Thursday Night Movie Club
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
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Release Date: December 18, 2002

Director: Peter Jackson
Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Liv Tyler
Viggo Mortensen
Sean Astin
Cate Blanchett
John Rhys-Davies
Bernard Hill
Christopher Lee
Billy Boyd
Dominic Monaghan
Orlando Bloom
Hugo Weaving
Miranda Otto
David Wenham
Andy Serkis
John Rhys-Davies
Frodo Baggins
Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee
Gimli/Voice of Treebeard
Saruman the White
Peregrin 'Pippin' Took
Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck
Legolas Greenleaf
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers poster The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers poster
The adventure continues! The Two Towers is a much darker movie overall than the preceeding Fellowship of the Ring . The movie still contains some breathtaking imagery. Thanks to digital imaging, J.R.R. Tolkien's novel can be brought to the screen exactly as he describes the world of Middle Earth and the struggles of its inhabitants.

I was extremely curious as to how director Peter Jackson would begin the second installment of the tale. He starts with a wonderful scene of mountain scenery. Slowly, the voice of Gandalf can be heard. We are transported back to Gandalf's struggle with the Balrog deep in the heart of the Mines of Moria. Gandalf once again falls to his doom, except that the shot of him falling is from a different angle, possibly a point-of-view shot from Frodo's perspective. The exception is that the camera follows Gandalf's fall as he grabs his falling sword and continues his battle with his arch-enemy. This sequence contains one of the many wonderful effects shots with a long shot of a large, subterranean cavern and an underground lake. The ceiling slowly illuminates to show the flaming Balrog. As the two combatants hit the surface of the water, Frodo suddenly awakens from his dream... and the movie is on!

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersThe Two Towers begins a few hours after the ending of the first movie. The Felloship is in ruins. Boromir is dead, Merry and Pippin are captives of the Orc raiding party, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are in hot pursuit, and Frodo and Sam are lost in the labyrinth of Emin Muil. All seems lost. Except that this is the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sauron's designs. The Ring, so close to his grasp, has passed out of his sight. He has once again lost it.

The Two Towers is the most complex section of the story with the action taking place in three locations simutaneously. Jackson pulls it off wonderfully. Some characters' exploits disappear from the movie for something like 30 minutes at a time. Since Frodo's exploits and those of Merry and Pippin mostly involve traveling (according to the books), Jackson has concentrated the bulk of this movie around Rohan's struggle against Wizard Saruman. Saruman is about to get an evil dose of his own medicine as his struggles suddenly come on two fronts.

Ian McKellan as Gandalf the WhiteNew characters are introduced here. These mostly involve the Horse Lords of Rohan, lead by King Theoden, one of my favorite characters from the novel. Karl Urban has these deep, penetrating eyes that are unfortunately wasted as his character, Eomer, is banished from Rohan. There must be something about the eyes of the people of Rohan, as Miranda Otto, as Eowyn, has fierce, burning eyes during her little duel with Aragorn. Wormtongue is purely devilish as Saruman's servant slowly poisoning the mind of Theoden.

Two of the most amazing digital characters appear in this movie, causing the Academy Awards to create a new award category for "Best Digital Character". They are Gollum/Smeagol and Treebeard. Treebeard is an Ent, a Tree Herder. He looks just like a large, narly tree. His movements are very bipedal as he scoops up Merry and stomps on an Orc. But Andy Serkis, as Gollum, steals the show. Physically acting along with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, Serkis is digitally transformed into the skulking Gollum, obsessed with the Ring. Gollum has no idea of the Ring's true power. He must get it back at all costs. He is a very dangerous character that "has some part to play, for Good or Evil".

Miranda Otto as EowynThe Nazgul also reappear here. They were not destroyed after all by the flood. Jackson once again cleverly depicts them. He starts with a close up of the head of the Nazgul with nothing behind him but empty sky. The camera pulls back to reveal the Black Rider now sitting atop a huge, flying beast similar to a prehistoric pteradactyl. Jackson really knows how to the best out of his visuals.

Although this is my favorite movie of the three, I have several complaints. All of my complaints were answered in the extended edition. Some of the lines seem to come out of "left field". These are mostly spoken by Treebeard. "My business is with Isengard tonight." Well, nobody was asking. Also, Aragorn is saved by a horse that he affectionately calls Brego. The problem is, Aragorn has never met Brego at any time during the movie. Minor complaints at best.

This is an absolutely wonderful movie. It is dark, mischievous, scary, exhilarating, visually stunning, and the music is wonderful. The closing theme, "Gollum's Song" is performed by Emiliana Torrini is gorgeous. I could go on and on writing about these movies...

The movie ends on a somewhat up beat. Saruman has been destroyed and the union of the Two Towers is broken. But Gollum feels he has been betrayed by Frodo. He is plotting to lead Frodo into a trap. The movie ends with a nail-biter, more so than the Fellowship. But there is one more installment to go...

Favorite scenes: the opening dream sequence; Treebeard's scooping up Merry and stepping on the Orc; Gandalf's return (combining the voice talents of Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen). Gandalf freeing King Theoden from Saruman's spell; the winged Nazgul, Legolas shooting arrows and then swinging onto an approaching horse; Eowyn's little duel with Gandalf; the flag of Rohan falling off its staff as Eowyn escapes the clutches of Wormtongue; the explosion that breaches the walls of Helm's Deep; Sam Gamgee's empassioned speech at the end.