The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Lord Of The Rings

First Impressions

First impressions by Kathryn A, Boxing Day 2002

  • an adaption of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • directed by Peter Jackson
  • Webpage at

I am becoming convinced that for me, characterisation is the most important thing. While there were significantly more changes in the movie version of The Two Towers that departed from the book, those that added to characterisation, or added to the theme not at the expense of the characterisation -- these changes were forgivable; but the changes which attacked characterisation for the sake of the theme (expecially in taking a character I liked and making him look worse) -- these changes were egregious and unforgivable. And, alas, there was such a change here. And the more annoying because I was expecting more of Peter Jackson, considering how well he delivered in the first movie.

Of course, if I'd never read the book, I wouldn't have known about any of the changes. Probably in that case I would have enjoyed it, apart from it dragging a bit in all the confusion of all the battles.

(LOTS of spoilers follow)


The good points

The opening bit does a recap of the fall of Gandalf in Moria (led into nicely with some helicopter shots of the Misty Mountains) but instead of following the Fellowship, it follows what happened to Gandalf, at least up to a point. That was good.

Gollum/Smeagol was very well done, in all ways, from visuals to characterisation. Frodo and Sam were good in all that too. I liked the characterisation hint that one reason Frodo wants to try to reform Gollum into Smeagol is because he sees his own possible fate there. It's interesting to note that in the movies, the Ring actually has more power to influence those around, than it did in the book, and that the Nazgul have less power in the movies than in the book.

The escape of Merry and Pippin from the Orcs, intercut with the reconstruction of the events by Aragorn's looking at the tracks was very good; kept us in suspense (those who hadn't read the book) as to the fate of Merry and Pippin.

The "white wizard" bit I think actually worked better than in the book. I liked how his new staff, though it was white and in a pattern of the elvish style at the top, it was still wood. Nice little details like that; if you recall, Saruman's staff was of some black metal.

The Ents weren't bad. I hadn't really thought about how I wanted them to look, so I wasn't too fussed about how they did it. I liked their faces, but I think I would rather have had it that Ents sort of waded in the ground rather than walking on enormously long legs. And they did a reasonably good job of the destruction of Isengard, though I would have liked to have seen bits where Ents destroyed rock with their roots, but I guess that would have been a too difficult effect to do.

The battles were very exciting, though I admit I did find my attention lagging at some points, because there was so much fighting. There were some good stunts though -- like Legolas leaping upon the running horse, that was cool. Though having him skateboard down the stairs shooting arrows was perhaps a bit of overkill.

The Rohirrim looked good, the people and the horses and the clothes and the buildings, it all seemed very nicely Nordic to me. Down to the horse-tails on their helments. Again they got the details nicely. And Meduseld was indeed golden in a realistic and stylish way.

The bad and not-that-good points

Faramir. I assume they decided to make him want to take the Ring to Gondor to emphasize the theme that the Ring is irresistable to all, and to show how amazing Aragorn was to have resisted the temptation of it. Since I liked Faramir, I was really annoyed by this. Especially since it is very confusing as to where they actually are in this battle that Faramir takes them into -- are they in Osgiliath, and if so, how did they get there without going through Sauron's forces? And if they are in Minas Tirith, then that makes even less geographical sense.

It was doubly annoying since it started off so well, everything was reasonably like the book until Faramir made the wrong decision. And I liked how Faramir did have a reasonable family resemblance to Boromir, well, more than one usually gets in movies.

However, I have to disagree with the reviewer who said that Faramir changed his mind after them frightening off a Nazgul and Sam's impassioned speech about courage. I don't think that was the only thing that convinced him -- it was the whole scene, from Frodo's mesmerized walk to the Nazgul, to Sam's save, to Frodo's attack on Sam, someone who is obviously his best friend, and then Sam's speech, which was addressed to Frodo, not Faramir. Point being, Faramir got "an eye opener" (to borrow Sam's turn of phrase) as to how perilous the Ring was to anyone's sanity, and how it couldn't be used, as well as it being wrong to be used.

As I said, in the movie, the Ring has more influence, earlier.

Pippin tricking Treebeard into going to war. Well, not tricking exactly, but having the Ents decide against war, and then making Treebeard see the destruction Saruman had wrought (as if he didn't know about it) and suddenly changing his mind, and summoning all the other Ents at once... it goes against everything we know about Ents. It is true that this is a positive characterisation moment for Pippin, since he gets to be brave, but I don't like it when a change to make one character look good is at the expense of making another character look bad (or not so good).

Gimli as comedy relief. I have rather mixed feelings about this, because some of the bits were straight from the book. However, I don't recall that Gimli had any trouble in keeping up with Aragorn and Legolas in the initial run from the Anduin tracking the Orcs. Nor did he fall off any horse. I don't mind so much the short jokes, but the other things weren't that good. Changes that make someone look ridiculous aren't quite as bad as changes that make someone look like a not-so-good guy so I'm more annoyed about Faramir than Gimli.

The disenchanting of Theoden and indeed the enchanting of Theoden were all wrong; he wasn't posessed by Saruman, he was just enfeebled and deluded by Wormtongue's words; brainwashed. I guess they wanted something unsubtle and dramatic. Still, I liked Theoden once he was cured.

The forgivable changes

Elves at Helm's Deep. Didn't happen in the book, and any but the most geographically challenged would have to wonder how the Elves of Lothlorien managed to get to Helm's Deep so soon, from much further away, while it took Gandalf five days, on Shadofax, the fastest horse in the world, to round up the stragglers of the Rohirrim (most notably Eomer) in order to bring reinforcements to the battle. However, this is forgivable because (a) it heals the breach between Elves and men, (b) it's a wow feelgood moment (c) the Elves look so cool. On the other hand, Haldir shouldn't be dead either.

Aragorn going missing in a skirmish that didn't happen in the book. This goes in the forgivable column because it does a characterisation thing: it contributes to showing how Eowyn is falling in love with Aragorn. It was also some added drama, of course.

Interestingly, you'll note that this means that almost everybody in the Fellowship has been thought dead at one point or another -- first Frodo, then Gandalf, then Boromir actually dies, then Merry & Pippin are thought dead, and now Aragorn. That only leaves Sam, Legolas and Gimli.

All the bits with Arwen are also forgiveable for characterisation reasons. She wasn't in this part of the book at all, but since part of it is memory and part of it is dream, and part of it is "and meanwhile, in Rivendell" then it really isn't a great problem, continuitywise. If one forgives them for giving her a biggish part in the first movie, then one might as well forgive them for this. It also adds some interesting characterisation for Aragorn, because it actually raises the possibility that he might fall for Eowyn, even though he loves Arwen, because he's assuming that Arwen is going away with her people to Valinor, and thus will be forever out of his reach.