The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a 2002 American epic fantasy adventure film and the second part of a film trilogy directed by Sir Peter Jackson, based on J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
The film was released on December 18 2002. It is preceded by The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and followed by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, although the film's story stops about halfway though the book's storyline The Two Towers.
Continuing the plot of The Fellowship of the Ring, the film intercuts three storylines. Frodo and Sam continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum, the ring's former owner. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf, before fighting at the Battle of Helm's Deep. Merry and Pippin escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.
Meeting high critical acclaim, the film was an enormous box-office success, earning over $926 million worldwide and is currently the 24th highest-grossing film of all time (inflation-adjusted, it is the sixtieth most successful film in North America). The film also won numerous accolades and was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two.
Gandalf the Grey gives his life in battle against the Balrog, giving the Fellowship of the Ring time to escape from the Mines of Moria.
Weeks later, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee continue their journey to Mordor to destroy the One Ring and, with it, the Dark Lord Sauron. One night, they are attacked by the ring's former owner Gollum. The pair capture Gollum, but Frodo takes pity on him, understanding the burden of the Ring. Frodo persuades Gollum to guide them to Mordor. Sam immediately distrusts Gollum on sight and warns Frodo that Gollum will betray them. In Rohan, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursue the Uruk-hai who have taken Merry and Pippin prisoner. Meanwhile, Rohan's King Théoden has been entranced and physically weakened by Gríma Wormtongue, who is secretly in the service of Saruman the White. Saruman has his Orcs and Wild Men of Dunland lay siege to the lands. Théoden's nephew Éomer accuses Gríma of being a spy; Gríma has him banished for undermining him. Éomer travels to the countryside to gather the remaining men of the Rohirrim. Éomer's army later ambush and kill the Uruk-hai holding Merry and Pippin. Merry and Pippin flee into Fangorn forest and meet Treebeard, the oldest of the Ents.
Frodo, Sam and Gollum traverse the Dead Marshes, evading a Nazgûl. Upon reaching the Black Gate, they find it closed and guarded by Orcs. Gollum convinces the pair that he will lead them to an unguarded entrance. After learning of Éomer's ambush, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli discover Merry and Pippin's trail. The trio are confronted by Gandalf, reborn as Gandalf the White. Gandalf joins with the trio as they journey to Edoras. After arriving, they free Théoden from Gríma's spell, and inform the king of his son Théodred's death. Théoden moves his people to the stronghold Helm's Deep for safety. Fearing Helm's Deep will not survive, Gandalf leaves to find Éomer. Gríma flees to Orthanc and informs Saruman of a weakness in the outer wall of Helm's Deep. Saruman dispatches his vast army to the stronghold, with the intent of wiping out all of Rohan and Aragorn with them.
Meanwhile, Gollum struggles with his loyalty to Frodo and his consuming need for the Ring. When Sam and Frodo are captured by Rangers of Ithilien, Frodo reveals Gollum's presence to spare his life; Gollum nevertheless feels betrayed, and begins plotting against Frodo. As Théoden's forces travel to Helm's Deep, they are attacked by Saruman's Warg riders and Aragorn is thrown from a cliff to his apparent death in a raging river. In Rivendell, Elrond convinces his daughter Arwen to abandon her love for Aragorn and leave Middle-earth with her fellow Elves. Meanwhile, Éowyn, Théoden's niece, nurtures a growing affection for Aragorn.
Learning that Frodo has the Ring, the Rangers' captain, Faramir, who is also Boromir's brother, orders that it be sent to Gondor. In Rohan, the barely-alive Aragorn washes up on the river bank. He makes his way to Helm's Deep and warns Théoden that he has seen Saruman's army headed for the fortress. Théoden gathers his men to fight against Saruman's army of Uruk-hai. When night falls, a battalion of Elves arrive to re-enforce the men of Rohan. In Fangorn Forest, Merry, Pippin, Treebeard and other Ents hold a council to decide on the role of the Ents in the war with Saruman.
