It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago, The Lord of the Rings was the piece of entertainment that inspired a generation.
Specifically, The Two Towers, the middle entry in the fantasy series, hit theaters on Dec. 18, 2002, solidifying the trilogy’s impact prior to its final movie’s release. The excitement surrounding this release was undeniable and fans of all stripes flocked to Middle Earth.
And yet, that excitement hasn’t diminished two decades later.
The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power is riding the original success the first trilogy laid. The excitement is there and will likely remain for years to come.
The Two Towers finds itself in the same vein as other middle entries in a trilogy as it serves as a sequel to a highly successful first part. The movie finds itself in the company of The Godfather Part 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, and Back to the Future Part II, to name a few.
While all three movies are just works of art, The Two Towers is my favorite in the trilogy. It is only my favorite by a few points as The Return of the King is right up there with it.
What made The Two Towers such a good movie? There are a few points that come to mind for me.
The Unique Storytelling of The Two Towers
The Fellowship of the Ring utilized a largely linear storyline as we mostly follow the journey of Frodo Baggins from the Shire to his eventual separation from the Fellowship.
The Two Towers picked up where the first movie ended with a flashback to Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog.
It then goes on to follow three separate storylines: Frodo and Sam’s approach to Mordor; Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli’s alliance with Rohan; and Merry and Pippin’s alliance with the Ents and eventual attack on Isengard.
The book’s separated the stories into a section largely centered on Rohan and Isengard along with another focused on Frodo and Sam. The movies employed this nonlinear storytelling and wove together three storylines into a linear timeline remarkably well.
This was a departure from The Fellowship of the Ring and an approach that would carry over into The Return of the King. As a preteen, I loved following the three storylines and each one had me invested throughout the film.
It was those three immersive storylines that gripped me slightly more than The Return of the King, but only by a fraction of a point.
The Two Towers in a Post-9/11 World
The Lord of the Rings trilogy came out at a pivotal moment in U.S. history. The Fellowship of the Ring came out just months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington, D.C.
The country needed an escape from a new reality the attacks ushered in on that day. The trilogy provided just that.
It not only offered a world to escape to, but one that would be relatable to Americans at the time.
The months and years that followed 9/11 saw a country where partisanship was suspended and Americans largely came together under a single label. Sure, there were some negative aspects and attitudes that developed during this time.
Still, Americans largely united and had an eye for tracking down the terrorists who enacted the heinous attacks on Sept. 11.
A unification of sorts to track down a greater evil, sound familiar?
The Lord of the Rings centered on a unification of the races of Middle Earth to combat a larger evil: the One Ring. Elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits all united to accomplish this task.
In The Two Towers, this point was further exemplified as Aragorn and company united with Rohan to defend their homes against the armies of Isengard. It also saw the uniting of Merry and Pippin with the Ents of Fangorn Forest to take down Isengard.
The concept of good vs. evil was on full display throughout the trilogy and The Two Towers, providing a banner to a beleaguered nation still reeling from terrorism.
The Two Towers also showcased some of the negative side effects of war as innocents suffered in Rohan and many innocent Ents died as Isengard burned Fangorn Forest to fuel its armies. This is a point that would become increasingly relevant as the U.S. was just months away from the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
While many may not like looking at entertainment through the lens of current events, it can help to understand the impact media can have on our lives.
The Two Towers and the Rise of Nerd Culture
While this point may not be entirely specific to The Two Towers, it still relates to the second film because it was part of a bigger picture.
The 2000s saw the rise of Nerd Culture unlike any other decade to date. Franchises and interests largely reserved for so-called nerds started to become mainstream.
It’s hard to believe now given how prevalent the Marvel Cinematic Universe is and the high popularity of video games. This was a time when these so-called “nerdy interests” started to enter the public square.
The onset of the decade and media at the time began this trend thanks to the Prequel Trilogy from Star Wars, Marvel movies such as Spider-Man and X-Men, and, of course, The Lord of the Rings.
The franchise helped this trend by crafting a gorgeous world that appealed to movie fans as well as fantasy lovers. The trilogy, The Two Towers in particular, made me fall in love with the cinematic experience.
The cinematography was gorgeous, the music was phenomenal, and the story was enthralling. It just so happened that the trilogy was a fantasy genre.
Creating media like this helps push Nerd Culture to a more mainstream audience. While The Lord of the Rings isn’t the only reason Nerd Culture is where it’s at today, it helped usher in the modern era thanks to its quality and appeal to a large audience.
The Lord of the Rings: A Trilogy for the Ages
The Two Towers will always hold a special place in my heart. I will always remember the opening scene of Gandalf fighting the Balrog and how much I was on the edge of my seat.
I will never forget the moment when Saruman and Grima go out on the balcony to reveal how large the armies of Isengard were ahead of their battle at Helm’s Deep, a truly remarkable battle sequence in its own right. I will always remember the Ents marching to Isengard after Treebeard realized the atrocities of Isengard.
The trilogy, as a whole, is truly a remarkable piece of storytelling and cinematography that has aged gracefully. It’s what made me fall in love with movies and showed me what the cinema could truly do.
Happy 20-year anniversary to my favorite movie in the trilogy. I look forward to returning next year to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of The Return of the King.
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Featured Image: New Line Cinema (via HBO Max)
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