Hey folks, Harry here... The first at large screening took place tonight in Los Angeles as an Academy Screening. That let out a couple of hours ago, and this is the first review to come in regarding THE TWO TOWERS. It is extremely positive with a couple of nitpicks that ultimately did not ruin the film for him. So the reward for first review goes to a spy I'm calling Torben, The Sinful Dwarf!
I'm writing less of a review than a compendium to the gushing reviews you should be receiving about now. Key question, is it better than FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS. Nope. But it is its equal and for me, that is a profound compliment.
For I cannot think of a single film trilogy where I have been fully satisfied with every installment. Even with the STAR WARS or the GODFATHER, the series would be irregular with their quality. I felt these were a series of films, not one complete epic film (except GODFATHER I & II are a complete movie). Pieces may be great, but it feels like an assortment of different flavors. With TWO TOWERS, it feels like a puzzle piece that clicks completely together with FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS. For once, I believe that we could have a popular genre movie series that feels like one complete story.
What has impresses me specifically with the film is that it increases the scope, but never loses the human element of the story. Like the first film, TOWERS ends on a character note as opposed to a cliffhanger moment. I think that Jackson has improved the story of the books and has given Middle Earth a tangible place. Not just in technical details like the siege ladders that attach themselves to the walls of Helm's Deep to the ghostly faces lurking in the waters of the Dead Marches. Or in the fact that he actual bothers to actively show events that are told in flashback in the books. Or the great Weta Effects work (The Ents in action will thrill many many a fan out there). But it lies in the characters.
I went in thinking that Gollum was going to be a photo-realistic character. And set up with the proper expectations, he isn't completely 'realistic.' The technology isn't quite there yet. But me and my associate at the movie agreed he is without a doubt the most believable CGI character seen in a live action movie. He's a true person and not a gimmick. No distracting flourishes or irritating "look at me's." And it makes a difference with the effects. There plenty of subtle moments in the movie that will take you breathe away. Gollum's internal conflict over his love for his precious is beautifully externalized in a scene that kicks the ass of a similar one in SPIDER-MAN.
The movie is not perfect and I want to specifically note the parts that are not to set proper expectations. Several scenes with Elrond and Arwen are fairly redundant and seem to be in there only to remind the audience that they're there. Not that they shouldnÃt be in the movie, but good scripting could have combined their bits into one great scene. And thereÃs some sloppy plotting with the Ent subplot and the …owyn/Aragorn romance is unnecessary. Not that Miranda Otto is bad, but when you have the fate of Middle Earth on your shoulders, you've got no time for an additional love triangle.
But for these few little things I have pointed out, there are many more that will awe you with wonder. This is the real deal folks. Get excited, because warts and all, TWO TOWERS is another piece of a classic.
Torben, The Sinful Dwarf
FOR SPOILERS SCAN DOWN (taken from Torben's Talkbacks Below)
There is nothing dubious about my review or that the first shot of the movie is the snow covered mountains hearing Gandalf's voice deep in Moria. Or that the shot of Liv tyler running up the stairs is not in the movie. Or that there is something Legalos does with a horse that will make you shit yourself. Or that the Helm's Deep is intercut with other scenes, which is why people keep saying it is 45 minutes long. Or that the last shot of the movie ends on Mordor, only much much closer to it. I just don't like to cram my comments with spoilers, especially when there is a lot to be surprised by with the movie. I want you to get the impression of the film, not spoil the WHOLE thing. I guess you wanted more, I tried to get it in quickly so you'd have something...
okay HELMS DEEP is a solid, great sequence. I like the Cave Troll attack better, but this is a different kind of battle. What's great about it is the sense of hopelessness of it. That the odds are so great against them. That they are fighting with old men and boys (like meantioned in the book). There's a great moment in the moment where " the first stone is cast" so to say. Like the first film, Jackson has a way to make action seem kinetic and exciting without being confusing. There's a great fight sequence that you've only seen a shot or two from the trailers (Legolas on a rock watching rides approach and the shot of the dogbeast attacking). In fact there's more action in this movie than in the book which made a friend that was with me much happier with this film than FOTR (he didn't like it much). And for the record, I LOVE FOTR.
