Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Lord of the Rings: Caught in the Middle

I’m well aware that Tolkien’s masterpiece was one book in many parts, and not three books in parts. I’m well aware, too, that Jackson’s own masterpiece though released over three years was shot at once. Yet, I can’t put it as one film on my top 100. It feels like a disservice to the talent involved, even as I realise that by dividing it takes up 15% of my top 20. I’m fine with that, though. The three films may be created simultaneously, but they’re not created equal.
Incidentally, The Two Towers is my favourite section of the novel and it ends up being my least favourite part of the actual film. But, all things being relative, it’s still a magnificent film nonetheless. It is in this instalment that Viggo Mortenson gives us his greatest incarnation of Aragorn. In a way, The Lord of the Rings focuses on three men. The first is centres on Gandalf, the second on Aragorn and the third on Frodo (accompanied by Samwise). Thus, The Two Towers like its protagonist is a man, fallibly human. Mortenson followed up on Aragorn with three excellent introspective portrayals in Eastern Promises, The Road and A History of Violence. True, Aragorn is more like one of the kings of our imaginations than a flawed man but Mortenson does enough to make us believe in the imperfections of this king-to-be while assuring us that he is infallible. I’ll forever hold a soft spot for Arwen (the Jackson creation more than the Tolkien one) so I never do become as emotionally invested in the would-be romance between Aragorn and Eowyn even if Miranda Otto is turning out an excellent performance. Is it that Aragorn forgets about his elfin love…obviously, no. His biggest fault (if he has one) is actually his strength. Aragorn is intent on playing the hero – always. Naturally, he cannot be everyone’s hero; but it is his penchant to come to the rescue of those who need it that makes his rapport with Eowyn so true – something Otto and Mortenson play perfectly.
But it’s not about Aragorn alone. It’s in The Two Towers that I become altogether too fond of Boyd and [ ]. I’d choose this pair over Frodo and Sam, and not because they’re more fun. The two are so often forgotten even though both (particularly Boyd) turn in excellent performances. It’s more than acting childlike, there’s an unruly naïveté about them that is altogether too infectious to ignore and they pull it off with aplomb. Thus their capture by the Orcs and then by Treabeard plays out as more than just the comic relief that it could have been. Of course, I remember the middle for the return of Gandalf – no longer Grey, now white. I know he’s coming back, but still the revelation of his return always makes me gasp just a little. He’s still out acting everyone around him, even if the villainous Christopher Lee is giving him a run for his money. If The Fellowship depends more on story and the The Return of the King more on visuals then The Two Towers depends on the acting. Andy Serkis’ maddening Gollum is at his creepiest here and Brad Dourif’s take on Wormtongue is excellent, even if he’s forgotten in the wake of so many crazier villains. More mention should be made of Bernard Hill's King Theoden. Just like the revelation of Gandalf the White the moment where he casts off Wormtongue is excellently played and so alluring. He and McKellen play well off each other and we believe that this is a great man who still could have been duped by a scoundrel like Wormtongue.
I will admit there are times I forgot how great The Two Towers is until I actually see it. It’s waiting for the inevitable showdown that will occur in the finale, but it’s more than merely a bridge. It has significance in its own right. What moments do you recall vividly in this, the middle child of the trilogy?


The Floating Red Couch said...

"Cameron’s own masterpiece though released over three years was shot at once."

Busted in a Freudian typo. You have to apologize to the formerly-big Kiwi.

I like Fellowship the best, TT as the most exciting, and RotK when I need a happy ending. (

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

floating red couch oh my gooooooooooooooood. changing, changing, changed.