‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ (Film)

 

‘THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Return To Middle-Earth – The Journey Continues

“That Peter Jackson and his remarkable team have done it again…!”‘Newsweek’, December 2002

After enjoying ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ on DVD, it was little surprise that I would come to watch the second film of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. I wanted to find out what happens to Frodo and Sam on their journey to Mordor as well as Aragorn on his journey to be a king.

I remember speaking to my Dad about purchasing the ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ DVD in 2003. In August that year on a Scotland family holiday, the original ‘Two Towers’ DVD was released. I couldn’t wait to see it! My parents and I saw the movie at home and we really enjoyed it!

Here’s the story so far! Frodo Baggins the hobbit left his home, the Shire, on a quest to destroy the One Ring, forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. He was joined by his friends who formed a Fellowship to help him on his quest to Mordor. By the end, Frodo continued his long journey to Mordor with Sam.

The movie’s title refers to two specific towers belonging to the enemies of Middle-Earth. There’s Orthanc, the tower of Saruman in Isengard and there’s Barad-dûr, the tower of Sauron in the land of Mordor. Saruman and Sauron seek to destroy the world of men as our heroes must overthrow them.

After having the original ‘Two Towers’ 2-disc DVD in August 2003, I soon had the four-disc Special Extended DVD Edition for Christmas 2003. The extended edition has new extra footage and special features. My family and I now have the movie in ‘The Hobbit’/’The Lord of the Rings’ Blu-ray box set.

‘The Two Towers’ film is divided into three storylines. There’s the Ring quest featuring Frodo and Sam; the captives’ journey featuring Merry and Pippin and the companions’ journey featuring Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. This is very different to how the original book chronicles theirs journeys.

Elijah Wood returns as Frodo Baggins and Sean Astin returns as Samwise Gamgee. At the beginning of ‘The Two Towers’, Frodo and Sam journey through the Emyn Muil which is a maze of rocky hills. They meet Andy Serkis as Gollum. I found Gollum to be a brilliant CGI/actor performance in this film.

Gollum becomes Frodo and Sam’s dangerous guide since he knows the way to Mordor. He leads them out of the Emyn Muil hills into the Dead Marshes. The Dead Marshes are marshlands filled with ancient corpses of Elves and Men who fought Mordor’s armies as seen in the ‘LOTR’s prologue.

Soon, Gollum escorts Frodo and Sam to the Black Gate of Mordor. But the Gate is closed and Frodo and Sam have a job of trying to get in. Gollum stops them from going further. He suggests another way to get into Mordor. Sam is suspicious but Frodo trusts Gollum to lead them to this other way in.

Meanwhile, far away from Frodo and Sam, Dominic Monaghan returns as Merry and Billy Boyd returns as Pippin. From the start, they’re captives of the Uruk-Hai following the end of ‘Fellowship’. Merry and Pippin soon escape from the Uruk-Hai as they get killed by Rohan riders in a night attack.

They enter Fangorn Forest. Merry and Pippin find themselves in the dark, twisted, tangled forest of Fangorn before they meet up with Treebeard, voiced by John Rhys-Davies. Treebeard is an Ent, who is like a shepherd of the forest. Treebeard keeps Merry and Pippin safe after getting hunted by Orcs.

Christopher Lee returns as Saruman, the Master of Isengard. As established, parts of Middle-Earth get threatened by Saruman, as he has joined forces with Sauron. He builds his armies of Uruk-Hai to terrorise the kingdom of Rohan. He also sends hordes of Wild Men and Dunlendings to attack Rohan.

Meanwhile, Viggo Mortenson returns as Aragorn; Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas and John Rhys-Davies returns as Giml. In their story, they run on foot to rescue Merry and Pippin from the Uruk-Hai. They pursue the Uruk-Hai on foot, but they don’t seem to get anywhere and is a very endless chase.

Very soon, the three companions meet up with the Rohirrim who are the Riders of Rohan. The Rohirrim are Viking-like warriors on horseback. They’re led by Karl Urban as Éomer, son of Éomund and King Théoden’s nephew. Éomer has been banished by King Théoden for being so loyal to Rohan.

After the Rohirrim surrounded the three companions with spears on the plains of Rohan, Éomer informs Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli about Rohan’s situation. They also destroyed the Uruk-Hai but with no sign of the hobbits. The trio go to where the Rohirrim burned the Uruk-Hai’s piled carcasses.

