The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a 2002 epic fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson from a screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Jackson, based on 1954’s The Two Towers, the second volume of the novel The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The sequel to 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the film is the second instalment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It features an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, and Andy Serkis.
Continuing the plot of the previous film, it intercuts three storylines. Frodo and Sam continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum, the ring’s former keeper. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf, before fighting against the legions of the treacherous wizard Saruman at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Merry and Pippin escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard, fortress of Saruman.
The Two Towers was financed and distributed by American studio New Line Cinema, but filmed and edited entirely in Jackson’s native New Zealand, concurrently with the other two parts of the trilogy. It premiered on 5 December 2002 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City, and was then released on 18 December in the United States and on 19 December in New Zealand. The film was acclaimed by both critics and audiences, who considered it to be a landmark in filmmaking and an achievement in the fantasy film genre. It received praise for its direction, action sequences, performances, musical score, and CGI, particularly for Gollum. It grossed over $936 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of 2002 and the third highest-grossing film of all time at the time of its release, behind Titanic and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Following subsequent reissues, it has, as of 2021, grossed over $947 million.
Like the other films in the trilogy, The Two Towers is widely recognized as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. The film received numerous accolades; at the 75th Academy Awards, it was nominated for six awards, including Best Picture, winning for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
The final instalment of the trilogy, The Return of the King, was released in 2003.
When Alan Lee joined the project in late 1997, Helm’s Deep was the first structure he was tasked to design. At 1:35 scale, it was one of the first miniatures built for the film, and was part of the 45-minute video that sold the project to New Line. It was primarily drawn from an illustration Lee had once done for the book, though the curved wall featured in the film was proposed by fellow illustrator and designer John Howe. Used in the film for wide shots, Jackson also used this miniature to plan the battle, using 40,000 toy soldiers.
Helm’s Deep, a pivotal part of the film’s narrative, was built at Dry Creek Quarry with its gate, a ramp, and a wall, which included a removable section as well as the tower on a second level. A 1:4-scale miniature of Helm’s Deep that ran 50 feet (15 m) wide was used for forced perspective shots, as well as the major explosion sequence.
The film explores the armies of Middle-earth. John Howe was the basic designer of the evil forces of Middle Earth, with the Uruk-hai being the first army approved by Jackson. Howe also designed a special crossbow for the Uruk-Hai characters, which was significant because it did not require external tools to rearm. This design was the realization of a 16th-century manuscript. Also created were 100 Elven suits of armour, for which emphasis was placed on Autumnal colours due to the theme of Elves leaving Middle-earth. Two hundred and fifty suits were also made for the Rohirrim. The designs for Rohan were based on Germanic and Anglo-Saxon patterns, with most of the weapons designed by John Howe and forged by Peter Lyon. Each sword took 3 to 6 days to make.
The exterior of the Rohirrim’s capital of Edoras, including its thatched roofs, took six months to build on Mount Sunday. The interior of the buildings doubled as offices and lunch halls. The interior of the Hall of Edoras was filmed at Stone Street Studios with tapestries designed by Lee, and Théoden’s wooden throne was partly created by his daughter. Hill endured heavy make-up for the possession scene where his skin was pulled back and released for increased wrinkles. Dourif shaved off his eyebrows and put potato flakes as dandruff in his hair for unnerving effect.
Through Frodo and Sam’s story, the film also provides a look at Mordor and Gondor. Barad-dûr is fully seen in a tracking shot, a design which Howe called a mockery of Gothic Cathedrals. He and Lee created the Black Gate (though a typo in the script made the miniature into two ) and Osgiliath, a ruined city reflecting London during the Blitz or Berlin in 1945. The set on a backlot was based around a bridge and reused some of Moria.
- Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins: A young hobbit sent on a quest to destroy the One Ring, the burden of which is becoming heavier.
- Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White: An Istari wizard who fell fighting a Balrog and has now returned, more powerful than ever, to finish his task.
- Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn Elessar: The heir-in-exile to Gondor’s throne who has come to Rohan’s defence.
- Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee: Better known as Sam, Frodo’s loyal hobbit gardener and companion.
- Andy Serkis as Gollum (voice/motion capture): A wretched hobbit-like creature originally known as Sméagol Trahald, who owned the Ring for 500 years and now guides Frodo on his quest.
- Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took: An extremely foolish hobbit who is a distant cousin of Frodo and travels with the Fellowship on their journey to Mordor.
- Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck: Better known as Merry, a distant cousin of Frodo’s who is mistakenly captured along with Pippin by the Uruk-hai.
- John Rhys-Davies as Gimli: A dwarf warrior and one of Aragorn’s companions.
- Also voices Treebeard: The leader of the ents, who is roused to anger after seeing that Saruman had decimated a large part of Fangorn Forest.
- Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf: An elven archer and one of Aragorn’s companions.
- Bernard Hill as Théoden: The King of Rohan, who is under Saruman’s spell until Gandalf heals him so he can lead his people once more. Kevin Conway was offered the role but he declined.
- Christopher Lee as Saruman the White: An Istari wizard waging war upon Rohan and devastating Fangorn Forest, who allied himself with Sauron in the previous film.
- Hugo Weaving as Elrond: The Elven-Lord of Rivendell who expresses doubt over his daughter’s love for Aragorn.
- Miranda Otto as Éowyn: Théoden’s niece, who is in love with Aragorn. Uma Thurman was offered the role but turned it down and later regretted it.
- David Wenham as Faramir: A prince of the Stewards of Gondor and captain of the Ithilien Rangers, who captures Frodo, Sam and Gollum.
- Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue: An agent of Saruman at Edoras, who renders Théoden incapable of decisions, and desires Éowyn.
- Karl Urban as Éomer: Théoden’s nephew and previous Chief Marshal of the Riddermark who was exiled by Gríma.
- Liv Tyler as Arwen Undómiel: An elven princess of Rivendell and Aragorn’s true love.
- Cate Blanchett as Galadriel: The Elven-Queen of Lothlórien, who discusses Middle-earth’s future with Elrond.
- Sean Bean as Boromir: Faramir’s older brother and a fallen member of the Fellowship who appears in flashbacks since his death, more prominently in the film’s extended edition.
- Craig Parker as Haldir: The leader of the Lórien Elves sent by Elrond and Galadriel to defend Helm’s Deep.
- John Leigh as Háma: The loyal doorwarden of the Golden Hall and a majordomo of Théoden.
- Bruce Hopkins as Gamling: Théoden’s chief lieutenant and a skilled member of the Royal Guard of Rohan.
- John Bach as Madril: Faramir’s closest aide, who informs him of battle preparations.
- Nathaniel Lees as Ugluk: The leader of the band of Uruk-hai who kidnapped Merry and Pippin.
December 18, 2002
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