The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"A new power is rising."

The Two Towers can hardly be called a sequel in the traditional Hollywood sense, as it's the middle part of the story that Fellowship began, but however you label it, I feel that TTT is one of the best examples of IT around... whatever "it" may be. Ahem. Anyway, part of the film's success is due to its status as a middle chapter, leaving it free to explore its part of the saga's story without worrying about the heavy weight of world-introduction that weighed down its predecessor at times, or the occasionally redundant post-victory wrapup of Return Of The King. Granted, Towers does drag ever so slightly during its midsection, but considering its three hour length, necessary in order for Peter Jackson to adapt Tolkien's rich, epic mythology (with enough still left over to create an Extended Edition), I can easily overlook that in light of all the great fantasy entertainment we get in return, and even viewed on a ten inch tablet screen, TTT is still one of the most epic things I've ever had the pleasure of watching.

In Towers, as the now-fractured fellowship journeys ever closer to the dark land of Mordor, the battle for Middle Earth officially becomes an all-out WAR, with an even larger scale and action setpieces to match, introducing us to new lands as they are inevitably sucked into The War Of The Ring. However, PJ refuses to allow the scope of the film to swallow up its personal element, or resort to relying on stock fantasy roles, as all the new characters here are fully fleshed-out individuals with their own unique problems and desires, and, as the new characters come into the story, Jackson doesn't forget to continue the arcs for the old players, in a natural, compelling manner. The devil's in the details, and all the fantasy nonsense in the world wouldn't be worth anything if we didn't care about the characters caught in the middle, but we do, and although there's way too many of them to write about in detail, the multitude of smaller character moments included here ultimately keeps us engaged and invested in the larger struggle at hand.

But, as far as the epic fantasy aspects of TTT go, the movie certainly doesn't skimp on that either, expanding on the world & mythology of Middle Earth brilliantly, hinting at a tragic, deeper history for a certain former Hobbit, bringing an undiscovered army of walking, talking TREES into the fray, and resurrecting a previously thought-to-be deceased mentor from the dead in an unexpected twist. It's certainly a ton to unpack, but Jackson & company do so superbly, and tone-wise, Towers keeps things fresh by taking on a surprisingly violent war movie tint, as the armies of men and their allies fight to beat back the forces of Sauron that are devastating the land, climaxing in a stormy, chaotic, absolutely grueling battle at the fortress of Helm's Deep.

The Battle Of Helm's Deep is certainly a marathon, but never feels pointless or repetitive, and is extremely well-structured, as the overall progress of the clash is signified by easily identifiable turning points, which never get delayed amongst the chaos, and in all the epic battles in cinematic history, it's one of the biggest and certainly one of the best of them as well, only outdone (possibly) by one in the next installment of Rings.

In all of this, Towers is definitely a darker film than its predecessor, often quite literally so, with many scenes set at night, as cinematographer Andrew Lesnie providing some of the bluest, most striking nighttime footage I've witnessed since Terminator 2, which serve as a great contrast to the sweeping, daytime landscape shots, which make perfect use of the beautiful New Zealand scenery as Middle Earth, as Howard Shore's soaring, triumphant themes boom at us. Along with these literal rays of light, the thematic glimmers of hope in TTT are what help keep our heads up amongst all the crushing darkness, and give us that special rush of magic that only grand fantasy can provide. Installment, sequel, whatever you want to call this, bottom line, the battle for Middle-Earth begins right HERE; join, or die.

Final Score: 9

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