“Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer.”
I have to say, I’ve faced a weird phenomenon when watching these Lord of the Rings movies. With some time to clear my head, I think back more fondly on them. I think it’s easy to remember the great parts about these movies. With The Two Towers, it’s the Frodo scenes with Sam and Gollum that come to mind exclusively. Maybe I’m just getting cynical about movies that work on a blockbuster scale, but I’d much rather watch some softer character interaction than that Helm’s Deep battle. But when I sit down to write about The Two Towers, all that comes to my mind is the good and not the bad. I don’t know if that speaks well on the movie or not, but I felt this should be expressed. Anyway, this is part two of three in my Tolkien expedition.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers follows the continued ventures of Frodo (Elijah Wood), a young Hobbit meandering around to return the One Ring to the fires of Mordor from whence it came. He was previously joined by a bunch of other heroes, but they’ve split up by now, so this movie has a lot of them meandering around as well. Meanwhile, some bad guys are meandering around, and it seems like all hope is lost until the right people meander into the right people, turning the tides in this captivating conflict.
I kid, of course, because this movie is still nothing short of astounding. The scale of production and the detailed world-building are of the highest quality, but I spoke about all of that last time. What really got to me while watching this film was how much you have to excuse away if you’re not a Tolkien fan. I think The Two Towers brings the “they’re not actually dead count” up to four or five, and I think that’s pretty inexcusable for any movie. The story is epic, and it’s incredibly entertaining for the most part, but it’s these holes in the storytelling that keep these movies from being a masterpiece in my mind.
The Aragorn story is well depicted, but I’m not sure it could stand on its own, for example. Granted, this trilogy is very much about scale and how each player represents a piece of the grand scheme, but these pieces are definitely not equal in quality. I found myself waiting for Frodo to come back onscreen for long stretches of time. His dynamic with Sam and Gollum is so enticing that everything else seems like fluff at times. I haven’t read the books, but that doesn’t mean I’m not the movie’s target audience, so I feel fair in addressing some of these weaknesses.
That being said, The Two Towers is still a delightful movie, improving upon Fellowship in a lot of regards. Peter Jackson doesn’t have to waste any time with exposition, which is why fantasy stories always take a while to get off the ground in the first place. This feels like the meat of the sandwich: the piece of the story that Tolkien really wanted to dive into. I stayed away from the Director’s Cut this time around, and in doing so, I think the movie was very well paced, despite some slower moments. Helm’s Deep is still an exciting climax that keeps any “second act trouble” at bay, and all the characters feel even more realized than they did in Fellowship. It’s pure, unfiltered, Lord of the Rings, and it’s among the best of its kind.
I can’t shake the cynicism I had with this watch, but I suppose my Fellowship review was where I made the positive points, so I’d direct you there for more words of praise. These movies are a treasure of cinema and a valuable road map of epic storytelling. I’m really looking forward to the concluding film, as long as it provides a disclaimer that nobody else comes back to life.
Films Left to Watch: 877
(Again, the count doesn’t go down until I finish Return of the King.)