The Lord of The Rings:
The Two Towers
***.8 GM
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Bernard Hill, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Andy Serkis


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Again, it must be said. Holy crap, just LOOK at this thing!

The badass movie krew from "The Lord of The Rings" is back for another go-round, and yo, this shiznit is OFF DA CHAIN, yo! Seriously, this whole saga is undeniably beautiful, and this film in particular has some goddamned spectacular shit in it. As a guy who never read the books, I'm finding this trilogy very exciting and stirring, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

This film finds the Frodo and the fractured fellowship foraging forward frantically to further their fantastical fantasy fandango fast enough for fairies, fae and friends to flourish and not fall to foulness forever. Frodo and Samwise Gamgee are workin' the way into Mordor, which causes them to run into the psychotic little misfit Gollum. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are in hot pursuit of them orc suckapunks what made off with the two annoying prick hobbits Merry and Pippin, who made their lives worthwhile in the closing moments of the first film. They track them down only to learn about some nasty goings-on in the Rohan kingdom, but luckily they find a reborn Gandalf to help them go kick some Isengard ass, leaving the two worthless hobbits to spend the whole movie hanging out with a living tree creature that goes by the handily stupid name of Treebeard. TREEBEARD. When The Gornman and his Orc-Bustin' Krew o' Bad Ass Thizugs-4-Lizife gets to Rohan, they discover that Theoden King has somehow seen fit to entrust some power in his kingdom to a guy named Wormtongue - enough so that Saruman, that big dickhead wizard, can work through him and keep Theoden on his deathbed so Rohan can fall more easily to those Isengard armies. Luckily, Gandalf is a top-notch pimp and can knock dat li'l ho' out da box. Time remains of the essence, though, as they can't convince Theoden to go out and kick the orc ass - he decides to retreat to the "impenetrable" fortress of Helm's Deep, which of course means it's penetrable if the assholes trying to get through it are tricky enough. These ain't regular orc-ass orcs, neither. They'z Uruk-Hai, the baddest of the bad. I smell a massacre.

Bad orc scaaare... slashing here and there and everywheeerre... high adventure that's beyond compare... they got a bad orc scaaare (Sorry - I just felt inordinately compelled to work the "Gummi Bears" theme song into this somehow). Mein gott, but the battle at Helm's Deep is perfectly done. I got serious chills when that gigantic horde of intelligent yet savage beasts, not looking to conquer or to defeat but to murder every last living being behind the castle walls, stands before Helm's Deep and starts to well up its monstrous battle fury, and we see the families and children of Rohan listening to it, fearing for their lives - the monsters of dreams and nightmares made real. A powerfully effective scene, and the one that's been reasonating with me the most.

Normally, CGI is pretty distracting with its cartoonishness, as much as it is touted as being so "spooky real," and my fear was that Gollum would be just utterly annoying (or worse yet, Binksish) in his obvious animation. This was not to be - he was incredibly well-created and felt like he was almost as real a character as any of them. In fact, he was so well done I'd consider nominating Andy Serkis for supporting awards for the performance. Also fabulously rendered were the tree creatures - slow-moving, deliberately paced and twisted in their majesty. This seemed like the biggest suspension of belief I've had to make in this series so far, but once I stopped thinking about the name 'Treebeard,' I was able to enjoy these guys, especially towards the end when they make their presence felt.

It did take a little while to get back into this world of creatures, goblins and weird things, and Treebeard is hard to take at first, but once you're in, you're in. Christopher Lee seems like he should have more to do than he does in this series. If he's such a powerful-ass wizard, why ain't he castin' spells like gangbusters? Hocus Pocus, all these tree bastards are now three-inch monkeys. Mekalekahi-mekahiney-ho, every time a hobbit goes to Mordor, he turns into an eighty-foot balloon that we can find pretty damn easily. And so on. That's the problem when creating a world that features magic - there is so little rhyme or reason to what can and can't be done that it gets frustrating. This is much like my frustration with The Matrix, with the whole arbitrary 'rules can be bent, but not broken' mantra. How vague is THAT? That means 'whatever serves the plot is possible, but if it could be too easy, the stuff that makes it too easy ain't allowed to happen, by Mystical Decree of The Lord of Magic, the late Doug Henning.

It's a bit sprawling, but you'll get that with middle chapters in gi-normous epics. It's a good time, and I was much more prepared for the sudden drop-off ending, where as with Fellowship, I was taken aback by not getting at least a minor climax of some sort after three hours. This one even manages to better "Fellowship" on that score, because the whole Helm's Deep experience feels like its own saga.

You'll either be into this stuff or you won't be - depends on your tolerance for the fantastical. I am into it, but I don't plan to dress up like Samwise Gamgee and go to a Renaissance Faire anytime soon.

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