“The Two Towers”—like the trilogy’s first installment, “The Fellowship of the Ring”—is a massive movie in terms of narrative, production and box office. But the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work shines most brilliantly through windows into character.
Though much is being made—and rightly so—of the technology used for the enormous battle sequences in these films, as much should be made of how these hobbits, elves, dwarves and humans relate to each other.
“Towers” picks up where part one left the fellowship: broken apart. Hobbits Frodo and Sam are still en route to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, though they realize they are being followed by a mysterious creature named Gollum.
Hobbits Pippin and Merry are in the hands of Uruk-hai and trying desperately to escape. And the human, Aragorn, leads the elf, Legolas, and the dwarf, Gimli, in search of the other members of the fellowship, until they encounter a troubled Rohan kingdom in need of assistance.
Several new characters appear in part two: the maleficent Wormtongue; Rohan’s King Theoden; the king’s niece, Eowyn, and nephew, Eomer; a walking tree named Treebeard; and Gollum, who appeared only in shadow for a few brief moments in the first film.
The second installment also introduces new places: the Rohan kingdom, with its hilltop capital of Edoras; the Fangorn Forest, where Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard; and Helm’s Deep, the fortress where a coalition of humans and elves tries to repel an onslaught of Uruk-hai.
The action in “Towers” unfolds on these several fronts: Frodo and Sam; Merry and Pippin; Aragorn and company; and others. This extended cross-cutting contributes to the epic flavor of the film, which clocks in at just under three hours.
“Towers” presents a lot of characters—so much so that audiences may feel less than invested in some of them. For example, we’re expected to grieve with King Theoden relatively early in the film, before we’ve had any real time to identify with him and his loss.
And Merry and Pippin, as played respectively by Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, are delightful. However, they simply can’t appear as much as they deserve, and it’s difficult for their character arcs to remain sharp.
Nevertheless, the movie is a delight. The effects are superb (watch for the way Legolas mounts his horse prior to battling the Wargs), and if one wants to inhabit a magical world for several hours, it would be hard to beat “Towers.”
The schizophrenic character of Gollum is fantastically realized (through a combination of computer-generated effects and the performance of actor Andy Serkis). He is also integral to the film, since he strikes a deal with Frodo and Sam to lead them to Mordor, where they will destroy the ring. Frodo wants to trust Gollum, but Sam does not. Their decision holds the fate of no less than Middle-earth—a realm audiences have already come to love.
While Frodo and Sam argue about Gollum, Merry and Pippin and Treebeard argue about war and pacifism.
When Merry asks Treebeard and his fellow Ents (trees that walk and talk) for help in battling the evil wizard Saruman, Treebeard says, “It’s not our war.”
“But you’re part of this world,” Merry replies.
Pippin just wants to avoid the war and go back to the Hobbits’ peaceful shire. But Merry again protests and argues that evil will spread and, if it is not stopped, there will be no shire left.
Many people see parallels between the movie and the current military situation (though one of the film’s stars, Viggo Mortensen, rejects any such interpretation/application). At any rate, it would be a mistake to see “Towers” as all about evil, for it’s also about the good.
When Frodo, on the brink of giving up, asks Sam what they’re holding on to, Sam responds: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and that it’s worth fighting for.”
It’s Middle-earth, and fight they must. But amid the carnage, there is character.
And this Christmas, there is “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director for EthicsDaily.com.
Visit the movie’s official Web site at http://www.lordoftherings.net.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for epic battle sequences and scary images
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Cast: Frodo Baggins: Elijah Wood; Gandalf the White: Ian McKellen; Aragorn: Viggo Mortensen; Samwise Gamgee: Sean Astin; Pippin: Billy Boyd; Arwen: Liv Tyler; Gimli: John Rhys-Davies; Merry: Dominic Monaghan; Saruman: Christopher Lee.