Monday, December 30, 2002

Here's my review of "LOTR: The Two Towers".
Warning: spoilers included

First off, it's unbelievably fantastic! In fact, this is an understatement! I sometimes find it difficult to fully describe this absolute masterpiece, because it's just so many things rolled into one excellent 3-hour film.

I loved "LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring", but the second in this trilogy surpasses its predecessor in numerous ways. Sure, I've heard that some people didn't enjoy this movie as much because the scenery isn't as visually stunning -- and yes, this is true. When compared to "Fellowship", which had the benefit of being the first LOTR film, and thus gave us our first glimpses of Middle Earth, with the Shire, Rivendell, Moria, etc, "Towers" can't come close in terms of breath-taking sights.

But "Towers" isn't about inspiring awe in that manner. No, this second installment is much darker, as the protagonists progress further towards Mordor, and come face to face with 10,000 Orc warriors in the final bloody battle at Helms Deep. We witness the gradual transformation of Frodo ( Elijah Wood ), who comes under the ring's power andturns on his friend Sam in one emotional, nail-biting scene. Gollum ( the amazing Andy Serkis ) has a much larger role here, and again demonstrates the ring's all-encompassing evil. The other members of the now-broken fellowship -- Aragorn ( the delicious Viggo Mortensen ), Legolas ( equally yummy Orlando Bloom ) and Gimli ( John Rhys-Davies ) -- also face their own obstacles, but again persevere and triumph, to much cheering from the audience. :)

Peter Jackson has repeated his feat, producing a masterpiece that will make all Tolkien fans proud. He picks up the pace, and with help from his excellent visual effects team, conjures up an eye-popping climactic battle scene -- the most remarkable one I've ever seen, might I add. However, he admirably intersperses all the action with intimate moments -- Frodo's spiritual and emotional turmoil, Sam's unwavering loyalty towards his best friend, Gollum's dual-personality monologues, the knowing looks exchanged between Aragorn and Eowyn ( a luminous Miranda Otto ), and my personal favourite: a scene where Aragorn is near-death, and dreams that he is at Rivendell with Arwen ( aptly cast Liv Tyler ). This last sequence is bittersweet and gentle, with superb acting from the two stars, who manage to convey the deep love the characters have for each other. Truly one of the most enduring romances of our time.

But LOTR wouldn't be complete without at least 1 spectacular scene. "Fellowship" had the encounter with the demon in Moria, and "Towers" its battle at Helms Deep. Jackson does well in creating momentum as the war draws near, so audiences experience the urgency and fear as the characters make preparations to defend their fort. Lace this with beautiful lines, and you've got the perfect mix. For example, when the king of Rohan asks Aragorn, "What can Man do when faced with such reckless hate?", the latter replies, "Ride out and meet it." And in a poignant scene where Frodo almost gives up on his quest, Sam manages to change his mind by saying, "There's still good in this world, and it's worth fighting for."

My eyes were fixed on Viggo Mortensen this time round -- Orlando Bloom caught my attention in "Fellowship", but his boyish good looks are overshadowed by Mortensen's rugged masculinity. :) Here is a man who was made for the role of Aragorn. Possessing the necessary physicality and agility, yet extremely capable in bringing out the character's soft side, he is a sight to behold, and eats up the screen whenever he appears. No wonder Miranda Otto, who plays his new love interest Eowyn, told reporters that she had no problem acting as if she were in love with him.

Already in the running for 2 Golden Globes ( Best Picture and Best Director ), "The Two Towers" also draws parallels with the political chaos in the world today. Sauron and Saruman can represent the Osamas and Saddams, and the Orcs the ever-increasing forces of al-Qaeda and other jihad affiliates. The theme of good versus evil resonates at this time of impending war between America and Iraq, and especially after 9/11. But there's always an optimistic conclusion to the tale, and good will triumph in the end, as long as we hold fast to our principles, and people with courage, loyalty and integrity still exist.

I'm rooting for "Towers" to win the Best Picture Oscar come March 2003. A long shot, perhaps, but it never hurts to hope!
You MUST see this movie!

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