STARRING: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Miranda Otto, Brad Dourif, Orlando Bloom

2002, 179 Minutes, Directed by: Peter Jackson

Description: Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship continue their quest to destroy the One Ring and stand against the evil of the dark lord Sauron. The Fellowship has divided and now find themselves taking different paths to defeating Sauron and his allies. Their destinies now lie at two towers - Orthanc Tower in Isengard, where the corrupted wizard Saruman waits and Sauron's fortress at Baraddur, deep within the dark lands of Mordor.  —

Imagine trying to release a movie last year this time with the title The Two Towers (so soon after the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre)! I wonder if the studios would have actually changed the title in such an event? Or maybe have moved the release date? Well, if they had changed the title, it wouldn't have come as too big a surprise because so far this hugely popular movie series has taken quite a lot of liberties with the original source material. Tolkien groupies be damned, but I can't ever remember the books ever being this action filled!

The Hollywood action movie retelling of Tolkien's stodgy fantasy tome continues with this latest middle installment that clocks in at three hours, pretty much like the first movie. Not that I ever finished the books to be honest, but I remember entire extended action sequences in the previous Fellowship of the Ring movie only being a paragraph or so in the original text. Nor can I remember there being so many women in the books either.

"Much more action-packed and spectacular than the previous movie!"

No matter. Next year will see the saga end with Return of the King, which will no doubt be yet another three hour epic. As the middle segment, The Two Towers ends up a bit like that that other well-known middle segment movie from another well-known fantasy trilogy The Empire Strikes Back.

It is quite unpredictable (like I said: I never finished the books - life is too short) and one has a hard time keeping track of the time. The movie is over almost before one can catch one's bearings. The three hours running time seemed to pass a lot faster than the original movie's. Or maybe it was the comfier seats and leg space in the cinema I watched it in this time around . . .

Point remains that Two Towers is much more action-packed and spectacular than the previous movie. Its centerpiece is a viscerally thrilling and grandiose battle scene that makes previous battle scenes such as those seen in Braveheart seem like schoolyard squabbles. Unlike most of today's movies, the computer-generated effects in this sequence doesn't look like something out of a Sony PlayStation (go check those The Mummy movies and some of the worst bits from the latest Bond movie, Die Another Day again).

Two Towers should be seen on the big screen: by the end of it you'll feel a bit pummeled by the camerawork and the sound, but you'll find yourself wishing that it's December 2003 already so that you can go see the last installment even if it is just for a sense of closure.

Some random notes on the movie: it is not without its faults however. The tree creatures that, er, lumbers into sight at about the halfway mark or so seems as if they just walked in from The Never-Ending Story or some other mid-1980s bad fantasy flick. Also, the movie's ideological roots (groan!) are even more apparent with this subplot. The bad guys led by Sauron represent modernity and industrialization: they hack down forests to make way for factories. Or maybe they're just Republicans, who knows? But it becomes obvious why the books were so popular with environmentally-minded hippies in the 1960s.

However, if Sauron happens to have discovered shampoo and nailbrushes I would have wholeheartedly supported him! Middle Earth must have the dirtiest long hair and filthy finger nails I have seen since either grunge, The 13th Warrior or, erm, the hippies themselves . . .

Followed by the last installment, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2003.



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