The battle of Helm's Deep begins between the Uruk-hai and Rohirrim with Aragorn and his companions. Explosives are used against the weakness in the wall, allowing the Orcs to breach the fortress. In Fangorn, Treebeard and the other Ents initially refuse to get involved in the war until Pippin shows them that Saruman has decimated the forest; enraged, Treebeard commands the Ents to seek vengeance. Aragorn leads Théoden, Legolas and the remaining Rohirrim to attack the Uruk-hai, allowing the Rohirrim's women and children to escape into the mountains. Gandalf appears, accompanied by Éomer and his men. The combined forces cause the Uruk-hai to flee into Fangorn, where the Ents and their Huorn allies attack them. At Isengard, the Ents defeat the Uruk-hai and break the river dam, drowning the surviving Orc defenders, flooding Isengard, and stranding Saruman in his tower.
Faramir has the Hobbits taken to the war-torn Osgiliath, where they are attacked by Orcs led by a Nazgûl. Frodo succumbs to the Ring's influence and attacks Sam, but comes to his senses when Sam tearfully reminds him of their friendship. The Nazgûl is defeated and flees. Faramir, understanding the danger of the Ring, frees the Hobbits and sends them on their journey, joined by Gollum. Gandalf remarks that Sauron will seek retribution for Saruman's defeat, stating that hope now rests with Frodo and Sam. At that same moment, Gollum vows to reclaim the Ring by having "her" kill Frodo and Sam.
Like the other films in the series, The Two Towers has an ensemble cast, and the cast and their respective characters include:
- Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins: the hobbit who must destroy the One Ring, the burden of which is becoming heavier.
- Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey/Gandalf the White: the Wizard who fell fighting the Balrog, who has now returned, more powerful than ever, to finish his task.
- Liv Tyler as Arwen: Elrond's daughter and Elven princess. Aragorn's true love.
- Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn: the heir-in-exile to Gondor's throne who has come to Rohan's defence.
- Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee: Frodo's loyal hobbit companion, better known as Sam.
- Cate Blanchett as Galadriel: the Elven queen of Lórien, who discusses Middle-earth's future with Elrond.
- John Rhys-Davies as Gimli: the Dwarf warrior and one of Aragorn's companions. He also voices Treebeard: the leader of the Ents, who is roused to anger against Saruman.
- Bernard Hill as Théoden: King of Rohan, who is under Saruman's spell until Gandalf heals him so he can lead his people once more.
- Christopher Lee as Saruman the White: the Wizard waging war upon Rohan and devastating Fangorn Forest, who allies himself with Sauron.
- Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took: the hobbit captured by the Uruk-hai, Merry's best friend, better known as Pippin.
- Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck: the hobbit captured by the Uruk-hai, Pippin's best friend, better known as Merry.
- Orlando Bloom as Legolas: the Elven archer and one of Aragorn's companions.
- Hugo Weaving as Elrond: the Elven lord of Rivendell who expresses doubt over his daughter's love for Aragorn.
- Miranda Otto as Éowyn: Théoden's niece, who is in love with Aragorn.
- David Wenham as Faramir: the captain of the Ithilien Rangers, who captures Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Also, he is Boromir's younger brother.
- Sean Bean as Boromir, who appears in flashbacks, more prominetly in the film's extended edition.
- Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue: Saruman's agent at Edoras, who renders Théoden incapable of decisions, and desires Éowyn. He is the secondary antagonist.
- Karl Urban as Éomer: Théoden's nephew and previously Chief Marshal of the Riddermark, exiled by Gríma.
- Andy Serkis as Sméagol/Gollum: a wretched hobbit-like creature, owner of the Ring for centuries, who guides Frodo on his quest; voice and motion capture.
- Craig Parker as Haldir of Lórien: the leader of the Lórien Elves sent by Elrond and Galadriel to defend Helm's Deep.
- John Leigh as Háma: the loyal doorwarden of the Golden Hall and a majordomo of Théoden.
- Bruce Hopkins as Gamling: Théoden's chief lieutenant and a skilled member of the Royal Guard of Rohan.
- John Bach as Madril: Faramir's closest aide, who informs him of battle preparations.
- Alistair Browning as Damrod: Faramir's rangers of Ithilien.
The following appear only in the Extended Edition
- John Noble as Denethor, Steward of Gondor and the father of Boromir and Faramir.
