In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?)

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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 2:22 am

This was originally a footnote to a post I made in the BOFA thread, but it got a little out of hand and I figured it was worth making a thread of its own. Smile

Original post:

Mrs Figg wrote:I suppose anyone who hasnt read the book and just wants an entertaining popcorn movie which is vaguely like LOTR will be ok with everything onscreen. and thats fair enough I guess.  Wink 

It's interesting to look at the diverging consensuses of the book-primary fans and the movie-primary fans.  I don't mean the purist-liberal divide, but the split within the part of the fandom that likes the movies between those who remain prefer the book and (generally) remain hung-up on how similar the films are, and those who prefer the movie or just haven't read the book and thus don't care about faithfulness at all.  There were already differences in the LOTR era -- the book-primary fans almost always name FOTR the best of the trilogy, while the film-primary fans have more disagreement but generally prefer ROTK.*  With The Hobbit so far, a lot of book-primary fans (those who care about faithfulness but thought PJ was faithful enough with LOTR) seem to prefer AUJ because it is closer in tone to the book, at least in parts, and lingers on certain sequences in the book, like the party.  The film-primary fans seem to prefer DOS because it is closer to LOTR, and because it is faster-paced and has more action.

*Interestingly, very few people from either group go to bat for TTT.  I think that for the book-primary fans this is because TTT has many of the most infamous changes, such as Faramir, and possibly because the drama-action balance is tipped further towards action than in either of the other two films.  I'm not entirely sure why the film-primary fans seem to rank TTT lowly, though.  The most common reason I've seen given is that, because it's the middle movie, it doesn't have a natural beginning or ending.  However, I've always struggled to understand why people say this beyond just quoting what PJ and the coven said in the documentaries.  For my money, the prologue to TTT is the best in the trilogy, and while the beginning is a bit rough, all of the films are slow in the first act.

As a movie fan (setting the books aside for the moment), I like the scale and the action in TTT and ROTK which is why I tend to go back and forth between those two when trying to pick my favorite.  I'm never able to settle on one for too long, but I do think that Helm's Deep is the best battle in the trilogy.  I also don't care for how ROTK marginalizes many of its characters in the second half.  Post-Pelennor, everyone but the members of the Fellowship becomes a bit player (Faramir and Eowyn in the EE being the only exception), and even then, the people who aren't Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, and Sam are shunted off to the side.  When it comes to the actual ending, TTT most definitely has one, as the main plot is structured around Helm's Deep and wraps up naturally with that, and the Frodo/Sam/Gollum plot comes to a conclusion with the Gollum personality's victory in his internal battle.  (Incidentally, this makes Smeagol/Gollum a much less interesting character to me in ROTK.)  I think the ending drags on a bit too long, but the same criticism can be made of ROTK (and regularly is).

As for the question of changes, all I can say is that ROTK is the Jackson-iest of the trilogy.  Faramir being tempted by the Ring pales next to Frodo sending Sam home, Legolas surfing down stairs looks downright plausible compared to his killing the mumak, and I can't think of anything in TTT even remotely close to the absurdity of the Paths of the Dead's cocoa puff skulls.  Anyway, this footnote has become significantly longer than the post it was appended to, but I was thinking about this earlier while rewatching some of the films and wanted to flesh out some of my old thoughts about TTT and why I feel it is under-appreciated.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 2:51 am

What do you mean you have been watching bits of the films- but not my edits!!!  Extremely Crabbit You seek to wound young Eldo, you seek to wound  Sad 


On the subject of TT I think its the worst of the three films as film, its too slow and over long for all the wrong reasons, its missing half the book, it falsely leaves TT ending on an upbeat note on both storyline instead of on a note of peril or jeopardy for someone or something to make you want to see more, and it there is no resolution on the main villain of the film, Saruman. And the Frodo/Sam ending is utterly false emotion and what happens on screen with the Nazgul makes utterly no sense whatsoever.

Having said all that TT purist edits is my favourite of the three by far.

