The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is better than its predecessor, and that's a rare occurrence when it comes to Hollywood films.
The story begins where the first film left off: Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) continues on his quest to Mordor to destroy the powerful ring in the same fires of Mount Doom from which it was created. Aiding him, directly and indirectly are, fellow Hobbits Samwise Gamjee (Sean Astin), Meriadoc Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) and Peregrin Took (Billy Boyd); Gandalf (now) the White (Ian McKellen); Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen); Legolas Greenleaf the elf (Orlando Bloom); Gimli the Dwarf (John Rhys-Davies); and Treebeard the Ent (voice of John Rhys-Davies). Against him are Saruman the White (Christopher Lee) and Sauron the Dark Lord, whose spirit is intertwined with the ring. And a creature whose intentions are ambiguous (quite literally) is Smeagol/Gollum (voiced by Andy Serkis).
The main goal of this episode is to showcase the unleashing of the Saruman's forces to conquer middle earth. The movie actually ends on a positive note, with our friends having the upper hand in the two epic battles--between Saruman's 10,000 strong army and the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Rohan at their Helm's Deep fortress; and between the Ents and Sarmuan's war machine in Isengard--as well as several minor ones.
The cinematography, along with the computer graphics, is awe-inspiring. Gollum is animated brilliantly, so much that I thought he was more convincing than any of the real actors. The CGI in general is state-of-the-art; the only time I could clearly discern the computer generated images was when they had the battle with the Wargs, There is a lot of humour in the film, which shows that nothing in life is worth taking too seriously. The soundtrack, which is reminiscent of old Westerns, is excellent.
It's hard to fault a film that is as well-made as this one. In my view, The Two Towers is best judged on its own merits. While it would help to be familiar with Tolkien's works (including The Hobbit, which really fills in a great deal of the background material), this tale can stand on its own if you use your imagination.
The reason Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, are such big successes is because of the mythology they create. The Lord of the Rings, which predates these works, is no exception and is one of the richest. The film itself can be described only in superlatives. Go see it.