On The Jazz #6: Geek Glory Days

These are precious times, ladies and gentleman.

By Matt Springer
December 19, 2002

The Two Towers is a beautiful movie.

It is many other things. The action is tremendous; the drama is charged; the humor is surprising. But what is perhaps most impressive, given that we know the story to be rich and the skills of Peter Jackson and his team of geniuses to be ample, is that the second chapter of The Lord of the Rings is exquisitely filmed. It lingers on its remarkable vistas with true love, as if deliberately showing up those contemporaries who rely solely on computer-generated “beauty.” From the opening arc over a snow-covered mountaintop to the final stunning sweeps over the battle of Helm’s Deep, there are shots in this movie that will take your breath away.

The movie ups the ante in every possible respect from The Fellowship of the Ring. The next stage of the journey has fully arrived; nine brave beings have failed and now it is up to the armies of men and elves to succeed. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam struggle desperately against an impossible journey, aided and at times antagonized by the mysterious creature called Gollum.

And yes, Gollum is amazing, staggering around Mordor like Weta Ltd. dug up Peter Lorre’s corpse and somehow animated it to act once again. There’s an astonishing reality to Gollum as a purely visual creature, one that blows Yoda and Jar Jar and Dobby the House-Elf out of the virtual water. But he’s really REAL because he’s impossibly compelling as a character. Or rather, he’s two characters, not just Gollum but Smeagol as well, the good struggling inside against the evil for control of the creature’s withering, rotting form.

Beyond that, it’s hard to know where to begin. How can I capture the way this film makes me feel? Camera shots, CG creations, plot; all ultimately tiny details, and noticing them means that it’s hard to see the whole picture after only one viewing. There is a massiveness to Towers and the Rings trilogy that is beyond compare in the history of film. I’ve seen Fellowship several times and new details still reach out from the screen each time I watch. Like theStar Wars films, these movies transport me to another world entirely.

Unlike the Star Wars films (and I’m talking all six here, not just the prequels), Fellowship and The Two Towers challenge me as a viewer and a fan. They stimulate my heart and my mind as well as my adrenal glands. I leap to the edge of my seat not just for cool action sequences or neat effects, but for startling character moments and puzzling nuances. Somehow, Jackson has married the soft beauty of filmmaking as an art with the brash bombast of filmmaking as a business. These are the first-ever arthouse blockbusters, movies that work on every imaginable level. They’re totally fulfilling. They’re damn near perfect.

We are geeks, and so in some sense, we are always on the lookout for the next fix. We need to know what will get us through the next two hours, couple weeks, several years or several decades of our lives. And I don’t just mean that in terms of eating up minutes. We need to know what will fulfill us, amuse us, inspire us, and simply serve as companion through our life’s voyage.

The Rings trilogy is doing that for me in a big way. It is keeping me company as I face an exciting, terrifying future. In under a year, I’ll be married; seven months after that, I’ll be moving to L.A. with my wife. Then it’s the toil, turmoil and constant ass-puckering of trying to break into the television business as a writer. More than ever, I need an escape, a place where my mind can take a few hours off and my imagination can soar. Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth is just such a place, and it was so amazing to sit and return to it once again, my fiance right next to me, both of us gasping and cheering at the same places.

We’re doubly fortunate in that we are watching it unfold NOW, in real time, and not just through the miracles of home video and history. For those of us in our teens and twenties, this is our Star Wars, our original series Star Trek. This is our Great Moment in Geekdom, a stunning achievement that arrives as we come of age, and we should savor every last second of it. The joys of the Rings trilogy may never end thanks to DVD, but Rings as a shared experience will end next year, with the release of The Return of the King. Let’s enjoy these days of excitement and anticipation. Hell, what do we have to look forward to after that, Episode III? Riiiiiiiiiiight. (Well, I’ll look forward to it, but only because I’m a simpering fool.)

So, um, yeah. These are the times that define us as geeks, and The Two Towers is impossibly great. Words are failing. I’m seeing it again Friday. Go as soon as you can. Fly, you fools.