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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Movie Review - Extended Edition

The sequel to Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring is equally impressive! Containing the visually amazing battle for Helm's Deep. The quest continues!

Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy

Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lee & Karl Urban.

Theatrical Run Time: 179 min.

Extended Edition Run Time: 223 min.

US Release: 18 December 2002

UK Release: 18 December 2002

German Release: 18 December 2002

Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday Review: Fantasy Edition. Since it is Christmas time, I decided to do something long overdue and review the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings, which is one of my all-time favourite movie trilogies. With all the characters having been set up in the previous instalment, this sequel picks up right where The Fellowship of the Ring ended. It was released to universal acclaim, proving once again that Peter Jackson is an absolute visionary in the field of filmmaking.


The journey to destroy the One Ring continues. As Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor, they discover that the mysterious Gollum is following them. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli encounter the besieged kingdom of Rohan, with the once great King Theoden, fallen under Saruman's poisonous spell. In the end, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Isengard.

The Two Towers was shot back-to-back, together with The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as the third movie The Return of the King. Given that the original project was to produce a two-parter of Tolkien's fantasy epos, the middling part had been split up as the conclusion for the Fellowship and as the opening of the sequel. When New Line stepped in, to replace Miramax, they granted Jackon’s wish to turn it into a trilogy. The Two Towers proved to be the most difficult to script, departing vastly from the story structure of the novel.

To include more tension, as well as to keep the pacing smooth, the director decided to change a few arcs, which included adding some happenings that aren’t in the books. These would be; Aragorn’s fall from the cliff, Théoden retreating to Helm’s Deep, rather than fighting in the war, where he ends up besieged. Finally, Treebeard’s indecision gives Merry and Pippin a more active role. The biggest changes, though, are making Helm’s Deep the flick's climax, leaving Shelob for the third instalment. This meant needing to change Faramir into an obstacle for Frodo and Sam, whereas in the books he recognises the threat of the Ring.

While the theatrical cut keeps the narrative constraint to its core structure, the extended edition fleshes out the characters of Faramir and Aragorn a little better, using new scenes that explore their pasts. However, it also adds around fifteen minutes of scenes with the Ents, which screeches the pacing to a near halt.

The dialogue stays true to the world of Tolkien, with British accents broken up between the cast depending on their characters' heritage. Elvish, as well as Black Speech, were taught by dialect coach Andrew Jack.

This sequel introduces us to amazing new characters, such as Éowyn played by Miranda Otto. The introduction to David Wenham’s Faramir needed to be changed, since the book’s epic finale confronting the giant arachnid Shelob, was pushed to the opening of the next picture. As such Faramir takes the Hobbits to Gondor first, before understanding the threat that the One Ring poses. Bernard Hill as Théoden is another brilliant addition, representing the nobility and courageousness of a king.

The friendship between Sam and Frodo is central to the plot. The hardships of the Ring start leaving their marks on Frodo, who is losing slowly all joy of life. Elijah Wood returns with stellar acting, capturing the despair plus the slow depression that is building up inside the Hobbit. It is Sam, who counterbalances all of that, by never losing faith in his friend or the mission they were given. Sean Astin gives his character such a likeability, he is the emotional connection to the viewer.

Gollum is fully motion-captured by Andy Serkis. Originally the creature was supposed to be solely rendered in CGI, however, Serkis impressed Jackson with his movements and distorted voice. The crew also realised that the cast performed better with Serkis on set, in a motion capture suit. In the end, it was decided to rotoscope the computer-generated Gollum on top of Serkis. Gollum himself is a broken character. The ring fractured his mind, turning him nearly feral. He is like a junky yearning for his next fix.

Legolas and Gimli are further explored as characters in this middle part. Their growing friendship, as well as their battle rivalry, create some humorous moments that break the tension at exactly the right moments. Orlando Bloom does give a great rendition of his elven character, while John Rhys-Davies (ironically being the tallest of the cast) is perfect as the broody dwarven warrior.

Aragorn’s past and love for Arwen are inspected further, especially in the extended cut, which explains that he is a descendant of the Dúnedain, blessed with longevity. This also clarifies why he is such a skilled warrior. Viggo Mortensen embodied once again the character, giving a grand performance that was grounded, never overshadowing his co-stars.

The cinematography is once again magnificent, balancing all the branching plot lines perfectly. The final climax of the battle for Helm’s Deep, was shot with 500 extras, taking approximately three months with most of the segments being shot at night. Frame compositions plus production design are complexly elaborate, while the colours are more desaturated as a means to signalise the hopelessness. It all comes together in a fantastical-looking picture!

The effects are, like in the previous premise, a good mix of practical settings, puppets, prosthetics and makeup, as well as computer-generated imagery. Helm’s Deep was one of the first model structures that were designed, all the way back in 1997. The model has a scale of 1:35. Treebeard was designed as a 14-foot-tall puppet, in the scenes where he interacts with Merry and Pippin. Urethane moulds were used to create the character’s skin, with CGI layered over, to create credible movement. A similar practice was used with Gollum, where Andy Serkis provided the movement in a motion capture suit.

Howard Shore’s composition is a continuation of what he delivered in The Fellowship of the Ring, yet obtains a darker, more ominous note that lets audiences understand that unfolding events are at stake.


Verdict: Peter Jackson’s second Lords of the Ring fantasy blockbuster, is probably the darkest of the three Middle Earth flicks in tone, exuding a near-overwhelming hopelessness. It is the characters that break through that thick wall of darkness; especially Sam, played by a fabulous Sean Astin, who keeps cheering Frodo up, with anecdotes of the Shire. Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn is another example of brilliant casting, as the actor radiates heroic selflessness. The cinematography is again impressive, with special effects holding up to date! The Two Towers might be my least favourite of the trilogy, but it is still one of my all-time favourite flicks! The battle of Helm’s Deep is unforgettable and the production design is astonishing. It ranks slightly under Fellowship quality-wise deserving a 9.0 out of 10!

When or how did you experience this film for the first time? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment below to let me know. Thank you for reading!


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