The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
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The Two Towers balances spectacular action with emotional storytelling, leaving audiences both wholly satisfied and eager for the final chapter.
The Two Towers balances spectacular action with emotional storytelling, leaving audiences both wholly satisfied and eager for the final chapter.
All Critics (250)
| Top Critics (47)
| Fresh (238)
| Rotten (12)
| DVD (39)
When Gandalf arrives with reinforcements, descending a near-vertical slope using horses where you or I would use snowboards, the spirit of triumphant rampage is something rarely glimpsed since the days of Olivier and Henry V.
To live up to expectations, The Two Towers only had to be as good as its predecessor -- and, astoundingly, it's better.
The battle for Gollum's mind also provides a fitting teaser conclusion to the second act of a story I'm beginning to wish would never end.
Part two is more a straight-ahead action flick, substituting brawn and brawling for the pastoral radiance of the first film.
An army of filmmakers led by the director, Peter Jackson, has made the trilogy's central section a ringing testament to the power of motion pictures.
More graphic in its violence and more fantastic in its imaginings than the first film.
I think this one might be the actual best of the franchise and it's all because of the Ents.
this three hour epic is one of those few films where you leave feeling they could have spent even more time with story explanation and exposition
These Tolkien films have a weight and seriousness that very few sword-and-sorcery pictures of the past 30-odd years have attained.
What an eyeful it is. This is probably the greatest battlepiece composed for the screen since Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible.
This film is a towering achievement, and the next installment can't come soon enough.
This is, I can say without fear of exaggerating, one of the great films of all time.
In the words of actor John Rhys-Davies, "Part One was a damn wonderful film. You ain't seen nothing yet." The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is every bit as brilliant than its predecessor, if not slightly better in some respects. The stakes are raised and the story is darker, but it's also a film which demonstrates Peter Jackson's knack for balancing multiple storylines, serving up eye-popping spectacle while keeping an unshakeable grip on the substance he introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Where Fellowship took its time to set up the world of the hobbits and flesh out the backstory surrounding the ring, The Two Towers doesn't have any kind of initial exposition or recap to pull us back into the story. It doesn't need to: the opening sequence, which takes us back in Moria and shows us what happened next, is as heart-in-mouth as you could possibly want. It pulls us back into Middle Earth without simply retreading old ground, so that by the time that Frodo awakes from his dream, we know exactly where we are and are raring to go.
A common claim made about trilogies is that the second and/ or third instalments do not stand up as films in their own right. But Two Towers defies this, feeling every bit as well-crafted and distinctive as the first film. 'The Lord of the Rings trilogy' is a misnomer, since Tolkien wrote it as one book which was then split into three by the publishers. This is not a trilogy of one film with sequels, like Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia. It is the second part of one story, and all three parts blend together seamlessly.
It is this seamless progression from one book to another which made it sensible to shoot the films simultaneously, and is also this quality which allows Jackson's more obvious creative decisions to work. The single biggest change is that Frodo's death-defying encounter with Shelob is delayed until the start of the third film, confounding expectations of those who had read the book. In other circumstances this would have been a costly error, but the level of skill present on screen leads you to implicitly trust the filmmaker, so that even when there are noticeable alterations they remain within the tone of the film as a whole.
As before, the film's production values are superb. Every prop, costume and item of set is meticulously detailed and beautifully ornate, absorbing you as a spectator and making you feel immersed in the cultures of Rohan and Ithilien. The difference is that these designs now have to contend with far more kinetic and larger action set-pieces than anything in the first film. If Fellowship laid the groundwork for both the story and the scale on which it would take place, the second film builds on these foundations and flexes its muscles to show what can be achieved.
To create the Battle of Helm's Deep, Jackson and his production team created a computer program called MASSIVE, which entails creating hundreds of individual CG figures each capable of independent thought. This makes the battles more believable, with battalions of otherwise faceless armies taking on individual qualities, if only for a moment. The merging of CGI with reality is every bit as convincing as the amphitheatre scenes in Gladiator, but the organic effects are also terrific. Treebeard has all the physicality which comes from animatronics but none of the jerky drawbacks, and the continued use of forced perspectives works as well as anything on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Two special effects stand out in particular. The first is the de-ageing of Theoden, where the zombie-like king of Rohan loses 40 years in a matter of seconds. Not only does his hair recede and change colour, but the entire structure of his face is subtly altered, and yet it feels as tactile as the make-up he wears at the beginning. The other, of course, is Gollum. Like the introduction to Hobbiton, this was a death-or-glory moment for the trilogy; since Gollum is one of the connecting pieces in the story, if we did not accept this portrayal than all would be lost. But Andy Serkis succeeds with effort to spare, putting in a tireless performance and truly inhabiting the character.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a darker, more threatening film than its predecessor, a mood which is brilliantly conveyed in its battle scenes. Being a 12 certificate film, we are still in fantasy violence territory; the focus is on the suggestion of injury rather than lingering on blood like Gladiator or Braveheart. For all the spearings and decapitations, which again hint back to Jackson's horror past, the focus on violence is briefer and when individual pain is addressed (as with Haldir), it is largely implied. But despite the scale and the huge number of characters, we still feel a huge emotional attachment thanks to Jackson's camera positions and the rhythms of the battle, ensuring that the characters' pain and fear is very real.
