This week:
The Two Towers

Filthy says:
"Spectacular nothing."

The Lord of the Rings 1 made more than $313 million in theaters. That is, by anyone's measure, a shitload of money. But, despite what Hobbitophiles think, not everyone in the world saw that movie, or even wanted to. At a pretty conservative estimate of six bucks a ticket, it means only 50 million tickets were sold in a country of 270 million people. And, as far as I can figure, the tickets sold went to five million normal people who saw it once, and five million fucking weirdoes who saw it nine times each.

My point is this: the fucking weirdoes are in a vast minority. It doesn't feel like it because they are so vocal and obsessive, but the numbers don't lie. Most people don't care about or understand Lord of the Rings. This review is for the 265 million people who don't get it, who don't understand what the hubbub is about, or why some people start hyperventilating into their bag of Doritos as soon as they start thinking about dwarves, elves, orcs and ents. I hope that through this column I can bring some sort of clarity to the disenfranchised majority, to explain what makes this fantasy world so special and why it is so important. I want to bring everyone into the fold and be able to share the magic.

I want to, but I can't because I don't get it either. Not at all. Not even a little tiny bit. Actually, I am damn sure I don't want to get it because some of those who do scare the piss out of me. Far as I can tell, Lord of the Rings movies are the ultimate white male, asexual fantasy. Me, I'm more the kind of guy who has multicultural gangbang fantasies.

Jesus H. Christ, The Lord of the Rings 2 was boring. And long. Holy crap, I can't even hang around people I like for three hours without wanting to punch somebody in the nose, so imagine the torture of spending it with speechifying goblins and wizards. I did learn, though, that evil is bad and must be spoken out against in the purplest and windiest of prose while staring off into the distance. Conversely, goodness is, well, good, and it must be praised in sonnets and lyrical monologues pointing out that should evil prevail, badness will happen.

The Lord of the Rings 2 is tedium. Oh, it's spectacular tedium, full of sweeping, breathtaking panoramas and hundreds of shots taken by helicopters circling mountain peaks. It's got amazing animation, a wide range of monsters and plenty of heroic battles. It has no personality, no subtlety, juvenile characters and a simplistic plot. It has no personal conflict I cared about, and the dwarf got on my fucking nerves.

In a magical, mythical land where women are more rare than dragons--but where every man would rather find a dragon--three bands of ragtag heroes venture forth toward the evil land of Mordor where they must drop the ring into the Mountain of Fire before the evil Sauron can get the ring. The villain has world domination plans, see. Well, first he wants to ruin the world, but then he'd like to dominate what's left.

There are three journeys taking place simultaneously in The Lord of the Rings 2 . Frodo the Hobbit (played by Elijah Wood still looking like a deer in the headlights) has the ring. He and Samweiss the Hobbit (chubby little Sean Astin) are moving toward the Mountain of Fire with the help of Gollum (played by The Weekly World News's Batboy), a desiccated creature who craves the ring. Gollum talks to himself a lot, explicitly spelling out his struggle between decency and greed. It's a clumsy actualization of an internal struggle. Beyond that, not much happens besides a slow slog through marshes and a lot of close calls with armies of orcs. The best part is when they reach the gates of Mordor and they look a hell of a lot like the ones that held King Kong back on his native island.

Simultaneously, two expendable hobbits are lost in a forest where they meet some animated trees. Well, they aren't trees, we're told; they just look like trees and have roots and leaves, along with mouths, noses and eyes. There is an environmental message in this interaction, but it felt like the obvious preaching of a corny PBS program for children. And when the trees got around to explicitly scolding people for destroying forests, I thought Woodsy and Smokey would come out, hold hands and sing.

The main arc is that of Aragorn the man (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas the pointy-eared elf (Orlando Bloom) and Dwarfy (Dwarf Man). They are sidetracked from wherever they're headed when they help the Gondorians, a people whose land is under siege by either Sarumon or Sauron (I can't remember; they are interchangeably evil). The three heroes and the Gondorians hide in Helms Deep, a stronghold built into the side of a mountain and wait out a massive attack by an Orc army. At the movie's end, the Orcs (actually, I think they are some sort of Super Orcs who still can't fight worth shit) assault Helms Deep in a long, dimly-lit battle of epic bloodiness and violence. I think it's supposed to be pretty fucking magnificent and it was for the first five minutes, then it goes on for another seven or eight hours. There is little impact of this battle on the overall theme of the Lord of the Rings' trilogy, but it's the fanciest looking set piece in the movie, and therefore the climax.

