Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Sean Astin as Sam Gamgee
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Andy Serkis as Gollum
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli and the voice of Treebeard
Brad Dourif as Grima Wormtonge
Billy Boyd as Pippin Took
Dominic Monaghan as Merry Brandybuck
Bernard Hill as Theoden
Miranda Otto as Eowyn
Karl Urban as Eomer
Bruce Hopkins as Gamling
David Wenham as Faramir
Liv Tyler as Arwen
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Paris Howe Strewe as Theodred
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Jed Brophy as Sharku*
If I were to rank the Lord of the Rings movies, I’d definitely have to place The Two Towers last. It’s a little less well-polished than the first or last movies. But worst in a great series is still much better than best in a crappy series like, say, Baby Geniuses.
We begin a few days after Fellowship ended. Our heroes have segmented into three groups. Merry and Pippin have been captured by uruk-hai and are being taken to Isengard. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are in pursuit. Meanwhile, Frodo and Sam are continuing their journey to Mount Doom, although things are much more difficult with neither Gandalf nor Aragorn to guide them, so it’s ironically fortunate that Gollum has been shadowing the group for some time to get the Ring, or to him, “my precious.” He has been in and out of Mordor, so he knows where to go. Can he be trusted? Better question: do Frodo and Sam even have a choice?
Meanwhile, the others have their own problems that force them to forget about the Ring and hope for the best. Merry and Pippin escape when the uruks are under attack and meet up with the wise but short-sightedly isolationist tree-like beings known as ents. While they try to convince the ents that they must be a part of the war effort, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli meet up once again with Gandalf. And just in time! Saruman the White is using magic and an informant/spy named Grima Wormtongue to control King Theoden of the nearby country of Rohan and, failing that, Saruman’s army of well over ten thousand uruk-hai will conquer it.
Rohan pretty much appears as I had always imagined it. It is a land of lush plains and farmlands. Similarly, fan favorites Eomer and Eowyn are done well. Eomer, as a guy who faces exile for being a threat to Wormtongue’s treason, Eowyn, as the warrioress in a male-dominated culture. Meanwhile, Brad Dourif is a hit as the treacherous Wormtongue. Bernard Hill seems perhaps a bit too young to be Theoden, but is otherwise quite good.
Perhaps the top performance is Andy Serkis as Gollum. This is a character with a split personality. It’s difficult to do this convincingly, but Serkis does it quite nicely. The way Gollum’s dark side ultimately wins out is very sad. It’s a tribute to Serkis’ acting that the viewer feels sorry for poor, evil Gollum.
This movie showcases hope despite bleakness, with Saruman’s giant army storming the people of Rohan, and Frodo and Sam having to sneak by an even larger force, all the while having another companion who may be out to tan their hides as well. The hopelessness could have been cliche, but things are kept fresh enough that it never seems that way. The movie shows that though problems may seem bigger than life, you can’t give up. The solution may become clear to you at any time. For instance, Frodo, Sam and Gollum are discovered by a Gondorian lord named Faramir (brother of Boromir), but overcoming his own people’s historic lust power, Faramir sends Frodo and his friends back on their way upon coming to truly understand the Ring and its power.
Gollum and the ents are textbook examples of well-done mystical creatures. Through CGI, they actually look real, especially by 2002 standards.
So what’s wrong with The Two Towers? The fact that it (both the movie and the book) is decidedly less solid than the other two portions of the trilogy. For instance, even though The Battle of Helm’s Deep is choreographed well, it does have its share of action movie cliches like that the main characters never even get touched unless the script says that they do. The bad guys, meanwhile, are knocked off left and right.
Another objection I have is to the use of Saruman. Not to take anything away from Christopher Lee’s great performances, but these movies portray him as just a lackey of Sauron. In the books this wasn’t the case. He was planning on taking the Ring and using it to destroy Sauron and take his place. That is why the uruk-hai don’t like Sauron’s orcs — their loyalty is to the white wizard, not the dark lord. Hence, we have uruks and orcs failing to get along. There is less reason for this
So The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers isn’t the best movie ever made, but it’s a great sequel. It makes you eager to see the conclusion to this trilogy.
Overall: 8 out of 10
*I don’t believe this character is ever referred to by name in the actual film, but he is in the credits. He’s the leader of the warg-riders.