Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Second installment rings true
By Rachel Deahl

How dare you lay a hand on my potato sack!

If George Lucas was supposed to usher digital filmmaking into the 21st century with his Star Wars prequels, it's fair to say that Peter Jackson has stolen his thunder. With The Two Towers, the second installment in Jackson's trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved fantasy epic, the New Zealand director crafts another awe-inspiring vision that wholly transports you to the dark netherworld of middle-Earth. Delivering on the promise of what the Star Wars prequels were supposed to be, Jackson delights with seamless CG-effects, strong storytelling, and more compelling characters than anything found in that galaxy far, far away.

Lacking any sort of beginning, The Two Towers launches you into its story as if you just pressed the pause button on your DVD player. Slightly disorienting, the effect makes it immediately apparent that the director envisioned his trilogy as one lengthy film (the way he shot it). As such, he throws the viewer into the story with little care that they might have forgotten the details of The Fellowship of the Ring. Oddly enough, as with Fellowship, this tactic isn't frustrating and it doesn't make the film feel incomplete; rather, it adds to the epic scope of the project, making it seem like yet another piece of the puzzle in this over-arching story.

Focusing on the disparate journeys of the Fellowship, which has geographically disbanded and left small pockets of the original group scattered about middle-Earth, The Two Towers follows three basic storylines. The first one revolves around Frodo, who is still traipsing about the planet with the Ring. Being worn down by its overwhelming power, Frodo (who is accompanied by his friend Sam) is attempting to bring the Ring to safekeeping. In order to do so, the two Hobbits employ the help of a slithery, cave-dwelling creature named Gollum, to serve as their guide. Gollum, who once had the Ring in his possession and has clearly been destroyed by the item he calls "my precious," is overcome by a devil-angel complex that leaves both of the little fellows wondering if the imp is friend or foe.

The second subplot, and the most minor one, traces the journey of the two other Hobbits in the Fellowship: Merry and Pippin. Initially captured by Orcs, the two escape and fall into favor with a living, talking, tree that journeys with them across the continent.

The final, and most involved, story focuses on the remaining warriors from the Fellowship: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Preparing to take on the army of Orcs that Saruman was manufacturing in the first film, the warriors hook up with a bunch of humans from a place called Rohan. There, the trio ready themselves for what seems like a David and Goliath match-up (the Orcs outnumber the humans by an astonishing figure), holing up in a damn-like structure to stave off the Orc army (which, it's worth noting, is intended to wipe out the race of man).

Of course, like The Fellowship of the Ring, the plot of The Two Towers is finally unimportant. Unlike both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, which were more focusing on laying groundwork than telling interesting stories, Jackson's films relay a lot of plot detail, without ever becoming flat. Strikingly similar to the first film in the series, The Two Towers offers up more of the same visual pyrotechnics matched with intelligent storytelling. Slight on the social commentary (the film touches on issues of imperialism, racism, and industrialization, but doesn't finally say much about any of those topics), The Two Towers is nonetheless a gratifying and exciting second chapter in what's proving to be the seminal sci-fi epic of the new century.