Lord of the Rings 2 settles into its rut early and doesn't get out. It's battle, speech, battle, speech, battle, heroic death, mournful speech, battle, oh-wait-the-guy's-not-dead-rejoicing, battle. Rinse, repeat. Twice the movie uses the death of a main character to arouse sympathy, only to reveal that there was no death, we were just tricked. The first is a cheap-feeling device, the second a good reason to laugh at the screen. But it's the monologues that drove me fucking nuts. Every non-Hobbit in the movie thinks any time is right for a speechy speech about saving the world. A shitload more time is spent with people staring off into the distance and talking to nobody in particular than in conversation, and none of it is particularly revelatory or interesting, just formal. At least the dwarf doesn't testify. He's too busy providing Three Stooges quality comic relief by falling down, gruffly commenting on his physical shortcomings, or "hilariously" being unable to see over tall objects.

Only one male in the movie appears to have the capacity to get laid, and that's hunky Viggo Mortensen. He has the attention of two females who get a combined five or six minutes of screen time: Elfen Liv Tyler (I hear elves are trained from birth in the art of pleasuring men), and a doe-eyed Gondorian. Neither has much personality or many lines to speak because director Peter Jackson is too interested in rushing back to battle than romance. That's the way of asexual fantasies, though: they are more about guys impressing guys with big swords and how far they can piss than with love.

Watching the movie, it occurred to me how much a little romance can spice up the movie. For one thing, it makes the proceedings more interesting for the members of the audience who do not have pewter dragons at home. For another, love, unrequited or otherwise, is a universal emotion that almost anyone can relate to. We've all been in love and we all either root for others to succeed or fail. I usually like it when people fail. Fuck 'em.

Lord of the Rings 2 is about as reliant on your pre-existing knowledge of the characters and plot as Mrs. Filthy's desserts are on Cool Whip. Without it, there's not much to enjoy. I was confused by locations and characters on multiple occasions. I think the assumption of the director is that we just watched our Lord of the Rings 1 DVD Super Limited Special Edition With Trading Cards and a Holographic Seal right before heading for the theater. I didn't, and I was fucking confused by a lot of things. Yeah, I know, I ain't so quick and I used to get confused by my own shoelaces until I found a brand that made Velcro for adults. But this shit isn't my fault. For example, I no longer remember which of the two evil guys is the head honcho and the movie didn't bother helping me. I have no remembrance of where anyone but Frodo and Samweiss are supposed to be headed and no clues are given. Similarly, Mortensen and Tyler's relationship is so thinly sketched in the first movie, that when they speak here it has the emotional impact of a dumpster dive.

As in Lord of the Rings 1, the characters are plainly black or white to the point that they might as well be chess pieces. And the bad guys know they are bad. That's pretty fucking lame. In real life and in good fiction, bad guys usually don't even recognize they are evil. They rationalize what they do. Plus, it's sort of laughable when characters on screen can be easily identified as good or evil purely based on the greasiness of their hair, and yet the people in the movie can't tell. "What! You mean that guy dressed all in black with the ashen skin and greasy hair was a bad guy? Damn!"

It's some pretty silly shit, all these dragons and elves. Yes it's gorgeous, yes it's violent and epic. It's also uninteresting and repetitive. I'd rather see a shitty looking movie about interesting people than a great looking one about corny Hobbits, though. Two Fingers for Lord of the Rings 2. And for once it's nice to feel the same way about something as 260 million other Americans.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Robert Evans - The Kid Stays in the Picture

Listening to
The Breeders - Pod


Mystery Train

David Sheehan of Los Angeles CBS TV

Maid in Manhattan is "Pretty Woman meets Working Girl... an enormously enjoyable romance with something to say and lots to feel!"

is "It'll have you dancing in your seat! Indescribably delightful... Incredibly inspiring."

Antwone Fisher is "A masterful emotional journey. Inspirational and dramatic at the same time, with a sharply focused directorial debut by Denzel Washington and an equally impressive acting debut by Derek Luke."

Analyze That is "One of the funniest movies of the year!"

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