Used the bank holiday yesterday to go see The Two Towers. As I mentioned after seeing Fellowship, I haven’t seen the trilogy before, besides the first one a few years ago and I haven’t read the books. I know bits just because it is impossible to avoid knowing elements, even before the films were massive success, particularly if you follow geek culture.
I felt I had a better time with this then I did with Fellowship. I still find it rather baffling that the first film seems to get so much praise for being pacey and lacking in flab, when both times I’ve seen it I’ve found it to be quite baggy and with plenty of elements that feel unnecessary. I think Towers is also a bit baggy, but it bothered me much less here. Perhaps because I’m now mostly onboard with the characters and interested in where everything is going, but I think it is more to do with the fact that the plot here feels more focused on specific goals instead of the general journey to an evil volcano.
There is still quite an episodic nature to the events that take place, but it is impressive just how much is crammed into the 3 hour runtime. We have comfortably about as much as Game of Thrones fits into a 10+ hour season here. Like that series, it also delves a bit more into the factions that make up Middle Earth and the politics that separates them, something that felt rather threadbare in the first film. I still think it skirts over how this world actually operates, such as what is the purpose of the wizards like Gandalf and Saruman, how does Elf society differ from Humans beyond just being immortal, etc. It is probably too much to ask for the films to go into that kind of detail, but it would be nice to see some of it. It also doesn’t help that these races are so played out now, but obviously they can’t do much about that.
Battle sequences felt a big step up from what went before too. Fellowship’s really didn’t feel particularly special. I could see the CGI being impressive at the time, but they seemed fairly standard nowadays and the action they depicted nothing that exciting. There is a much bigger scale to them here though right from the off. The opening vision of Gandalf’s full fight with the balrog, for instance, was really spectacular. Obviously, Helm’s Deep is the standout though and it is fantastic, edge of your seat stuff.
The only downside to Helm’s Deep is that it does make Frodo’s story a little underwhelming by comparison. His travels to Gondor are okay, but they lack the climax that we are getting on the other side of Middle Earth. Similarly, Pippin and Merry just spend most of film riding around a big tree for seemingly weeks or maybe even months. The Ents battle at Isengard is great, but again doesn’t compare to the other battle. It also ended up reminding me that Saruman seemed to be doing his Cercei impression and was just spending his time chilling at the top of a tower.
I am pretty certain that if this were being made today, they would be doing it as a TV series instead of trying to get it all in to a feature length film. There really is just too much to get into even the 3 hours (having said that, I’m surprised to see that the individual books actually aren’t that long). Still, the bits that work work very, very well. Definitely glad that I decided to go see these in the cinema rather than trying on the small screen again and very much looking forward to it all reaching a close with Return of the King in a couple of weeks.