I can’t say I was a huge fan of the first film in this trilogy. Sure, it looked cool and had some interesting things going on, but it was just missing something–call it heart. The Two Towers built on the original, but it too had some issues. Actually, the issues are all mine. I can’t get into it for some reason. I enjoyed myself, and didn’t mind sitting for almost three hours of orcs and shit, but I was left with an empty feeling afterward that a richer, more realized movie wouldn’t have.
I don’t know if this is a result of Peter Jackson trying to be as faithful to the book as possible, or if some of the internal dialogue doesn’t translate to the screen, but I feel like the first two films don’t really move beyond the surface story of good and evil. The good side is there. The bad side is there. We get it. They fight it out in spectacular fashion, but I didn’t get a sense of why the evil people are so evil and why the virtuous ones are so virtuous. The thing that separates The Two Towers from the Fellowship of the Ring in this sense is Gollum. I was honestly a little worried about watching another CGI character leaping around the screen like some sort of braindead monkey (see Jar Jar Binks), but was soon drawn in by the deepest, most realized character of all the characters in the trilogy so far. (Ironic that the most three-dimensional character in the movie was technically a cartoon, but…) Watching Gollum express his internal dialogue out loud really crystallized the conflict that the whole movie is trying to convey.
Unfortunately, this is only one small part of the movie. The rest is spent shuttling people around from mountain home to mountain home hiding from bad guys. There is lots of marching and lots of shots of grunting orcs. There’s some boring stuff with tree people who talk slower than Billy Bob in Sling Blade. I know there will be a bunch of people that want to tar and feather me for blaspheming this way about a classic book and film, but I want all of you angry freaks out there to think back–really think back–and tell me what the hell was so great about this film.
Let it be known, though, I never read Tolkien’s books, so I can’t appreciate the way he adapted the story. I’m merely looking at it from a pure movie standpoint. It’s Star Wars without the warmth. There aren’t enough “Darth Vader” moments. I’m not sure what I mean by this other than I don’t feel the evil from the head bad guy, Saruman, the way I think I should. Yes, his minions are scary and very pig-like, but I don’t get the motivation and true darkness there. Maybe it’s the way Christopher Lee plays the part with his usual over-dramatic and stage-like boom, but he ends up being more verbose than anything else.
There are some wonderfully cool looking scenes in this film, including the final battle, but that’s not what I’m about. As I’ve always said, a movie shouldn’t have to rely on special effects to tell a story (unless it’s The Matrix, of course). This is one that is going to have to get a second viewing on DVD. Maybe I’ll change my mind and agree with all of you out there. Maybe I won’t.