The second film in a series or trilogy is always the trickiest – usually, the first film is widely acclaimed and adored, and it is the responsibility of the second film to live up to that high standard – such as in the case of the original Star Wars trilogy, it is Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back that is usually considered the masterpiece of the trilogy (but honestly, as I have said before, I love Episode VI: Return of the Jedi much more). To live up to the expectations and acclaim of the first film is a difficult task, and because of that, I always try and look at the second film in a way that takes into consideration how difficult it is. The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers is a bizarre case, as it is (in my humble opinion), the best of the entire trilogy, and once again, I seem to be attracted to the outlier opinion, as nearly every fan claims that their favorite is either The Fellowship of the Ring or Return of the King – and while both are tremendously brilliant films, I just found The Two Towers to be far more compelling for some reason.
The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers is stuck between two absolutely epic bookends of the trilogy – we saw the adventure begin in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and the adventure concludes in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – but The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is just jammed in the middle, having to continue the story, but not entirely resolve it in order to build some element of suspense and excitement for the next film. Each of the Lord of the Rings films have some form of theme and motive – The Fellowship of the Ring was intended to introduce characters to the story and begin the adventure, but further than that, The Fellowship of the Ring also serves to introduce the concept of villainy and evil into the universe, in particular with the origin of evil and portrayal of the characters of Sauron and Saruman.
I will not delve deep into the theories and various analyses I have for The Lord of the Rings‘ portrayal of evil (perhaps I will eventually compile them into a critical discussion, but for now, let us regard this as just something that won’t be discussed in detail, because it is far too complex). The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is far more concerned with portraying heroism, which puts The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers once again the the realm of being stuck between two major themes – beginning and end, and good and evil. The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers combines the two to discuss the concept of anti-heroes, and the corruption that causes evil. The best part about The Lord of the Rings is how absolutely cerebral it is in its complexities, and it leads to some fascinating discussions. I do want to discuss the idea of evil in far more depth, but that would detract too far from simply looking at the films.
In the review for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, I alluded to a particular performance that was absolutely superior to anything we see in the trilogy, and pretty much everything we have seen in film, before and after The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers. Of course, I am referring to Andy Serkis’ performance as Sméagol/Gollum. One could have never read or seen The Lord of the Rings and know who Gollum is. That isn’t only because he is a wonderful character, but because Andy Serkis took a role that would have required only a few weeks of motion capture and voice-over work, and turned it into a performance that will go down as one of the most iconic film characters of all time. How bizarre is it that a motion-capture, CGI-rendered supporting villain completely steals the film away from its far bigger, more heroic characters?
That isn’t a happy accident – that is simply because Andy Serkis is just a master at his craft. He has never received the kind of acclaim other actors do, which is tragic, as he is more talented than many actors. I become very disgruntled when cynics claim a voice-over or motion-capture performance is not a real performance. It is clear that voice actors are some of the hardest working actors in the industry, and to downplay their tremendous talents to simply talking into a microphone is terrifyingly common and absolutely tragic. I dare any cynic to watch Serkis’ performance in this film, and how he characterizes Sméagol/Gollum, through his voice, his movements and the nuances of his performance, and still dare to say that this is not a fantastic performance that ranks up with some of the greatest of all time. It is certainly not a performance that will be considered as one of the best ever put on film, but when you consider that Sméagol/Gollum is the most iconic character from the entire trilogy, and how more people are aware of his existence than they are of any of the other characters, it definitely tells you all you need to know about how tremendous Serkis’ performance here is. I was absolutely captivating by Serkis, and am still in awe as to how he managed to create such a brilliant character out of nearly nothing.
Other than Serkis’ performance, The Two Towers is as visually impressive and innovative as its predecessor. Jackson once again uses the lush and unique New Zealand landscapes to great effect, creating a world both earthy and unique – the attention to detail put in this film is absolutely wonderful, and while it may often be stuck between two films that are by all means more memorable, it is still important to see The Two Towers as the marvel of filmmaking that it is. It is made wonderfully, and with such precision, and the developments of the stories and characters complement the dazzling and unforgettable visuals.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is such a fantastic film (and as with The Fellowship of the Ring, I highly suggest the far superior Extended Edition, because the added footage gives the film so much more). It is a wonderfully entertaining film, and while it does struggle from being in the middle of The Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King, it does hold its own very well. It is definitely worth checking out, but obviously only after Fellowship of the Ring. It is difficult to write a complete review of The Two Towers, because I view The Lord of the Rings as an epic saga rather than as three films. However, it is a great follow-up to the brilliant first film, and a great predecessor to the third film.