The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

This review includes full spoilers. Proceed accordingly. For other movie reviews from me, click HERE:

Comment: What’s happening out there?
Dusty: Shall I describe it to you?
Comment: Hmm?
Dusty: Or would you like me to write it down on my blog?

Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Fran Walsh (screenplay), Phillippa Boyens (screenplay), Peter Jackson (screenplay)
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, John Rhys-Davies
Release Date: December 18, 2002 (United States)
Run time: 2 hour, 59 minutes


via Wiki:

Awakening from a dream of Gandalf fighting the Balrog in MoriaFrodo Baggins finds himself, along with Samwise Gamgee, lost in the Emyn Muil near Mordor. They discover that they are being tracked by Gollum, a former bearer of the One Ring. Capturing Gollum, Frodo takes pity and allows him to guide them, reminding Sam that they will need Gollum’s help to infiltrate Mordor.

AragornLegolas, and Gimli pursue a band of Uruk-hai to save their companions Merry and Pippin, entering the kingdom of Rohan. The Uruk-hai are ambushed by a group of Rohirrim, allowing Merry and Pippin to escape into Fangorn Forest. Meeting Aragorn’s group, the Rohirrim’s leader Éomer explains that he and his men have been exiled by Rohan’s king, Théoden, who is under the control of Saruman and his servant Gríma Wormtongue. Éomer believes Merry and Pippin were killed during the raid but leaves the group two horses. In Fangorn, Aragorn’s group encounters Gandalf, who after his fight against the Balrog was resurrected as Gandalf the White to help save Middle-earth.

Gandalf leads the trio to Rohan’s capital, Edoras, where Gandalf frees Théoden from Saruman’s control. Aragorn stops Théoden from executing Wormtongue, who flees. Learning of Saruman’s plans to destroy Rohan with his Uruk-hai army, Théoden evacuates his citizens to the fortress of The Hornburg at Helm’s Deep. Gandalf departs to find Éomer and his followers, hoping they will fight for their restored king. Aragorn befriends Théoden’s niece, Éowyn, who becomes infatuated with him. When the refugees travelling to Helm’s Deep are attacked by Saruman’s Warg-riding Orcs, Aragorn falls from a cliff and is presumed dead. He is found by Théodred’s horse Brego and rides to Helm’s Deep, witnessing Saruman’s army marching to the fortress.

In RivendellArwen is told by her father Elrond that Aragorn will not return. He reminds her that if she remains in Middle-earth, she will outlive Aragorn by thousands of years, and she reluctantly departs for Valinor. Elrond is contacted by Galadriel of Lothlórien, who convinces him that the Elves should honour their alliance to men, and they dispatch an army of Elves to Helm’s Deep.

In Fangorn, Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, an Ent. Convincing Treebeard that they are allies, they are brought to an Ent Council, where the Ents decide not to take part in the coming war. Pippin asks Treebeard to take them in the direction of Isengard, where they witness the deforestation caused by Saruman’s war effort. Enraged, Treebeard and the Ents storm Isengard, trapping Saruman in his tower.

Aragorn arrives at Helm’s Deep, bringing word that Saruman’s army is close and Théoden must prepare for battle despite being vastly outnumbered. The army of Elves from Lothlórien arrives, as does Saruman’s army, and a battle ensues. The Uruk-hai breach the outer wall with explosives and during the ensuing charge kill the Elves’ commander, Haldir. The defenders retreat into the keep, where Aragorn convinces Théoden to meet the Uruk-hai in one last charge. At dawn, as the defenders are overwhelmed, Gandalf and Éomer arrive with the Rohirrim, turning the tide of the battle. The surviving Uruk-hai flee into Fangorn Forest and are killed by the trees. Gandalf warns that Sauron will retaliate.

Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes to the Black Gate, but recommends they enter Mordor by another route. Frodo and Sam are captured by Rangers of Ithilien led by Faramir, younger brother of the late Boromir. Frodo helps Faramir catch Gollum to save him from being killed by the Rangers. Learning of the One Ring, Faramir takes his captives to Gondor to bring the ring to his father Denethor. Passing through the besieged city of Osgiliath, Frodo tries to explain to Faramir the true nature of the ring, and Sam explains that Boromir was driven mad by its power. A Nazgûl nearly captures Frodo, who falls under the ring’s power, but Sam saves him and reminds a disheartened Frodo that they are fighting for the good still left in Middle-earth. Impressed by Frodo’s resolve, Faramir releases them. Feeling betrayed, Gollum decides he will reclaim the Ring by leading Frodo to “Her” upon arriving at Cirith Ungol.


The Two Towers is, in my opinion, the best film of the brilliant LOTR trilogy. Each plot arc was highly compelling, from beginning to end, with innumerable memorable scenes, several moments worthy of an audible cheer, arguably the best on-screen battle in film history (and notably, for someone who might remember the more recent Game of Thrones big battle, The Battle of Helm’s Deep was dark, yet you could still see what was happening.) The Two Towers introduces arguably the best CGI character of all time. The movie’s conclusion manages to be utterly satisfying, but without giving away all the mystery and intrigue concerning what lies ahead. Ending with Gollum’s Song as the credits were playing reinvigorated my desire to keep marching forward with this story. Bravo, Peter Jackson. You set the bar impossibly high with this one.