The film is also thematically rich, drawing on Tolkien's concerns about the destruction of the natural world and the potential enslaving of mankind through machinery. Tolkien consistently emphasised that his work was not allegorical - he found the device irritating, baulking at his good friend C. S. Lewis when he used it to great effort in the Narnia series. It's tempting to substitute Sauron and Saruman's armies for the Axis powers of World War II - in light of the period in which the book was written - but to do so is to grossly oversimplify and reduce The Lord of the Rings. What is certainly true is that Tolkien's experience of World War I runs throughout his writing, with his characters struggling through seemingly hopeless situations and good people being twisted into evil monsters despite their best intentions.
This film places a neat twist on the theme of nature and machines clashing for the future of humanity. In the first film, the machines had it all their own way, but with the arrival of the Ents, the "shepherds of the forest" who in turn control the trees, nature is beginning to fight back. However, as the war turns the way of greenery on one front with the flooding of Isengard, at the other end the machinery of Mordor is making mincemeat of the divided forces of Gondor.
In the middle of both these conflicts, you have man and machine locked in combat for the control of the world. The central battle, between Frodo and the ring, stands on a knife-edge, and it is increasingly unclear as to who is controlling whom. As before, the beauty of The Lord of the Rings is its harmony of the epic and the personal, with all parties caught up in a conflict which is both physical and metaphysical.
As with Fellowship, what really sticks with you after many viewings is the film's note-perfect marriage of darkness and light. In light of its imitators (some pleasant, some not), we depict it as wholly dark, bleak and brooding in a bid to drum up its heft and credibility. But there is a lot of humour laced among even the darkest scenes. The rivalry between Gimli and Legolas is beautifully judged, and the scene of the latter killing soldiers while using a shield as a skateboard is straight out of Bad Taste. Even Sam's speech at the end about the 'great stories', which teeters on 'message moment' schmaltz, works as an expression of hope amidst a gathering storm.
The Two Towers is every bit as magnificent as its predecessor, if not slightly moreso. Like Mad Max 2 or Evil Dead 2, it builds on everything that was brilliant in the first instalment while carving out its own identity. Howard Shore's score is brilliant, especially in the dream sequences with Arwen, and Jackson's direction is note-perfect, beautifully judging the emotional impact of every last shot. Whether as a brilliantly constructed epic, a fascinating or an intimate story of struggle and temptation, there is something in The Two Towers for absolutely anyone.
The second part of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy sees the fellowship part company. Frodo and Sam encounter Gollum, cleverly presented as a kind of wretched schizophrenic drug addict which makes for a much more interesting character dynamic than the "You're my best friend Sam! "I love you Mr. Frodo!" of the first film. Meanwhile Pippin and Merry escape their captors and persuade the forest dwelling Ent to join the fight in a rather ham-fisted eco analogy. And finally Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli whose camaraderie is developed find new allies in Rohan and rejoin Gandalf to defend the fortress of Helm's Deep in a quite spectacular and monumental battle sequence. Although The Two Towers is as long as The Fellowship Of The Ring, the intertwining story threads, all told in parallel complete with a liberal dose of action make for much better pacing. I still have a problem with stories reliant on magic because if characters can come back to life for no reason other than it's convenient to the plot or can just say "Abracadabra" and make danger, and therefore suspense, disappear makes for little in the way of narrative logic. I also felt that Saruman got far too little screen time which left a focal villain lacking, but in this film Jackson has made a fantasy film I not only endured, but enjoyed.
Onward to Mount Doom, the perilous journey continues from where it left off. Still in familiar territory with this sequel as the 78 Bakshi film also covered most of what happens here, just about, so yes I can still compare to a degree hurray!
So as we crack on with the story its not long before you discover there's a lot of dialog, quite a lot, in fact bloody hell what have I gotten myself into! Yes the first like two hours of the film is much dialog and not really very much else. Now if you're a Tolkien fanboy this will be music to your ears as Jackson does cover a whole heap of plot, although there are variations and changes still as there were with the first film.
I should point out quickly that all visuals, details, location work and performances are of course as you would expect and still on par with the first entry. There isn't too much need to go into all that as the quality is still just as high all round and I explained those standards in my first review.
This is of course the film where we meet Gollum properly as a full fledged character. Now in my humble little opinion you either like this guy or you don't, personally I can't stand this character even back in the Bakshi film. I realise he is suppose to be a wretched creature but Jesus Christ he's annoying, annoying on the same level as Jar Jar Binks. His voice just pisses me off and his design with those big eyes looks completely ridiculous, the guy has Disney eyes for gods sake!
Again upon release this character got huge raving reviews about the CGI and all round rendering against the live action. Again I simply don't understand what the hell everyone was on about as I saw shoddy CGI abundantly with some awful rendering against live action characters in places. Its not all bad for sure, a scene with Gollum sat on a rock next to some open water eating a fish shows how good some of the CGI could be. In general I was never impressed with this effect and his quite childish and basic looking features, the only aspect that looked real was his eyes, kinda.
