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Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

After all was said and done, I missed Frodo.

Yes, the little hobbit returns in THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS and is still played with deft wide-eyed sadness by Elijah Wood. (Were Elijah’s eyes somehow computer enhanced to match the bug-eyes of the all-CGI Gollum character?) But what I enjoyed most about the first film — the spirit of camaraderie, the grand adventure, the idea of the littlest creature of all saving the entire world — is completely lacking in this sequel.

I also felt that the length of THE TWO TOWERS was somewhat of a hindrance whereas the first film benefited greatly from a gradual ease into the epic story (both movies are approximately 3 hours each).

THE TWO TOWERS consists basically of three storylines. Lowest on the rung are the hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) who spend much of the film just sitting on the shoulders of the walking, talking tree, Treebeard (voice of John Rhys-Davies). While Treebeard, as a special effect, is a wonder to behold, the dialogue scenes between these three characters are repetitive and uninvolving.

Next, and unfortunately second least important storyline, is Frodo and Samwise (Sean Astin) being led into the evil kingdom of Mordor by the duplicitous Gollum (Andy Sirkis). These are, again, vaguely repetitive scenes between two hobbits and a CGI character.

So, the real star of THE TWO TOWERS is the human Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) who, along with the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the dwarf Gimli (also Rhys-Davies), prepares other humans for a mighty war with the Uruk-hai, the ultimate army of evil.

This wasn’t the story I cared about so much and there were so many new names and faces being thrown around that I often found my mind wandering when they were on-screen.

One of the things I thought about was what would the Monty Python and/or Mel Brooks version/parody of THE LORD OF THE RINGS look like. The material seems ripe to be made fun of.

Also, during the climactic battle scene — which is one of the most startling and thrilling action scenes ever committed to film — I started to become distressed by what kind of message this movie may be sending, particularly when our own Earth seems poised on the brink of war.

There are no gray areas in Middle Earth. The good guys are all white and the evil army is, of course, dark-skinned. The Uruk-hai are also unthinking drones who are bred for the sole purpose of war led by a guy who wants nothing more than the total domination of the world.

I’ve never been a soldier, but I suppose it would be a pretty good tactic to ruthlessly demonize the enemy. That way, there’s no chance of hesitation on the battlefield. If you want to kill, or at least dominate, the opposition must cease to be human beings.

I would also suppose in a fantasy film, it’s best to make the enemy literal monsters. But I think I would have been infuriated had the action of THE TWO TOWERS been transposed to a real world situation, say, I don’t know, Iraq.

And the last time I saw such a complex battle sequence like the last half-hour or so of THE TWO TOWERS was PEARL HARBOR — in most regards another fantasy film — which I saw for the first time on DVD almost a year after Sept. 11, 2001 and which did disturb me greatly. Where was the fun in watching the wholesale slaughter of human beings? I found it horrifying that someone would make entertainment out of showing such an event in exacting detail.

However, the wholesale slaughter of Uruk-hai didn’t make me flinch one bit. Neither THE TWO TOWERS nor PEARL HARBOR are anti-war films and seem to portray war as a gross necessity. You’d think at some point we’d evolve beyond that; and hopefully someday we will.