If the first film was an introduction to Middle Earth, and an on-screen depiction of the slow collapse of hope there, then the second film gets the story’s action moving forward in earnest and it begins restoring belief to the idea that Middle Earth might still be saved. After Saruman’s betrayal, and the collapse of the fellowship, here we see Saruman’s defeat and an establishment of battle lines leading into the third film. The losses from Fellowship are precisely what lead to victories in The Two Towers. Gandalf needed to fall, to rise again more powerful than before. Merry and Pippin needed to be separated from the party, to inadvertently wake up the Ents to the darkening world around them, and then to rally them to join the fight. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas needed to be freed of their obligations to Frodo in order to save the kingdom of Rohan. There is a lesson in this that resonates powerfully thorugh the story’s narrative. Good can come from evil. Victory not only follows setbacks, sometimes, but often requires that the setbacks first occur.

In addition to The Two Towers being a story of renewed hope, it is also a story highlighted by friendships: Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, and Legolas and Gimli all have bonds which infuse a wholesome joy into the film’s festivities, regardless of the surrounding circumstances. During even the worst moments of Helm’s Deep, the kill count contest between Legolas and Gimli lifted the tone of the story enough that it never sank into despair. This is a movie that made friendship cool, and it did so without feeling hokey or forced.

Three Favorite Scenes:

  1. Sméagol tells Gollum to go away and never come back.

    This is the moment in the film where you really absorb how pitiable this character really is. The ring has abused him, to the point that ithas induced a split personality in him, with the ring-spawned one being malevolent and dominant. Yet in the span of a short conversation with himself, we get to feel joy and hopefulness even for this absolute wretch as he feels it for himself.

    Everything about this scene works. The CGI is amazing, and it still holds up very well even today. Considering that this movie is more than two decades old, that is an amazing achievement. In addition, Andy Serkis’s performance is the highlight acting performance of a film wherein every character is played to near perfection.
  2. Théoden: The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep one last time. Let this be the hour when we draw swords together. Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn. Forth Èorlingas!

    The King of Rohan pretty consistently has the best lines in the film, and this is my favorite. As “final stands” go, this one is epic – all the more so because they survive in such a magnificent way.
  3. The Ents destroy Isengard.

    From the moment that Treebeard screams out in fury over the destruction of his tree friends, I watched this from my feet. I do not think it’s an exaggeration to say that the art of film peaked at the precise moment that an Ent hurled a gigantic boulder at Saruman’s forces.

Verses the Book

[Just skip to the next sub-heading if you don’t want to be spoiled here]

The adaptation makes some changes from the source material. I liked the changes for the most part. The consistent way that Jackson made changes was to give Tolkien’s characters lessons to learn. Théoden has to become strong, and the need for that growth blended well with his recent captivity. Faramir – unlike his more noble book counter-part – is sorely tempted by the ring and deeply desirous of earning his father’s love. This change gave him a story arc within the movie that was interesting, while leaving him in a more well-earned spot of highest quality character by the film’s end.

Final Thoughts

I’m not doing anything new in lavishing praise on The Two Towers, yet I am just amazed at how well this was made. The special effects are *still* cutting edge twenty years later. The cinematography is beautiful and otherworldly. Howard Shore’s score is one of the best of any movie ever made. The acting performances – across the board – were incredible. The screenplay met the challenge of bringing a book to the screen in a way that has not been matched by any other franchise.

It’s good. You should watch it.

Read my other LOTR film reviews:

+ The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
+ The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

3 thoughts on “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

  1. I was really looking forward to the March of the Ents and in a rare surprise it was even more awesome than I expected. There’s a magic card, Everbark Shaman that makes me think of Treebeard “May you rise again, from seed to sapling to sentience.”

    That’s interesting that you mention Game of Thrones because watching the first season all along I was thinking “aw man, when we get to it the battle of Blackwater it’s going to be epic!” specifically thinking of Helms Deep and instead it was 50 dudes playing grab ass in the dark. I eventually realized that it’s not fair to hold a TV show to movie battle standards but still, total bummer.

    1. Yeah. In hindsight, there were some signs that GoT was going to go off the rails before it did so at full speed.

      I remember leading up to the final season of GoT, the showrunners kept making the comparisons with Helm’s Deep for their Winterfell episode. “It’s an even bigger battle than the one at Helm’s Deep! We broke their record for most consecutive nights shooting in a row! etc.” Then the episode aired and (setting the story telling issues aside) it was really difficult to see what was happening b/c they went for realism in the lighting, instead of for “audiences can see.”

      I’d love to know if someone has ever calculated how much money the showrunners for GoT cost HBO by crashlanding that series.