The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a 2002 epic fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson, based on the second volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The film is the second instalment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and was produced by Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh and Jackson, and written by Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair and Jackson. The film 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. It was preceded by The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) and followed by The Return of the King (2003).

The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Jackson
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onThe Two Towers
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyAndrew Lesnie
Edited by
Distributed byNew Line Cinema[1]
Release date
  • 5 December 2002 (2002-12-05) (New York City)
  • 18 December 2002 (2002-12-18) (United States)
Running time
179 minutes[2]
225 minutes (extended)[3]
Budget$94 million[8]
Box office$926 million[8]

Continuing the plot of The Fellowship of the Ring, the film 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 owner. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf, before fighting at the Battle of Helm's Deep. Merry and Pippin escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.

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. Released on 18 December 2002, the film was highly acclaimed by critics and fans alike, who considered it to be a landmark in filmmaking and an achievement in the fantasy film genre. It has grossed over $926 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of 2002 and the 4th highest-grossing film of all time at the time of its release.[9]

The Two Towers is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential fantasy films ever made. The film won many awards, including being nominated for six Oscars at the 75th Academy Awards ceremony, of which it won two, for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.


Awakening from a dream of Gandalf the Grey battling the Balrog, Frodo Baggins and his friend Samwise Gamgee find themselves lost in the Emyn Muil near Mordor and soon become aware that they are being stalked by Gollum, the former owner of the One Ring. After capturing him, a sympathetic Frodo decides to use Gollum as a guide to Mordor, despite Sam's objections.

Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli pursue the Uruk-hai to save their companions Merry and Pippin. The Uruk-hai are ambushed by a group of Rohirrim, while the two Hobbits escape into Fangorn Forest and encounter Treebeard, an Ent. Aragorn's group later meets the Rohirrim and their leader Éomer, who reveals that they have been exiled by their king Théoden who is being manipulated by Saruman and his servant Gríma Wormtongue into turning a blind eye to Saruman's forces running rampant in Rohan. While searching for the Hobbits in Fangorn, Aragorn's group encounters Gandalf, who, after succumbing to his injuries while killing the Balrog in Moria, has been resurrected as Gandalf the White to help save Middle-earth.

Aragorn's group travels to Rohan's capital city Edoras, where Gandalf releases Théoden from Saruman's influence and Wormtongue is banished. After learning of Saruman's plans to wipe out Rohan with his Uruk-hai army, Théoden decides to evacuate his citizens to Helm's Deep, an ancient fortress that has provided refuge to Rohan's people in times past, while Gandalf departs to acquire the aid of the Éomer's army. Aragorn establishes a friendship with Théoden's niece, Éowyn, who quickly becomes infatuated with him. When the refugees comes under attack by Warg-riding Orcs, Aragorn falls off a cliff and is presumed dead. However, he is awoken by his horse Brego and rides to Helm's Deep. The defenders are joined by a detachment of Elves from Lothlórien, the Uruk-hai army arrives at Helm's Deep that night and a night-long battle ensues. The Uruk-hai breach the outer wall using gunpowder-like explosives and force the remaining defenders to retreat into the inner castle.

Merry and Pippin, having convinced Treebeard that they were allies, are brought to an Ent Council in Fangorn where the Ents decide not to assist in the war. Pippin then tells Treebeard to take them in the direction of Isengard, where they witness the devastation caused to the forest by Saruman's war efforts. An enraged Treebeard summons the Ents and they storm Isengard, drowning the orcs by breaking their river dam and stranding Saruman in Orthanc.

At Helm's Deep, Aragorn convinces a despairing Théoden to ride out and meet the Uruks in one last charge. Gandalf and Éomer's horsemen arrive at sunrise, turning the tide of the battle. The Uruk-hai flee into Fangorn forest, which has moved closer to the battle at the urging of Treebeard, where they are destroyed. Gandalf warns that Sauron's retaliation will be terrible and swift.

Meanwhile, Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes to the Black Gate but convinces them to Mordor by an alternative route. Frodo and Sam are captured by the Rangers of Ithilien led by Faramir, brother of the late Boromir. Frodo helps Faramir catch Gollum to save him from being killed and Faramir learns of the One Ring and takes his captives with him to Gondor to win his father's respect. While passing through the besieged Gondorian city of Osgiliath, Sam reveals that Boromir was driven mad by the Ring and tried to take it. An attacking Nazgûl nearly captures Frodo, who momentarily attacks Sam before coming to his senses, forcing Sam to remind him that they are fighting for the good still left in Middle-earth. Faramir is impressed by Frodo and releases them along with Gollum. While leading the hobbits once more, Gollum decides to take revenge on Frodo and reclaim the ring by leading the group to "Her" upon arriving at Cirith Ungol.