In the Battle of Helm's Deep, Peter Jackson has a cameo appearance as one of the men on top of the gate, throwing a spear at the attacking Uruk-hai. His children and Elijah Wood's sister also cameo as young refugees in the caves behind the Hornburg, and Alan Lee and Dan Hennah also cameo as soldiers preparing for the battle. The son of a producer's friend, Hamish Duncan, appears as a reluctant young Rohirrim warrior. Daniel Falconer has a cameo as an Elvish archer at the battle.
Comparision To The Book
The screenwriters did not originally script The Two Towers as its own film: instead, parts of it were the conclusion to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of two planned films under Miramax. However, as the two films became a trilogy under New Line, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens shuffled their scripts. The Two Towers is known as the most difficult of the Rings films to make, having neither a clear beginning nor end to focus the script. Nonetheless, they had a clear decision with making the Battle of Helm's Deep the climax, a decision affecting the whole story's moods and style.
The most notable difference between the book and the film is the structure. Tolkien's The Two Towers is split into two parts; one follows the war in Rohan, while the other focuses on the journey of Frodo and Sam. The film omits the book's opening, Boromir's death, which was used as a linear climax at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. Also, the film climaxes with the Battle of Helm's Deep, while the book ends with the Fellowship going to Isengard and Frodo's confrontation with Shelob, scenes which were left for the film adaptation of The Return of the King. This was done partly to fit more closely the timeline indicated by the book.
One notable change in plotting is that in the film Théoden is literally possessed by Saruman, whereas in the book he is simply depressed and deluded by Wormtongue. Afterwards, in the film, Théoden is still unsure of what to do, and flees to Helm's Deep. In the book he rides out to war, only ending up besieged when he considers helping Erkenbrand. Erkenbrand does not exist in the films: his character is combined with Éomer as the Rohirrim general who arrives with Gandalf at the film's end. Éomer himself is present during the entire battle in the book.
On the way to Helm's Deep, the refugees from Edoras are attacked by Wargs. The scene is possibly inspired by one in the book cut from The Fellowship of the Ring where it is the Fellowship who battle them. Here, a new subplot is created where Aragorn falls over a cliff, and is assumed to be dead; Jackson added it to create tension. This scene also resonates with a new subplot regarding Arwen, where she decides to leave Middle-earth after losing hope in the long-term possibilities of her love. In the book, Arwen's role is primarily recorded in the Appendices, and she is never depicted as considering such an act.
A larger change was originally planned: Arwen and Elrond would visit Galadriel, and Arwen would accompany an army of Elves to Helm's Deep to fight alongside Aragorn. During shooting, the script changed, both from writers coming up with better ideas to portray the romance between Aragorn and Arwen, as well as poor fan reaction. The new scene of Arwen leaving for the West was created, and the conversation scene remains, edited to be a flashback to a conversation between them in Rivendell, on the evening before the Fellowship's departure. A conversation between Elrond and Galadriel in Lothlórien was edited to be a telepathic one. Nonetheless, one major change (already filmed) remained that could not be reversed: the Elven warriors fighting at Helm's Deep, although Jackson and Boyens found this romantic and stirring and a reference to how, in the Appendices of The Return of the King, Galadriel and the Elves of Lothlórien, and Thranduil of Mirkwood were first attacked by an army out of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood, and then later counter-attacked and assaulted the fortress itself.
Another change is the fact Treebeard does not immediately decide to go to war. This adds to the tension, and Boyens describes it as making Merry and Pippin "more than luggage". Here, the Hobbits show Treebeard what Saruman has done to the forest, prompting his decision to act. Another structural change is that the Hobbits meet Gandalf the White early on, explaining why the Hobbits do not react to his return when they meet him again following Isengard's destruction. This was explained in the book by Gandalf arriving at Isengard in the middle of the night to talk to Treebeard. The filmmakers' decision to leave Shelob for the third film meant that Faramir had to become an obstacle for Frodo and Sam. In the book, Faramir (like Aragorn) quickly recognizes the Ring as a danger and a temptation, and does not hesitate long before letting Frodo and Sam go. In the film, Faramir first decides that the Ring shall go to Gondor and his father Denethor, as a way to prove his worth. In the film, Faramir takes Frodo, Sam and the Ring to the Battle of Osgiliath — they do not go there in the book. Jackson winks to readers with Sam's line, "By all rights we shouldn't even be here, but we are." After seeing how strongly the Ring affects Frodo during the Nazgûl attack, Faramir changes his mind and lets them go. These changes reshape the book's contrast between Faramir and Boromir, who in The Fellowship of the Ring attempted to take the Ring for himself. On the other hand (which can be seen only in the film's extended version), it is actually their father who wants the Ring and urges Boromir to get it, while Faramir only wants to prove himself to his father. Boyens contends these plot changes were needed to keep the Ring menacing. Wenham commented on the DVD documentaries that he had not read the book prior to reading the script, so the film's version of Faramir was the Faramir he knew. When he later read the book and noticed the major difference, he approached the writers about it, and they explained to him that if he did say "I wouldn't pick that thing up even if it lay by the wayside", it would basically strip the One Ring of all corruptive power.
