Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, etc.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Bernard Hill, Ian McKellan, John Rhys-Davies
Release: December 2002
The Two Towers is the second installation of J.R.R. Tokien’s Lord of the Rings saga. Director Peter Jackson took greater departures from this book than the previous adaptation in part one, The Fellowship of the Ring. He seems to have stuck to his award-winning formula, in that he added more conflict, and romance than Tolkien focused on in the book. Some of the risks Jackson took were difficult to swallow and even nudging up to cheesy for commercial fans, let alone stout Tolkien fanboys. Besides adding some soap-opera elements to the film, Jackson decided to play Jenga with Tolkien’s sequence of events as well.
Because I have not yet read the third and final book, The Return of the King, I can not definitively say whether every “extra” scene Jackson added that I did not find in the book was pulled from his own bag of tricks or bumped up from Return of the King. Maybe you can fill in some gaps for me. But, if you take a look at Fellowship and Two Towers movies, you’ll notice that he as already staggered Tolkien’s story and criss-crossed some parts from each. But, being that I haven’t read anything about Frodo (Elijah Wood) running out into the open and offering the Ring of Power to Nazgul (the enemy) in Two Towers, I’m about 99% sure Jackson conjured this up for a little dramatic flair. But let me back up and start at the beginning.
Along their path to Mordor, Frodo and Sam (Sean Astin) are tied up and taken prisoner by Faramir, captain of Gondor. Simple, right? Wrong. And here’s where Jackson starts playing with Tolkien’s vision. In the book they are not bound and taken as prisoners, but led by mutual agreement to Faramir’s lair. In the book, Faramir finds out the Frodo is carrying the Ring of Power through Sam; whereas Gollum (Frodo and Sam’s guide) gives up the big secret of Frodo’s parcel in the movie.
Faramir knows some lore about the Rings of Power, but his knowledge is different in the film and movie. In the book he knows about a powerful trinket-not a ring per se-that has the power to fully restore Lord Sauron’s destructive powers. But, in the movie he knows the lore of the Rings of Power. In both he finds out Frodo is carrying the One Ring, but in the book he is not corrupted by temptation and sets Frodo free (with vital provisions!)
Unfortunately, Jackson decided it’d be more exciting for Faramir to be hypnotized by the One Ring and steal Frodo to Gondor-to use the One Ring against Sauron. Now, since Faramir is supposed to be educated in the history of the One Ring that deceives the human race to the ruin time and time again…why would he opt to bring it to men? So, rather than Frodo leaving Faramir with a new friend and fresh food, he is kept-and in turn enemies find Frodo and come within a claw’s grasp of ripping the One Ring out of Frodo’s outstretched hand.
This leads to another major point. Jackson’s interpretation of Frodo makes him far more corrupted than Tolkien’s. At times in the movie, Frodo wants to be taken by the enemy. In the book, the Ring takes Frodo over at times. Frodo is considerably stronger in the book: in his manner of speak when talking to Faramir; when battling the seduction of the One Ring; and in dealing with Sam, his companion.
Stop Hitting Yourself
Continuing these observations of Jackson’s disregard for Tolkien’s subtle characters, Gollum is an absolute lunatic in the movie. A true on-screen drama queen. He has a full-blown split personality: a frothing, fuming monster willing to kill anything to get the One Ring back; and the gentler Smeagol, Frodo’s faithful lap dog. The audience watches several monologues/dialogues of these characters choosing Frodo’s fate. The mean side chastises the soft side like a bully straight out of 6th grade. In the book, Gollum is much more steady. He grumbles about the journey, but he leads on. Readers catch on to his plot in the same scene as the movie-but he seems far less deranged-but equally maniacal.
Frodo, as stated earlier, is far more wretched in the film. Jackson does well in paralleling Frodo and Gollum as the same character (but 500 years different in age). But, this leads to Frodo treating Sam like the whipping boy in the film; whereas in the book they are still very much companions. But, in all fairness, the little love triangle between Frodo, Sam and Gollum is something to behold. Better than watching soaps (way better special effects).
Just like Jackson’s effort to insert romance in Fellowship of the Ring, he continues Aragorn’s (Viggo Mortenssen) and Arwen’s (Liv Tyler) romance in Two Towers. Though Tolkien gives us very little to go on in the book, Jackson spends a chunk of time on sweet sappy reminisces-and in Two Towers he adds a third party: Eowyn of the House of Rohan. Though this is (up to this point) unfounded in Tolkien’s books, Aragorn and Arwen, who once were an item; broke up because he is human and she is elf (cue waterworks here). Enter human lady, Eowyn. Eowyn instantly falls in love with Aragorn (of course), but Aragorn wants his elf-lady back (of course!) All Jackson is missing to solidify this as a big-screen soap is extreme close-ups of overly dramatic facial expressions and Susan Luchey. Alas, in all fairness, Tolkien’s story has a faint heartbeat and it’s hard to blame Jackson for trying to give the girls more screen time. A major deviation, but arguably makes the story more well-rounded.
Battle of the Beards
Other major drama that Jackson adds is a wizard duel. Gandalf (Ian McKlellan) tries to break Saruman’s spell over Theoden, King of Rohan (Bernard Hill). The “battle” is a mental one, where they exchange words (Saruman speaks through Theoden telepathically), and Gandalf triumphs by removing Saruman’s presence and restoring Theoden to a healthy, conscious state.
Jackson loves adding wizard duels in the movies, though Tolkien takes a more subtle approach in the novel. In fact, Tolkien holds a brain-duel between these two wizards in Two Towers, but it is in no way related to the duel mentioned above. In the book, Gandalf and Saruman meet face to face after Saruman’s tower, Orthanc, falls at the hands of begrudged Ents (in lamens, walking trees). Saruman tries to persuade Theoden and Gandalf to befriend him and take over the world. But, Gandalf wins, breaks his staff, and leaves the broken wizard to rot in his tower. It’s a pretty intense bit of the book.
All in all Jackson did not create a bad movie. The Two Towers is packed with action and drama, and he vividly portrays the major battles accurately. But, he starts to seriously break off from the books in the movie. The endings are very different, placing all the characters at different points in the journey, and I just do not know where the third and final chapter, Return of the King is going to go. Stay tuned.