Action Movie Friday: The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2002
Genre: action, adventure, fantasy
Starring: Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Craig Parker, Liv Tyler, David Weatherley, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Andy Serkis, Karl Urban
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and JRR Tolkien (books)
Distributor: Warner Bros (New Line Cinema)
Budget: $94 Million
Box Office: $934 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four and a Half cookies!

Summary:

The Fellowship has broken and the splintered groups destiny are determined by hobbits. Frodo and Sam embark on a dangerous journey across broken wasteland and bog to try and get to Mordor. While Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped by the dreaded Urak Hai and their friends, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas run swiftly to rescue them and drawn towards politics and destiny.

Review:

The Two Towers and Return of the King are interesting books due the fact that Tolkien split them in half to focus on each journey individually. So, someone had to go through EACH book and do an outline of where everybody was at what time. (I’m sure someone had done this already somewhere, no doubt Tolkien did it himself, but that is an amazing amount of work.) In today’s type of writing, the story would have flipped back and forth between the journeys to give the reader a sense of “Suspense” about what was going to happen next, much like the movie did. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.

And because of the different medium, Peter Jackson and the writers made changes to the story. And it is a matter of opinion on whether or not they were good changes. In Fellowship of the Ring, the changes made sense, they added suspense and added to the sense of danger. In the Two Towers, the changes feel more contrived. They are drama for the sake of drama (Aragorn almost dying to hammer on Eowyn’s unrequited love) and in some cases, like how Treebeard and the Ents decide to take on Saruman, really take away from Treebeard’s character. Another change that was purely added and contrived by Jackson was Elrond and Arwen’s argument over her going to the Grey Havens. Not only does this turn Elrond into an ass, Elrond in turn has Aragorn be a bit of an ass to the woman he loves. It took a lovely heroic high fantasy story and turned it into a romance novel, complete with “I’m letting you go for your own good and totally disrespecting your wishes and agency because your father said so.” Ugh, ugh, ugh.

The elves coming to the aid of Rohan at Helm’s Deep felt like a ploy to keep elves “relevant” to the story. It didn’t really add anything. Sam also comes off as a jerk for no reason. In the books, Sam at least had overheard the argument between Smeagol and Gollum. So, Sam was on his guard. In the movies, Sam was cruel to Gollum for no reason other than the fact that he was Gollum. It was quite frankly, very uncomfortable to watch. If they’d just put in the scene where Sam had overheard the argument and was trying to warn Frodo not to be so soft hearted, it would have made more sense.

The last change was with Faramir. I know the point Peter Jackson was trying to make was that all men/hobbits/dwarves/elves are tempted by the ring. The point in the book was that Faramir had already stated that he wouldn’t take whatever it was before he found out it was the ring of power. When he did figure it out, he was already honor bound not to take the Ring and he was very rueful about it. Yes, he was mildly tempted, and yet at the same time, he’d already sworn to not take it. I wish that Jackson had left that part in most of all. It was a huge point of these honor societies to keep their word. Faramir was supposed to be a contrast to Boromir. Faramir was more like Aragorn and took counsel often with Gandalf. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Jackson decided to ignore this in favor of “drama.”

I must taking two bites out of the cookie for this nonsense.

Explosions. Yes. There was an explosion when they took out the wall at Helm’s Deep. One Cookie.

The fights have become grander, they are armies versus armies. However, they manage to keep in personal moments to ground the viewer. Personal moments that make them not as horrifying as battles can be, and thus, entertaining. Throwing Gimli and Gimli and Legolas’ competition. One cookie.

For some odd reason, Tolkien movies tend to have two women a piece. The Two Towers has Arwen and Eowyn. Both get thrown into two very contrived love plots. Arwen and her father fight over her leaving for the Grey Havens and how “true” her love for Aragorn is. And Eowyn finds herself falling in love with Aragorn, or the idea of Aragorn and freedom from the confining life of being a Lady of Rohan. I love both Eowyn and movie Arwen. They are strong women. Arwen refuses to give up her love of Aragorn. Eowyn finds strength even as she seeks death. As much as I dislike the way Elrond tries to trample over his daughters wishes and how he uses Aragorn to try and get his way, I still love Arwen for going “No. I still love Aragorn. My heart is mine to give as I please.” And here, Eowyn is at the beginning of her story. Frustrated by the role her gender has forced her into and the responsibilities thrust upon her and her heart yearns for adventure and great deeds even amidst great peril. So, I’m going to leave this cookie alone because it’s not the women I’m taking issue with, it’s the MEN.

Universe. Good. Check. One Cookie.

The Towers suffers a bit from needless additions and drama for the sake of drama, otherwise a tight action movie in a beautiful world. Four and a half gingersnaps.

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