Study Guide

The Two Towers

The Two Towers Introduction


Release Year: 2002

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh, J.R.R. Tolkien (book)

Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood


Ugh, sequels. Who needs them? Aren't they just evidence of directors pandering to fans to rake in that sweet, sweet cash? Aren't they evidence that our once-great cinematic tradition is sliding into decline?

Nope. Not when it's a) as good as the first film, b) filmed at the same time as the first film and—oh, yeah— c) based on the second book of a beloved, revered, and uber-analyzed work-of-literary-genius trilogy.

That's right, all of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed at once in New Zealand, with a singular, $281 million budget… which probably explains why they were all the same (insanely amazing) quality and were released in such rapid succession. In 2002, just a year after The Fellowship came out, The Two Towers was released… and the world saw the return of Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, and a very realistic, slimy, and bug-eyed Andy Serkis (CGI, of course).

  

If you're wondering how one film can have so many principal actors and actresses, it's because The Two Towers has three separate narratives now that the fellowship has broken up. We have Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas helping Rohan defend against the tides of Saruman's massive orc army, we have Frodo, Sam, and Gollum slowly working their way toward Mordor, and then there's Merry and Pippin lollygagging around with Treebeard in Fangorn Forest.

Do all of these names sound like nonsense words a captcha would ask you to reproduce so it can laugh at you when you fail? Well then, you should probably head over to our Fellowship of the Ring movie guide and start with that one (or, you know, watch the movie). If not, staytuned—because his movie didn't win an Oscar in sound editing for nothing.

What is The Two Towers About and Why Should I Care?

Why should you study a movie? Study a movie that's not a million years old, isn't in black and white, and was a smash-hit at the box office? Don't we mean "watch it in your pj's while drinking melted ice cream out of the carton"?

Nope. If studying the #2 highest-grossing film of 2002 (and we think it only lost out to Spider-Man because it was released thirteen days before 2002 ended) sounds a little bit ridiculous, we suggest you stay away from media studies, cinema studies and studying the brilliant work of the author of The Two Towers: Mr. J.R.R. Tolkien. Because Peter Jackson & Co's adaptation of the series is just as worthy of your time—okay, almost as worthy of your time—as Tolkien's original, genre-defining, game-changing work.

In terms of impact on the movie industry, no modern series has yet to reach the same impact of The Lord of the Rings… at least when it comes to bringing fantasy out of the Dungeon Master's keep and into the spotlight. Just think about all of the wartime, quest-oriented fantasy movies you've seen come out since the earlier 2000s. We're willing to bet you a few Silmarils that they owe their conception to LotR. Fantasy as a genre has been around for millennia, but it was the LotR trilogy that showed it could be a blockbuster success in the movie business... not to mention hitting it out of the park when it comes to small screen fan favorites like Game of Thrones.

But hey, maybe you don't care about how many movies about pointy-eared pretty boys come out… or which movie dictated their thematic and design aesthetic. We get you.

But can you really say you don't care about themes of warfare and honor? Companionship and loyalty? Industrialization and the natural world? That's right; The Two Towers isn't three and a half hours of sword fighting and situational humor. This movie isn't afraid to get as heavy as the Ring, as deep as a Rohirrim fortress, or as dark as Gollum's wildly dilated pupils.

Trivia

Viggo Mortenson broke two of his toes while kicking the helmet after he thinks Pippin and Merry are dead. That take actually made it into the movie as Viggo turns his pain into a scream of despair that impressed Jackson. (Source)

The two sides of Gollum can be distinguished by his pupil size. The Gollum that is loyal to Frodo has larger pupils and the Gollum that is loyal to the Precious has smaller pupils. (Source)

When in Osgiliath, Sam says, "by rights, we shouldn't even be here." Intentional or not, this is ironic because, in the book, Sam and Frodo never traveled to Osgiliath. (Source)

How do you get the audio for 10,000 Uruk-hai? Jackson went to an England-New Zealand cricket match and put some Black Speech up on the big screen for the 2,500 fans to chant. (Source)

The poem Gollum recites in the Dead Marshes is an adaptation of an incantation that the barrow-wight uses on the hobbits in Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring: "Cold be heart and hand and bone/Cold be travellers far from home/They do not see what lies ahead/When sun has failed and moon is dead." (Source)

The Two Towers Resources

WEBSITES

One Wiki to Rule Them All
All LotR info, all in one place. You want facts on book characters? Film locations? Community forums. It's all here in one place, just for you.

Fandom4Lyfe
Look, we don't want to overload you with fan sites, there are a lot of them out there. This link is to the Tolkien Society, which we ensure you has a lot of LotR news and is not a cult.

A History for the Ages
This site is jam packed with interactive maps, timelines, and a massive genealogy. Be careful or you might get lost and end up somewhere in The Brown Lands during S.A. 1500.

BOOK OR TV ADAPTATIONS

History Is Written by the Victors
What if The Lord of the Rings is a biased, fantastical account of a massive war written by the elves and men who won, purposely painting themselves as the good and the defeated men of Mordor as pure evil? Well, here's a tale from the other side.

The Original Vision
Way, way back in 1978, Ralph Bakshi attempted his own Lord of the Rings film adaptation, using animation. It's reception… well, he was no Peter Jackson, but it's interesting to look at a pre-Jackson visualization. Here's a little taste of the beginning. You'll need to fast forward a bit for The Two Towers as this was meant to be the part one of two which covered the whole trilogy (part two is still pending).

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Road Trippin' with Sam and Frodo
Curious just exactly how far our favorite hobbit duo actually traveled on their journey to Mount Doom? Take a look and get some real world comparisons.

A Hole Lot of Nothing
Everyone loves to point out what a big plot hole the eagles were. One may not be able to simply walk into Mordor, but couldn't one just fly in? Well, check out this interesting fan theory that might have found a plausible (if improbable) work around.

What's in a Name?
From J.R.R. himself, you can see the meaning behind many of the English names for people, places, and other random things (it'll be a great guide for when you start translating the trilogy into Quenya).

VIDEO

Fashioning Middle-earth
No, the cast didn't throw on some outdated English getup and head on set. Their costumes were meticulously thought out, and you can see all of the planning and intention here.

A Hobbit's Perspective
In case you were wondering, Elijah Wood and his three hobbit brethren are not actually four feet tall. So why do they look so short? Is it the big hairy feet? Jackson and crew used all sorts of techniques ranging from some simple forced perspective to modern technology to pull of the different scales of size.

Big-atures
You'd be surprised by how many shots are simply little model building instead of massive CGI projects. Well, maybe not little models, some of these things were pretty big in scale, allowing for all that realistic detail; have a look yourself.

Designing All the Things
Weta Workshop was in charge of making all the prosthetics, armor, swords, and mock up models. You've enjoyed the fruits of their labor in LotR, now check out all the toil itself.

Nazgûl were People Too
Just because the Ringwraiths are corrupted dead men dressed in black robes doesn't mean they don't have opinions and feelings and hopes just like the fellowship. Take a peek into one of their typical gatherings.

Adaptation Station
It's not easy making a good movie, staying loyal to the books, and pleasing the leagues of hardcore Tolkien fans. Jackson and screenwriter Boyens are interviewed along with producers and cast members to enlighten us on their difficult journey of translating Tolkien into the epic film trilogy.

AUDIO

Epic Proportions of Soundtrack
Here it is, almost two full hours of the original Two Towers soundtrack. For all those times your life is missing out on heavy percussion and choral chanting.