There's more to it than Helm's Deep.

By: Sep. 23, 2023

Review: LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall What J.R.R. Tolkien would have thought of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is anyone’s guess but one suspects that the Oxford don would rather have enjoyed the live concert treatment at the Royal Albert Hall shown on Hobbit Day.

Both the book and movie are arguably overlong but each have points in their favour. The former is a masterclass in world-building that inspired works like Frank Herbert’s Dune; the latter is a highly cinematic experience that moves like a Ferrari, switching from the frenetic to the stylishly slow over three satisfying hours.

Jackson took liberties with Tolkien’s text (the Wikipedia entry on the differences runs to over a thousand words) but the core storypoints are there: Bilbo and his erstwhile gardener Samwise travel to Mordor with the deceptive Gollum; fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin escape their orc captors into an ancient forest filled with sentient trees; and dwarf Gimli, elf Legolas and tall, dark and handsome Aragorn respectively slashing, shooting and stabbing as they go as they join up with king Théoden and his red-haired beauty of a daughter Éowyn.

The film has two main selling points over the book: the sound and the vision. New Zealand’s beauty is front and centre in every frame, from its snowy peaks and verdant countrysides to the lush rivers. How they managed to avoid all the sheep at a time when they outnumbered the human population by ten to one is a marvel in itself. 

While the CGI now looks dated and the dialogue is more wooden than the Entmoot, the character interactions still shine. The film is remembered chiefly for its brutal ending, there is ample PG-level bromance as well as romance, not least between Aragorn and the elf Arwen, Aragorn and the wistfully gazing Éowyn and Aragorn and the camera.  

The epic climactic battle scene at Helm’s Deep has already entered cinema legend with its massive 120-day shooting period, much of which was shot in the night under constant rain. The jawdropping cinematography from John Lesnie and his team transformed the episodes which used thousand-plus cast and extras into brutal and engaging war scenes on a par with the opening of Saving Private Ryan.

The music is every bit as powerful as the visuals, sweeping from the deliciously ethereal during the more emotional sections to the heart-pumping storms whipped up during the fighting. Ludwig Wicki and Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra rise superbly to the occasion; ably backed by the Philharmonia Chorus and soloist Kaitlyn Lusk, they do justice to the Grammy-winning score from Canadian composer Howard Shore. It may be the only one of the Rings soundtracks not to take home an Oscar but, in retrospect, there is as much quality to be heard here as in its siblings. Hearing it in such a grand hall as this only amplifies its effect, wrapping us all in the hard-bitten journeys of our characters. Having a live orchestra and choir lifts Lord Of The Rings: The Towers to entirely new levels of cinematic ecstacy.

Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers In Concert continues this weekend.

Tickets for Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King In Concert (14-17 March 2024) are available now.

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