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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

A New Power Is Rising. 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

The Two Towers (referring to the Saruman’s Isengard and Sauron’s Mordor - Tolkien’s axis of evil), follows on from the dissolution of the Fellowship of the Ring at the end of the first film. Frodo and Sam set off to Mordor, soon to be accompanied by Gollum. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas defend Helms Deep from the orc armies of Saruman while Merry and Pippin continue their misadventures before eventually playing their part in the counterattack on Isengard. But then, you must know this already?

Peter Jackson faced a number of problems in directing this trilogy. Firstly, the three books do not divide neatly into three films: they may look the same size but the third printed volume, The Return of the King, is packed full of appendices at the end.  Secondly, Tolkien was meticulous in his description of Middle Earth. This attention to detail means that the story is utterly consistent - unlike most complex fictions - but also means that, in places, the books are just plain dull.

Jackson therefore has had to rearrange the content, and cut out the tedious bits. He did this pretty well in the first film, while leaving in enough scene-setting for those who hadn’t read the books. In this film he was free to assume that the viewer knew the basic premise of the story - to destroy a powerful ring to prevent it being used for evil. The result is a slicker, more urgent film with some truly awesome scenes. It also gives the computer generated Gollum (voiced by Andy Serkis) a real chance to shine, exhibiting all the elements of vindictiveness, deceit and above all fragility that Tolkien so successfully wove into his character.

Tolkien purists have been unimpressed, and the film isn’t perfect. Aragorn’s protracted dream sequence with Arwen (Liv Tyler) after Jackson inexplicably has him thrown off a cliff serves no purpose other than to irritate the viewer. This clumsy addition to Tolkien’s story presumably exists to justify hiring a star such as Tyler for such a tiny role; it has no apparent narrative worth. But surely one mistake can be permitted in a nine hour trilogy?

All in all this is a satisfying filling in the LOTR

sandwich: your viewing experience is more likely to be spoiled by Tolkien obsessives muttering angrily at the back of the cinema than by Jackson’s limited meddling.

Stuart Jarvis

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Autumn Term (35mm)
2003/2004 Autumn Term (35mm)
2003/2004 Autumn Term (35mm)