By Jeremy Gustilo (Lake Forest, California, United States)
We return once again to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s second installment of Lord of the Rings to witness a truly captivating spectacle. The story continues right where the first film left off with Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) making their way to Mordor with their newfound guide, Gollum. On the far side of the world, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are in pursuit of a band of Orcs to rescue their hobbit friends, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). All the while, war is looming over Middle Earth as the combined forces of Sauron and Saruman (Christopher Lee) prepare to strike at the weakened and divided realm of men. Director Peter Jackson captures the essence of Tolkien’s work with his immaculate portrayal of Lord of the Rings. Fans of fantasy and adventure won’t want to miss out on this awe-inspiring, visual masterpiece as the epic battle for Middle Earth begins!
Peter Jackson performs a tremendous job in communicating the feelings and emotions of the characters across the screen. Consisting of the same cast from the first film, the actors shape and breathe life into their characters making them seem lifelike. Following the division of the fellowship, we are presented with the opportunity to closely examine each character. Towards the beginning of the film, when Aragorn learns of Merry’s and Pippin’s fates from Eomer, you can clearly hear the despair and sadness in Viggo’s voice as he shouts with all his strength, kicks a helmet across the screen, and slowly falls to his knees. In Frodo’s group, we begin to see the burden of the ring grow heavier as Frodo begins to feel alone shouting at Sam, “What do you know about it? Nothing!” (The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers). The genuine look of fear that Elijah portrays as he plays Frodo, the fear of becoming like Gollum just sends shivers down my spine. However, it’s not just limited to fear and hopelessness for, as the movie progresses, we see other facets of humanity. In the bond between Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli we see the strength of their friendship and trust for one another. In the moment Smeagol frees himself from Gollum, we begin to foster hope that he may return from the darkness. Through the acting of the characters, we witness fear and despair, loyalty and friendship, unrequited love, and desire and mischief all of which contribute to the overall dynamic of the story.
Equally as impressive as the acting displayed on the screen is the way in which it was filmed. Never before has such a production ever been attempted on such a colossal scale. The manipulation of the scenery coupled with the clever use of CGI adds to the realism and immerses the audience by making us feel as though we were witnessing events unfold before our very eyes. The panning overview of Viggo, Orlando, and John as they traverse across the open plains of Middle Earth puts into perspective how far and how long they have travelled in search of their friends. Perhaps the greatest scene in the film for me was the battle of Helms Deep. The decision to use CGI to create legions of Uruk-hai, a race of orcs built for war, marching in formation was simply brilliant in that it clearly made you aware of the gravity of Rohan’s struggle for survival.
Being able to see thousands upon thousands of Uruk-hai storming a keep with a few hundred defenders expresses how little hope the race of men have of winning. In addition, by doing a close up view of both the attackers and defenders before the battle, you can see the fear in the Rohirrim’s eyes as well as the brutality and savagery of Saruman’s forces. Overall, Peter Jackson maintains a balance between the use of real actors and the use of CGI. Both elements serve to enrich the movie and capture the true image of war as you watch and witness countless number of swords clanging, arrows flying, rocks hurtling, and death ensuing.
However, the final piece that completes the film is the beautiful soundtrack that accompanies it. The soundtrack in The Two Towers retains as much presence as the actors on screen and serves an equally important function. In the very beginning of the film, we already start to hear the beginning of the 1st sound track “Foundations of Stone” that brings a sense of nostalgia as well as a feeling of eeriness as we are brought back to Middle Earth. That familiar tune we hear pairs well with the fact that the film begins immediately after the events of the first film. In addition, when Aragorn and the others are chasing after their friends, we begin to hear the 5th soundtrack, “The Uruk-hai” play that brings with it that all familiar tune as it crescendos and fills us with a sense of adventure and longing. The mood of the soundtrack changes throughout the film and in each instance compliments the actions of the characters and the scenery. Towards the end of it, we hear the 18th soundtrack, “Samwise the Brave” that we can’t help but smile and begin to fill with hope as we listen to Sam’s speech.
Although I had some misgivings about the film primarily due to striving away from Tolkien’s work, such as the change to the presence of the elves at Helm’s Deep, I was regardless filled with joy and excitement throughout the film. Peter Jackson performed a remarkable job creating such an immersive, breathtaking environment that I didn’t even notice the time pass by so fast. If you are in need of a movie that has action, adventure, love, and so much more look no further.