Like the other films in the series, The Two Towers has an ensemble cast,[11] and the cast and their respective characters include:

The following appear only in the Extended Edition

In the Battle of Helm's Deep, Peter Jackson has a cameo appearance as one of the men on top of the gate, throwing a spear at the attacking Uruk-hai. His children and Elijah Wood's sister cameo as young refugees in the caves behind the Hornburg, and Alan Lee and Dan Hennah also cameo as soldiers preparing for the battle. The son of a producer's friend, Hamish Duncan, appears as a reluctant young Rohirrim warrior. Daniel Falconer has a cameo as an Elvish archer at the battle.[13]

Comparison to the source material

The screenwriters did not originally script The Two Towers as its own film: instead, parts of it were the conclusion to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of two planned films under Miramax.[14] However, as the two films became a trilogy under New Line, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens shuffled their scripts. The Two Towers was the most difficult of the Rings films to make, having neither a clear beginning nor end to focus the script.[15] Nonetheless, they had a clear decision with making the Battle of Helm's Deep the climax, a decision affecting the whole story's moods and style.

The most notable difference between the book and the film is the structure. Tolkien's The Two Towers is split into two parts; one follows the war in Rohan, while the other focuses on the journey of Frodo and Sam. The film omits the book's opening, Boromir's death, which was used as a linear climax at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. Also, the film climaxes with the Battle of Helm's Deep, while the book ends with the Fellowship going to Isengard and Frodo's confrontation with Shelob, scenes which were left for the film adaptation of The Return of the King. This was done partly to fit more closely the timeline indicated by the book.

One notable change in plotting is that in the film Théoden is possessed by Saruman, whereas in the book he is simply depressed and deluded by Wormtongue. Afterwards, in the film, Théoden is still unsure of what to do, and flees to Helm's Deep. In the book he rides out to war, only ending up besieged when he considers helping Erkenbrand. Erkenbrand does not exist in the films: his character is combined with Éomer as the Rohirrim general who arrives with Gandalf at the film's end. Éomer himself is present during the entire battle in the book.

On the way to Helm's Deep, the refugees from Edoras are attacked by Wargs. The scene is possibly inspired by one in the book cut from The Fellowship of the Ring where it is the Fellowship who battle them. Here, a new subplot is created where Aragorn falls over a cliff, and is assumed to be dead; Jackson added it to create tension.[16] This scene also resonates with a new subplot regarding Arwen, where she decides to leave Middle-earth after losing hope in the long-term possibilities of her love. In the book, Arwen's role is primarily recorded in the Appendices, and she is never depicted as considering such an act.

A larger change was originally planned: Arwen and Elrond would visit Galadriel, and Arwen would accompany an army of Elves to Helm's Deep to fight alongside Aragorn. During shooting, the script changed, both from writers coming up with better ideas to portray the romance between Aragorn and Arwen, as well as poor fan reaction.[15][17] The new scene of Arwen leaving for the West was created, and the conversation scene remains, edited to be a flashback to a conversation between them in Rivendell, on the evening before the Fellowship's departure.[15] A conversation between Elrond and Galadriel in Lothlórien was edited to be a telepathic one.[18] Nonetheless, one major change (already filmed) remained that could not be reversed: the Elven warriors fighting at Helm's Deep, although Jackson and Boyens found this romantic and stirring and a reference to how, in the Appendices of The Return of the King, Galadriel and the Elves of Lothlórien, and Thranduil of Mirkwood were first attacked by an army out of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood, and then later counter-attacked and assaulted the fortress itself.[15]

Another change is the fact Treebeard does not immediately decide to go to war. This adds to the tension, and Boyens describes it as making Merry and Pippin "more than luggage".[16] Here, the Hobbits show Treebeard what Saruman has done to the forest, prompting his decision to act. Another structural change is that the Hobbits meet Gandalf the White early on, explaining why the Hobbits do not react to his return when they meet him again following Isengard's destruction. This was explained in the book by Gandalf arriving at Isengard in the middle of the night to talk to Treebeard.

