The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PG-13)
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This is the second film in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and I must begin by spoiling some things from the first film, which I refrained from mentioning in my review of that movie. (I shall also have to spoil some things about this movie.) During the time the Fellowship was passing through the mines of Moria, they were attacked by a demon called a Balrog, which Gandalf confronted. And this apparently led to his death. Later on, some time after the survivors had left Moria, there was a battle against a group of Uruk-hai, in which Boromir was killed. As I said in my previous review, the Uruk-hai captured Merry and Pippin, and were taking them to Saruman. I want to mention that after I wrote that review, I happened to google "CGI orcs," and what I found were sites where people either thought the CGI orcs of the later Hobbit movies looked better or worse than the prosthetic orcs of the LOTR movies. That confused me, because, having just watched Fellowship of the Ring, but not yet having seen the Hobbit movies, I had thought most of the orcs in Fellowship were CGI. There was maybe one Uruk-hai of any importance, and I'll admit he looked more or less like a real live actor in a costume. And maybe there were some extras in costumes, for at least one battle. But I still think most of the orcs looked CGI. But now that I've started watching the second movie (I began writing this review after finishing the first disc of the movie and before starting the second disc), so far the orcs I've seen in "The Two Towers" mostly look liked costumed actors. (But the costumes are pretty good.) Oh, also I wanted to mention what the title refers to. Because... um... I think it's a bit confusing. Maybe not in the movie, though. I think in the movie, it refers to Orthanc (Saruman's tower at Isengard) and Barad-dûr (Sauron's tower in Mordor). But I vaguely recall being confused when reading the book, many years ago. I kind of think maybe I kind of thought it referred to Minas Tirith (the capital of Gondor) and maybe a tower in the kingdom of Rohan. Or something. I forget what I thought. And whatever I thought or whatever the truth was, I'm not sure if what the movie means by "the two towers" is the same as what the book meant. But whatever, it's probably not important.
Anyway, Frodo and Sam are making their way through the mountains, heading toward Mordor. They are attacked by Gollum, but they manage to capture him, and he swears to serve Frodo as his master if they free him. Throughout the movie, Frodo comes to trust and empathize with Gollum, because he understands what the Ring can do to a person, though Sam continues to distrust Gollum. (Incidentally, these movies are pretty famous for the advances to motion-capture technology, which was used to help create the CGI for Gollum.) And Frodo gets Gollum to lead them into Mordor.
Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli pursue the Uruk-hai, and that pursuit leads them into Rohan. But before they can catch up with the orcs, the orcs are attacked by a group of warriors who had been exiled from Rohan. They were led by Éomer (Karl Urban), the nephew of Théoden, the king of Rohan. Théoden himself was being influenced by Gríma Wormtongue, a servant of Saruman, and it was Grima who was behind Eomer's banishment. Anyway, Aragorn and his companions meet up with Eomer's men, and then Aragorn tracks Merry and Pippin into the forest of Fangorn. The Hobbits, meanwhile, had met up with an Ent named Treebeard. (Ents are basically trees that walk and talk.) While searching for the Hobbits, Aragorn and the others encounter Gandalf the White. They had, of course, thought Gandalf was dead. And maybe Gandalf the Grey sort of was dead. I don't really get it. But he'd become Gandalf the White, which I guess means he's now the equal of Saruman. The whole grey/white thing never made much sense to me, but you just have to roll with it, okay? Anyway, the four of them will travel to the capital of Rohan, where Gandalf frees Théoden from Saruman's control, and Grima is cast out, so he returns to Isengard. Gandalf wants Théoden to send his forces to fight the enemy, but instead Théoden decides to evacuate his people to a mountain stronghold called Helm's Deep.
Also I need to mention that Gollum was once called Sméagol, and now he kind of has an inner conflict between his good half (Sméagol) and his evil half (Gollum). And it seems like Sméagol wins. Sometime later, he, Frodo, and Sam, witness an army of Sauron's men (not orcs) being attacked by another group, and the first disc ends with the Hobbits being captured by this group.
As I said in my previous review, I was planning on watching one movie per week. Well, I watched the first disc of the second movie on a Monday night, as intended, but then it was so late I didn't watch the second disc until Tuesday night. Not that you care. I really should think to start watching earlier, knowing how very long these movies are, but anyway. Hmmm, lots of things happen. I failed to mention a character named Éowyn (Miranda Otto), the niece of Théoden. She'd done some stuff in the first half of the movie, but I wasn't sure what to say about her, and anyway, I had trouble being sure... if there was just the one female character in Rohan, or what. Because I am sometimes so ridiculously bad at recognizing faces. I still can't tell you she was the only one of any importance in the first half of the movie, but she may have been, and either way, she's the only one of importance in the second half of the movie. And there's still not much I can say about her, except that she wanted to take part in the battles, and was frustrated by being ordered not to (and I felt bad for her). And she quickly developed feelings for Aragorn, though of course he was still pining for Arwen. (We also see flashbacks where Arwen wants to stay behind when the rest of her people are planning to sail away to Valinor, where there would be no war. Of course her father, Elrond, wanted her to go with them, in spite of her love for Aragorn. But she didn't.)
Meanwhile, en route to Helm's Deep, there is a skirmish when the evacuees are attacked by orcs, and Aragorn gets separated from everyone, and presumed dead. But he's later rescued by a horse. (You heard me.) Also meanwhile, it turns out that the people who had captured Frodo, Sam, and Gollum, were from Gondor. They were led by Faramir, the younger brother of Boromir. So we see some flashbacks about those brothers, and their father, Denethor (John Noble). And when Faramir finds out Frodo has the One Ring, he decides to take the Hobbits back to Gondor, to prove his worth to his father. Also also meanwhile, Treebeard gathers a bunch of Ents for a meeting (called an Entmoot) to decide whether to go to war or not. And ultimately Merry and Pippin help them decide, and they attack Isengard. (I do want to say I was a bit upset not to see Quickbeam in this movie. I don't remember him well, but I do at least vaguely remember him from the book.) Also I want to mention that it seems like Saruman was actually starting something akin to an industrial revolution, and even if it was for evil purposes, I couldn't help being a bit disappointed that the Ents put an end to that. Because damn, the flashbacks we saw in the first movie to stuff that happened 3000 years ago didn't seem at all different from the world in the movies' present. It's about bloody time for some technological progress, you know? But whatevs.
Um. But really the focal point of the movie, I think, is the battle of Helm's Deep. Many thousands of Uruk-hai besieged the previously impregnable stronghold. There was some advice Grima had given Saruman about a weakness, though I'm not sure how much that actually mattered. It definitely hurt the good guys, but the overwhelming number of orcs was trouble enough... and yet there were a couple of groups of reinforcements the good guys received, which was pretty awesome. And altogether, I have to say the battle was about the most badass thing in the history of badassdom... Except that I remember an even more badass battle, which happens in the third movie. Oh, another thing I meant to say that I vaguely recall about the books is the friendship that develops between Legolas and Gimli. For the most part I felt that the first two movies didn't do enough to represent that, but there was at least a bit of fun to be had with it during the battle in this movie.
Anyway, for the most part I'd say things end on a hopeful note. However, the internal battle between Gollum and Sméagol resumes after he and the Hobbits leave Gondor, and resume their journey into Mordor. And this time it seems like Gollum is winning that debate....
And I worry that I'm forgetting important details, as well as intentionally leaving out lots of details. But anyway, it's a pretty awesome movie. So... even if I'm forgetting anything, it doesn't really matter. I think I've said the most important stuff, and, you know... I'm giving the whole thing thumbs up.