Since none of the sticky-floor ghetto theaters in Longview were offering a midnight premiere, I had to make a pilgrimage to Dallas in order to be among the first to see The Two Towers, the second installment of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you already saw The Fellowship of the Ring, you know that it's good; go watch it this weekend and help it beat Harry Potter's box office numbers. If not, you really should before going out to watch this one, since Towers picks up in medias res where Fellowship left off.
Spoilers follow; read onward if you wish.
Director Peter Jackson openly acknowledges that of the three movies, The Two Towers is the one that is least consistent with the book, so Tolkein fundamentalists beware: you will see a few scenes that you won't recognize from the Rings Canon. However, the changes do not hurt the story, and they provide an excuse for some tremendous onscreen action.
For example, we get to watch Gandalf's epic battle with the Balrog of Khazad Dum. (You didn't really think that the two age-old enemies would merely succumb to a little tumble down a mine shaft, did you?) The elf princess Arwen Evenstar, who is only briefly mentioned in the book, features in a sub plot derived from the books' epilogue; she chooses to trade her elvish immortality for the love of Aragorn (a mortal man). The Two Towers offers a glimpse at the difficulty she experienced in making that decision. More prominence is also given to the battle of Helm's Deep, which is filmed as Towers' climax (and what a climax it is!). However, I agree with something screenwriter Philippa Boyens says in one of the documentaries on the Fellowship DVD: none of the changes that have been made actually disagree with Tolkein's story. They could have happened in the world of Middle Earth; they were just not specifically noted in the Middle Earth history that Tolkein wrote.
Despite these changes, the majority of the movie still follows very closely to the book. I was very impressed with how Gollum was portrayed; the film actually made me empathize with the poor, broken creature whose life has been so totally corrupted by the influence of the Ring. The impression that I took from the book (given that it's been a couple of years since I last read it) was of an evil, treacherous creature who could not be trusted. The movie brought out the schizophrenic Gollum/Smeagol dynamic; when Smeagol succeeds in overcoming Gollum, he is a genuinely likeable character, which serves to emphasize the tragic nature of the events that eventually bring Gollum back to the surface. As a computer generated character, he also looks fantastic.