Best. Movie. Ever.

Perhaps I don’t mean that literally. I don’t really intend to suggest that it was the finest example of artistry ever rendered onto celluloid, but then, I’ve never been the type to try to say what is the best of all things in any category. I’ll leave it to others to describes why Citizen Kane was a better or more worthwhile movie than The Two Towers. All I will say is this: I have never had a more thoroughly pleasurable experience in a movie theater.

Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Tolkien. I’ll say that now so the unconverted don’t cast a wondering, suspicious eye on this spastic endorsement of the film. I’ve read the Lord of the Rings, and I enjoyed it immensely, but I’m no LOTR-version of a trekkie. My attention span can’t be sustained solely by an entertainment product’s affiliation with some established universe or character. That’s why I can sit back and watch The Wrath of Khan with a stupid, happy grin on my face but would rather let Uday Hussein go to work on my teeth and testicles rather than sit through an hour of Voyager. And I would suspect many rabid fans of LOTR would be even more exacting than that, if only because the books are so damn good that any half-hearted, mediocre effort by Peter Jackson would result in the poor guy being burned in effigy by a bunch of virgins dressed up as elves. But those are the real die-hards, the Taliban wing of the LOTR fanbase, let’s say (some people may take offesne to the usage of that word, what with all the efforts by the Left to attach it to anyone who is to the political or cultural right of Barbra Streisand, but what the hell, I’m feeling careless today).

But then, that’s not really fair. I’m sure there’s a small segment of the Tolkieners who could match the fervence of their fan fixation with the phasers of the USS Obsessed any day, but their numbers are dwarfed to the point of nonexistence by the hordes of people who cherish the books and the mythology involved but don’t speak Elvish (which, again, is not to suggest that alrge percentage of Star Trek fans pepper their speech with phrases like “Beam me up” and “Make it so,” but I don’t think you can deny that their per capita numbers are greater). Christopher Lee for instance, playing Saruman in LOTR, is himself a hardy Tolkiener who makes a yearly tradition out of reading the full 1,500 pages or so of the book . Somehow I don’t imagine folks like these rallying around a movie about their cherished mythos and verbally eviscerating anyone that dare speak what they all know deep-down: that the thing sucks donkey balls. It’s become fashionable to bash Episode I these days, three and a half years after it came out and 6 months after a sequel that was at least marginally better (yet still had a barrel-full of reasons to throw things at the screen) showed everyone even more starkly how shitty it really was. But I’m not sure most people recall how desperate so many SW fans were to undergo any kind of mental contortions necessary to convince themselves that it was the real deal, a worthy successor to the first three films. I know that because I meyself went through it, though my illusions only lasted through about half of the car ride home. AFter that I started ranting about midichlorines and Calvanism and ETs in the galactic assembly and cutesy, sass-talking aliens until I had to be forcibly sedated. I saw a lot of people not coming around to that position until much later.

I just don’t see the Tolkien crowd going through that. For one thing, it isn’t like Tolkien himself is writing another book. We’re not getting new material from the original master that all made us oooh and ahhh at one point. That’s one of the reasons it washard for so many to come to grips with the feces-on-celluloid that was Ep. I.

“Surely Lucas wouldn’t betray us like this! Something must be amiss.”

But yes, for sure they, and I, are of the kind of mind that is instantly more receptive to all this sword and sorcery ballyhoo than others, but that isn’t a prerequisite for becoming entirely entranced and delighted by this movie.

But then, if you haven’t seen the first film already, don’t go see The Two Towers yet. There’s no handy bluescreen plate of words flying through space setting the scene, no narration to describe the main backstory as Galadriel did describing the history of the Ring of Power at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring. The most Jackson offers is a brief dream sequence recounting Gandalf’s seemingly fatal battle with the Balrog, and then Frodo wakes up with Sam, lost in the hills outside of Mordor, right where we last saw them last in FOTR.

And that pretty well sums up the manner in which the movie progresses, really .

The triumph in Fellowship was the sheer fact that a world and characters so richly envisioned and loved by millions could be rendered on the screen in a way that made the vast majority of fans, for the vast majority of the film, sit back and go, “Yup, that’s how it should be.”

