Genre:  Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  PG-13 (for epic battle sequences and scary images)

Release Date:  December 18, 2002

Actors:  Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Sir Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood

Director:  Peter Jackson

Special Notes:  With the first in the trilogy being nominated for 13 Academy Awards, it encouraged New Line Cinema to pour more money into the following two films, and you can see it in the special effects and production quality of this movie.  There were over 1,600 pair of Hobbit feet, 2,000 weapons and 500 actors in these movies.  The crowning battle at Rohan took more than three months of rain-machined night shoots to produce, and the result is a head-chopping, high body count battle with footage that is thrilling.

Plot:  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second film adaptation of the literary trilogy written in 1954 by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The story begins in the hills with Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) carrying on the quest to destroy the Ring and encountering Gollum (Serkis, the miserable former Hobbit-turned-ugly-creature from whom Bilbo Baggins first stole the Ring).  Aragorn (Mortensen), Legolas (Bloom), and Gimli (Davies) have gone after Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd), who’ve been taken by the evil wizard Saruman and his army of super Orcs.  As the faithful crew tracks their friends, Aragorn and the others discover that Gandalf (McKellen) is alive and now known as “Gandalf The White”.  He urges the band of men to fight the army at Helm's Deep, in the land of Rohan.  The people of Rohan are led by King Theoden (Hill), his niece Eowyn (Otto) and her brother Eomer (Urban).  Wormtongue (Dourif) has cast the King in a trance that has rendered him powerless and left his kingdom for ruin.   Meanwhile Merry and Pippin escape and are rescued by the Ent named Treebeard--a living, walking tree Shepard whose forest Saruman has destroyed.  As Frodo and Sam begin to make their way to Mount Doom, the Ring begins to affect Frodo in more ways than he bargained for and the parallel journeys result in great battles, unimaginable armies and incredible wonders.

Good:  This is an incredible fantasy, sci-fi, adventure epic filled with elaborate sets, grotesque creatures, beautiful New Zealand countryside, a superb ensemble of talented actors and some of the most amazing special effects and battle scenes you've ever seen!  Director Peter Jackson has taken on a monumental task that no other director in history had tried to accomplish before this trilogy--making three films in a year and a half of production.  Most of the original characters are back, but this time there are a few new additions:  Bernard Hill as King Theoden, Miranda Otto as the princess with fighting spunk who can yield a sword and Saruman's spy, Wormtongue, played by the creepy looking Brad Dourf who you've seen for years as the bad guy in films.  And there are two CG characters:  Treebeard (whose voice is provided by Rhys-Davies who also plays Gimli) and the most unusual and haunting of all, Gollum, a creature based on the creepy-crawly movements of actor Andy Serkis using his incredible and haunting voice.  I enjoyed this story because it has more action and challenges for the characters.  Wood and Astin have more developed characters, Mortensen and Bloom are stronger heroes, and McKellen wonderfully reappears to lead the way.  During a recent interview, I asked Peter Jackson that in light of 9/11 and the Twin Towers tragedy, had he found his title The Two Towers rather ironically symbolic?  He replied that he did see a parallel but that the credit goes to the brilliant writing of Tolkien (Jackson finished his movies a year and a half before 9/11).  This has been a major undertaking that has consumed the last six years of Jackson’s life but the reward is a brilliant trilogy that has made history of this classic tale.  The message of man fighting to preserve nature, battling against evil, and having hope in a higher power that will triumph over death and destruction has never been more relevant or profound for today's epic loving audience.  I applaud Jackson and his incredible cast who've made history with this timeless masterpiece, and I can assure you that I'm a fan who can't wait for the third and final installment next year!  Tolkien would be proud!