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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 3:14 am

Them moving eight chapters into ROTK used to annoy me, but honestly, PJ never tried (or claimed) to be adapting each volume into a film.  He just made a three-part adaptation of the whole of LOTR and borrowed the titles that were already there.  I think this was the right choice, actually, since the three volumes were an artificial division and the six books were never intended to stand on their own.  I know some people who used to complain that PJ moved the first chapter of TTT to the end of FOTR, but since he knew his films would be released separately, I'm glad he made each one its own thing, with a complete story and something of its own identity within the larger whole.

Also, over the course of the past several years, I have for a number of reasons put more and more emphasis on how well the films work on their own merits, based on what they were trying to accomplish, rather than how they measure up to the books.  With that in mind, PJ wanted TTT's story to be about the Battle of Helm's Deep.  Obviously, this battle in the books was not a huge deal (Tolkien in fact said he'd rather it be cut in order to make time available for a proper treatment of the Ents), but that was never going to happen in the sort of films PJ was making, so it's like complaining about Tom Bombadil to me (though I've complained about it in the past).  The lack of resolution of Saruman doesn't really bother me because he's a trilogy-spanning villain, having been the principle antagonist of FOTR as well.  That said, were I making the films myself, I would have "The Road to Isengard" in TTT.  And leaving Saruman out of ROTK-theatrical really rustled my jimmies.

I think I know what you mean by saying that the Frodo and Sam story ended with false emotion, but I'm not entirely sure I agree.  I've never been as fond of Sam's speech as some people I know, but I do think it captures what the character is about (in the films at least).  I won't even try to make excuses for the Nazgul scene, as it's an incredibly egregious (if often overlooked) misstep both as an adaptation and within the film's own logic.  It undermines any reason Faramir might have for letting Frodo go since it demosntrates that movie!Frodo is completely incompetent as Ringbearer.  If anything, the events in Osgiliath should have quieted Faramir's doubts that sending the Ring to his father was a mistake.  However, I think there are worse missteps in ROTK (Gollum's fake death stands out as one example of emotional hollowness and just plain nonsensicality), so this doesn't completely sink TTT for me.

And I'll admit that a big part of my love for TTT is because the Rohan setting is probably my favorite in either the books or the film, and the Rohan theme is my favorite leitmotif.  I do also love Gondor (that used to be my favorite setting), and Book III and Book V are rivals for my affections in print form, but in the movies I have to put Rohan ahead.  Gondor being neutered and reduced to a single city-state sort of ends my internal discussion.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 3:28 am

There is only so much I can say regards TT because my view is coloured by my edit, which I have now seen far more often than I have PJ's cut.

But for me the middle film in a trilogy like this should end on a downer, with the good guys apparently facing insurmountable odds and the bad guys poised for victory.

This is exactly what leaving the TT ending on Gandalf going off to the desperate defence of Minas Tirith and taking Pippin away from Merry does, and what having Frodo captured by the orcs does on the other line.

Everything is left in a state of peril and uncertainty.

There is no sense of peril at the end of PJ's TT's. Just some foreboding foreshadowing from Gollum and Gandalf respectively.

And I say the emotion at the end of TT is hollow becuase it means nothing- it effects nothing, neither the ongoing actions of the characters, or the situation they are in. Its cheap faux Tolkien, they needed a big emotional beat purely because they wrote themselves into a corner with no big event of moment to end the Frodo story on.

But there is no resonance from that speech that matters, and it accomplishes nothing and resolves nothing.
The ending of a film should in some fashion resolve the emotional journey of the characters if its an emotional resolution you aim for, you cant just pluck one out the air at the end just because you need one.

I am particularly keen on you seeing my edits of TT, and what you think of having a film that spans the same story ground as the book, rather than stopping in the middle, and if you will still consider PJ's place to end a good one afterwards.