The triumph here is the remarkable success with which Jackson tells the three separate story lines of the novel, each one of them full of their own mass of plot and character to be expounded upon and given attention to. It’s realtively easy to do this sort of thing in a book, and Tolkien takes his sweet time doing it, spending seventy-five or a hundred pages on the events in one story line and then switch over to the other when it suits him. The temporal disconnect involved in the book isn’t a jarring thing when you’re telling a written story, but for a movie it can become confusing or just irritating unless it’s an integral part of the style of the movie, a la Pulp Fiction.

Jackson weaves in and out of the various plot lines deftly, and the movie proceeds at a breakneck pace for nearly the entire three hours, managing though to never seem hurried, always appearing to spend just the right amount of time on each episode. This isn’t merely some product of faithfulness to the legacy of LOTR, it’s just plain damn good film-making, one of the reasons that anyone who enjoys an exciting story told skillfully and well-developed characters will find much to love herein.

The technical wizardry is much more apparent in this movie. That is not to say that they didn’t have things to drool over in FOTR, but so much of the visual richness there was a matter of craft and loving attention to detail than it was a sheer breath-taking scope of special effects and computer-generated artistry. To be sure, the battle scenes at Isengard and Helm’s Deep are worthy testaments to this fact, but more than anything else, it is the film’s portrayal of the completely-cgi Gollum that impressed me. Never, anywhere on film, has there been a more expressive face existing only in 1’s and 0’s. It’s a cliche, but still true, to say that the best pecial effects are the ones where you don’t think to yourself what great special effects they are. Gollum passes that test. It speaks volumes that when you’re watching the movie, you’re not wondering how the digital artists created it. You’re thinking what a sad, pathetic, evil, funny, frightening creature he is.

Just as a side note, I was a little shocked at first at how human Gollum was made to seem. I had always grown up thinking of him as looking much more bestial, at least in his face if not his body. But here he looks like an emaciated, sickly, human child . And it works amazingly. There were many moments when it made me feel downright uncomfortable, and I realized after a little while that that was the point.

Speaking of such, you get to see a lot more orcs in this movie than in FOTR, and it’s wonderful, one of my favorite aspects of the film altogether. Sure, you saw a lot of Uruk-Hai in Fellowship, and they were imposing and frightening as intended, but they’re not what I think of when I imagine orcs in general. Here you get to see all the various stooping, drooling, puss and scar-covered assortments of orc that you could ever wish for. The expressiveness and character in their faces (make-up and prosthetics here) and voices made me laugh out loud. Don’t get me wrong, they’re creepy as all get out, I was simply bowled over into laughing delight by the smorgasbord of disgusting and hateful variety displayed.

The Two Towers also shores up some of the minor weak points of its predecessor. For one thing, there isn’t nearly as much of the camera doing slow zooms on Frodo’s face so we can all get a good long look at Elijah Woods gazing off into the distance with his dreamboat eyes. And Viggo Mortensen seems much better in his role as Aragorn. It looked like he had matured more into the part, but I don’t see how this could be the case since the trilogy was filmed all at once and not, presumably, in linear order.

The one minor quibble that I can find with this film is the fact that Gimli is too often employed for comic relief. I sympathize with the plight of the film makers, looking for some way to provide some levity in heavy moments, but must it always be with jokes about the poor dwarf’s stature? I mean, yeah, he’s short, we get it. But that’s a severely minor point when taken in part with the entirety of the film.

I arrived at the theater with pre-bought tickets at about exactly the time when it was supposed to start. Big mistake, that. I looked and saw an already huge line of people waiting for the showing that started an hour after ours . Michelle and I found seats, but in the second row from the front, and all the way off to the side.

So, during the whole movie, my neck was tilted at a painful angle that occasionally sent weird spasms down my back. I couldn’t see whole screen without looking from side to side. There was even a baby a row back that sporadically made some sniffly crying noises.

And still, the most fun I’ve ever had in a theater, period.

last update : 26-5-2018

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