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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Peter Jackson's award-winning 2002 film adaptation of the second volume of Tolkien's epic fantasy novel.

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Frodo Still Lives on the Silver Screen!

  • Jan 2, 2003
Rating:
+5
Pros: Lives up to the hype, and even surpasses it

Cons: Liv Tyler's scenes drag on

The Bottom Line: I said I'd review this when it came out, didn't I? I guess most of you wouldn't know.

As I sat and watched the opening scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I couldn’t help but think: Gandalf is one baaad mutha-... Here he is, just having taken an unwilling (but graceful!) swan dive into the abyss, and he’s still beating on the balrog the whole way down, no fear at all about what’s going to happen when he hits the bottom. As we later find out, the two of them just keep going at it from there until Gandalf finally puts the thing down for good on top of a snow-covered mountain. No word on what happens from there, but for those of you who were tricked into thinking he was dead, yes, Gandalf does make a miraculous recovery. In fact, he comes back more powerful than ever, as Gandalf the White. Following his big comeback, he proceeds to become a REAL Baaad mutha-, freeing King Theoden from the evil grasp of the wizard Saruman and helping the people of Rohan trapped inside Helm’s Deep keep from getting slaughtered at the dirty hands of about ten thousand Orcs.

Just what does all this mean? It means that the wait is finally over, and the second cinematic spectacle made from JRR Tolkien’s beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy has finally hit the silver screen. And much like its older brother from last year, it sucks you right into Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and never lets you go. Except for a brief section in the middle featuring Arwen, when it spits you back out. The fact that some greedy studio heads tried to make a few extra bucks off hormonal teenage boys by giving Liv Tyler’s Arwen a bigger role is rather clear, as her little interludes are very boring this time around and as unneeded as they are boring. But once you make it through those sections, you’ll be handsomly rewarded with one of the most spectacular epic battles ever filmed, and all will instantly be forgiven.

The Two Towers picks RIGHT up where The Fellowship of the Ring left off, nary even a Star Wars-type scrolling dialogue to help out the people who are just joining in. Even with three different narratives to put together this time instead of just one, director Peter Jackson still manages to stay as faithfull to the original book as a LOTR fan could ever hope. The first narrative, of course, is Frodo and Sam wandering on the outskirts of Mordor, enlisting the help of former One Ring owner Gollum to help them find a way in. The second story is about the captured Merry and Pippin escaping the dirty grasps of their Orc captors and meeting the Ents in the forest. The third is about Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli as they start out trying to track down Merry and Pippin and wind up defending the people of Rohan in an all-out Orc onslaught against their refuge of Helm’s Deep.

Unlike the book, though, The Two Towers the movie doesn’t give you one complete story and then follow it right up with the other one. This is one of the bigger differences between the book and the movie. The book started out with three different stories, but the first two intertwined with each other somewhere along the line. The movie starts out as the three stories I mentioned above and stays three stories throughout, flashing between them regularly. So we’ll have to wait for Return of the King to see the reunion of Merry and Pippin with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli and Gandalf’s confrontation of Saruman at Isenguard. Be this as it may, don’t walk in expecting to see any scenes of Shelob either. It seems that the ends of the Two Towers stories were intentionally cut out to build up our anticipation for the next movie, although the reasons for this escape me since the aftermath of the Shelob confrontation would have made a much better cliffhanger. Or perhaps Peter Jackson is simply using Shelob as an excuse to expand the length of Return of the King, assuming she doesn’t wind up on the cutting room floor.

The first time we see Frodo and Sam, it’s hard to imagine Frodo as the happy, fun-loving little hobbit he started out as in Fellowship. Being the bearer of the One Ring is beginning to take its physical toll on Frodo, and he’s now getting weaker, thinner and paler. But he still has the energy to help Sam fend off the attacking Gollum, who’s been following his “precious” since the mines in Moria. After capturing Gollum, Frodo takes pity on him and frees him, and then asks him for a favor: Gollum’s been to Mordor, and Frodo and Sam can’t exactly walk up to the gates of Mordor and ask to be let in. So Frodo asks Gollum to take the hobbits to the secret entrance that Gollum used to get out of Mordor. This sets up the most interesting confrontation in the movie. For all the big wars that are starting, the most interesting confrontation is between Gollum and his good half, Smeagol, who shows up when Frodo addresses him by that name. You begin to take pity on him too during one scene where Smeagol/Gollum argues with himself about whether he should take the One Ring and run off or actually help Frodo and Sam. Smeagol is positively beaming with happiness after chasing Gollum off, thinking he finally beat his curse. Soon after, the hobbits are captured by Boromir’s brother Faramir, and Gollum comes right back to Smeagol, who has been hurt thinking the hobbits merely ditched him.