The filmmakers' decision to leave Shelob for the third film meant that Faramir had to become an obstacle for Frodo and Sam.[15] In the book, Faramir (like Aragorn) quickly recognises the Ring as a danger and a temptation, and does not hesitate long before letting Frodo and Sam go. In the film, Faramir first decides that the Ring shall go to Gondor and his father Denethor, as a way to prove his worth. In the film, Faramir takes Frodo, Sam and the Ring to the Battle of Osgiliath—they do not go there in the book. Jackson winks to readers with Sam's line, "By all rights we shouldn't even be here, but we are." After seeing how strongly the Ring affects Frodo during the Nazgûl attack, Faramir changes his mind and lets them go. These changes reshape the book's contrast between Faramir and Boromir, who in The Fellowship of the Ring attempted to take the Ring for himself. On the other hand, (which can be seen only in the film's extended version), it is actually their father who wants the Ring and urges Boromir to get it, while Faramir only wants to prove himself to his father. Boyens contends these plot changes were needed to keep the Ring menacing. Wenham commented on the DVD documentaries that he had not read the book prior to reading the script, so the film's version of Faramir was the Faramir he knew. When he later read the book and noticed the major difference, he approached the writers about it, and they explained to him that if he did say "I wouldn't pick that thing up even if it lay by the wayside", it would basically strip the One Ring of all corruptive power.[15]

The meaning of the title itself, 'The Two Towers', was changed. While Tolkien considered several possible sets of towers[19] he eventually created a final cover illustration[20] and wrote a note included at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring which identified them as Minas Morgul and Orthanc.[21] Jackson's film names them as Orthanc and Barad-dûr, symbolic of an evil alliance out to destroy Men that forms the film's plot point. The film depicted Saruman openly presenting himself outright as Sauron's servant, whereas this association was not explicitly stated in the novel (and indeed analysis by Gandalf and Aragorn in the chapter "The White Rider" stated that there was a rivalry instead, as Saruman was afraid of the prospect of being at war with Sauron, if Rohan and Gondor fell).


Production design

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.[22]

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 wide was used for forced perspective shots,[23] as well as the major explosion sequence.[22]

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 characters, which was significant because it did not require the redundancy of opening to reload. This design was the realization of a 15th-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.[24]

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.[23] 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[22]) and Osgiliath, a ruined city reflecting London during the Blitz or Berlin in 1945.[25] The set on a backlot was based around a bridge and reused some of Moria.[23]

Principal photography

The Two Towers shared principal photography with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King. The trilogy was filmed between 11 October 1999 and 22 December 2000. The scenes which take place in Rohan were shot earlier in the production, during which time Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies' scale double Brett Beattie sustained many injuries. Mortensen broke two toes when he kicked an Orc helmet while filming the scene in which he, Legolas, and Gimli find the remains of the Uruk-hai and believing Merry and Pippin to be dead (a shot which is included in the film). Furthermore, during filming Bloom fell off his horse and cracked three ribs, and Beattie dislocated his knee. These injuries led to the actors suffering two days of pain during the running sequence in the first act of the film, leading Jackson to jokingly refer to them as "The Walking Wounded."[25]

The filming of the Battle of Helms Deep took approximately three months, with most of the nighttime shots handled by John Mahaffie. Some injuries were sustained during the filming of the sequence, including Mortensen chipping his tooth, and Bernard Hill's ear getting slashed.[25] The sequence also features 500 extras, who insulted each other in the Māori,[26] and improvised scenes such as the Uruk-hai stamping their spears before the beginning of the battle.[25] However, there was alleged annoyance among the film's crew for the strength of the gates, which were claimed to be too reinforced during the Battering Ram scene.[23] Mortensen greatly respected the stunt team, and head butted them often as a sign of that respect.[26]

Wood and Astin were joined by Serkis on 13 April 2000.[27]

Special effects

For The Two Towers, Weta Digital doubled their staff[28] of 260.[29] In total, they would produce 73 minutes of digital effects with 799 shots.[28] The film would feature their first challenge in creating a battle scene, as well as creating two digital characters who needed to act rather than be a set piece, unlike the previous film's Cave Troll and Balrog.[24]


Weta began animating Gollum in late 1998 to convince New Line they could achieve the effect. Andy Serkis "played" Gollum by providing his voice and movements on set, as well as performing within the motion capture suit later on. His scenes were filmed twice, with and without him. Originally, Gollum was set to solely be a CG character, but Jackson was so impressed by Serkis' audition tape that they used him on set as well.

Gollum's CG model was also redesigned during 2001 when Serkis was cast as Sméagol, Gollum's former self, so as to give the impression Andy Serkis as Sméagol transforms into the CG Gollum. The original model can still be glimpsed briefly in the first film. Over Christmas 2001, the crew proceeded to reanimate all the previous shots accordingly within two months. Another problem was that the crew realized that the cast performed better in the takes which physically included Serkis. In the end, the CG Gollum was rotoscoped and animated on top of these scenes.

