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The Two Towers - History is marked with sagas like the struggle for control of Middle-earth

Feature by: Jack Foley

"THE story of The Two Towers is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Tolkien never lost sight of the destructive and seductive nature of power, and the idea that a person - or Hobbit - no matter how small or inconsequential, can change history."

The above viewpoint belongs to Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne, co-chairmen and co-chief-executive-officers of New Line and executive producers of the Lord of the Rings saga - and it is difficult to disagree, particularly in light of the events of the past couple of years.

The themes of war, good versus evil and man’s propensity for destruction - even at the cost of millions of lives - have seldom seemed so pertinent in this modern era.

Adds Lynne: "History is marked with sagas like the struggle for control of Middle-earth and the battle of good versus evil."

It is a point with which writer, Philippa Boyens, agrees. when asked by fans what she thought the story had to say to us all on the official Lord of the Rings website, she replied:

"Professor Tolkien made a point of saying there was no allegory embedded in this work. That he didn't like analogies to events and I can understand why. So for myself, this is my own.

"For myself, it asks some interesting questions of a modern day audience; one of which - for me - is the journey that Frodo takes to undo a huge evil. And could we do that in this modern day. Could we undo… could we knowingly unmake something that we know should never have come into being?

"It's a wonderful question to ask, and it’s not just a straight allegory of the atomic bomb, for example. It encompasses a whole lot of broader issues I think. He's not, the passing of things, the loss of things, the passing of the elves from this world, the loss of knowledge, I don't think that he treats that in a nostalgic or sentimental way.

"There is a natural order to it, the world has changed, the world will always change and we will lose things of it. So he's not sentimental. He's not somebody who is looking back saying, 'We must destroy this and go back to a way of life'. He's fully aware that the age has passed.

"But I think he asks the question and I hope these films ask the question. The ring represents another kind of evil, and it’s asking, to me, could we do what Frodo does? Are we able to do that? I don't know. I don't know whether we could.

"I think the other thing it shows is different states of mankind and speaks to that. It would then ask, within mankind are elements of the elves. We have the ability to produce things of great beauty. We have the ability to show great wisdom. We have the ability to be childlike, innocent. But we also have the ability to be destructive and vicious and cruel, just as the Orcs are. So I think the breadth of their own humanity is shown in these different races."

That said, The Two Towers isn't solely about allegories... far from it. Director, Peter Jackson, wanted to give audiences something they hadn't seen before, as well as remaining as loyal as possible to the source material - so as not to alienate fans of Tolkien's original vision.

He had already come under fire, from certain quarters, for his casting of Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in the role of the 'tiny' Hobbits, while his decision to beef up the love story between Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler was seen as straying a little too far from the novel in favour of better Box Office profits.

Jackson, though, remains unrepentent and has promised that The Two Towers will deliver more of the same. In another interview on the official LOTR site, he explains...

"The Two Towers was a lot harder than the Fellowship. The story splits into three and we've enhanced Tolkien's narrative more. The key moments from the book are all there, but we've written scenes that Tolkien didn't write and things he didn't describe, to beef it up a bit more."

Examples of this include the extension of Gollum's story and a greater showing for the giant wolf-like creatures, the Wargs. Jackson explains....

"We've extended Gollum's story. Tolkien hints at Gollum's schizophrenic nature. He's Gollum, as a result of 500 years of owning the One Ring, but there are threads of his past life as Smeagol. We've enhanced that more - Frodo shows him pity, which allows Smeagol to dominate over Gollum. We've added scenes where the Smeagol side and the Gollum side conflict, which we think makes him a more interesting character....

"Similarly, Tolkien has brief descriptions of Wargs, giant wolf-like creatures with Orcs riding on their backs like saddles, like a cavalry. They're not in the forefront of any action in The Two Towers, but we found them interesting, so we've added a pitched battle between horsemen and the Wargs."

Another aspect which has been explored further is the emotion in the ending. Jackson feels that one of the strong points of The Fellowship was just how much emotion was projected on-screen given the epic feel of proceedings. It is something he is keen to repeat with Two Towers.

"Our action climax is the Battle of Helm's Deep," he explained. "It does have an emotional power of its own, as you're seeing enormous heroic acts and the world of Rohan being saved. We also have Frodo, Sam and Gollum's storyline with Faramir. We've gone a little further than the books, and deviated in some of the detail, and created a much more intimate emotional climax with those characters."

Whatever fans may ultimately think of the changes, however, we at Indielondon believe they won't fail to be impressed. The Two Towers is a genuinely thrilling cinematic experience and one which is worthy of the hype bestowed upon it. It is an event movie unlike many others, in that it actually delivers the goods. The film opens on December 18, so expect the praise to be flowing...

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