Towering High

The second installment of the Tolkien epic is bigger and better than its predeccors.

If you’ve watched "The Fellowship of The Ring", you understand this is more a film about scale than about simple storytelling. In the second part of this three-volume tome, the story strays from that singular epic journey of the first volume into three separate expeditions, now with more motives than one.

Frodo and Sam are on their way to Mordor to destroy the ring, whose power, incidentally, gets more demonic, encumbering them with grave consequences, the worst of which is the addition of the nasty Gollum to their company. Legolas, Gimli and Aragon, on their way to Isengard, stop by Rohan for battles with the orcs, soldiers of the evil Saruman. Merry and Pippin, the last batch of travelers, embark on the least laborious trek of them all, when they encounter giant mobile trees, Ents, who carry them straight on to Saruman’s enclave.

The film is fraught with battle, and although the scenic vistas of New Zealand make for more than a picturesque representation of Middle Earth, the picture has enough blood and gore to taint the frame. Director Peter Jackson couldn’t have done better in his depiction of the Two Towers of Saruman and the concluding war that simply awes in its scale alone - huge sets and plenty of computer wizardry make this almost flawless. The film introduces a number of new characters, yet makes infrequent allusions to some of the old ones like Cate Blanchett (Lady Galadriel) and Liv Tyler (Arwen).

The producers claim that each episode gets bigger and better than its prequel, and judging by the enormity of this alone, that might just be a fact. For those who haven’t read the book or watched the prequel, the events might just seem disjointed, and the fact that no narrative bothers to update the viewer on the story so far might just make this a baffler for some. But even the dazed spectator comes away entertained, because it's been a while since cinema has attempted to scale such heights.

This article was first published on 27 Mar 2003.