So to be honest most of the film is really rather dull and slow for the most part. There are bits of interest within the plot that spring up to keep you awake (Merry and Pippin with the orcs) and of course the odd eye popping moment of real scenery (Edoras). But lets be honest here, it all gets into gear when King Théoden of Rohan decides to move his people of Edoras to Helm's Deep and everybody starts to suit up for war...WAR!!!
Before we get there you have the intriguing sub plot with Merry Pippin and Treebeard. Now this part of the plot I always liked and I loved the Ent species, huge ancient old gnarly trees that could come alive, walk and talk. This was one area which never really saw the light of day in the Bakshi film.
I was happy to see that Fangorn forest did live up to my expectations with its sweeping, mystical, magical appearance. I loved how light beams broke through the twisted huge trees, the gentle humming of insects in the background, the bold palette of greens, yellows and browns of the undergrowth, all together giving this harmonious fairytale utopia. Now this was never going to be an easy task creating living trees and to be honest I think the designs were pretty good for the Ent species. Well the odd tree character looked a bit silly, the weeping willow type character didn't quite work if you ask me, why would that be in a forest? Probably not a weeping willow I know but it looked like it.
Amazingly Treebeard isn't fully CGI, he is actually a large puppet/model against bluescreen with the help of CGI later on naturally. To be brutally honest, the sequences with both Merry and Pippin riding around with Treebeard are, well...pretty poor looking. The big problem with these films has been dreadful bluescreen effects which are hideously obvious to the point that the foreground is virtually a different brightness to the background. Hard to pull off yes but it does look very basic. The models are quite nice and better than the fully CGI Ents but neither are exactly believable which I hate to say.
Anyway after a whole lot of plot development and slow slow character driven dialog blah blah blah we finally get to the meat of the film and what we've all been waiting for, the battle at Helm's Deep. Finally we are here, I know that's what I was thinking, I'm sure you were too, yes you were don't lie.
Now far from me to describe myself as a battle whore but this huge huge finale certainly got my nipples tingling with excitement. As the massive army of orcs, Uruk-Hai and god knows what slowly lurch closer you can't help but get pumped. Aragorn summons his army of men and elves to arms, walking up and down the vast stone fortified wall of Helm's Deep invoking a warriors passion into the hearts of all that stand beside him. On the other side of the wall in the pouring rain the orcs and Uruk-Hai pound the ground with their spears, baiting their foes...oh yeah its full on kick ass!
In short the battle doesn't disappoint in any way, Jackson milks every moment for as much heroic posturing as possible with plenty of good short suit up sequences just to make sure you know there is gonna be some epic hacking n slashing. The good guys are holding firm but slowly succumb and you really do start thinking how the hell are they gonna turn this around!. Its a full rollercoaster of emotion as the goodies crumble along with their fortress and become overrun.
The epic splattering of orcs, men and elves is interspursed with silly moments I have to say. The orcs manage to get the explosives into the drainage, the weak spot of the Helm's Deep walls. But then they have one big orc do some kind of Olympic torch bearing act and run across the battlefield holding the igniting flame aloft for all to see and shoot at...eh? Why not just light it when they dumped it?
I didn't like the odd moment of Hollywood where Legolas slides down some stairs on a shield like a surfboard whilst shooting multiple arrows one after another. Does this elf ever run out of arrows by the way? his pouch is always chock full.
When Aragorn throws Gimli across a quite large drop onto the main bridge at the entrance of Helm's Deep. He then proceeds to jump it himself and they both fight off quite literately hundreds of Uruk-Hai. And when all the heroes come charging out of the fortress on horseback they pretty much go through hundreds of big sturdy heavy Uruk-Hai as if they were made out of paper.
Finally, when Gandalf shows up with Éomer looking down on Helm's Deep, errr...that near sheer downward gradient drop they all ride down on horseback!! excuse me!! Yes its little quibbles but things like that detract from the sensible story and I always notice this stuff.
The effects are better than the first film yet still have the same problems in my opinion. One good example of some pretty terrible CGI action would be the attack of the Isengard wolves or Warg riders. This sequence really is jerky with nasty bluescreen and a whole load of fake looking action set pieces. There are also many little moments throughout which simply don't look right, one tiny sequence shows Legolas mounting a horse as it trots past him which is quite literately absolutely awful looking.
On the plus side the orcs and Uruk-Hai seem to look much better this time, not quite as hokey. The Ringwraiths look good on their flying dragon-like steeds and there seems to be a bit more blood on show methinks too, ever so slightly more gooey and gory.
Overall I thought this film was for the most part rather dull and not as good as the first film. The finale battle is obviously the best thing in the whole film and without it there would be problems. The film does feel much more like a serious historical drama for the most part up to the final big battle. From that point on it obviously becomes a much stronger fantasy action film which it really needed frankly.
Not that the rest of the film is bad, its just a wee slow and dull, filling in lots of plot before it all heats up. The thing is the dialog and slow building in the first film was much more interesting because you're getting to know the characters and their world. Here its just filler getting Frodo and the gang to the next big step, but kudos for getting it all in there and staying true to the book.
To be continued.....
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