They eventually discover that the hobbits have entered Fangorn Forest. Inside the forest, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli soon discover that they’re not alone. They’re visited by the ‘white wizard’. They suspect it is Saruman. But it turns out to be…Sir Ian MacKellen who returns as Gandalf the White!!!!!

Yes! Gandalf has returned! WOW!!! After telling his story on how he cheated death, Gandalf takes Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli with him to Edoras, the capital city of Rohan. Edoras is a rural Viking-like place that is set on a hill. Edoras has its thatched-barn-like houses and the Golden Hall of Meduseld.

Arriving at Edoras, Gandalf and his companions meet Bernard Hill who stars as King Théoden of Rohan. Théoden first appears as a frail, fragile old man who is under the influence of Saruman. But very soon, Gandalf frees Théoden from his poison by Saruman and he becomes youthful once again.

The person who was responsible for Théoden’s condition to begin with is Brad Dourif who stars as Gríma Wormtongue. Wormtongue was King Théoden’s advisor, but it’s revealed he fed whispering words to weaken the king. He was secretly working for Saruman before Gandalf exposed his colours.

The film also features Miranda Otto as Éowyn, the White Lady of Rohan. Éowyn is Théoden’s niece and Éomer’s sister. She is a ‘shieldmaiden of Rohan’. She happens to be a strong woman who has learnt how to fight and ride. But Éowyn isn’t allowed to fight in any battle due to still being a woman.

For this ‘LOTR’ film, horses are very important to Rohan’s country. There are two very important horses of the Riddermark featured in this film. There’s Shadowfax who is a white stallion that Gandalf rides. There is also Brego, a brown horse that Aragorn befriends and rides during the movie.

With Rohan now under threat by Saruman’s forces, Théoden decides for Edoras to be evacuated. He orders for the people of Rohan to make for Helm’s Deep. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli accompany Théoden and Éowyn on their journey to Helm’s Deep whilst Gandalf goes off to collect the Rohirrim.

Meanwhile with Frodo and Sam, they come to a woodland country called Ithilien. There’s a brilliant scene where Gollum is talking to himself as Sméagol and Gollum. After seeing Oliphaunts in Ithilien, Frodo and Sam get caught and taken captive by David Wenham as Faramir and his groups of rangers.

Back with the people of Rohan making for Helm’s Deep, Éowyn starts to fall in love with Aragorn. There are also flashback scenes featuring Aragorn with Liv Tyler as Arwen, set before the Fellowship left for Rivendell in ‘Fellowship’. It’s interesting to see a love triangle for Aragorn, Arwen and Éowyn.

Soon, the Rohan people get attacked by Warg-Riders on the way to Helm’s Deep. These are Orcs riding on wild beasts that are like bear-hyena-wolf hybrids. There’s an all-out battle between our heroes and the Warg-Riders while Éowyn protects Rohan’s people by escorting them to Helm’s Deep.

During the Warg battle, Aragorn gets caught in a fight with a Warg-Rider that sends him off a cliff. Thankfully, Aragorn manages to survive when carried along in a river. Brego the horse manages to find a dishevelled Aragon on a river bank before taking him to Helm’s Deep to meet with the others.

Elsewhere with Arwen, she’s faced to make a choice on whether to stay with Aragorn or to go to the undying lands where the Elves are heading for. Hugo Weaving also returns as Elrond. He has scenes with his daughter Arwen as he tries to persuade her not to stay with Aragorn should he ever survive.

Arwen however is determined at first before Elrond tells her what will happen if she decides to stay. It seems that Arwen’s future could be bleak if she says with Aragorn as she’s likely to die unhappily. The film ends Arwen’s story with seeming going off to the undying lands. But is this the end for her?

The film also features a telepathic conference between Elrond and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Galadriel tells Elrond what will happen to Middle-Earth when it’s being attacked by Saruman and Sauron. He also shares the consequences of Frodo’s mission to Mordor should it soon fail in the end.

Back with Frodo and Sam, they’re interrogated by Faramir, Captain of Gondor. Faramir also happens to be Boromir’s brother. There’s a lovely flashback scene in the extended version of the movie where Faramir is with his brother Sean Bean as Boromir as well as John Noble as Denethor, the boys’ father.