The meaning of the title itself, 'The Two Towers', was changed. While Tolkien considered several possible sets of towers he eventually created a final cover illustration and wrote a note included at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring which identified them as Minas Morgul and Orthanc. Jackson's film names them as Orthanc and Barad-dûr, symbolic of an evil alliance out to destroy Men that forms the film's plot point. The film depicted Saruman openly presenting himself outright as Sauron's servant, whereas this association was not explicitly stated in the novel (and indeed analysis by Gandalf and Aragorn in the chapter "The White Rider" stated that there was a rivalry instead, as Saruman was afraid of the prospect of being at war with Sauron, if Rohan and Gondor fell).
For The Two Towers, Weta Digital doubled their staff of 260. In total, they would produce 73 minutes of digital effects with 799 shots. The film would feature their first challenge in creating a battle scene, as well as creating two digital characters who needed to act rather than be a set piece, unlike the previous film's Cave Troll and Balrog.
Weta began animating Gollum in late 1998 to convince New Line they could achieve the effect. Andy Serkis "played" Gollum by providing his voice and movements on set, as well as performing within the motion capture suit later on. His scenes were filmed twice, with and without him. Originally, Gollum was set to solely be a CG character, but Jackson was so impressed by Serkis' audition tape that they used him on set as well.
Gollum's CG model was also redesigned during 2001 when Serkis was cast as Sméagol, Gollum's former self, so as to give the impression Andy Serkis as Sméagol transforms into the CG Gollum. The original model can still be glimpsed briefly in the first film. Over Christmas 2001, the crew proceeded to reanimate all the previous shots accordingly within two months. Another problem was that the crew realized that the cast performed better in the versions of the film with Serkis. In the end, the CG Gollum was rotoscoped and animated on top of these scenes. They fully animated some shots such as him crawling upside down. Serkis' motion capture animated the body while animators did the head. Gino Acevedo supervised realistic skin tones, which took four hours per frame to render.
While the novel alludes to a division within his mind, the film depicts him as literally having a split personality. The two personas — the childlike Smeágol and the evil Gollum — are established during a scene in which they argue over remaining loyal to Frodo. The two personalities talk to each other, as established by contrasting camera angles and by Serkis altering his voice and physicality for each persona.
Treebeard took between 28 and 48 hours per frame to render. For scenes where he interacts with Merry and Pippin, a 14-foot-tall puppet was built on a wheel. Weta took urethane moulds of tree bark and applied them to the sculpt of Treebeard to create his wooden skin. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd sat on bicycle seats concealed into Treebeard's hands to avoid discomfort and were left alone on set sitting in the puppet's hands during breaks. The puppet was shot against bluescreen.
The musical score for The Two Towers was composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Howard Shore, who also composed the music for the other two films in the series. While the scores for its predecessor and sequel won the Academy Award for Best Score, the soundtrack for The Two Towers was not nominated. (Initially there was confusion over the score's eligibility due to a new rule applying to sequels, but the Academy did declare it eligible.) The funeral song Éowyn sings during her cousin Théodred's entombment in the extended edition is styled to be a traditional song of the Rohirrim, and has lyrics in their language, Rohirric (represented by Old English). The song does not appear in the book, and the tune is a variation upon a theme of the rímur Icelandic folk tradition; it can be heard as part of track 7 in the 1999 recording of a musical version of the Edda by Sequentia. The soundtrack was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The soundtrack has a picture of Peter Jackson (barefoot), the composer, and two producers crossing Abbey Road, referencing the The Beatles album of the same name.
The film received widespread critical acclaim. It holds a rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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