Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (IMDB) (Netflix)
When director/producer Peter Jackson and his cohorts were pitching Lord of the Rings, their initial funder insisted that the trilogy be done as two movies, to reduce cost and risk. Jackson gulped and soldiered on, eventually shedding that vulgarian, but was convinced that Hollywood would only pay for two films (quick, name a non-animated fantasy flick that had done big business in the previous decade). During his quest for financing, after he aired a video presentation of the concept to New Line Cinema, the suit in charge said, "I don't get it." Hearts sank. "It's a trilogy. Why aren't there three movies?" And there was much rejoicing throughout Middle Earth, and in the glands of literate adolescents everywhere.

For a Part Two, this ranks up there with the second Godfather film. Trilogy aficionado and discerning cinephile Alan Asper found it "amazing," and though I never made it past The Hobbit and lack the details that would have filled in much of the backstory, I have to agree that this is a terrific movie. It helps to start with quality material that provides all the elements: good vs. evil, pure-of-heart romance, truly scary bad-beings and heroes who will sacrifice for the greater good, plus a top-shelf battle scene. Viggo Mortensen couldn't be more heroic as Aragon, and the pacing gives the audience time to breath without dragging out the proceedings, making this three-hour epic play like two hours. The CGI rendering farms rose to the task as well, with a digitized character, Gollum, who interacts unusually well with the human actors (the scenes were shot with an actor, who was later replaced by the digital version) and is unconventionally creepy.

Worth pretty much every one of the gazillion pennies it'll ring up, and a film that George Lucas should study frame-by-frame and line-by-line if he wants Star Wars: Episode Three to avoid embarrassing comparisons.