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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (****)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair and Peter Jackson, based on the epic by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Two Towers

Principal Cast
Elijah Wood -- Frodo Baggins
Ian McKellen -- Gandalf the Grey
Viggo Mortensen -- Strider/Aragorn
Sean Astin -- Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee
Liv Tyler -- Arwen Undómiel
Cate Blanchett -- Galadriel
John Rhys-Davies -- Gimli
Billy Boyd -- Peregrin 'Pippin' Took
Dominic Monaghan -- Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck
Orlando Bloom -- Legolas Greenleaf
Hugo Weaving -- Elrond
Christopher Lee -- Saruman the White
Miranda Otto -- Éowyn
Brad Dourif -- Gríma Wormtongue
Karl Urban -- Éomer
Bernard Hill -- Théoden, King of Rohan
Andy Serkis -- Sméagol/Gollum
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

They changed it, my precious.

But it was so good, gollum, gollum.

But we hates it when they changes it, my precious.

They had to change it, gollum, gollum. Who could believe in a character named Wormtongue?

And so they changed it. The Two Towers takes far greater liberties with J.R.R. Tolkien than did The Fellowship of the Ring.

I'm not going to enumerate all of the changes here. There is only one I strongly object to. They reduce Gimli to comic relief. His friendship with Legolas should be a major theme in the story. That only works if Gimli and Legolas meet as equals. Here, Gimli is reduced to the role of side-kick. Particularly objectionable is the scene where he falls off a horse and says, "I meant to do that." Some of the dwarf jokes are funny but this old chestnut is not. Also, it is not something a real person would say, in any pre-ironic context. It reduces the character to a type -- the same classic movie type as Gabby Hayes and Jar Jar Binks. Gimli deserves better. The race of dwarfs deserves better. Peter Jackson should beware of short people with axes.

Another change that doesn't work is where the Ents suddenly discover that Saruman has been slaughtering trees. What kind of treeherd does not know when his trees are being slaughtered. Once again, a movie cliché -- the reluctant warrior who refuses to go into battle until something happens to make him angry -- has been substituted for Tolkien's original, where the Ents go to war only after deep consideration, discussion, and debate.

The biggest change of all is in the meaning of the title. In the book, the two towers are Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul. Here, Minis Tirith is not a tower, and the second tower is Isengard.

Two lines of dialogue from the book were greatly missed. One of them: "I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dunadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the Sword that was Broken and is forged again!" The other: "Sneakin'!"

I had trouble getting involved in this movie, and didn't really enjoy the first twenty minutes or so, even though I had prepped myself by watching the magnificent extended DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring the night before.

But the film draws you in. As good as the battle scenes are, the important moments are the human ones, especially the scenes in which Tolkien's dialogue is preserved intact. And some of the changes are improvements. In the books, I had trouble telling Merry and Pippin apart. In an insightful article, Marion Zimmer Bradley demonstrated that to Tolkien there were great differences between them. These differences are much clearer in the film than they were in the books.

My reaction to the CGI Gollum was mixed. That is, I suppose, as it should be.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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