Some thoughts on The Two Towers
By jan howard finder
The Two Towers [TTT] is an outstanding movie. TTT is not Tolkien’s book.
The film, as I expected, is a tour de force. Peter Jackson [PJ] uses the spectacular New Zealand landscape to wondrous result. From mountains to valleys to the waterways he captures the feelings brought forth while reading the book.
The initial scenes of the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog captured what I saw in my mind while reading the description. The falling & rising battle through fire and ice. The passing though to the other side by Gandalf and his return for one last heroic battle. Yes, PJ had it right.
When I originally read The Lord of the Rings I heard Gollum as “Peter Lorre with no humor.” However, I find little if any fault with Gollum. Andy Serkis is excellent as Gollum. He is despicable, pitiable, loathsome and tragic. The scene in which Smeagol and Gollum argue is magnificent. It reminded me, if my memory serves me at all well, of the John Barrymore’s transformation in the silent version of “Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.” Facial expressions & movement convey the changes so very well.
The character of Eowyn was well portrayed by Miranda Otto. Her strength and desperation come thru.
Needless to say, Brad Dourif’s Grima Wormtongue is marvelously slimy and evil.
The depiction of the Dead Marshes was quite well done. Since it is rather difficult to do & show all the travelling by night, I’m willing to go along with the daytime scenes to get the feel of the trek thru the Marshes.
I appreciated the pterodactyl-like steeds for the Nazgul. The Oliphaunts were a delight. The Wargs were a delicious nightmare.
In many aspects the Riders of Rohan were very well done. I did appreciate the riding & the horses.
The ability of the elven cloaks to assume the appearance of a boulder, tho not really in the books, caught the spirit of the elvish magic they contain.
While not quite my Ents, I thought PJ did a pretty good job with them. They were big and they looked like, well almost like, trees.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep was excellently done, tho not quite as it appeared in the book. While no Hurons the sunrise appearance of Gandalf & Eomer provide a stirring climax to the victory. While not in the book I thought the addition of a force of Elves was a good one. No doubt all of the Elves had fought over 3000 years prior at the siege of Mordor. It is obvious, they had a lot of practice being warriors by their precision before and during battle. Even 15 minutes a day over many millennia can give one a lot of training.
Yet, as excellent TTT is as a movie, it fails for me as a representation of the book.
While I liked the way the Ents looked and moved, I was put off by the way PJ has them decide that the War of the Ring is not their war. In the book they knew bloody well what had happened on the border of Fangorn Forest. They didn’t have to discover it and go ape. It makes the Ents appear as rather petty & stupid.
While an irritation in The Fellowship of the Ring [TFOTR], it becomes all too annoying in TTT. Aragorn is NOT a 21st century, New-Age, sensitive male full of self doubt & angst. He knew well, he was the heir to the Throne of Gondor & Arnor. He knew he was making an attempt to defeat Sauron and restore the glory, for a short while of that which was Númenor. He had know for about 70 years at the time of the War of the Ring who he was & what he was destined for.
Not only did he have self doubt, but he also was enough of a wuss to tug his forelock when Elrond told him to get away from Arwen. Aragorn’s telling her that their love & dreams were fantasy & that she should leave him was a cop-out. He did not act like the future King of Gondor & Arnor.
Elrond is also a defeatist and whinger. Yes, in the book he doubted Men and their ability to defeat Sauron, but not want to run & hide as he does in the movies. In which it takes Galadriel to remind him of his duty and the past struggles with Men against the Darkness. While he is opposed to the marriage of Aragorn & Arwen, he will give permission if Aragorn defeats Sauron & reclaims the throne uniting Gondor & Arnor. He doesn’t rant about the senseless it is for Arwen to throw away her immortal life for a mere “man.”
Then there is Arwen. In many ways she is portrayed well. However, the scene with her “daddy” in which she gives in is totally out of character. The following scene with Arwen leaving for the Grey Havens is a no-go. She is not the weakling shown here.
However, my wrath with PJ is most with his destruction of Faramir’s character. In the film, Boromir, weak as he is, is far stronger than Faramir. Yes, PJ takes Tolkien’s words, but only about half of them. In the book Faramir learns of the Ring and is noble enough to meet the challenge and refuse it. Sam compares Faramir to Gandalf. Faramir notes that maybe Sam is discerning the Numenorean in him.
In the film PJ has Faramir figure out what Frodo is carrying and then proves to be weaker than Boromir. Faramir initially plans on sending Frodo & Sam off to Minas Tirith and his father, Denethor. This gives Faramir none of the nobility he has in the book. He is not the opposite of Boromir in the film, but a weaker, less appealing version. Not a suitable match for Eowyn.
PJ seems to have learnt his geography in a US high school. Henneth Annun is on the east side of the river. The defenders at Osgiliath are on the west side. Frodo et al. then reappear on the east side to head up into the Ephel Duath. Obviously, folk can pop back & forth across the Anduin with no worries about orcs & other minions of Sauron. Oh well, maybe he doesn’t think anyone who has read the books will go see the movie.
The changes in Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, etc., leave me wondering just how much of a change in the ending PJ will make.
While Eowyn does watch Aragorn with something approaching cow eyes in the book, I’m now beginning to wonder if PJ will marry off Aragorn to Eowyn. In the book Aragorn was aware of her feelings, but he was not susceptible. Hey, but Faramir is no longer that much of a catch. He is no longer all that special & noble.
Does PJ kill off Frodo & Sam as well as Gollum on Mt. Doom? It saves a lot of unnecessary story or getting anyone back to the Shire. He has supposedly already scrapped the Scouring of the Shire.
Yeah, then he can marry off Aragorn to Eowyn & end the film. Arwen is already off to Elvenhome safe from some short-lived member of the race of Men.
Ah, great film, but just not Tolkien.