Apr 10, 2015

[Movies] The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

After the success of The Fellowship of the Ring, a lot of fans of the The Lord of the Rings - whether through the books or that first movie) were eager to see what was going to happen next. And since the sequel was following the same December release schedule as the first movie, it felt like we were starting a new tradition. Sure, we only had a trilogy to look forward to back then and thus we only had two more chances to do this with our friends and family, but it was still quite the exciting time.

As while the first movie did a great job of establishing the world a and setting the scene, I'll always feel that this second movie, The Two Towers, truly represented a significant step up for the story as a whole. It's the movie that feels like a lot more fun because we had some pretty epic battle sequences and even more colorful characters.

I really, really enjoyed this second movie and it's the one I've probably watched the most out of all the different movies in this franchise. Maybe I'm just a little shallow that way or maybe I just appreciate how so much seems to happen in this chapter.

Plus we got Ents.

Synopsis: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second movie in The Lord of the Rings trilogy written and directed by Peter Jackson together with fellow screenplay writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Stephen Sinclair. The movie was nominated for numerous awards and won a good number of them including the Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing.

At the end of the last movie, we saw Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) disappear into the depths of Moria after the Fellowship narrowly escapes the Balrog. The young hobbits Frodo (Elijah Woods) and Sam (Sean Astin) had decided to venture to Mordor on their own, leaving the Fellowship behind. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are on the trail of the Uruk-hai that had taken Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). Thus the story now takes place in different places as we figure out what's going on with each character.

This movie introduces the nation of Rohan under the rule of King Théoden (Bernard Hills). But Théoden himself has been somehow entranced by his chief adviser, Grima Wormtongue, yet another servant of the now-corrupted Saruman (Christopher Lee). Merry and Pippin eventually escape the Uruk-hai and find themselves in the forests of Fangorn. And Frodo and Sam now have a most unlikely guide into Mordor - the dark creature Gollum (Andy Serkis).

As you go back to the Tolkien structure for this story, we spent the first part of this trilogy just trying to get the Fellowship together. But by the end of that movie they were most certainly broken and this movie starts with the Fellowship pretty much in shambles. And while generally they all have the same goal of working towards the betterment of Middle-earth (or at least its protection from darkness) but they don't exactly get to coordinate their actions. And this struggle to do the right thing despite feeling isolated or unaided is a lot of what makes this epic tale so glorious.

This segment has the chief advantage of having a key battle and not just little skirmishes here and there. The Battle of Helm's Deep is a true classic and probably the best battle in the whole series. Sure, we see the Ents rise up and prepare to go to war, but that's something that only gets resolved in the next movie. It's a good scene too and I really enjoyed seeing the Ents start their siege of the Isengard, but Helm's Deep is just something else. It almost feels like a video game campaign broken into various turns as archers attack followed by siege engines on the other side and all that wonderful back and forth. It's an amazing moment and the movie really brings the book to life in this regard.

The contrast between all these action-filled moments that the remnants of the Fellowship end up going through versus Sam and Frodo is pretty sharp. And while it's rather necessary in terms of the greater scheme of things, admittedly those hobbit journey moments felt like real downers versus all the other stuff. Yes, Merry and Pippin waiting for the Ents to stop talking was still more interesting than most of the wandering about of Frodo and Sam for me. It was based on a definition of what it means to be friends that came from when the books were originally written - when "love" between two guys was an okay thing to talk about and so it carried on-screen. It was a nice translation of what was in the books, but then admittedly it was a little weird in a modern context.

And that's really what The Two Towers is - a great translation of some pretty old source material, but doing so in a manner that for the most part was highly entertaining. On the whole, this was a really great movie with a lot of fascinating characters well beyond the confines of the original Fellowship and I enjoyed things a lot. So the movie gets a good 5 Ents standing around out of a possible 5.

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