This retro review, originally published in SFX and Starburst magazines, harks back to a time before director Peter Jackson favoured bloated spectacle as evidenced by The Hobbit trilogy...
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
The diluted darkness of the Star Wars prequels is eclipsed by Sauron’s shadow in The Two Towers!
Director Peter Jackson reprises the narrative cue of Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) and, forsaking any introduction, embarks on a deeper, introspective and urgent deconstruction of the psychology that underpins the now fragmented fellowship; the Ring’s seduction of Frodo, the tragedy of Gollum (a true synthespian) and the heroics of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen a revelation), Gimli and Legolas.
Visually. Rivendell’s redolent beauty is replaced by nightfall, ruin and decay. The Elves, in their haste to elude Sauron, accelerated the corruption of the landscape. This aesthetic is maintained throughout most of the film and recapitulates the theme of darkness falling, but light is not entirely driven into shadow.
The battle at Helm’s Deep delivers in ways that no Clone War could ever emulate - an epic confrontation from a very human perspective. In between the moments of dark reflection there are those that are life-affirming. None has more poignancy than that of Gandalf’s return.
If there is a fly in the ointment; it is the Balrog! This ‘mythical’ beast appears to have escaped from a console game and should have evoked memories of the T-Rex attack from Jurassic Park.
Despite my serious reservations surrounding this project. Peter Jackson has surprised and delighted with both Fellowship and Towers. Will it be three times the charm or will the trials of the trilogy be insurmountable even for this master of the ring?