- Directed by Peter Jackson
- December 5, 2002 (Ziegfeld Theatre) / December 18, 2002 (US) / December 19, 2002 (New Zealand)
- Based on the 1954 novel The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien
Frodo and Sam continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the returned Gandalf. Merry and Pippin plan an attack on the fortress of Saruman with Treebeard the Ent.
The Lord of the Rings universe is one of the meatier fantasy film universes out there. It is not just epic adventure but intellectual as well as being deep drama. It’s not put up on the screen to just show cool shit but rather tell a great story.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second installment in this epic film trilogy. It has a huge scope with multiple story lines that all interconnect and a large cast to tell a complex narrative. There is a lot being juggled on the screen and it all comes together so perfectly that the nearly three-hour theatrical run breezes by.
Peter Jackson and company created a masterpiece here. There is drama and tension and excitement. With fine acting, great direction, and a strong story we get a lengthy narrative that holds you from start to finish and you don’t know realize how much time actually passes. And that’s masterful filmmaking right there.
One of the things that makes the story told here resonate so strongly is that there are multiple things you can take away from what is on the screen. On the one hand you could look at the story and say the statement of the narrative here is that war is a terrible thing. On the other hand you can look at what is shown here and take away that sometimes war is unavoidable.
This is also a fantasy film they does not shy away from how brutal and horrible war can be. I mean a lot is implied and plenty is shown but they don’t show gore for the sake of showing gore. There is one scene where Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been captured and a fight ensues among their captors. There’s a blink and you miss it moment where the Orcs are tearing one of the other captors apart and internal pieces fly into the air and you can tell they’re intestines.
This is not adventure for fun but adventure with serious consequences. People die, people have to confront the realities of the world and must decide whether to stand or to hide and hope the darkness passes than mine. And that goes for leadership.
Human or elf or hobbit, these are all very human characters. They have wants and needs and desires and fall prey to their weaknesses and struggle to rise to the occasion and do the right thing. Some will trade their souls for not very much while others will stand strong. We get an analysis of the real world in a fictional setting.
For example the Ents can be seen as the slowness of and faulty thinking of bureaucracy. They meet and talk and take forever and when the decision comes it is the wrong decision for the times. It takes the thinking of Merry and Pippin to get Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies) to understand that war has come to all and there really is only one option.
Sometimes in conflicts there are no good options. You’re just stuck using the least bad one and Helm’s Deep is perhaps the least bad. That’s another bit of realism here. While essentially trapped they would have just been immediately slaughtered if they had stayed. And then there is Faramir (David Wenham). He releases Samwise (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) because it is the right thing ti do on so many levels knowing what will happen to him.
Strong platonic relationships do not often make it to the screen. Often there is a romantic component to it but not with Frodo and Samwise. They are more than close friends. Sam will go to the ends of the Earth for Frodo and Frodo knows he could have no better traveling companion than Samwise. With dialogue and fine acting there is a realism and nuance breathed into the relationship that is rarely seen.
We also see the beginning of the friendship between Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom). I don’t recall seeing any of the dynamic they have here presented in the last film. It is a friendly rivalry. They poke and prod each other as only two really close individuals can do.
Is anybody else creeped out by Brad Dourif in this movie as Gríma Wormtongue? Dourif is one of my favorite character actors. He tends to play odd or just unique characters and he’s very good at it. But here he is just creepy and slimy. Perhaps that is because his character is basically trading the world to get King Théoden’s (Bernard Hill) niece Éowyn (Miranda Otto). That is messed up and very rapey.
There are few points where the CGI doesn’t look that good but for the most part it’s still beautiful. It’s because CGI was not their default. CGI was used to highlight things but it was also used sparingly and judiciously. They weren’t trying to impress you but rather create a world in which they could tell their story.
This is just cinematic perfection and perhaps one of the finest sequels if not among the best movies made. It is complex and smartly written and expertly made. It is impressive and on a grand scale but with so much below the surface. It is what many movies wish to be but cannot hope to emulate.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a fantastic second film based on a classic piece of literature and a classic film in its own right. I dare say it’s one of the greatest sequels in film history. If you have not checked this out, you are really missing something.