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NESP Reviews


The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Theatrical Release DVD

Review by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir

The next installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is now out on DVD and it is a welcome event. The DVD for this thrilling movie is packed with extra features, including a 10 minute preview of the third installment of the trilogy; The Return of the King.

As is fairly common knowledge that Tolkien's Middle Earth has its roots strongly and solidly in the lore of the North. Some have criticized this view saying Tolkien was a Christian and that, therefore, the ideals that are present in his great work, must be Christian as well. This is an oversimplification that can be easily shown to be patently false. What one must understand is that Tolkien's work did not so much expound on the ideals of the Heithinn religion, but that of the great Northern Heroic tradition. But even despite this there is a good bit of Heithinn religion and ethics that shows through at every turn. If you have not seen the movie (or the first in the series), then get the DVD and see it before reading further. If you have seen it then read on as we talk about the Northern roots that appear in the Two Towers. Interspersed between the discussion of the Northern influences of this movie will also be discussion of a more esthetic nature.

The movie starts with the thrilling scene from the first movie where Gandalf confronts the fiery Balrog. However, this time when Gandalf falls, we follow him down as he does battle with the Balrog as they fall into the depths. This is some stirring footage!

The horse-lords of Rohan are undeniably based directly on the Northmen. Many of their names, their armor and weapons, their art, their clohing, their architecture; all looks as it if came directly from the North. Theodan's hall is very much the Norse hall, with its pillars, high-seat, benches and tables on either side of a fire pit. Later, when Theodan stands at the howe of his son we find the death and afterlife beliefs of the Northmen illustrated to near perfection. In a direct mirroring of Norse after-life belief, Gandalf says of Theodan's son, "His spirit will finds its way to the hall of your fathers."

Eowyn is the perfect illustration of the valkyrja when she answers Aragorn's question, "What are you afraid of?" She says, "A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire." Aragorn even calls her a "shield-maiden of Rohan," further cementing the comparison.

One of the most amazing parts of the film is the character of Gollum. This character is completely computer generated. I have seen a lot of characters that were computer generated and one thing that marked them all was that you were never able to quite look at them without saying to yourself, "yeh that is a computer generated character." Often you spent your time trying to see where it looked real or did not look real, instead of watching the character. This always took away from viewing the character on its own merits. Not so with Gollum. At first you may look at the character wondering how they were able to do it but it is not long before you completely forget that the character is computer generated and begin to immerse yourself into the character. Gollum is, at turns, both pitiful and disturbing; a testament to the film-makers and to Andy Serkis who did the motion-capture work and voice for Gollum.

A statue of Thorr makes an appearance in the movie when the people of Rohan enter Helm's deep. There we see a statue of a large, well-muscled man with a beard and carrying a hammer in one hand and a horn in the other. The statue is never identified by name but it seems a good bet, that it is a statue of Thorr.

At the beginning of the battle of Helm's Deep, reference is made to Aragorn's luck in the hope that it would see them through the battle. This is a reference to the tradition, which held that a leaders luck was a force unto itself, and that luck could be extended to those around him, and be the difference between victory and defeat.

Near the end of the battle of Helm's Deep, things have gotten desperate. As a last ditch effort, Aragorn urges the king to make one last stand and ride to meet the hoard that threatens to destroy them all, and in so doing, give the women and children time to escape through the caves in the mountains. When Aragorn suggests it, Theodan asks, "For death and glory?" Aragron's reply is that in the character of a true Heithinn leader, "For Rohan, for your people."

The film itself is as good, or better, than the first film in the trilogy and the battles scenes are truly awe-inspiring and may indeed be among the greatest battle scenes ever committed to film. When I first saw the film in the theatres, I thought it seemed a little disjointed because you had to follow the progress of three different groups of people. That is to be expected since this film must set things up for the big finale in the third film, but having watched it a second and third time now, it did not really feel as disjointed as I had originally thought. From reviews I have read, the extended version, which includes 40 more minutes of footage, is said to really help the film overcome that disjointed feeling. We will only have to wait 2 months to find out.

The special features DVD is packed with extra features.

* On the Set – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in depth program
* Return to Middle-earth in depth program
* The Long and Short of It, a short film directed by Sean Astin (The actor who portrays Samwise)
* The making of The Long and Short of It, a short documentary
* 8 featurettes on the people and places of Middle-earth
* A 10 minute behind the scenes preview of the Return of the King, the third film of the trilogy
* Theatrical Trailers and TV spots for the film
* Music Video by Emillana Torrini, Gollum's Song
* Preview of EA's Video Game, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
* A preview of the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

For $16 dollars for the two disk set, you cannot go wrong.

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