RETRO REVIEW: “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”

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Peter Jackson’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” was an extraordinary introduction to his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It not only introduced us to its compelling assortment of characters, but it also firmly planted us within J.R.R. Tolkien’s vast enchanting world. But it’s the second installment, “The Two Towers” where the series truly hits its stride.

“The Two Towers” takes the story of its predecessor and expands it in every way. Fascinating new characters, more lands throughout Middle-Earth, and even higher stakes than before. But one of Jackson’s many great accomplishments is how seamlessly he blends these new pieces into the existing fabric. And despite the immensity of his scope, the movie never loses its intimacy.

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Picking up where “Fellowship” left off, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam’s (Sean Astin) journey to destroy the One Ring has grown more arduous and the weight of the ring more burdensome. As the two struggle to find a path to Mordor, the sallow, emaciated Gollum (Andy Serkis) secretly follows them. He was the ring’s former owner, consumed by its power and desperate to reclaim it. When Gollum is discovered Frodo shows pity and uses him as a guide against the pleas of a concerned Sam.

A second story thread follows Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) as they follow the trail of their abducted Hobbit companions Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). They are led through the war-torn lands of Rohan whose King Theodin (Bernard Hill) lies under a spell of the wicked wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee).

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And yet a third story thread follows the aforementioned Merry and Pippin who manage to escape their Uruk-hai captors after the Orc soldiers are attacked by Éomer (Karl Urban) and his exiled Riders of Rohan. The two Hobbits hide deep within Fanghorn Forest where they encounter a mysterious tree beings called Ents.

The challenges for this incredible three-headed story are obvious. Huge in scale and with a ton of ground to cover, yet vitally important that it all comes together. Jackson melds together his many moving parts with remarkable precision. And of the several new characters introduced not a one feels wasted or undeserved. Each fit and have a place in Tolkien’s tumultuous world yet have their own personal storylines that take form without ever feeling pointless or intrusive. It’s a remarkable mixture of character and narrative.

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Then there is the genius of Jackson’s technique. From his sweeping camera combing the exquisite New Zealand landscapes to the subtlest of closeups capturing every worry, concern, and pain of the characters. Equally exhilarating are the action scenes both small and epic in size. It’s hard not to be blown away by his framing of the action as well as Weta Workshop’s extraordinary special effects. Jackson really opens it up with the first of the series’ huge battlefield sequences. The Battle for Helm’s Deep remains my favorite segment in the entire trilogy.

Much more could be talked about including Jackson’s knack for not only building tension but maintaining it throughout a sequence. Also “The Two Towers” highlights Jackson’s keen ability to convey to the audience an incredible sense of the mystical and magical. The world he and his teams place us in are rich with imagination and the fantastical. But the greatest thing about the series is that it’s far more than eye candy and sparkly window dressing. It’s the characters and their stories that form the heart of trilogy. That’s especially true for “The Two Towers”.

VERDICT – 5 STARS

5STAR K&M

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14 thoughts on “RETRO REVIEW: “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”

  1. Someday I will have to watch these movies again. I remember not liking Two Towers as much because it deviated from the book and I am a bit of a purist when it comes to that haha. But I really do need to watch them again and maybe appreciate this one for its on-screen value, because books and screens are two very different mediums.

    • Very true. I get being a purist, but you’re exactly right. They are very different mediums. For me, deviating from source material is okay as long as it makes sense and serves well the story the filmmaker is telling. What stinks is when filmmakers deviate from the source material and the results miss the mark. It’s tricky though.

  2. The whole trilogy has been on Starz! lately as I re-watched them as there’s so many things about the the trilogy that is awesome. I agree that The Two Towers doesn’t get enough love as I enjoyed the strands of narrative into the three journeys of the Fellowship and how it impacts everyone. The extended version of that film I feel is an improvement as it gave the audience more information about who Faramir as well as Boromir who we first saw in the film as kind of a dick but once we see him in the 2nd part of the extended film. We realize that he was acting more like his father and was more concerned in giving his brother some praise.

    • I adore the extended editions. They fill in so much information. I do love Boromir. I was indeed seduced by the power of the ring. But he was also a great redemption story. He sacrificed himself to try and buy time for the others. And his heartfelt confession to Aragorn still gets me.

      • Same here. I also loved what they did for Faramir in the extended version of the film where he took Frodo, Sam, and Gollum to a secret path as it showed his own path for not just redemption but also to keep the ring away from Gondor.

  3. Great review, but seeing “The Lord of the Rings” in the same line with the word “Retro” felt weird for me and a little bit painful, because for me it seemed like yesterday that the Lord was in cinemas, and I do miss very much the 2000-2002 period in films. My favourite has got to be the first movie, but I do get all the appreciation for this one too.

  4. While I’ll always have a soft spot for Fellowship, particularly the Balrog sequence, Two Towers will always be the best overall film in the trilogy for story, character and pacing, and of course the Helms Deep attack. When that wall blew apart, so did my mind. Just an astonishing film accomplishment.

    (Disclosure: over the last few weeks I’ve been digging into both the Rings and Hobbit appendicies DVDs, reminiscing over my love of all things Middle Earth.)

    • Oh man, those extended editions are so good. Love them. As for Two Towers so many scenes stand out. When the wall blew…yes. The expressions and sense of dread. It’s fabulous. You really feel a sense of doom. But when Gandolf shows up with a light to the east…I get chills.

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