Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (12A)

A year after The Fellowship of the Ring took the movie world by storm, along comes the second instalment of the saga, The Two Towers, to astound us further.

Darkness has fallen upon the land of Middle-earth. The forces of evil under the command of the wizard Saruman are running amok. Yet the fellowship of men, elves, dwarves and hobbits continues on its quest to destroy the one ring.

The Two Towers takes our heroes to the kingdom of Rohan where, after breaking a spell that keeps King Theoden (Bernard Hill) enslaved to Saruman, human warrior Aragorn, elf archer Legolas and axe-wielding dwarf Gimli join the people of Rohan as they seek sanctuary in their stronghold at Helm’s Deep.

Meanwhile Frodo and Sam, along with their reluctant travelling companion, Gollum, continue on their journey to Mordor, while fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin escape from their Orc captors and discover an unusual ally in a talking tree named Treebeard.

With far less exposition than part one and much more action – including a stupendous 30-minute battle sequence to mark the film’s finale – The Two Towers is a magnificent slice of fantasy adventure that, in many ways, is the better of the two films released so far.

There is palm sweating, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping action throughout the movie, and a series of excellent performances from the ensemble cast. All the familiar faces are back, including Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Saruman (Christopher Lee), but the film belongs to just two people: Viggo Mortensen, as Aragorn, and Andy Serkis playing Gollum.

Mortensen brings courage, honour, humility and humanity to the story, struggling with his fears and doubts while urging others to ignore theirs. Serkis, who is never seen, provides much of the film’s humour as Gollum – a completely computer-generated character. His vocal talents should surely be rewarded when it comes to the awards season.

The introduction of the talking tree – an immensely old being known as an Ent – is the only potentially jarring moment in the film and is reminiscent of Eighties kids’ movies such as The Never-Ending Story, Labyrinth or Krull. Nevertheless in the hands of Tolkien aficionado Peter Jackson, the film’s director and co-writer, the character of Treebeard (and his ancient fellows) is treated with reverence and so becomes yet another integral part of the on-going tale.

Throw in some decidedly cockney-sounding Orcs and there are genuine moments of laughter to lighten what is a much darker film than its predecessor.

If all of this sounds confusing, or you’ve never read JRR Tolkien’s epic story – no matter. Just see the film and lose yourself in wonder. If you can cope with the film’s fragmented, three-part storyline, and if you can believe in the concept of a walking, talking tree, then you will be entranced and swept away by majesty of The Two Towers.

The first film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning just four. This new episode must surely pick up the awards where it counts – best film, script, production design and director – but particularly for director Peter Jackson. Fingers crossed, and here’s to part three.

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