In this film, Faramir seeks to win favour with his father. He’s also upset about losing Boromir when he found him dead in a boat in the river. Once Faramir discovers that Frodo has the Ring of Power, he seeks a chance ‘to show his quality’ when he decides to take that Ring with them back to Gondor.

Back in Fangorn Forest, Merry and Pippin with Treebeard witness Saruman’s massive Uruk-Hai army marching from Isengard on its way to Helm’s Deep. Treebeard organises the Entmoot, which is a gathering of Ents to meets and discuss whether to go to war. The meeting does go on for far so long.

But pretty soon, the Ents come to a decision that doesn’t please Merry. After deciding to take Merry and Pippin back home to the Shire, they go on a diversion where Treebeard sees what Saruman’s done to the forest near Isengard. He gets upset and angry before the Ents march to attack Isengard.

Meanwhile with Aragorn, he sees the massive Uruk-Hai army and rides to Helm’s Deep to warn King Théoden. There are 10,000 Uruk-Hai coming to Helm’s Deep. How Aragorn managed to count all of them astounds me! 😀 Soon, King Théoden and the men of Rohan prepare for an approaching battle.

Helm’s Deep is the fortress and the refuge of Rohan that Théoden believes will keep his people safe. Once the Uruk-Hai army is reported that it’s approaching Helm’s Deep, Théoden orders for the women and the children to be taken to the Glittering Caves. The men of Rohan will defend and fight.

As the men of Rohan prepare for battle, it does feel pretty grisly and grim. It seems like there’s no hope for the men of Rohan, especially when farmers and stable boys get selected to fight in the battle. But Aragorn is determined to fight on and die for his people. He declares there’s always hope.

Soon the men of Rohan aren’t alone. They’re joined by another small army of Elves. These are led by Craig Parker as Haldir from Lothlórien. They’ve come to help the men of Rohan to fight the Uruk-Hai at Helm’s Deep. This is to honour the alliance of Elves and Men that fought against Sauron long ago.

Eventually, the Uruk-Hai army arrives. They’re pretty ‘massive’. And I do mean ‘massive’ as in CGI ‘massive’. 😀 The Uruk-Hai are divided into four groups. There are the swordsmen; the pikes men; the crossbow-men and the Berserkers. The Berserkers must be pretty ferocious and insane Uruk-Hai.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is pretty impressive, combining both live-action and CGI. It’s a battle full of emotional and epic proportions. It lasts for 45 minutes with cuts to Treebeard, Merry, Pippin and the Ents at times. It’s very exciting once the battle starts with our heroes winning against the enemy.

But very soon, it goes downhill with the Uruk-Hai winning and blowing up the Hornburg. It does seem to be pretty hopeless. Will our heroes be victorious and defeat their enemy? Can our heroes at Helm’s Deep charge against them Uruk-Hai? Will Frodo and Sam survive as well as Merry and Pippin?

The special features for ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ on ‘The Hobbit’/’The Lord of the Rings’ 30-disc Blu-ray set are as follows. On Disc 19 & 20, there’s the extended edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Parts 1 and 2’. There are also four commentaries. There’s ‘The Director and Writers’ commentary featuring director/writer/producer Peter Jackson; writer/producer Fran Walsh and writer Philippa Boyens. There’s ‘The Design Team’ commentary featuring production designer Grant Major; Weta Workshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor; conceptual designer Alan Lee; conceptual designer John Howe; supervising art director Dan Hennah; art department manager Chris Hennah and Weta Workshop manager Tania Rodger. There’s ‘The Production/Post-Production Team’ commentary featuring producer Barrie M. Osborne; executive producer Mark Ordesky; director of photography Andrew Lesnie; film editor Mike Horton; additional film editor Jabez Olssen, co-producer Rick Porras; music composer Howard Shore; visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel; visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri; supervising sound editor Ethan van der Ryn; supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins; animation designer Randy Cook; visual effects art director Christian Rivers; visual effects director of photography Brian Van’t Hul and miniatures director of photography Alex Funke. And there’s ‘The Cast’ commentary featuring Elijah Wood; Sean Astin; John Rhys-Davies; Bernard Hill; Billy Boyd; Dominic Monaghan; Orlando Bloom; Christopher Lee; Miranda Otto; David Wenham; Brad Dourif; Karl Urban; Sean Bean; John Noble; Craig Parker and Andy Serkis. There’s also ‘The Lord of the Rings: War in the North trailer – The Untold Story’ and an Easter Egg to enjoy.

