The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers is dramatic cinema, that tells a very compelling human story that both ardent Tolkien fans and general audiences will probably find every bit as satisfying as the first film.
The Two Towers is darker and more emotional than the first film
This new instalment takes over from where The Fellowship of The Ring left off.
There is no explanatory preamble. It is assumed that the audience knows the plot.
The picture, which runs for three hours, just one minute longer than the first episode of Tolkien's trilogy, delivers an epic action-adventure that flows from a challenging narrative.
With the Fellowship splintered, three distinct storylines emerge.
The Hobbit Frodo Baggins with companion Sam and a computer-generated Gollum trek on to Mordor to destroy the One Ring.
Hobbits Merry and Pippin are trying to engage a forest of trees against the evil forces of Saruman.
Meanwhile, most dramatically, Aragorn and other characters are engaged in the Battle at Helm's Deep.
This battle is the film's centrepiece and it is masterfully executed.
The friendship between Sam and Frodo strengthens
Computer graphics have been put to use to bring to life a formidable army of 10,000 beast-like creatures.
Under the command of Saruman it is trying to storm the fortress at Helm's Deep.
It is here that a wobbly King of Rohan, played nicely by well cast Rings newcomer Bernard Hill, is trying to protect his people.
He is helped by the brave warrior Aragorn, a character who emerges as a real hero in this episode, with a performance from Viggo Mortensen which earns him definite leading man credentials.
With the action at Helm's Deep, director Peter Jackson and his team have created horrifying awe-inspiring battle sequences.
This film is infused with a definite sense of foreboding with humankind under the threat of genocide and evil about to engulf all of Middle-Earth.
The story in this latest addition is darker, but more accessible and engaging than in the first film because in most cases the distinctions between good and evil are more sharply defined.
Viggo Mortensen as hero warrior Aragorn plays a greater part
That is not quite the case with the heroic hobbit Frodo, who in the face of the corrupting power of the Ring is seen to vacillate and almost lose faith.
But his loyal companion Sam comes to his aid and in what is one of the more emotionally satisfying moments demonstrates his faithfulness as a true friend.
Gollum, who was seen fleetingly in the first film but now emerges as The Two Towers computer-graphics star, is guiding both Frodo and Sam to Mordor.
He has a wonderfully raspy voice supplied with great expertise by British actor Andy Serkis.
Physically he is hard to describe. He has big bulging eyes and resembles a giant foetus sporting a wardrobe that only includes a loincloth.
The Ring has also corrupted Gollum and we witness his internal struggle as he shifts between his good and bad side.
Some fans might regard him as the new Jar Jar Binks, the irritating and jarring computer-generated character that emerged in Star Wars three years ago.
But Gollum, a key character in the Lord of the Rings story, also fits seamlessly into this adaptation, very much a tribute to Serkis and the sensitivities of the artists who created him.
Miranda Otto makes a strong first appearance as Eowyn
Another computer-generated character, Treebeard, complements Gollum. Otherwise it is the human actors who dominate.
The Australian actress Miranda Otto gives an assured debut in the series as Eowyn, the strong-willed niece of the King of Rohan.
The wizard Gandalf returns as Gandalf the White with just the right touch of majesty from Ian McKellen, and John Rhys-Davies injects a lot of humour as the dwarf Gimli.
The emotional struggles of all the characters in The Two Towers are more keenly felt than in the first picture.
The only exception is the romance between Aragorn and the elf Arwen played by Liv Tyler, which comes over as slightly cool.
The influences of the New Zealand locations, Jackson's upbringing there, the diverse cast and Tolkien have all been combined to create an epic fantasy and action film that is truly refreshing.
The Two Towers bears some resemblance to other cinematic epic series such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but it seems free of a Hollywood sensibility.
This second episode is truly engaging and rewarding. It may be 179 minutes long but it is a film that never lets the audience down, it touches you emotionally and it makes you think.
The Two Towers is released on 18 December.