When we last left Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, they had set out in hot pursuit of the Orcs who captured Merry and Pippin. Their quest takes an unexpected, abrupt turn when they encounter a small legion of Rohan’s army. Their king, Theoden, has not only fallen ill but has been spending the better part of his days lately taking bad advice from a slimy assistant named Wormtongue. After being rejoined by Gandalf, they go to Rohan, where Gandalf frees Theodan from Saruman’s grasp. The newly freed Theoden takes his people to Helm’s Deep to protect them from Saruman’s forces, which sets up the spectacular climax.

Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin are given the chance to escape from their captors (for a reason I don’t want to give away. I’ve spoiled enough. Sorry about that). They run into a nearby forest, where they meet Treebeard, who is part of a race of walking trees called Ents. The Ents are a peaceful race who are trying to stay out of the war of the One Ring, but in the end they too wind up fighting, attacking Saruman’s army in Isenguard with everything they have.

One of the things that made Fellowship so endearing was the unshakeable bond between the nine main characters. Although the Fellowship is scattered about this time, the bond between the characters is still there, and still as strong as it was when the Fellowship parted ways. After all, it was the bond of the Fellowship that drove Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to race after an army of Orcs to rescue Merry and Pippin. And even after Boromir’s temporary lapse of reason, Frodo is still very shocked and saddened after Faramir tells him what ultimately happened to Boromir.

Despite the fantastical lineup of stories, the characters and storytelling still somehow manage to take a backseat to the gorgeous New Zealand scenery and special effects. As I sat and watched, I couldn’t help but think about how the thing about Tolkien’s trilogy that was most convincingly brought to life in the movies was Middle-Earth itself. The landscapes of New Zealand are just so lush and beautiful and the beauty just seems accented by the sweeping panoramic views. Not since the Indiana Jones trilogy have I felt the yearn to get out of my little corner of the world and see what’s out there. I hope Peter Jackson wins an Academy Award for his direction, because to direct something as mind-bogglingly huge as Lord of the Rings (and have it turn out this good!) is an unenviable task and not easily accomplished. Besides the regular scenery, costumes and giant battles to get in there, Jackson had to make accomodations for character size. Hobbits and Dwarves are both very short creatures, and Ents tower at some 20 feet. Certain scenes would have to be filmed at odd angles in order to accurately capture all this, and yet it is all pulled off without a hitch.

Although The Two Towers is even longer than The Fellowship of the Ring, unlike Fellowship, there are a few scenes which really didn’t need to be in there. The scenes I’m referring to in particular are the scenes featuring Arwen, which, as I’ve already stated, were simply thrown in so greedy studio executives could capitalize off of Liv Tyler’s star power. The only purpose they really serve are to show us that there are now two women, Arwen and Eowyn, competing for Aragorn’s heart. Conversely, in Fellowship, Arwen got Frodo’s rescue scene all to herself.

Even with the darker atmosphere, Peter Jackson still found a way to work some humor into the story. A lot of the laughs come courtesy of Gimli, who at one point is even the victim of a short joke. But some of the humor is unintentional and even campy. When Gandalf frees Theoden from Saruman, for example, Saruman reveals himself by talking through Theoden-he uses Theoden as a puppet. His message to Gandalf is that Gandalf has no authority to tell him what to do, since he is the weaker of the two. Saruman doesn’t yet know about Gandalf’s transformation, so Gandalf opens his coat to show off his new white bodily adornment. As Gandalf does this, we actually see a bright beam of light pour forth from Gandalf’s frontside. The scene bears such a resemblance to a typical Mel Brooks parody that you half expect to hear a hallelujiah chorus sound in the background.

Even if you’re not into Lord of the Rings (and how could you not be by now?), then I suggest you carry your worthless carcass to the nearest theater and see the thing if you’re into action movies. Sure, you may not like the first two hours, but when the climactic battle of Helm’s Deep rolls around, you’ll be awestruck. This has to be one of the great epic batles ever filmed, ranking right up there with the first 25 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and the battle in Braveheart where the Scots first met the English. If you do like the movie, then the suspence that builds up to the battle is crushing. Saruman sends an army of ten thousand Orcs to attack the place that was supposed to be a refuge for the people of Rohan, and so the people there horrified that this place of protection has now become a deathtrap. The people there manage to set up a feeble defense, but there are so many Orcs... I want to say more, I really do, but everything from here on out would be spoiling it.

I should mention that all the actors, thanks to the trilogy’s back-to-back-to-back shooting schedule, never went out of character, and all performed up to expectations. Except Ian McKellan’s Gandalf, who went from the wise friendly old man to the Baad mutha- this time. There’s a lot more focus on Aragorn this time, it looks like the producers are trying to pass off Viggo Mortenson as an action hero. Hopefully he’ll get the Oscar nod this year. Not that I watch the Oscars anymore, but I do enjoy hearing about good actors who finally get long overdue recognition.

