I've never read any of "The Lord of the Rings" books. I should've by now, I know, on pain of having to turn in my Geek I.D. card. I kept meaning to, really I did. Then it got really close to the release date of "Fellowship of the Ring," and I decided I had an advantage over most of my friends and coworkers. I didn't have a single preconceived notion about what this adaptation should be like.
So I didn't read it, and then I saw "Fellowship." I dug it quite a bit.
Then, I was instructed, I should also read "Two Towers." Didn't do that, either. This time out of sheer laziness. Throughout the year, my friends at work debated how they hoped the movie would film the siege of something called "Helm's Deep" and the "March of the Ents." Didn't know what they were talking about, didn't care. I sat back and said "Hey, that movie where the killer from "Red Dragon" eats Jennifer Lopez looks really good."
And so I carried my complete lack of knowledge into "Two Towers" like a badge of ignorant courage.
As I was watching, I recognized in the script and plot bits from fantasy movies and novels that I've seen and read. ("So that's where they got that part in Krull.") Trust me that you don't have to have read a Tolkieny word to get this movie. It's a wide-screen epic, with fantastic heroes and villains and awe-inspiring battles like non-geeks have never imagined. I felt like I was seeing familiar friends again when the movie began, and this is only the cast's fourth through sixth hour onscreen together (if you don't count the DVD.)
The effects crew outdo a lot of the things they did in the first one. For one, there is no scene in "Towers" like there was in "Fellowship" that looks like the arcade game "Gauntlet."
The movie is just a world of fun. I was totally swept up into the drama and the spirit of it all. I wanted to cheer when Eomer and Gandalf appeared at the battle of Helm's Deep. It had nearly as much energy in it as Superman hovering outside the Daily Planet window and asking Zod to "step outside."
Gimli and Legolas' very funny buddy-cop behavior with each other made me think one of them was about to die. That's just how that usually works.
The March of the Ents was HUGE. It was World Wrestling Ent Smackdown. The bad guy Uruk-hai had been cruising for a bruising for awhile, and the Ents laid a pro-wrestling-like thumping on them.
I felt like when good-guy wrestlers put crowd-pleasing poundings on bad guys. Christopher Lee played the role of shrimpy bad-guy manager, helpless outside the ring as his boys got pummeled. I loved when he scampered about, watching the spectacle. At first it seemed he was thinking, "Oooooh, Sauron's not gonna be happy about this." But then he dissolved into frantic "Oh crap! Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap!" Great, cathartic stuff.
I've gotten this far, so I probably won't read "Return of the King" till after I see it. I can wait. But let me introduce you to what I'm sure represents the lowest common denominator among Tolkien fans: the lady sitting right behind me in the theater.
As the credits rolled, I relaxed and let what I had seen sink in, still pleasantly buzzing. Until my groove was totally harshed by bleating from the lady behind me. She started with, "Weeeeeellll, I liked it, BUUUUUT . . . " and then she blithered something about Faramir that I didn't understand. Instead of being able to rein herself in and enjoy a well-done film, she could not see the Ents for the trees.
This is a textbook case of Not Getting It. No one is ever going to film the movie that's in your head. And thank goodness, because you don't know how to direct or act.
I went in with no movie in my head at all. All I have in my head now are the first two "Rings" movies. And that's good enough for me.