Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, Andy Serkis
Runtime: 179 Minutes
Original UK Release: 2002
The Two Towers follows through on the setup of its predecessor with a sensation of confidence in its stride, acting as the middle act of the whole that is the series, it carries an awful lot of plot baggage while never itself feeling like the coherent whole that The Fellowship of the Ring was. That being said, the film is still pretty damn great overall.
With the same technical crew at hand, the film sustains the same level of visual grandeur and identity while one-upping its action quota into extensive set-piece sequences. The second unit team accomplish some fantastic work, especially in the third act battle for Helm’s Deep which reinvented the way 21st-century cinema would mount such events. There’s a natural state of evolution for the story, even if there is no definite conclusion by the end of its long runtime it’s the characters that individually benefit from its work.
At times the film finds itself juggling almost too many new character introductions at once, and in doing so distilling certain characters down to narrower traits, including Gimli and Legolas. There are plot tangents that eat up runtime almost unnecessarily, specifically the Ent chapters – although the payoff to said setup is amongst the film’s most wonderful pleasures to watch. Balancing the stories with both the Men and the Hobbit’s struggles, there’s a lot of ground to cover and through the narrative it’s tackled rather engagingly.
The Fellowship has been broken and friendships are being tested, and the inclusion of Andy Serkis’s Gollum is not only a stunning visual marvel, but a welcome and compelling character that influences and darkens the atmosphere of Frodo and Sam’s journey into the darkness of Mordor.
It may carry a morbid tone with a final stretch that constitutes as a bit of a non-ending, but it works in the setup of the final chapter, as well as the darkness that's to come.