Oscar Vault Monday – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002 (dir. Peter Jackson)

The second film in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is also quiet possibly the least discussed film in the series. It’s actually my favorite of the three films; I thought so when I first saw it and I still think so today. I think it’s got the hardest job of the three films. It has to follow the build up of the first film, their journey now split into multiple storylines. It also sets up the masterful conclusion of the third film. I think Jackson did a fantastic job keeping the pace and interest going throughout the film. The film also received the least Academy Award nominations of the three films (The Fellowship of the Ring received 13 nominations, winning four; The Return of the King received 11 nominations, winning in every category it was nominated including Best Picture). The Two Towers received six nominations, winning two: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing (won), Best Art Direction, Best Editing, Best Visual Effects (won) and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Pianist and winner Chicago.

I must confess I haven’t seen these films all that often. I never really feel compelled to watch them. But when I do, I love them. And regardless of my desire, or lack thereof, to watch them, I cannot deny their mastery. Not only are the amazing technical achievements, they are also some of the greatest ensembles ever compiled. That being said I decided there was no way I could talk about all of the characters/performances in the film. Instead I have picked a handful of my favorites. I apologize ahead of time for not mentioning any wizards or dwarves and only one elf.

Viggo Mortensen is one of my favorite contemporary actors. He is always good. I remember really loving him in G.I. Jane when that film first came out. I will admit I didn’t know what his name was until after the Lord of the Rings series. Then I re-watched G.I. Jane and a light bulb went off. He’s come into his own really since his “breakout” as Aragorn; he was nominated for Best Actor for 2007’s Eastern Promises. Though there is no real star in the trilogy, his role is one of the most prominent. There is so much passion in his performance throughout the series, but I think it’s his turn in this second film that I like the best. He’s conflicted and driven, not to mention his beautiful damn face.

I remember at the time this film came out there was a big push for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Andy Serkis. His turn as Sméagol/Gollum is one of the most compelling performances I’ve ever seen. The debate was over the motion capture aspect of the performance. How much was Serkis and how much was the computer? It’s a debate I’m sure we will be seeing more and more in the next few years.

I also really loved Miranda Otto as Éowyn, warrior princess of Rohan. While her relationship adds some sort of clichéd conflicted romance for Aragorn, it is her strength and her love for her father that make he such a complex character. She is no damsel in distress, and proves that point in spades in the next film.

Speaking of Rohan, I have to talk about Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue, who is just so incredibly creepy. Dourif is such a great character actor, from his recent role on Deadwood to his Oscar-nominated performance as Billy in 1975’s Best Picture winner One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

As far as I’m concerned Liv Tyler is a goddess. She is just so beautiful. I also think she is a fine actress and when she’s got a great part, she is capable of fantastic work. Such is the case with her turn as Elven princess Arwen. Like Éowyn, she is a warrior who is also full of great love and warmth. A romantic to the core, my favorite scenes throughout the series are the ones between Tyler’s Arwen and Mortensen’s Aragorn. The two have such sizzling chemistry and look damn fine together.

Ah, Faramir, how I love Faramir. As much as I loved Sean Bean as Boromir (who, spoiler alert, dies in the first film and appears in flashbacks in this film), it is David Wenham’s portrayal of his brother Faramir that I love best. I can see how it could be kind of hard to relate to the character in this film, especially the theatrical version (he’s give a lot more screen time in the extended edition). I think what I love so much about his character is the things that make him hard to relate to. What’s so great about Wenham’s performance is that he’s give this character whose actions make him unlikable, but in his eyes you see the pain and you see the conflict. It’s a heartbreaking performance.

I have to briefly mention Karl Urban as Éomer just because Urban is such a fantastic chameleon. He has been in so many films wherein he disappears so deeply into the role that if you didn’t know they were all him you wouldn’t know they were him. I love actors who can do that.

I suppose it would be a cardinal sin to not mention hobbits in a post about The Lord of the Rings. Sean Aston as Sam remains a rock for Elijah Wood’s Frodo, who is slowly descending into madness. I will say, I think it was a great shame that Astin got snubbed for his turn in the third film, which I thought was stellar.

The last performances I wanted to talk about were Billy Boyd as Pippin and Dominic Monaghan as Merry, who really get to shine in this second film. In the first film they are kind of used as comic relief, but in this film they really come into their own and get their own purpose and journey. Monaghan especially gives a stand-out performance.

Lastly, I wanted to mention Andrew Lesnie’s exquisite cinematography. Lesnie’s only Oscar nomination for his work on the trilogy came with the first film (he won). It’s a shame his work on the latter two films got snubbed. I especially like the scenes in Rohan. It’s just too gorgeous.

 

Oh and I almost forgot about “Gollum’s Song” which was written by Fran Walsh and sung by Emilíana Torrini. The song was originally planned to be sung by Björk (her name appeared in the credits of the theatrical version), but had to decline due to her pregnancy. Torrini’s name was added to the DVD credits. It is also the only song from the trilogy not to be nominated for an Oscar (Enya’s “May It Be” was nominated from the first film and Annie Lennox’s “Into The West” from the third film won the award). It also happens to my favorite of the three songs. Just give it a listen; it rules them all.

About cinemafanatic

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on August 15, 2011, in Oscar Vault Monday and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I am sorry I didn’t make a post before. This second film of the trilogy is also my favorite. I think the battle scene at the fortress is a wonderful turn on Medieval warfare. They way the subplots are woven together is amazing. And honestly who doesn’t love talking trees who get pissed off. I agree with your about Foramir – his father’s madness which denies this younger son his love always comparing him to the elder is terrible and a great example of how favortism in parenting is so dangerous. And of course I loved Sean Bean as Boramir and his death at the end of the first film was terrible but necessary to show how absolutely dangerous the Ring is even to someone who is inherently good. And Astin as Sam is the hero of the whole thing – he’s a doer more than a thinker and in the end he saves the day.

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