Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by:Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Miranda Otto, Brad Dourif, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett
Released: December 26, 2002
Grade: A

When you do it twice, it becomes a tradition.  For the second straight year, I was in a cinema at 10am on Boxing Day.  I had bought the tickets over a week in advance.  There’s only one film I could possibly be talking about.  A film showing to sold out sessions across the country.  A film where you have to show up an hour in advance to get a good seat.  The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is not only a great movie but a cultural event.

It’s a daunting task to condense the huge novel into three hours and significant changes have been made.  The heart of the story is still there and those in love with the books need to be wary that not everything will unravel as they expect.  At the end of The Fellowship Of The Ring, the characters were separated and rather than focus on one story, The Two Towers needs to show three.

Unlike the first film, which was “Frodo central”, our main story here is that of Aragorn’s (Mortensen).  Together with the dwarf Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and the elf Legolas (Bloom), he goes in search of the hobbits Pippin (Boyd) and Merry (Monaghan) who were captured by Orcs.  The travel to the land of Rohan where the king, Theoden, has become hypnotised by a spell from the evil wizard Saruman (Lee).  With the help of an old friend, the spell is broken and Theoden realises that Saruman is sending a massive army to obliterate his kingdom and “to destroy the world of men”.  Theoden orders his people to flee to the Rohan stronghold where the best stand a chance of defending themselves.

Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin have escaped danger and found their way into an enchanted forest.  There, the trees come alive and speak to the curious duo.  These mysterious beings, known as ents, are a dying breed but they also have their part in Middle Earth and won’t be a witness to their own destruction at the hands of Saruman.

Throughout this, Frodo Baggins (Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Astin) set off for Mordor but discover they are being followed by a mysteriously unknown creature known as Gollum.  As hinted at in the first film, Gollum once held the ring of power but lost it to Bilbo Baggins.  They sense Gollum wants to steal the ring back but surprisingly, Gollum is happy to show them the way to Mt Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed.  Samwise is doubtful but Frodo, with the ring taking an increasing hold over him, feels Gollum can be trusted.

There’s no let up in the pace and the three hours flies by in an instant.  With the introductions aside, there’s opportunity to explore more storylines and more characters.  Aragorn’s story dominates more than half of the film, as it should.  As is common knowledge, all three films were shot together.

Therefore, every item of praise I awarded The Fellowship Of The Ring needs to be reiterated here.  The special effects, the cinematography, the editing, the acting, the music, the directing, the writing… all awesome!  Is there a bad word that can be said?

It is an amazing production but would never work without the depth of the story.  These are richly developed characters and whilst being a world of fantasy, Tolkien’s themes about power and corruption apply to any world, including our own.  Some of the romantic themes needed a little more work but the climactic action scene is something to behold.

Now, we await the grand finale and the jewel in the crown for director Peter Jackson.  The cast have hinted the third film, The Return Of The King, will be the greatest.  I don’t doubt them for an instant.  365 days to go and counting…