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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 3:40 am

Honestly I've criticized TTT's drawn out ending before (I think it's ironic that ROTK gets all the shit for having "too many endings" when it's wrapping up an entire trilogy's worth of plot threads and TTT is just meandering towards nothing). I don't really disagree with most of your criticisms of the ending. However, (1) I've been trying to be more positive about the films, and (2) I think that the second half of TTT is significantly better than the second half of ROTK due to the character marginalization that occurs in the latter, even if TTT loses its way in the home stretch.

Sorry for the short post, but I'm too tired to write much more at the moment.
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Post by bungobaggins on Wed May 07, 2014 4:42 am

Eldorion wrote:the book-primary fans almost always name FOTR the best of the trilogy

Guilty as charged. Wink

You're actually making some good points about TTT movie. And I feel that you're right about ROTK being more over-the-top Jackson than TTT. It has been years since I have watched any of the LOTR movies from beginning to end. I might have to go back and reevaluate my rankings. Shrugging

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Post by Ringdrotten on Wed May 07, 2014 12:44 pm

You know, it's been years since I watched TT. If I want a LotR "fix" I usually go for FotR. When I first watched TT I was 10 ( Shocked ), and at that time it was my favourite because of Helm's Deep. As I grew older and "re-discovered" the films, FotR became my favourite, with RotK a close second. Now I haven't seen TT in ages, maybe things have changed. I'll have to watch it again, and soon Nod As to RotK's ending, I like how it "drags" out. I wish it had been longer, with a visit to Rivendell, some scenes from many partings. Like you say, Eldo, it's supposed to wrap up a ten-hour trilogy, what do people expect.

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Post by bungobaggins on Wed May 07, 2014 4:25 pm

Eldo mentioned the prologue to TTT and it is pretty good film making, unlike the borelogue that was the opening of DOS.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 4:45 pm

I hated that opening for a few reasons.

Firstly how did Gandalf catch up to the Balrog?
Secondly when did he learn to fly?
Thirdly when did he become immune to physical attacks and can be batted and bounced around all over the place?
Fourthly its over long and just repeats the same thing in a variety of ways over and over- they fall, they hit the sides a bit, they hack, repeat.
And lastly PJ was much praised and lauded for the bravery of starting TT off with no recap- this is a fucking recap!!!  Banghead 

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Post by bungobaggins on Wed May 07, 2014 5:03 pm

I remember it being exciting in the cinema. Shrugging

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 5:10 pm

Yes but you and Eldo and Ringdrotten were probably about 4 at the time and still thought the teletubbies were exciting.  Mad 

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Post by Mrs Figg on Wed May 07, 2014 6:26 pm

I like TTT. The introduction to Rohan, the music score for Rohan is probably what I think of when I think of LOTR. I like the Ents, the return of Gandalf, Helms Deep Gandalf and Eomer charging down the mountainside.   I love you  love it. I think TTT is the most medieval feeling of the trilogy. Its mainly concerned with men and women rather than Elves or Hobbits, maybe thats why people dont like it as much.
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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 7:33 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:I hated that opening for a few reasons.

...

No offense, Petty, but I am really, really grateful that I'm able to watch movies without getting super hung-up on whether it's strictly plausible. I mean, I've done my fair share of nit-picking the trilogy, but I'd never like an action movie again if "this would have killed him in real life!" was able to detract from my enjoyment of a film. Fuck you, Die Hard!

And lastly PJ was much praised and lauded for the bravery of starting TT off with no recap- this is a fucking recap!!!  Banghead 

It's a flashback to a single scene. New Line was pushing for a montage-type recap of the entire first movie.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 7:36 pm

I am really, really grateful that I'm able to watch movies without getting super hung-up on whether it's strictly plausible.- El;do

It depends on the film- Who is full of implausible things happening every single episode, sometimes several times in an episode- and thats fine, its supposed to be like that and always has been.

Flying Gandalf's are not, and never have been for me a feature of LotR's.
Its just so out of place and awkward.

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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 7:38 pm

bungobaggins wrote:Eldo mentioned the prologue to TTT and it is pretty good film making, unlike the borelogue that was the opening of DOS.

