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Elijah Wood
Viggo Mortensen
Sean Astin
Orlando Bloom
John Rhys-Davies
Ian McKellen
Billy Boyd
Dominic Monaghan
Bernard Hill
Miranda Otto
Sean Bean
Liv Tyler

Peter Jackson




Time: 179 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy

Won Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects. Nominations for Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound and Art Direction.

Peter Jackson secures his place in cinema history with this second installment of Tolkein's classic battle for Middle Earth. Any doubts on whether he could pull off bringing this massive epic to the screen are long gone. If possible, THE TWO TOWERS is an even better film than the first. More time is spent getting to know our old friends than in fighting mystical monsters, which ensnares you even deeper into their journey. Though the Fellowship has gone their separate ways, Jackson masterfully weaves all the various characters and their plights into a stunning visual canvas, moving from one group to another just when your curiosity is at its' peak. The pacing, which is slower than FELLOWSHIP, allows the characters to really come alive. The battle a minute structure of the first was exciting, but somewhat empty. There's no time for idle chit-chat when you're battling for your life. Here, the odds they face become crystal clear and Frodo's mission all the more desperate. The wait for the final installment is going to be torture. I want to know what happens to our heroes, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. To read or not to read, that is the question.

As one would expect, the story picks up right where we left off: with Frodo and Sam heading to Mordor and the rest of the fellowship – Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli – in hot pursuit of the orks who kidnapped Pippin and Merry. Saruman the White is continuing to amass a seemingly endless contingent of soldiers in his effort to wipe out the human race once and for all. The neighboring country of Rohan is his target. The king of Rohan, Theoden, is old and weak, leaving his people vulnerable to Saruman's vicious and sudden attacks. While following the hobbits' trail, Aragorn and friends meet up with an old acquaintance they thought was dead – Gandalf. Their assumptions about his demise were accurate, but his tasks on Middle Earth were not yet complete, so...he's back to continue the fight. They align themselves with Theoden and his people, but the battle will not be an easy one. Saruman's forces are 10,000 strong and Rohan has only a few hundred soldiers, it's main legion banished through Saruman's trickery. It's up to Aragorn and his men to ensure the castle doesn't fall. If it does, every dies. Gandalf's promise of aid is their only hope.

Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam form an unexpected alliance as well. Gollum has been following them, waiting for the right moment to reclaim his "precious." He attacks them, but only winds up as their prisoner. Gollum secures his freedom by claiming to know the way to the Black Gates of Mordor. Sam wants nothing to do with him and believes he's lying in order to get the ring. Frodo sees his own future in this sorry creature. If he doesn't succeed in his quest, he will become as twisted as Gollum. He already feels himself succumbing to the ring's call. They will trust Gollum, since they have no other choice. He is true to his word, but the task of breaching the Black Gates without detection is impossible. They set off again, only to encounter a danger far more threatening than the Black Riders – a human with a thirst for victory. Frodo must now not only combat his inner demons, but the lust for the ring's power of Faramir, brother of the slain Boromir. Sam is his only companion not enraptured with the ring. Gollum may have shown them the way, but his redemption is merely skin deep. Besieged on all sides, our heroes face the battles of their lives, yet face the evil of Sauran with unwavering courage and the help of some very old alliances.

"All our hopes now lie with two little hobbits, somewhere in the wilderness."

The final seige on the castle of Helms Deep is astounding to behold. The four months of night shoots pays off in a manner that will take your breath away. The entire film leads up to this moment and it does not disappoint. I was on the edge of my seat for the last 25 minutes. I knew they were going to survive – there is a third movie after all – yet it's so overwhelming you still fear for their safety. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli become even more heroic, as if that were possible. In fact, Orlando Bloom, as the elven archer, steals the show during this battle with his cool moves, dry wit and fierce accuracy. However, it's Mortensen's soulful warrior that holds the film together. His courage, tenacity and intelligence give the story energy and hope. It's no wonder Eowyn (Otto), Theoden's niece, instantly falls for him. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where their relationship is going. Viggo should be winning awards for this part. Being quietly charismatic isn't easy. Woods is equally entrancing as the hobbit who's slowly losing his soul. His transformation is subtle, but all too apparent. His eyes and body language speak volumes about the toll this mission is exacting. This is the role of Woods' career and he's knocking it out of the park.

The most surprising performance comes from the computer generated Gollum. Jackson believed the film's success rested partially on being able to create a living breathing creature from 1's and 0's. To a certain extant he's right. Gollum has so much screen time that if he's not convincing the spell of this magical story would be broken. Though the creature onscreen isn't real, Andy Serkis's amazing performance, which is what the animators based their work on, gives Gollum a believability never before seen in a CGI character. The range of emotion and physical movements are as human as can be. There are moments when Gollum looks animated, yet you never for a moment care. Jackson and Serkis have created a perfect marriage of performance and computers that will have wide-ranging repercussions in the years to come. It seems that so much time and energy was spent on Gollum, some of the other effects, like the giant talking trees, suffer in comparison. These "characters" charged by Gandalf to protect Pippin and Merry play an important role in the battle against Saruman, so one forgives their obvious CGI natures. In addition, their presence brings the film to a slow crawl whenever they appear onscreen; however, they add history and magic to the proceedings, so one can't complain too much. They don't ruin the show, just make it feel longer.

TWO TOWERS continues the splendor, excitement and suspense of the first film, bringing you into a world you won't soon forget. For those of you who've somehow missed jumping on this bandwagon, you're denying yourself one of the greatest cinema experiences to come along in decades. Get to theater. You won't regret it.

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