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Guest Movie Review: Lord of the Rings, Part II - The Twin Towers

Story: Well, those of you who know the book need no story recap. Those of you not familiar will be a tad confused. Unlike Part I, which was linear in story line, this middle movie in the trilogy, jumps back and forth between several story lines. I hope this recap does not leave you as confused and edgy as my buddy (who is decidedly NOT a Tolkien person) was at the end of the movie.

First, we have the continuing trek/quest of the two Hobbits, Frodo and Sam, toward Mordor to return THE RING to the fire of Mount Doom. Along the way, they acquire a third musketeer (so to speak) -- a nifty little digital critter with a severe case of split personality. This critter is named Smeagol (good guy) or Gollum (bad guy) and the only really poignant moment in the entire film is provided by a scene where this little guy tries to sort out his feelings of betrayal. (The psychological content of Tolkien's epic is quite interesting and probably what hooked me into the whole Ring thing in the first place.)

Second, we have the quest of Aragorn, Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf -- they are in search of the two missing Hobbits, Merry and Pippin. This story turns into a tale of the Horse folk and that leads to the major battle of this section of the trilogy. (Think of it as the warm-up to the main bout -- which does not arrive until next Christmas!) Here we have two wizards contending, with their support staff -- Gandalf with the lovely Horse people and noble Elves on one hand and Saruman with horrible Orcs and Uruk Hai monsters on the other -- think men vs. machines -- and now, you guess who wins this round. (Into the middle of some truly horrendous battle preparations, Jackson inserts a bit of romantic tension -- using a lovely lady of the Horse people as a turn on for all kinds of people, both good and evil. In this he is true to the book, which itself got quite tangled in this middle section.)

Third, there is the quest of Merry and Pippin -- nabbed by orcs who escape and then end up with some animated talking trees that literally tear down the house by the end of the movie.

Fourth, there is the setup for the next movie -- Frodo and Sam run into Faramir (brother of Boromir, remember Boromir, the horn blowing human from Gondor, lately deceased after a run-in with the Orcs who captured Merry and Pippin? -- see you can keep this all straight if you try) and this part of the tale leads us, yes, AT LAST, to the TWIN TOWERS -- Gondor (where the good guys hang out) and Mordor (home of the really bad guys) -- and the Final Battle for Middle Earth. Whew -- made it!

Jackson offers us at this point all kinds of cliff hangers -- what has Gollum got up his sleeve, who is that woman Aragorn dreams about, etc. etc. etc. My question is -- who is going to remember any of this next Christmas?

And you wonder why this movie is three hours long? I applaud Peter Jackson -- he actually could have used a little more time to make it all a little more coherent. Maybe he should have edited out some of those panoramic really long, slow shots of those lovely New Zealand hillsides -- relieving us of some of the awful music that went along with them. I do think the chase of the Orcs lasted way, way too long. Aragorn looked a little foolish playing American Indian tracker in the wilds of New Zealand.

Acting: Hum -- I liked Smeagol/Gollum and Gandalf, and even Aragorn is growing on me. But it is really hard to notice any acting when it's really all about the critters and the battle scenes. There was lots of herding going on -- horse people into safe places, monsters into battle formations, elves into battle formations, trees into battle formations. Is herding considered acting? There was a lot of running too and I like running.

Predilection: I am a real FAN -- I love Tolkien's RING -- I've read it all a zillion times. So my notion of these characters is firmly fixed. Unfortunately for me, Peter Jackson's cast is not my cast. Only Smeagol/Golum really works as I thought it/he should. Gandalf isn't too bad. Aragorn needs to be a bit cleaner -- more elf like. The rest are a total disappointment.

Critters: Heavens, there are all kinds of them -- most truly ugly and many dripping nasty stuff out of their mouths. (Note: I had had dental work in the morning before seeing this -- maybe that is why all those nasty teeth unnerved me a bit.) I think Smeagol/Golum is actually a critter too. Oh, there are some terrific horses and a few supposed to be scary but really a bit silly flying Nazgul things. Lots of critters in this Part II.

Food: Well, actually -- some of the critters are food for other of the critters. You don't want to know. Sam the Hobbit is still munching elf lembas (looks like a giant cookie) until he switches to coney/rabbit stew. Lots of the food is raw --

Visual Art:These castles are stone, stone and more stone.

Blatant Product Placement: Nobody wants their product associated with this crew. Although maybe a dental product company should take a look --

Soundtrack: Not pleasant -- a bit sappy in the romantic parts and typical battle sounds for the rest.

Opening Titles: I expected more of a recap of the previous film -- it felt a little like one was just dropped into this Part II (oops, please excuse the pun). There was one cute bit as the wizard was falling that was a clever bit of photography.

Theater Audience: Amazing -- it was TOTALLY FULL, at 1:00pm on a weekday -- lots of couples. Mostly people in their thirties --clearly loving it --applause at the end.

Sappy Factor: See above notes re: music and Aragorn's romantic dream sequences.

Quirky Meter: Smeagol/Gollum is quirky to me -- the rest is too predicable for words. I wish the trees and the Ents (tree herders/minders) had been more quirky.

Squirm Scale: The music made me squirm -- the gore, surprisingly, did not. I think the blood/gore business is well done -- you don't actually see the physical damage of all that clashing and smiting.

Predictability Level: Well, you do know the good guys will win -- but what will happens next is anybody's guess when you have Ents and Orcs and Elves around.

Tissue Usage: None in sight -- except for those with colds and/or the flu.

Oscar Worthy: I want Smeagol/Gollum to get a nomination.

Nit Picking: See earlier comments re: nobody matches my image of them. See especially comments re: Aragorn's cleanup.

Big Screen or Rental: Only the big screen can do justice to those landscapes -- which are magnificent -- just too long in one shot.

Length: Let's see -- nine hours in total, divide by 3 = 3

Villa's Votes: As a movie, 5. For Tolkien's story and sweep and characters and incredible imagination (not to mention his memory), 10!