The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

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Compared to the rest of the films in this series, I’m not that into The Two Towers. Fellowship of the Ring is the fun beginning (I tend to favor the first movie in any series over the rest) and The Return of the King is the climactic conclusion. The Two Towers… this is a middle movie that serves as a bridge and not much else.

As with Fellowship, the only storyline I really care about in Towers is the one involving the two main hobbits, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin). These two are still on their way to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, but more importantly, this is the movie where they meet Gollum (Andy Serkis). Serkis should definitely have an acting Oscar for his motion capture and voice work. While the CGI used to create Gollum is looking a tad shabby compared to what can be done now, without the work done here we wouldn’t have the amazing Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which Serkis stars. It’s also impressive how well Wood and Astin react to their animated co-star, with both giving performances that make you feel like Gollum is right there with them.

Other than the excellent Gollum-Frodo-Sam scenes, The Two Towers struggles to keep my attention. The men are off doing their defending a fortress, and there are some pretty cool tree people that the other two hobbits hook up with.  But again, since I’m not that into the story I have a hard time retaining any of the details.

Rating: C+

This second film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is almost as good as the first. In my opinion, Fellowship of the Ring is the best of the Rings movies, but Two Towers is not far behind. It is just as epic as the first film. Peter Jackson has created such a glorious world for his Middle Earth movies and Two Towers explores that world even further.

The Two Towers opens directly after the events of Fellowship of the Ring. The fellowship has been broken following the attack from Saruman’s Uruk-Hai orcs in the last movie. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been captured by the Uruk-Hai and are on their way to be tortured by Saruman, as Aragorn (Viggo Mortenson), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys Davies) follow the Orc’s trail to rescue their friends. After believing Merry and Pippin to be dead, the trio get caught up in the dealings of a distant kingdom of men called Rohan. Their king (Bernard Hill) has been corrupted by Saruman after being possessed by him. Aragorn and his friends use the magic of the now resurrected Gandalf (Ian McKellan) to free the king of Saruman’s power. Now that Saruman no longer has control of the lands of Rohan, he invades it with his orcs. The people of Rohan flee to Helm’s Deep, a fortress that has never been broken into (guess what happens). Aragorn has to inspire the people of Rohan to fight against Saruman’s forces. We’re now one step closer to seeing him embrace his lineage of the one true king and see some awesome character development here from Aragorn.

Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) also continue their journey alone to Mordor, running into the previous owner of the ring, Gollum (Andy Serkis). The grey skinned, demonic-looking former hobbit (actually he is still a hobbit, he just looks nothing like one after centuries of having the ring destroy him) offers to take the two into Mordor and assist them to destroy the ring. His motivations are not all pure, as he intends to steal the ring back the first chance he gets. Sam is the only one who suspects Gollum is up to something. Frodo refuses to believe him, perhaps being corrupted by the ring’s power. Gollum is a marvel on screen. He is a computer generated character and still looks amazing. Andy Serkis is getting all kinds of rave reviews for his motion capture work now in films like Planet of the Apes, but I think he will struggle to ever top his performance as Gollum. He is such a sad character, and it is all from Serkis’s performance.

As in the first film, Peter Jackson has created such a beautiful world here. I love the locations he uses in New Zealand. The country is so pretty and some of the cinematography used in these films is so lovely. New Zealand contains within itself nearly every climate and locale Jackson needed to bring Middle Earth to life.

One of the things that Jackson does so well in these films is picking and choosing which part of the books to focus on. In the book, the battle of Helm’s Deep lasts not much more than a few pages, but it is the defining set piece of this film, taking nearly an hour of screen time. Jackson was smart to focus on this action and not other parts of the book for his finale. The entire battle is a wonder to behold. Even over a decade later, the battle scenes are still epic and exciting.

The Two Towers continues The Lord of the Rings story using the same epic scale created in the first film. I loved the character development in this film. Every character you care about grows and changes as the film progresses. You are in this journey to the end with these characters and when Two Towers ends, you can’t wait to see how it is all wrapped up in Return of the King.

Rating: A-

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