I don't want people to think I didn't like Gollum, I thought Gollum is one of the greatest CGI characters EVER MADE. That is not a mild compliment. He's wonderful and you are going to be thrilled with him (in fact the climax of the movie is about him, but not as BIG of a moment as you think. It is a small character moment, hinted at in the book that here, Makes him a truly interesting character. In fact, I've always felt the books were thin on characterization and the films have just fleshed these people out. Like how the first film had Boromir, Pippin and Merry more interesting, Gollum equally has be brought to real life. He was easily the most liked character at the screening from audience reactions.
Second was Gimli, who has most of the comic relief in this film. The supporting characters aren't as well flesh out, due to the fact that they are competing with screen time with our already abundant cast, but even at their worst, they service the story well. Wormtongue was Brad Dourif, or was it the other way around, but he stands out the most, though Bernard Hill is great before and after his Rejuvenation.
Maybe people will be impressed with the love triangle, but I was unmoved (and I like what they did in the last film with it a lot).
The Ents, like Gollum, don't look photo real, but they are wonderful fluid. When I say not completely real, I mean real reality. And they fit in perfectly with the consistent fantasy reality that the series has established.
And there are some great new vistas: The completely built Mordor tower looks fantastic, the caves beneath Helm's Deep get a tantalizingly brief glimpse. In particular, the depths of Kazadum in particular took my breath away. Forgive me if my LOTR spellings aren’t correct, I’m not spending time cross-referencing them. Also, ask me questions. One.) the voice scene is not in, we don’t get that far in the story. Remember what Jackson said about the film's structure? Two.) Stickman, Yes. Three.) A New Line plant? don’t even start that, because I’m even listening. I want to give a fair level headed reaction to the piece before the over-praising and backlashing comes in. oh, "and don't tell the Elf." The movie doesn't get to the post-Helm's Deep stuff. It doesn't avoid them, it simply doesn't get to them. There's plenty going on to end the movie (and there's a whole subplot that is different from the book that I refuse to take about). But it is emotionally satisfying to end that way.
Aragorn come across similar to the first film, a leader of men both a bad ass and a real human with real emotions. He really doesn't change as a character and if you liked him in the first film, you'll like more him here (because he gets more to do).
Eomer's performance is strong without overacting. He's not as important as Theoden, thus doesn't have as much scene time as him, but he makes a strong impression.
The effects on the Oliphaunts and the winged Fell Beasts are beautiful, again, what's great is that they are part of the scene and never take it over, which makes the effect even better. The Ringwraiths are very very scary on them. Forget the horses, these things are choice steed of ultimate evil.
Quick answers on our cast.
We do see the power struggle inbetween the breeds of Orcs, in fact it has been condensed beautifully and made organic to the story (fans will notice it non-fans won't - which is the way it should be).
Gandalf the White is different from Grey in that he is more sure of himself, sure of his power and ready to take on evil. Otherwise he still has the same sense of sly humor that makes him lovable. Remember, he does A LOT of running around in this one, so mostly he's serious.
Legolas and Gimli's "friendship" is non-verbally there and they do have their competition at Helm's Deep. As for Gimli being comic relief, what if your comic relief had a huge axe and fells dozens of Orcs? That's a pretty cool comic relief.
Again, I'm trying to be careful not to reveal big surprises, so I'm avoiding some questions. I simply trying to reassure you that what you want is there, because this is not as faithful as FOTR, but that makes it no less as good.
But I will make this clear so that this question cease, Do we see the Ents smackdown?YES YES YES!!! That is the one thing I will gush about besides Gollum. Helm's Deep is great, but greater for me was seeing the wrath of Treebeard and company against Isengard. It is amazing, it filled me with the fist-pumping "YES!" that you WILL enjoy (and Harry will use several paragraphs to describe in his review). I always felt the books suffered from the Syndrome I like to call, “Dude! You just missed the coolest thing! Now let me tell you all about what you missed!”
Well you finally see the coolest thing and it is the coolest thing in the movie (for me).
As for other's reaction, it's an industry screening and it is always hard to judge them. But from what I know it was a good reaction. But people were excited to be there and people laughed at jokes referring to the other films, but it is not the same as being with a real public audience. An audience that paid to see it, that will be making a lot more noise than these people.