Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is an old adage that has been the basis for many a story. It is the primary plot device behind John Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings classic. Written in 1954-55, with origins dating back to 1937, the first of the three movie installments, which have already been filmed, tries to stay true to the mystical world present in the book. The resulting effort is a definite success.
The star of the story, and the film, is not a person, but an object, a ring. The ring allows one to control a host of other rings handed down to the different peoples of Middle Earth: three rings belong to the immortal elves; seven to the dwarfs; and nine rings to mortal humans. The ring that rules all the others, forged using the fires of Mount Doom by the evil Wizard Sauron (Sala Baker), gives its holder so much power that it corrupts all those who seek to wear it, even the purest.
Of course, there are some peoples that are more pure than others. Humans generally seem incapable of wearing it without being corrupted by its influence (no surprise there). But there exists a diminutive people, the Hobbits, who do seem at least capable of carrying it without being polluted too much. It falls upon one Hobbit, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), to take the ring to Mt. Doom, which is the only place where it can be destroyed.
Frodo is aided in his quest by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the elf Legolas Greenleaf (Armando Bloom), the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), two humans Strider aka Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean), and three other Hobbits including Frodo's friend Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin). The story chronicles how Frodo, being a reluctant hero, travels through mysterious and dangerous lands of breathtaking beauty, and fights terrific monsters in the context of awesome towers and citadels, to achieve his goal.
Perhaps one of the most visionary aspects about Tolkien's work is how he set the stage for a Dungeons and Dragons style video-game. Director Peter Jackson imbibes to the film the same feel present the book, in terms of traversing a diverse variety of landscapes, while encountering a diverse variety of creatures, friend and foe alike. Watching the film, it's easy to become mesmerised by the fantasy that is unfolding purely based on the cinematography.
Like with Joanne Rowling's Harry Potter (or for that matter, Stephen King's It), this film does not live up what I imagined, but it does a great job of presenting what Jackson and his co-workers imagined. The special effects are spectacular and meticulously done, perhaps even better than those observed in Harry Potter. There are no cop-outs here and every place that it matters, the effort and the expense have been evidently put in. The soundtrack sometimes overwhelms the dialogue, of which there is a lot, interspersed between the action sequences. Do not miss seeing this on the big screen. This is how movies should be made.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is better than its predecessor, and that's a rare occurrence when it comes to Hollywood films.
The story begins where the first film left off: Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) continues on his quest to Mordor to destroy the powerful ring in the same fires of Mount Doom from which it was created. Aiding him, directly and indirectly are, fellow Hobbits Samwise Gamjee (Sean Astin), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) and Peregrin Took (Billy Boyd); Gandalf (now) the White (Ian McKellen); Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen); Legolas Greenleaf the elf (Orlando Bloom); Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys-Davies); and Treebeard the Ent (voice of John Rhys-Davies). Against him are Saruman the White (Christopher Lee) and Sauron the Dark Lord, whose spirit is intertwined with the ring. And a creature whose intentions are ambiguous (quite literally) is Smeagol/Gollum (voiced by Andy Serkis).
The main goal of this episode is to showcase the unleashing of the Saruman's forces to conquer middle earth. The movie actually ends on a positive note, with our friends having the upper hand in the two epic battles--between Saruman's 10,000 strong army and the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Rohan at their Helm's Deep fortress; and between the Ents and Sarmuan's war machine in Isengard--as well as several minor ones.
The cinematography, along with the computer graphics, is awe-inspiring. Gollum is animated brilliantly, so much that I thought he was more convincing than any of the real actors. The CGI in general is state-of-the-art; the only time I could clearly discern the computer generated images was when they had the battle with the Wargs, There is a lot of humour in the film, which shows that nothing in life is worth taking too seriously. The soundtrack, which is reminiscent of old Westerns, is excellent.
It's hard to fault a film that is as well-made as this one. In my view, The Two Towers is best judged on its own merits. While it would help to be familiar with Tolkien's works (including The Hobbit, which really fills in a great deal of the background material), this tale can stand on its own if you use your imagination.
The reason Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, are such big successes is because of the mythology they create. The Lord of the Rings, which predates these works, is no exception and is one of the richest. The film itself can be described only in superlatives. Go see it.
There's definite value to making a series of films at the same time: the quality and the "look and feel" is consistent, and the passion of the people involved, if present in the first film, is present in all of them. Most important of all (unlike in The Matrix or even the Star Wars series), it shows that the creators have thought through the implications of their story arc, rather than just generating sequels due to public pressure. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, it probably didn't hurt that the plot was based on a famous well-established book.
And this is how it ends. In The Return of the King, the filmmakers tell a fairly simple story: how the two Hobbits, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) finally return the powerful ring to the fires of Mount Doom. They take a well-paced 200 minutes to do so and every minute is worth watching.
The best character throughout the whole series of films for me was Smeagol (voiced Andy Serkis) whose history as he becomes the Gollum is showcased here, as is the corrupting nature of power. This is how the movie starts, and as everyone knows, it ends with his death. Perhaps the best lesson from this film is that Frodo is a potential Gollum, and Gollum is a potential Frodo.
The graphics were absolutely perfect. The final epic battle is a visual spectacle. And as has been the trademark in this movie series, the are interspersed with poignant scenes that are irrelevant to time and place, when viewed from an anthropomorphic perspective. Further, the visual scenes themselves a great mix of live action with computer-generated images which blend together seamlessly. The most anticlimactic moment had to do with the defeat of Sauron, which in the end I thought happened a little too easily. I would've liked to see him go head to head a little more with Frodo's friends.
No set of words in a review can do justice to The Lord of the Rings movies, save to say that it's best watched on a large screen with great surround sound so you can see for yourself why.