When the second part of Peter Jackson's adaptation of the mammoth epic The Lord of The Rings was released theatrically last year, I'm sure fans worldwide breathed a collective sigh of relief that the movie lived up to expectations. Indeed, for many The Two Towers has exceeded expectations, and surprisingly eclipsed The Fellowship Of The Ring on many levels...
As the movie opens we find Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) struggling along the border of Mordor, continuing their quest to destroy the ring after the fateful break-up of the fellowship. Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) chase across the plains of Rohan in pursuit of the Fighting Uruk-Hai, who've taken Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd respectively) captive. And so deepens the battle for Middle Earth as our heroes fight for their lives and each other, racing against almost impossible odds with just the slimmest of hope of success...
The Two Towers is breathtaking in scope, daring in execution and practically laughs in the face of the idea that the “middle” section of any trilogy is the hardest one to pull off. In fact it may have been the hardest part of the story to pull off, but you'd never know this from watching it. The existing characters just get better and better, with more layers and depth being revealed as the Two Towers progresses. We see bonds strengthening and personal turmoil's developing - see Aragorn's gradual transformation from his ranger persona to leader, and Frodo's weakening under the power of The Ring - and new conflicts arising as new characters are introduced into the plot.
Speaking of characters, there really is a dizzying array of new faces here, from Treebeard the Ent, to Grima Wormtongue, to the show-stealing Gollum played wonderfully by Andy Serkis. If anything there's almost too much to cram in, and one could argue that the plot suffers at times from lulls, such as the Fangorn Forest sequence where the very nature of the Ents is at odds with events unfolding around us (that may have been Tolkien's intention, but it doesn't quite work).
Luckily for us, this special extended edition contains 43 minutes of additional footage on the theatrical cut, which takes the running time to a mammoth 223 minutes and splits the movie across 2 discs. If you're wondering if these 43 minutes add anything to the movie, the answer is a resounding yes. There are many additional scenes bolted onto existing ones, and a number of new scenes entirely, and these serve to make the movie a richer, more rounded experience.
Aside from the moments of additional battle footage which is always welcome (the additions of chopped off legs and a decapitation amongst other moments adding a more visceral feel to proceedings), the new scenes add depth to many of the characters, and goes some way to explain reasons for their actions, as well as offering insights into more of the mythology of Tolkien's world.
Of particular note are extended sequences between Aragorn and Eowyn, which throws Aragorn's character into a slightly different light (his origins are explained somewhat), and also hints at how the relationship between the two characters might develop in the future. Also, Boromir (Sean Bean) makes a return in a stirring flashback sequence which in turn makes the entire section featuring Faramir make more sense, again because we see the motives behind his actions.
There are a huge number of “new” moments to feast your eyes upon and if you add these to an already superb movie, and can forgive the “mid-movie” slump of Fangorn Forest, you're looking at one of the best movies of the last few years. Equal without question to The Fellowship of The Ring, better in some ways, this promises to be one of the best trilogies ever made. Roll on the King...
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