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Lord of the Rings: Two Towers

With some trepidation I paid my £4.75 and settled down for a long yarn involving good and evil, magic powers, spookiness, slightly androgenous characters with staring eyes, expensive wigs and some powerful special effects.

I had forgotten about the amazing scenery and the spectactular direction of Peter Jackson. I was swept along on a refreshing wave of you know all the background so here's the story, which made such a nice change from the first, much more ponderous, film.

Three totally separate strands are followed (not exactly interweaved) - Frodo and Sam with some occasional wierdness as the ring gives Frodo free trips; the two light-relief chaps Pippin & Merry are captured by the baddies and then escape into the clutches of the trees; and then the main story which features the knight character Aragorn, who turns out to be quite a nice guy.

I hadn't liked him much in the first movie as he treats the lovely Liv Tyler poorly - she clearly wants to be with him, and he goes away. I know if I ever got into that sort of situation with that particular lady, I might not ride away from her. But then there wouldn't be much of an adventure.

Anyway, this bloke chases after his colleagues from the Fellowship, along with the blonde archer and the scottish dwarf. They run for a week, and eventually turn up at the heart of the action.

The mentor character isn't dead; he's been laundered. Gandalf the grey has become Gandaz the Brilliant White, and he casts the spirit of Christopher Lee out of the King, which turns him from a whizened deadbeat into Yozzer Hughes without the passion. In the meanwhile, Ozzy Osbourne (for it is he) fancies the sister and is banished for being in cahoots with the baddies. Are you keeping up?

The battle, when it eventually happens, is so worth the wait. The special effects are breathtaking in their invisibility (the best sort are the ones you don't notice on account of your suspension of disbelief) and savagery. Death is all around, and we are on the brink of defeat when G the BW arrives with more pretty bowmen. I won't spoil the ending for you, because the filmmakers haven't chosen to include one. There's an excellent set-up for volume three, and the credits roll as the audience rushes for the loo.

Which brings us to the best actor award for this spectacular rollercoaster blockbusting action adventure. And it goes to the love child of ET and Olga Korbut - the remarkable Gollum, who demonstrates a range from nasty through helpful, to noble, fearless, trusting, angry, spiteful and ruthless. Also vengeful and friendly. CGI is a wonderful thing and the casting director should be awarded a coconut for this triumph.

Now, what about the deep and significant discussion about the role of good and evil and fantasy and mythic structure and the negative influence this sort of story can have on young, impressionable minds?

Tosh. Pish. I wave my hand in your direction, friend, unconcerned. This film shows the bad guys getting a sound kicking, and the noble, pure and good guys finding friends and allies who help them through to a victory. We've yet to see how things pan out in Volume Three: the Attack of the Alien Gymnast, but my knowledge of Led Zeppelin songs makes me think that even Gollum's nastiness is punished. Okay, it's probably helpful to be discerning about the way Dracula seems to be cast out of GissaJob, but that's the only magic moment, and the good guys are victorious here. The violence is a bit strong for little ones, but there is no bad language, one off-colour joke from the Diminutive Caledonian which many will probably not even notice, and not the slightest hint of sexual contact (a bit of lip-smacking doesn't count).

It could have (should have) had more of the beautiful Liv Tyler in it, and explained who Cate Blanchett was supposed to be, for those of us who had forgotten. Also, it needs a loo break half way through.

But let's enjoy a ripping yarn, review our distain of JRR, and hope for a positive conclusion to the trilogy at the end of the year.

Discussion Question
Name three film sequels which were better than the original.
Clue: possible contenders include
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Godfather Part 2
The Empire Strikes Back

Toy Story 2

SpiderMan 2
Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
(NB 'better' is a relative term, meaning 'there is a degree of improvement'... )
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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