First and final impressions are necessary. Likewise, in motion pictures, the primary and final installments of franchises are those that usually obtain probably the most quantity of fanfare and remembrance. This was no totally different for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the place the anticipation of The Fellowship of the Ring and the “final hurrah” of The Return of the King had been each carried on as two of the robust factors of the trilogy.
The Two Towers, however, was met with the trade recognition of “Oh yeah, that one was fairly good too.” Not ok to garner Peter Jackson a Greatest Director nomination on the Oscars, like Fellowship and King, nor ok to obtain double-digit nominations like these two. However ok to be a sturdy bridge between the trilogy’s impeccable bookends.
There might by no means be a consensus on whether or not The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the perfect of its trilogy. However there’s one factor everybody ought to acknowledge: The Two Towers is a major instance of how a “bridge movie” can exceed its useful objective — and change into a standalone masterpiece.
2021 marks The Lord of the Rings motion pictures’ twentieth anniversary, and we could not think about exploring the trilogy in only one story. So every Wednesday all year long, we’ll go there and again once more, analyzing how and why the movies have endured as fashionable classics. That is Polygon’s 12 months of the Ring.
Jackson’s Two Towers isn’t the one exemplary sequel/center installment within the canon of cinematic franchises. The Empire Strikes Again and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan are broadly thought-about their respective collection’ zenith, and different movies like Aliens, Superman II, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and The Godfather Half II have received a sizeable variety of appreciators who take into account them as a one-up on their predecessor.
However the center installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a masterclass in the best way to make a useful film sequel. Peter Jackson and his collaborators don’t merely adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s materials. As an alternative, they lean into what make nice film sequels work by upping the ethical stakes, constructing larger spectacles that solely go deeper on characters, and utilizing distinctive narrative construction to construct on the mythos of the earlier movies.
The script for The Fellowship of the Ring does the required job of creating the ethical themes of the trilogy, that the best types of braveness are in resisting the darkish temptations of energy and greed. However much more than its sibling movies, The Two Towers builds on the occasions of Fellowship to name into query the character of battle, demise, and destiny of mankind. Whereas the trilogy has change into a pinnacle for its expertly crafted battle sequences (who doesn’t love Legolas driving his protect like a skateboard down the steps of Helms Deep capturing arrows at Uruk-hai?) its center installment by no means forgets to blur the fantasy trope guidelines of what constitutes good and evil.
Sam begins to witness Frodo’s gradual succumbing to the ability of the Ring and his more and more agitated persona, giving Gollum the advantage of doubt over his personal confidant. When Sam beckons to him in Osgiliath, asking “Are you able to hear who you sound like?” when Frodo begins calling The Ring “his and his personal,” it plunges their friendship and belief right into a susceptible place, the place Frodo is starting to cross the road of his function as protagonist. This isn’t dissimilar in its ethical reckoning to the long-lasting ending of The Empire Strikes Again, the place Luke should confront the invention that the Darkish Facet is an inherent a part of his personal familial bloodline. With these moments, nice sequels take concepts launched by the unique movie and problem them additional, leaving the viewers to rethink their preconceptions of characters and stakes.
Sequels are sometimes requested to be larger and extra spectacular than their predecessors, however nice sequel separate themselves from the empty ones by utilizing that additional firepower to construct depth and complexity to its characters’ objective. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, James Cameron makes use of apocalyptic dream imagery to depict the stakes of Sarah and James Connor’s mission, past a imprecise future of “saving mankind.” The long-lasting nuclear explosion sequence reveals the organic and pure connection between dad or mum and baby, making the struggle not solely between man versus machine, however nature versus expertise. Cameron additionally makes use of the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as a dramatic proxy between people and the machines they create, signifying that there’s a hope for a way forward for potential coexistence.
Likewise, in The Two Towers, the pure components of Center Earth and the economic equipment of the Orc military come into explosive battle. Merry and Pippin’s journey into Fangorn Forest and the next battle between the Ents and Saruman provide better philosophical questions of man’s wrestle between safeguarding the pure world and the necessity for contemporary developments. Many environmental interpretations of Tolkein’s work argue how the Orcs are a metaphor of man coming underneath the enslavement of the machines he builds, whereas the Ents a metaphor for man’s concord with nature. These intersecting themes culminate within the March of the Ents, some of the emotionally cathartic moments of the trilogy, the place sweeping digicam actions comply with Ents as they descend on the darkish metallic constructions of Isengard, suggesting the reclaiming of land by forces of nature.
All sequels get an opportunity to increase on the world established by their predecessors, however nice ones add layers and complexity to the narrative. Francis Ford Coppola nonlinearly juxtaposes Michael Corleone’s gradual demise because the household patriarch along with his father’s gradual rise to changing into a feared mafioso, intensifying the symbolic brilliance of The Godfather Half II. In The Two Towers, screenwriters Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens shifted round Tolkein’s unique non-linear story construction, which tells the complete story Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli’s, in addition to and Merry and Pippin’s, adventures in Rohan earlier than leaping again in time to comply with Sam and Frodo to the tower of Cirith Ungol. As an alternative, the movie Two Towers intertwines all three arcs, and leaps between them, giving The Two Towers a brisk tempo that makes its three-hour runtime fly by.
The construction additionally permits for referencing and juxtaposing developments in every character’s journey, teasing and foreshadowing their eventual crossing of paths. As Frodo and Sam are captured by Faramir and his rangers, and compelled right into a confrontation with the Nazgul at Osgiliath, Gandalf tells the Fellowship that the battle for Center Earth has simply begun, signaling a fair larger battle with better stakes is to comply with Helm’s Deep, and it’ll embrace Gondor. Sam’s ultimate monologue within the film serves as a commandment for your complete collection, bringing the assorted paths thematically collectively and addresses the distrust, doubt, and concern that has set into the characters’ lives, but additionally giving hope that the good tales are those the place the heroes overcome the worst odds.
To say that The Two Towers is the center and soul of the trilogy isn’t any exaggeration — Sam’s closing speech is chief among the many franchise’s most quoted inspirational strains. The center baby of LotR picks up from Fellowship and goes larger and extra bold, however not in a merely aesthetic or technological manner. By its cut up story construction, humanism, and complicated character improvement, The Two Towers transcends the dismissive label of “sequel.”
There are many different examples of nice blockbuster sequels, however none of them use as many instruments within the sequel-crafting field; none are such a common instance of the best way to do a sequel proper. The Two Towers is an ideal launching pad for the trilogy’s riveting conclusion, and its personal nice story.