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This review is from: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Full Screen) (DVD)When the first film in the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy thrilled fans and topped the box office for weeks, expectations rose even higher for the sequel, "The Two Towers." Would the follow-up be as beautifully crafted as the first?
Fortunately moviegoers only had to wait a year for the answer, when "The Two Towers" debuted in December 2002. The second part of Peter Jackson's astounding adaptation lacks the surprise of the first movie, but it continues the strong storytelling, amazing acting, and one of the greatest battles of the silver screen.
The fellowship has been split, and two members are dead. Now Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are pursuing a band of orcs who kidnapped Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd). But soon Merry and Pippin are rescued by an ancient treelike creature, and the others encounter an old friend -- Gandalf (Ian McKellen), reborn as the White Wizard.
Meanwhile, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are making their way towards Mordor, and soon Frodo realizes that they are being followed by Gollum (Andy Serkis), who once possessed the One Ring and still lusts after it. But Frodo begins to pity the degenerate creature, and agrees to let Gollum lead them to Mount Doom -- but Sam suspects that Gollum cannot be trusted.
"The Two Towers" is not really a sequel. Instead, it's just a continuation of the story that left off at the end of "Fellowship of the Ring," and the focus spreads past our little band of heroes to include all of Middle-Earth. It's not all about Frodo and the hobbits anymore, but about whole kingdoms being crushed by the bad guys.
This film is much darker than the first movie, although we still get some funny moments from Gollum and the hobbits, but some creepy ones as well. Gollum/Smeagol's argument with himself is absolutely chilling. To top his previous work, Jackson creates three simultaneous climaxes, including the grimy, rain-soaked battle of Helm's Deep.
But as he tells the epic stories, Jackson doesn't neglect the smaller stories, like the hobbits befriending treelike ents and battling a wizard. The scripting is impeccable, mixing the funny moments ("Don't talk to it! Don't encourage it!" Pippin wails when a "tree" speaks to them) with the dramatic speeches, and ending with a simple, powerful speech by Sam.
And WETA Workshop's CGI effects don't disappoint. Not only do they manage whole armies and battles, but they brought the gruesome Gollum to life. He's probably the first convincing CGI character, to the point where you can actually forget that this Ring junkie is just a bunch of pixels.
Elijah Wood continues his magnificent performance as Frodo Baggins, with the deep friendship, compassion and weariness that he started to show before. But his performance deepens to include some serious Ring-lust. Sean Astin's performance grows as well, as he does whatever it takes to protect Frodo -- from soldiers, Gollum, ringwraiths, whatever.
But the supporting cast gets plenty of attention too, including a love triangle involving Aragorn and the warrior-maid Eowyn, and Legolas and Gimli becoming best buddies (even competing to see who kills the most orcs). McKellen gets to play "Gandalf 2.0," a less grumpy and wiser Gandalf, and movie veteran Christopher Lee gets more juicy scenes as the warped wizard Saruman. The scene where he sees the ents attacking is outstanding.
The journey continues in "The Two Towers," crammed with so much action and pathos that it never has time to suffer from "middle chapter syndrome." An amazing continuation.