Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers  (2002) from Mick Locke

This second installment of Peter Jackson’s sword & sorcery trilogy lacks the shock of groundbreaking visuals, especially of scale, that we saw in his prior Fellowship of the Ring, which came out at X-mas 2001.  On the other hand, we waste little time getting up to speed.  We already know what a hobbit is.  And we don’t need to recap why Frodo must infiltrate the vile black land of Mordor and pitch into a volcano his magic yet toxic gold ring.

It’s been at least three decades since I’ve read the J.R.R. Tolkien books from which Peter Jackson adapted this film.  Since both my wife and I were Tolkien enthusiasts back in our teens, we’re eager to see this story on film.  We’re curious for a pictorial rendition of this tale we’ve heretofore relished in only the theatre of the mind.  Well, sometimes a film adaptation works and sometimes it doesn’t.  When you see the fire-spewing volcano of Mordor, the magnificent aerial vistas of New Zealand, the fishbelly pallor of Gollum, or the cosmetic dental troubles of orcs, you find yourself thinking, Nailed it!  But then when you see the Ents – walking, talking, humungous tree-creatures, you can feel an odd ambivalence: Yeah, I guess that’s it, huh?  But how come, in my imagination, they were so much more exciting than seeing this computer-generated rendition?

In general, I think movie versions of classic literature are laudable.  They introduce kids and non-literary adults to stories which make up our cultural consciousness.  And, in rare cases, such movies serve as celluloid appetizers, which encourage young people to actually read one of these classics.  But, while viewing The Two Towers, and imagining such a young reader, I thought, What a pity that kids who’ve haven’t read the books will be robbed of the chance to imagine what an Ent might look like!  Of course, any standard kid these-a-years would ask, “Who reads?”

Regarding cultural references for non-readers, I note there’s stuff for both the left and right.  The tree-sitters against clear-cutting in American Pacific rainforests will no doubt love the Ents.  And the pro-wrestling enthusiasts who are eager for a C.N.N sequel to the last Gulf War will enjoy the good vs. evil depiction of Aragorn et al. battling the orcs.     

Having, in recent years, seen Christopher Lee play the bad guy in both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, I must say that the long hair, long beard, and spooky name of Saruman in this flick are far more striking than his Monte Carlo coiffeur and goofy name, Count Dooku, in Clones.  Viggo Mortensen is suitably handsome, athletic, and intense to play Aragorn well.  Comic relief in this film is provided both by stout-hearted but short Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), a dwarf, and smarmy amphibious Gollum who looks like Opie/director Ron Howard, minus the ball cap. Fantasy babes who remain fully draped are Miranda Otto as Éowyn, Liv Tyler as elfin Arwen, and briefly Cate Blanchett as Galadriel.  The Arwen scenes are purely flashback inserts to juice up the film with a bit of kissy-face and romance, but they play effectively.  Ironically, the unconsummated longing glances between Aragorn and Éowyn are spicier than the flashback make-out scenes with beautiful Liv Tyler.  It is a disappointment that Éowyn is pitched as a tough fighting babe, but we don’t yet get to see her in combat.  One has hopes of seeing her behead a few orcs in the final film.

Elijah Wood is convincing as Frodo the Ringbearer, and his victim-of-ring-evil kinship with Gollum is interesting.  His story takes a disappointing turn when, shortly after reaching the gates of Mordor, he gets kidnapped by essentially good guys.  All his footage after that point amounts to an annoying interruption.  Look, you want to say, would you mind just paging us once you’re ready to enter the evil spooky badlands?  Likewise, dropping in to see Merry & Pippin, once they’ve escaped the orcs, is dull. 

The orcs, by the way, gotta be any wrestling fan’s favorite assortment of characters.  They sure seem scary.  They have the build and demeanor of that Klingon character, Warf, on Star Trek: Next Generation, except in full armor.  And there’s ten thousand of ‘em, with spears, blades, crossbows, catapults, ladders, and battering rams.  What I couldn’t figure is how a mere 300 boys and old men plus a few heroes amongst the good guys can whup the asses of a hoard of 10,000 pissed-off orcs?

That gripe aside, once the final battle is in full swing, it’s pretty engaging.  All in all, this movie was a pleasant box of popcorn. 


Scoop's notes in yellow


I thought Gollum looked more like Steve Buscemi.

The Two Towers introduces us to a new character, Treebeard the Ent. Why just the beard and not the actual Tree? Well, Tree would have come personally, but he was blacklisted by HUAC, the House Un-Aragornian Activities Committee, and so they sent the Tree beard instead.

But it's really Tree's words that he is speaking.

Being an Ent means, besides never having to say you're Sauron, that his father is a tree and his mother is human. It's hard to imagine any kind of woman who would want a tree for a lover, but that is explained in the film. According to Tolkein lore, Treebeard is the oldest being in Middle Earth, except for his own mom, Joan Collins.

In his long career he has also acted as a beard for Jack Black and Elijah Blue, being then known as Blackbeard, and ... um ... Allmanbeard. Those weren't speaking roles. Frankly, there aren't that many speaking parts for large wooden beings. His only previous lines came when he played a talking tree on H&R Pufnstuf, and as McGarrett on Hawaii 5-0.

Mick Locke's response: Judy Garland faced talking trees in The Wizard of Oz, although they were not talking walking trees.  And my erudite neighbor tells me that C.S. Lewis had talking, walking trees before Tolkien ever came up with 'em.



  • Documentary "On the Set: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Starz/Encore special)
  • Documentary "Return to Middle-earth" (WB special)
  • Eight featurettes originally created for lordoftherings.net: "Forces of Darkness," "Sounds of Middle-earth," "Edoras & Rohan Culture," "Creatures," "Gandalf the White," "Arms & Armor," "Helm's Deep," and "Gollum: Andy Serkis, Bay Raitt"
  • Emiliana Torrini "Gollum Song" music video
  • Short film by Sean Astin "The Long and Short of It"
  • Exclusive 10-minute behind-the-scenes preview of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
  • Preview of video game, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
  • An inside look at the Special Extended DVD Edition of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"


Goose egg

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: surprisingly, only three and a third stars. Ebert 3/4, Entertainment Weekly B, Berardinelli 4/4

  • General UK consensus: three and a half stars. Guardian 6/10, Express 10/10, Mirror 10/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. Voting results: IMDb voters score it off the chart, at 8.8, 13th best of all time, despite some 5000 morons giving it a one, trying to screw up the score. Its score is consistent across all demographic groups.
  • Box Office Mojo. It opened with $26 million on a Wednesday, on 3622 screens. It went on to $340 million, 11th best of all time.


Special Scoopy award for wit and style to The Filthy Critic: The Filthy One heard the beat of a different drummer from most critics. Right or wrong, he summed up his case perfectly: "I did learn, though, that evil is bad and must be spoken out against in the purplest and windiest of prose while staring off into the distance. Conversely, goodness is, well, good, and it must be praised in sonnets and lyrical monologues pointing out that should evil prevail, badness will happen."
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

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