On Disc 21, there are the original Disc 2 DVD special features from the theatrical DVD/Blu-ray release. There’s the ‘On the Set – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ Starz Encore Special and the ‘Return to Middle-Earth’ WB Special. There’s ‘The Long and Short of It’, a short film directed by Sean Astin and there’s ‘The Making of ‘The Long and Short of It’. There are eight ‘lordoftherings.net’ featurettes including ‘Forces of Darkness’; ‘Designing the Sounds of Middle-Earth’; ‘Edoras: The Rohan Capital’; ‘Creatures of Middle-Earth’; ‘Gandalf the White’; ‘Arms and Armour’; ‘The Battle of Helm’s Deep’ and ‘Bringing Gollum to Life’. There are also two theatrical trailers for the movie; sixteen TV spots and a music video for ‘Gollum’s Song’, performed by Emiliana Torrini. There’s the Special Extended DVD Edition preview of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ and a behind-the-scenes preview for ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’. There’s also a preview by EA on ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ video game.

On Disc 22, there are ‘The Appendices Part 3: The Journey Continues…’ These cover the making of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ from book to screen, including plenty of documentaries. There’s an introduction given by director Peter Jackson who explains what happens in ‘The Appendices’ for ‘The Two Towers’. There’s the ‘J. R. R. Tolkien – Origins of Middle-Earth’ documentary and there’s the ‘From Book to Script: Finding the Story’ documentary. There’s the ‘Designing and Building Middle-Earth’ section which contains the ‘Designing Middle-Earth’ documentary; the ‘Weta Workshop’ documentary and design galleries on the Peoples of Middle-Earth and the Realms of Middle-Earth. There’s the ‘Gollum’ section which contains ‘The Taming of Sméagol’ documentary; the ‘Andy Serkis Animation Reference’ item; the ‘Gollum’s Stand-In’ featurette and a design gallery. There’s the ‘Middle-Earth Atlas’, an interactive map that traces the three journeys of the Fellowship in the second ‘LOTR’ film. And there’s ‘New Zealand as Middle-Earth’, which features a map of New Zealand containing behind-the-scenes featurettes looking into the many filming locations of the second ‘LOTR’ film.

On Disc 23, there are ‘The Appendices Part 4: The Battle For Middle-Earth Begins’. This covers how the cast got involved in the movie as well as the filming, the post-production process and the eventual release of the film at the cinemas. There’s an introduction given by Elijah Wood who explains what happens on this disc just like what director Peter Jackson did for the first ‘Appendices’ disc for ‘The Two Towers’. There’s the ‘Filming ‘The Two Towers’ section which contains the ‘Warriors of the Third Age’ documentary; the ‘Cameras in Middle-Earth’ and production photos. There’s the ‘Visual Effects’ section which contains the ‘Miniatures’ sub-section that contains the ‘Big-atures’ documentary; ‘The Flooding of Isengard’ animatic and design galleries; the ‘Weta Digital’ documentary and design galleries of abandoned concepts. There’s ‘Editorial: Refining The Story’ documentary, which looks into the editing process of ‘The Two Towers’. There’s the ‘Music and Sound’ section which contains the ‘Music for Middle-Earth’ documentary; ‘The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth’ documentary and ‘The Battle of Helm’s Deep’ sound demonstration. And there’s ‘The Battle for Helm’s Deep is Over…’ documentary that looks into the film’s release at cinemas.

On Disc 24, there’s a behind-the-scenes disc created by filmmaker Costa Botes. Costa Botes was personally selected by director Peter Jackson to provide an in-depth look at the making of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy.

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ is a superb second film in the trilogy. It turned out to be the hardest of the three films for Peter Jackson and his filmmaking team to make. This included the Battle of Helm’s Deep and creating Gollum. But that hard work by the production team was paid off.

The themes of hope and overcoming temptation and corruption are strongly evident in this film as well as the entire trilogy. I enjoyed watching ‘The Two Towers’ and I was so looking forward to what was next for Frodo, Sam, Aragorn and all the other characters in the final movie of the ‘LOTR’ trilogy.

‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’ rating – 10/10


 Previously in

The story continues in

Return to Middle-Earth

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