Serkis' motion capture was generally used to animate Gollum's body, except for some difficult shots such as him crawling upside down. Gollum's face was animated manually, often using recordings of Serkis as a guide. Gino Acevedo supervised realistic skin tones, which took four hours per frame to render.[30]

While the novel alludes to a division within his mind, the film depicts him as having a split personality. The two personas—the childlike Sméagol and the evil Gollum—are established during a scene in which they argue over remaining loyal to Frodo. The two personalities talk to each other, as established by contrasting camera angles and by Serkis altering his voice and physicality for each persona.


Treebeard took between 28 and 48 hours per frame to render.[28] For scenes where he interacts with Merry and Pippin, a 14-foot-tall puppet was built on a wheel. Weta took urethane moulds of tree bark and applied them to the sculpt of Treebeard to create his wooden skin. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd sat on bicycle seats concealed into Treebeard's hands to avoid discomfort and were left alone on set sitting in the puppet's hands during breaks. The puppet was shot against bluescreen.[24]


The musical score for The Two Towers was composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Howard Shore, who also composed the music for the other two films in the series. While the scores for its predecessor and sequel won the Academy Award for Best Score, the soundtrack for The Two Towers was not nominated. Initially there was confusion over the score's eligibility due to a new rule applying to sequels, but the Academy did declare it eligible.[31]

The score features The London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Voices, The London Oratory School Schola and several vocal and instrumental soloists, including soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, and Irish fiddler and violinist Dermot Crehan, who also performed on the Hardanger fiddle, which is used in this film in conjunction with the various Rohan themes.

The funeral song Éowyn sings during her cousin Théodred's entombment in the extended edition is styled to be a traditional song of the Rohirrim, and has lyrics in their language, Rohirric (represented by Old English). The song does not appear in the book, and the tune is a variation upon a theme of the rímur Icelandic folk tradition; it can be heard as part of track 7 in the 1999 recording of a musical version of the Edda by Sequentia.[32]

The soundtrack was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. The soundtrack has a picture of Peter Jackson (barefoot), the composer, and two producers crossing Abbey Road, referencing The Beatles' album of the same name.


Home media


The Two Towers was released on VHS and DVD in 26 August 2003 in the United States. The date was originally intended to be a simultaneous worldwide release, but due to a bank holiday weekend in the United Kingdom, some British stores began selling DVDs as much as four days earlier, much to the ire of the film's UK distributor, which had threatened to withhold advance supplies of subsequent DVD releases.[33]

As with The Fellowship of the Ring, an extended edition of The Two Towers was released on VHS and DVD in 18 November 2003 with 45 minutes of new material, added special effects and music, plus 11 minutes of fan-club credits. The runtime expanded to 223 minutes.[34][35] The 4-disc DVD set included four commentaries along with hours of supplementary material.

In August 2006, a limited edition of The Two Towers was released on DVD. The set included both the film's theatrical and extended editions on a double-sided disc along with all-new bonus material.

Blu-ray edition

The theatrical Blu-ray version of The Lord of the Rings was released in the United States in April 2010.[36] The individual Blu-ray disc of The Two Towers was released in September 2010 with the same special features as the complete trilogy release, except there was no digital copy.[37]

The extended editions for Blu-ray were released in the US and Canada in June 2011.[38] This version has a runtime of 235 minutes.[34]


Box office

The Two Towers opened in theatres on 18 December 2002. It made $64.2 million in its opening weekend in the US and Canada. The movie went on to gross $342.5 million in North America and $583.5 million internationally for a worldwide total of $926 million against a budget of $94 million.[8] It was the highest-grossing film of 2002 worldwide.[39] Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 57 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run.[40]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 95% approval rating based on 251 reviews, with an average rating of 8.49/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "The Two Towers balances spectacular action with emotional storytelling, leaving audiences both wholly satisfied and eager for the final chapter."[41] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 87 out of 100 based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[42] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[43]

The Battle of Helm's Deep has been named as one of the greatest screen battles of all time,[44] while Gollum was named as the third favourite computer-generated film character by Entertainment Weekly in 2007.[45] Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars stating, "It is not faithful to the spirit of Tolkien and misplaces much of the charm and whimsy of the books, but it stands on its own as a visionary thriller".[46]


American Film Institute Recognition


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