I saw this movie in the early hours of this morning, and was unfortunately disappointed. While the photography, acting, special effects and narrative are top-rate, Peter Jackson has taken far more liberties with the book than in the first episode. This actually impairs the narrative. Here are some of the most important examples i can point out:
- Theoden is portrayed as indecisive, defensive and defeatist. This is completely at odds with the book after Wormtongue is exposed.
- Similarly, the Rohirrim are portrayed as a small band of despondent civilians, almost a rout, and not as a proud warrior nation scrambling to muster and regroup under the newly reestablished leadership of its king and heir.
- Eomer is shown as banished, not merely in disfavor, and is absent from most of the battle of Helm’s deep (apart from appearing as a contrived deus ex machina where in the book Huorns led by the Ents mop up the bulk of the orcs). The friendship between Eomer and Aragorn is not given any development in the movie, when in the book it is far more important than Eowyn’s infatuation with Aragorn.
- Faramir character is shown in an unflattering light, in complete contradiction to Tolkien. In the book, he nobly resists Boromir’s fate and assists Frodo in spite of his misgivings on Cirith Ungol, while in the movie he forcibly takes Frodo towards Minas Tirith.
- In the book, the elves are almost completely absent from direct military confrontation (apart from Elladan and Elrohir, who are not at all represented in the movie). In the movie, a contingent from Rivendell (incongruously led by a galadhrim) assists in the defense of Helm’s deep. The elves’ ambivalent attitude to the War of the Ring is completely misrepresented.
- The interaction between Saruman and Sauron is completely trivialized as a simple allegiance, when in the book Sauron manipulates Saruman, who has his own agenda with the ring. The dissensions between the Uruk-Hai of Isengard and the Orcs of Mordor in the band that captured Merry and Pippin are portrayed as simply a matter of eating the captives or not, when in the book there are complex political influence games between races of orcs.
- In the movie, Treebeard is blissfully unaware of Saruman’s wanton destruction of trees until Pippin rubs his nose in it. In the book, he is quite aware, but must carefuly consider that striking back could lead to the wholesale eradication of the ents.
- Last but not least, the final charge by Eomer’s cavalry off sheer cliffs into the tight pikes of the orcish phalanx is one that would normally achieve the same effectiveness as the charge of the Light Brigade (not to mention some tasty Rohirrim-Mearas kabobs for the hungry Uruk-Hai). The way Gandalf overwhelms the orcs with his radiance is as hokey as the much-reviled Lord of the Rings cartoon by Ralph Bakshi.
All this might seem like nit-picking, but whereas the changes made in the first episode (essentially exchanging Arwen for Glorfindel, although I did regret the absence of Tom Bombadil and the barrow-downs) did not alter the narrative, those made in The Two Towers are in complete contradiction with the book.
It seems to me the whole plot was twisted to glorify the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, specially Aragorn, at the expense of impugning the character of the others, specially Theoden, Eomer and Faramir. This is petty and mean-spirited at best.