best films: #21: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (2002)

In a great feat of cinema, grandiose director Peter Jackson took what could have been a heartless, steel-infused entry in the Lord of the Rings franchise and turned it into an epic action flick not lacking in psychological intrigue and somewhat sizzling tete-a-tete.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material for this, the second novel of the series, was a little dense and exhausting to read at times – as the Helm’s Deep sequence was difficult to imagine with its almost total lack of dialogue and vast descriptions of battle.  But thanks to some fine artistry with some flat-out amazing visual effects and makeup, it easily became one of the best battle sequences put to film.  But what’s truly on display here in this sequel is more than the visual spectacle – nay-sayers be damned, voice and motion capture acting can be just as impressive as real-life people acting.  Though the Academy neglected to recognize it in their slew of nominations for the trilogy, Andy Serkis’s performance as Gollum truly hit its peak in the second installment.  From his now-iconic self-back-and-forth that made Freud spin in his grave, to the connector bridge at the end of the film (gosh, that triumphant grin was just Grinch-like!), Serkis was totally captivating and so much more than simply a voice.

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