The Fellowship of the Ring first so you know what’s going on. Two, don’t watch movies with my mom.
My final observation is one that I thought often during the movie: “Oh. I’ve been mispronouncing that name! And that one. Hey, that one too.” Stupid accent marks. Actually, what this really tells you is that I have a weird sense of pronunciation even when the words are English.
The Two Towers is a superb film. It doesn’t begin or end at the same places that the book did. Some characters were added or dropped or changed slightly. It’s not 100% accurate to the novel – and yet it is. Not everything happens the same way, but you get the same idea. Some scenes were added, but they end up explaining things even better than the book did. This is how to make a fantastic book-to-movie adaptation. I’m not quite as skeptical of such things now as I was after I’d seen the awful Harry Potter movies. As long as Peter Jackson is directing. This makes me wish that time would speed up, December would be here, and we could see the next Hobbit movie.