If only I had started this blog a year earlier, then I wouldn't have to wait for the 20th anniversary to review the beginning of this series. Alas, we shall have to start in media res.
The Two Towers (film) is 10 years old this month.
One more brief word on "Fellowship" before I continue. When I had heard they were making Lord of the Rings...well, I had to ask what it was. I found out it was a sequel of sorts to The Hobbit. So, remembering how much I loved the Rankin-Bass version as a child, I set out to find that again and, luckily, I did. After watching it again, I decided that Gollum was my favorite character in the whole piece and got super-excited when the Fellowship trailer had the signature "My Preciousss..." at the end.
I was disappointed, then, when we never got a good look at him through the entire film.
But I still loved Fellowship and it inspired me to actually read the damn books. I found Gollum had a much larger role to play in the following stories, and when Peter Jackson and Weta disclosed that they were keeping Gollum a tight-lipped secret because he was going to blow our minds, I was eagerly awaiting the next film.
So, I sat down to watch the film, and the Taming of Sméagol happens and we get our first full look at Gollum as he is to appear in these films. My first reaction?
"Really? All the cool creature designs and THIS is what Gollum looks like? I mean, hell, he was a frog-thing in the cartoon. This just looks like a skinny old man."
Then this was my second reaction:
"Also, I was told Gollum would be 100% CGI. That shot clearly used a puppet or something."
My third reaction:
"Wait a minute, those eyes are CGI...the rest of him looks...real? Is he real? But no, he can't be, a person would die being that thin, and no puppet can lip-synch like that...."
"Holy crap. He's CGI, but except for the eyes he looks completely real. And he can ACT! This...is...AWESOME!!!!!!"
And thus I fell in love with Andy Serkis' Gollum. Being a Jar Jar Binks fan, I knew all about motion capture, but had no idea it had progressed this far in such short time. I truly, truly think Andy Serkis was cheated out of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (and in fact, sealed my disillusionment of the entire process, even though I still watch the ceremony every year - mostly for the skits and In Memorium segments, though I'm usually curious if and when an unconventional choice makes it into the running).
And the rest of the movie was okay too.
All right, that's a massive understatement. In fact, even cutting off the Voice of Saruman in order to be included in the next film (it was one of my favorite sequences from the book and I was disappointed they had run out of time to show it in this one), this film really made me more interested in the Rohan storyline than the book did. Especially Helm's Deep. I remember reading the book and being like "Wait, they're walking, and they're waylaid by Orcs, but they're in a cave now for some reason?" I had totally missed that they had arrived at the Helm's Deep Fortress at some point, and seeing the film made everything click together.
As for the changes, well I really like them. I like the elves showing up at HD, and I love Faramir's new story arc (he also made little-to-no impression on me the first time I read the book). But that's just me.
It was a great film that treated as an awkward middle child, but while Return of the King was a better film (more on that later), this one will always be special to me.
And after all these years, I can still do a scary-good Gollum impression (literally - I scared people because it was so good).
What's taters, Precious? What's taters, eh?