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

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) Director: Peter Jackson

“May this be the hour when we draw swords together”


There are three brilliantly interwoven plot-lines in The Two Towers (in what Hitchcock once called the “meanwhile back at the ranch” film technique which is also employed to great success in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). Frodo and Sam make their way to Mordor but along the way they encounter the tragic-comic creature Gollum (played in a special effects-laden costume by Andy Serkis). Gollum, who was once a hobbit has become horribly disfigured due to his obsession with the ring (he once owned the ring before Bilbo Baggins happened upon it in The Hobbit). Gollum has been tracking the fellowship since their trek through the mines of Moria. His loyalties are questionable as he leads Frodo and Sam through craggy pathways and eventually underground while en route to Mordor. Meanwhile Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli track a herd of Uruk-Hai who had captured Merry and Pippin at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. During the course of battle, the hobbits escape into the woods where they meet the Treebeard and the Ents, ancient trees who slowly decide join the battle against Isengard. Meanwhile, as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli track the hobbits into the forest, Gandalf reveals himself to the three of them. He is now reborn as Gandalf the White, leader of the wizards following Saruman’s moral dereliction.

Aragorn, Legolas, Gandalf, and Gimli travel to the kingdom of Rohan where the aging king, Theoden (played by Bernard Hill), has been tragically possessed by Saruman and his assistant, Grima Wormtongue (played by Brad Dourif). Gandalf brings order back to Rohan after restoring Theoden to health and reuniting him with his son, Eomer (played by Karl Urban). Saruman’s forces begin attacking the men at Rohan, nearly killing Aragorn as he falls off a cliff into a river. Theoden musters his forces and evacuates Rohan to the heavily fortified mountain fortress called “Helm’s Deep.” Nearly one third of the film details the massive battle between the armies of Isengard and the men of Rohan -it is an impressive and fierce fight while the soldiers of Rohan hunker down. Peter Jackson makes an amusing cameo as a spearman atop the wall at Helm’s Gate. The battle is beautifully shot. It is dark and ominous in the mud and the rain, and we are constantly reminded of an impending doom at any moment.

In The Two Towers, we are offered a romantic side-plot between Aragorn and Arwen of Rivendell, and also Eowyn, daughter of Theoden (played by Miranda Otto). Eowyn is in love with Aragorn but her love is unrequited. However, the love between Arwen and Aragorn is complex. Arwen, an elf, will greatly outlive Aragorn and he reminds her that this will be a long and lonely existence. Meanwhile, the battle rages at Helm’s Deep. Galadriel and Elrond, leaders of the elves, decide to send a contingent to fight alongside men, a reminder of the alliance between elves and men that once existed. After a bloody battle that lasts all night, Gandalf arrives with the Rohirrim, the mounted cavalry of Rohan. At the same time, Merry, Pippin, and the Ents flood and destroy Isengard, punishing Saruman for his evil and destructive forces.

Lastly, Frodo and Sam arrive at the Black Gate of Mordor but they decide to pursue another route into Mount Doom. Gollum leads them back through a series of caves where they are captured by a contingent of men from Gondor led by Farimir (played by David Wenham), brother of Borimir and prince of Gondor. After learning of Borimir’s moral failure, Farimir frees Sam, Frodo, and Gollum to continue their quest. However, the film ends on a cliffhanger as Gollum decides to betray the hobbits and reclaim the ring (the scenes of Shelob’s lair are actully featured at the end of the novel The Two Towers, but they are saved for the beginning of The Return of the King film). Unlike another brilliant sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers ends with the heroes celebrating a victory, rather than facing a low point and mourning a loss. The defeat of Saruman is the great victory in The Two Towers.

What are the the ‘two towers’ alluded in the title of the film? They are the towers of Mordor (where the visible all-seeing eye of Sauron rests in the film) and the tower in Isengard where Saruman resides. The two develop a partnership, but the power of one tower (Isengard) falls to an alliance of ents, elves, and men in the The Two Towers.

The Two Towers is an incredible adventure with one of the greatest CGI creatures ever devised (Gollum), along with a hoard of additional new characters (Ents, the Kingdom of Rohan, Farimir, the return of Gandalf) and an intense battle sequence at Helm’s Deep. Once again, the film features a brilliant score by Howard Shore. Is The Two Towers a perfect reflection of Tolkien’s book? Certainly not. However, no film could possibly be tasked with doing justice to Middle Earth. All things considered, Peter Jackson offers a brilliant and inspiring version of Lord of the Rings -an unrivaled epic saga in our contemporary day.

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