2002, Peter Jackson -- DVD
My wife generally goes through the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended editions) once a year, usually when I'm not around, as I don't really dig those films like she does. I find them tedious and quite dull at times. It's twelve hours of film making concentrated into three parts, but it's only the middle act, The Two Towers, which feels like a complete experience. The Fellowship of the Ring is like a four hour introduction, with only the final act having any real excitement to it. Return of the King I recall liking more than Fellowship but it's first hour and a half is like biting through a lot of gristle to get to the meat. The Two Towers, though, is almost all meat, and it's falling off the bone.
Obviously the battle at Helm's Deep is the most intense and spectacular fantasy battle sequence to be put to film, a bewilderingly captivating forty minutes of grueling assault and an almost no-win situation for the good guys. Yet, it's still loaded with personality as Gimli and Legolas compete to kill the most Orcs, and Aragorn struggles to lead when other cannot. My personal favourite moments involve the revelation and exploration of the Ents, an obvious inspiration for the Parliament of Trees from Swamp Thing, and a visually striking image when they, and the trees, decide to revolt and fight.
I've watched The Two Towers full through at least three times, and I know only one full viewing (in the theatre during their original run) of the other two films, so I remain lost about the symbolism in the film much of the time, but the fact that there is deeper meaning to what is displayed in almost every sequence gives the film a nice gravitas beyond just the excellent build to the big battle, which is what so many of the LOTR imitators are missing. But the balance of intrigue, revelation, exposition and action seem to be what LOTR is missing in its first and third installments. As is, it is pretty close to being the perfect film.