US critics hail Jackson's latest masterpiece

Preview by Jack Foley

WHAT THE US CRITICS SAID ABOUT THE TWO TOWERS: As anticipated, The Two Towers opened in America today (December 18) to virtually unanimous acclaim, with the majority of critics agreeing that Jackson's sequel - the second in the trilogy - actually surpassed The Fellowship.

Leading the way is Hollywood Reporter, which described it as 'a cinematic flood of spectacular proportions', while Variety wrote that it has 'a sharper narrative focus and a livelier sense of forward movement than did the more episodic Fellowship'.

The appropriately named Film Hobbit went a step further, describing it as 'an epic of grandeur and scale that’s been decades gone from the popcorn pushing sound stages of Hollywood', while the Charlotte Observer eloquently observed that 'seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is like having a second date with a woman who made you fall in love at first sight'., meanwhile, said that 'while I was expecting yet another derivative battle sequence, the siege on Helm's Deep is one of the most detailed and well crafted combat scenes ever put to film'.

Slant Magazine, which praised the film, felt that 'The Two Towers could be the most sinister Hollywood epic ever made', while One Guy's Opinion said 'meeting, even exceeding expectations, it's the best sequel since 'The Empire Strikes Back' ...a majestic achievement, an epic of astonishing grandeur and surprising emotional depth'.

Entertainment Weekly, however, awared it only a B and found some room for complaint. Its critic wrote that the film is 'packed with awesome mountains and glades, swooping God's-eye camera movement, and enough chatty forest oddballs and light-show apparitions to send every other scene skittering off in a new direction' and felt that 'as a visual pageant of sorcery and action, [The Two Towers] all but surpasses 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.

However, it added that 'what it comes down to is superbly staged battle scenes and moral alliances forged in earnest yet purged of the wit and dynamic, bristly ego that define true on-screen personality'.

Overly harsh? Or fully justified? You can be the judge after you've joined the queue to see it!

POSTED EARLIER THIS YEAR: NEW Line Cinema must be licking its lips at the prospect of yet another Christmas Box Office bonanza. Having gambled on giving the go-ahead for Peter Jackson to film all three Lord of the Rings movies in one hit, studio execs must have been holding their breath when the first instalment, The Fellowship of the Ring, opened last December.

They need not have worried. The film took a staggering $860 million world-wide, to become the fifth biggest earner of all-time, and earned 13 Oscar nominations, as well as pretty much cleaning up at last year's Baftas. Pretty impressive, given that the film contained quite a downbeat ending and merely set things up for the second part.

Now, almost 12 months on, part two of the trilogy is all but ready to go and viewers are being warned to expect the same sort of thing - only bigger.

When last we left Frodo (Elijah Wood) and co, the Fellowship was left in tatters - half dead, half divided and scattered among the woods, with Frodo and loyal friend, Sam (Sean Astin), venturing on to Mordor to destroy the One Evil ring of evil powers alone.

The Two Towers is the continuation of that journey, with Frodo beginning to realise the enormity of the task before him, while those who line up against him grow ever more powerful. Needless to say, the resources of Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) come to the rescue, taking part in some of the biggest and most breathtaking battles ever committed to the Big Screen.

As Jackson, the director, points out, however, there is a lot at stake. "The second film is always going to be the most difficult, because it's the classic middle section - it doesn't have a beginning, doesn't have an end." (Not that this fact prevented The Empire Strikes Back being the best in the Star Wars series!).

So fans have every right to expect another classic, particularly if the glimpse offered by the trailers is anything to go by. The Two Towers boasts an estimated 600 special effects shots, a blowout battle, new lands and new creatures, including the evil Treebeard (Middle-earth's oldest resident) and Gollum, who once owned the ring and now teams up with Frodo and Sam to lead them to Mordor.

Jackson is also said to have captured some 20 hours of footage for the battle of Helm's Deep, in which men and elves fend off 10,000 Uruk-hai, and which forms the best part of the trailers so far.

With so much going for it, expect Christmas, once again, to be dominated by Tolkien's classic characters. This is one which surely cannot fail!

Keep clicking these pages for further updates as the release date - December 18 - draws closer.

PAST MAINSTREAM PREVIEWS: Click here for our verdict on the Two Towers...
Click here for our special feature on the meaning of the movie...
Click here for the US reaction to the film and our early preview...
Click here for details of the London premiere...
Click here for our verdict on The Fellowship of the Ring...
Click here for our feature on the making of The Fellowship...