Yes, The Two Towers is a spectacle worth every penny you’ll be paying for it. And yes, I do intend to get my scuzzy little hands on the expanded edition DVD when it comes out. But is it as good as Fellowship? Er... No. I prefer Fellowship to The Two Towers because of the way the characters in Fellowship endeared you and the way the story engaged you. It sucked you in and kept you in. The Two Towers sucks you in and then lulls you to sleep somewhere around the middle. But then the battle of Helm’s Deep is fought, and you forgive everything. Man, Helm’s Deep alone is worth the price of admission.





Recommended:
Yes

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More The Lord of the Rings: The Two... reviews
review by . December 24, 2010
This is another perfect film in what's most likely the greatest fantasy franchise ever (Harry Potter doesn't count). There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, the only thing that even remotely irked me was that I found it a bit too long. The acting, the story, the characters, the visuals, the Battle of Helm's Deep, the villains, the dialogue, and the continuation of the story is what makes this film perfect. Yup, that pretty much covers it...everything is just perfect.   …
Quick Tip by . April 22, 2011
The evil empire builds in strength. I particularly like the way the music built up tension in this part.
Quick Tip by . February 22, 2011
The +4 rating is only for the director's cut release. The version shown in theaters was inconsistent and, for someone who hadn't read the novels, incomprehensible at the end. If I had to rate just the theatrical release, I would give it a 2 at best.
review by . October 10, 2006
Every great adventure story worth telling has a solid hero - someone who puts others before themselves and uses their talents to do their best at keeping the forces of evil at bay even if it means the loss of life and limb. At its core, this movie has eight such heroes and each one lives up to the call. Peter Jackson was faced with a great challenge but he managed to pull this off real well.    This film was better paced than the first in the trilogy. There were still some breaks …
review by . June 03, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
The extended versions of these movies are even better than the originals. They're so good, in fact, that I wish they would skip the standard edition and just go right to the extended one. Great movie, and the best mastered DVD I've seen yet.
review by . February 04, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
I have seen all three films and consider them to make up the greatest trilogy ever and this film is my favorite of the three! I have seen it several times. The band that got together on the journey to Mordor in the first film is split into 3 groups. The Troll, Elf Archer and the man (who is destined to be king of men?) make up one band while Frodo and Sam make up the second band, and the other two Hobbits make up the third group. We basically have stories going on simultaneously and the director …
review by . January 03, 2004
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING seemed unsurpassable. But it happened! And that's because now we have THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS, a moviemaking masterpiece second only to three films: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GODFATHER, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING. The film deals with the Fellowship after their seperation. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their quest to Mt. Doom; at the same time, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando …
review by . November 21, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
I liked the theatrical version of "The Two Towers." That being said, the Extended Edition is definitely a stronger, more consistent film. It tightens up so many of the loose ends, and gave more reason for some of the changes made from the books. From Eowyn's heartfelt singing at Theodred's funeral procession to Merry and Pippin's extended roles to Faramir's siginificantly more defined character, the new scenes add to the story and to the character development dramatically. The plot flows better …
review by . November 19, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Once again, Peter Jackson has outdone himself with the Special Extended DVD Edition of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS. Besides the original nearly three hour film, this edition includes just over 43 minutes of footage that was not shown in the original cinematic release. I realize why some of the scenes were not included in the movie, but some of the other ones I just don't understand: they add such depth to the movie and make it better than it was. Since the series has been such a success, …
review by . September 01, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Simply put, "The Two Towers" lives up to the standards the filmmakers set for themselves in the first film. It is remarkably faithful to the books, and it is an excellent film in any estimation.The style established in the first film is maintained rigorously in the second. Colors, sounds, dialogue, effects, acting... all excellent, all used well. I cannot think of a single element with which I was disappointed, but there were a few things which stood out as particularly impressive.The achievement …
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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a 2002 fantasy-adventure film directed by Peter Jackson based on the second volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It is the second film in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy that was preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and concluded with The Return of the King (2003).

Continuing the plot of The Fellowship of the Ring, it intercuts three storylines, as Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the One Ring in Mordor and meet Gollum, its former owner. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come across the war torn nation of Rohan as well as the resurrected Gandalf, before fighting at the Battle of Helm's Deep, whilst Merry and Pippin escape capture and meet Treebeard, the Ent and plan an attack on Isengard.

The movie was critically acclaimed, although the adaptation was more controversial than the first film. It was an enormous box-office success, earning over $900 million worldwide, outgrossing its predecessor, and is currently the 11th highest-grossing film of all time (inflation-adjusted, it is the 60th most successful film in North America). The film won two Academy Awards. The Special Extended DVD Edition was released on November 19, 2003 and is now discontinued.
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Details

Director: Peter Jackson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Classics, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: December 18, 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Peter Jackson, Frances Walsh
DVD Release Date: August 26, 2003
Runtime: 2hrs 59min
Studio: New Line Cinema, Wingnut Films
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