Re-Watch: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: J. R. R. Tolkien‘s novel
Sequel to: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Craig Parker, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill, Brad Dourif, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Sean Bean
Seen on: 6.1.2022

Content Note: racism

Plot:
The fellowship of the ring is no more. Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) are heading towards Mordor with the help of Gollum (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) are chasing after Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) who were taken by orcs under the command of Saruman (Christopher Lee). Things are coming to a head.

The Two Towers does have a couple of blunders that really haven’t aged well, but other than that, it is still an excellent film (though it is only my second favorite in the trilogy).

The film poster showing headshots of the main characters arranged vertically next to a tower.

The Two Towers really makes a problem obvious by making it worse. Already in the first film, there are only white people in the movie (and most of them men), apart from the Uruk-Hai who are played by Black actors and their appearance, while outlandish and not exactly human, is definitely racialized. The Two Towers now explicitely introduces other cultures with people of color. And not only are their representations rather stereotypical, they all fight on the side of the evil-doers. To say that this hasn’t aged well is actually an understatement – it was already fucked up 20 years ago.

I am also not a fan of Eowyn’s (Miranda Otto) hapless flirting with Aragorn. That just shortchanges her as a character – and she’s already not much fleshed out to begin with. Given that she’s one of three women of consequence in the trilogy, this is especially insulting, and struck me much more this time than I remembered. Past!Me was too upset with Faramir’s (David Wenham) change from the book to focus on Eowyn. And I’m not gonna lie, even though I know why they changed Faramir and it makes sense from a narrative point of view, it still hurts a little.

Wormtongue (Brad Dourif) next to King Theoden (Bernard Hill) who looks very old indeed.

Despite all of that, The Two Towers is still a good watch, even though towards the end the long battle starts and that CGI fest is my least favorite part of the entire trilogy (which is why the third film is my least favorite because it’s practically just a CGI battle). I like the Rohirrim, and I love the Ents. Gollum gets much more screentime here and it just underscores how good the CGI is for him, and how well Andy Serkis plays him (of course, the split personality thing is its own bag of issues).

It’s definitely a film full of power and great themes that are well-realized in this big world that we find here. Even its fault can’t change the effect the film still has 20 years later.

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) leaning against Arwen (Liv Tyler).

Summarizing: still very good.

5 thoughts on “Re-Watch: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

  1. For me, this is the film that gains the most by the additional scenes of the EE. Faramir’s words about the young Haradrim-soldiers is really important to at least mitigate the racism. I also found his personality change compared to the books much easier to swallow with the additional background given here, compared to the theatrical cut. And Eowyn too gains a lot with the additional scenes, which also made her infatuation with Aragorn feel more natural. Overall, while this is my least favorite of the bunch, it is still a tremendous fantasy flick with – and this is where we have to agree to disagree – one of the best battle sequences ever filmed ;-).

    • Absolutely, the Extended Edition makes things a whole lot better. Though I have to admit that I don’t think they mitigate the racism.
      And I didn’t mean that the battle sequences are bad per se. I would agree that they’re well done. I just find big battle scenes pretty boring. And the CGI is sometimes rather noticeable during the battle, which it barely is when it comes to, for example, Gollum or Treebeard.

      • I should have phrased that differently: I got that you don’t think that the battle scenes are bad, but just aren’t that fond of them in general – which is where we differ ;-). And I don’t know, but I think Faramir’s speech about the dead soldier, and his question if if he was really evil, or if he was forced or manipulated to join the army, goes a long way to counter the (definitely problematic) impression that all those (none-white) Haradrim are evil.

        • I just don’t think that speech goes very far. It feels more like an afterthought, or maybe more accurately an alibi – a “see, we couldn’t possibly be racist” kind of thing. So I guess that’s another point where we differ. :)

  2. Pingback: Re-Watch: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | kalafudra's Stuff

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