Sunday, December 22, 2002
That Second Tolkien Flick

We went with some friends to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers last night. As spectacle goes, it was fine: pretty pictures, pretty computer-generated graphics, an awesome computer-generated character (Gollum) that makes Jar-Jar Binks look even more pathetic than ever. (Hell, Gollum makes the new, improved Yoda of Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones look pathetic.)

As story goes, though, it left a lot to be desired. I am no student or fan of the Tolkien books. I couldn't make it far enough into The Hobbit way back in the hippy days to have any claims of knowledge about them. And so, lacking certain knowledge (and being cheap enough or maybe even smart enough not to rush out to buy or rent the DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings), I found The Two Towers lacking. Substantially lacking.

First, there's very little character development. The only characters we learn very much about are the very conflicted Gollum mentioned above, and Frodo Baggins's gardener, Sam. While there's a hint of a love story about the human male lead and an elfen female, it's fragmented. There's little to grab onto.

And there's very little to suggest why the ring is so desirable. Yes, it exerts influence on Frodo and starts to drive him nuts, but is there any reason outside some preface material to the first movie -- material I have a hard time remembering -- to explain just what it is about the ring that's so important that everyone wants to have it? None is given, and the result is that there's very little motivation for the characters to act the ways they do.

Finally, there's lots of bloodshed -- well, not so much bloodshed, but lots of bone-crunching Foley sound effects -- but huge amounts of it are of the zombie, manufactured army created by magic by the Christopher Lee villain. There's so much, in fact, that it has little emotional impact. These aren't bad guys who except for different choices could be good guys: these are just instantiations of pure-D evil without any alternative for good. There's no reason to feel anything when they get offed. And most of the good guys who die in almost similar numbers are to the story as the actors who played them were to the studio: extras.

There are some good themes: The importance of confronting evil, and the importance of loyalty, bravery, and honor. But those themes don't have the support of well-rounded characters that the moviegoer might actually care about. To be honest, even though it had a high action quotient, it was boring.

I'll go see the third and concluding movie, but it will be only for the spectacle.