The prologue to TTT is a great action set-piece, has some awe-inspiring imagery (that shot of them falling towards the lake after the chasm opens up I love you), and serves a very important role in the film. The last one is probably the biggest difference between it and DOS. Think about it from the perspective of someone who's new to the story. It achieves that James Bond-esque effect of thrusting you back into the story through an action scene, with the added benefit of connecting seamlessly to one of the most memorable and emotional scenes from the first film. The prologue reminds them of Gandalf, and lays the groundwork for his return later in the film, making it seem less like a cheap cop-out. And ending the prologue with Frodo waking up from a dream provides a much-needed connection between the scattered members of the Fellowship, reinforcing their connection and the significance that they hold each other in.
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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 7:39 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:Flying Gandalf's are not, and never have been for me a feature of LotR's.
Its just so out of place and awkward.

I wasn't going to bring this up, but since you've mentioned it twice now, when does Gandalf fly in this scene?
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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 7:43 pm

bungobaggins wrote:Guilty as charged. Wink

You're actually making some good points about TTT movie. And I feel that you're right about ROTK being more over-the-top Jackson than TTT. It has been years since I have watched any of the LOTR movies from beginning to end. I might have to go back and reevaluate my rankings. Shrugging

Haha, well, I certainly can't complain about people liking FOTR. It's definitely the closest to the book, and it's also the most restrained and least Jacksony of the films. Interestingly, I've met a number of people on non-Tolkien forums who put FOTR above the rest of the trilogy for this reason, even though many of them have never read and don't give a shit about the book. I can definitely understand this. However, I like war movies and I also like the scope and scale of LOTR, something which is quite rare in current films, despite the large number of would-be "epics" that have cropped up over the past 10-15 years. I love FOTR too, but TTT and ROTK have too many great, epic moments which elevate them for me. That said, they also have a lot of stupid moments, which is why Amon Hen is still one of my favorite action sequences in the trilogy despite paling in size next to the sequels.
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 7:45 pm

The prologue reminds them of Gandalf, and lays the groundwork for his return later in the film, making it seem less like a cheap cop-out.- Eldo

I thought it had the opposite effect shouting 'hey look remember Gandalf? Here's a reminder and a huge hint that he is not dead but coming back later on in the film!"

It ruins the entire coming back bit before the films even started.


when does Gandalf fly in this scene?- Eldo


Right at the start when he is catching up with the Balrog with his sword pointed out in front of himself (he is catching the Balrog up so he must be moving under his own power so he must be flying) and again when the Balrog flips him up and and Gandalf goes spinning off backward and the side and then uses his super flying power again to fall quicker, grab the Balrog by one horn and swing round and back onto the Balrog- its like watching someone play Shadow of Colossus. And is no less preposterous than any of Legolas' stunts.

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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 7:45 pm

Ringdrotten wrote:You know, it's been years since I watched TT. If I want a LotR "fix" I usually go for FotR. When I first watched TT I was 10 ( Shocked), and at that time it was my favourite because of Helm's Deep. As I grew older and "re-discovered" the films, FotR became my favourite, with RotK a close second. Now I haven't seen TT in ages, maybe things have changed. I'll have to watch it again, and soon Nod

If this thread convinces anyone to watch TTT again and give it another shot, then it will have served its purpose. Very Happy (Though I recall that Prisoner of Azkaban did not fare very well in the second chance you gave it. Razz)

As to RotK's ending, I like how it "drags" out. I wish it had been longer, with a visit to Rivendell, some scenes from many partings. Like you say, Eldo, it's supposed to wrap up a ten-hour trilogy, what do people expect.

I really don't get why so many people who like the trilogy will still speak so apologetically about the ending of ROTK. It feels like a massive case of collectively missing the point. Although perhaps it also shows that PJ was on to something when he removed the Scouring of the Shire (you have no idea how much it pains me to say that).
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Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 7:50 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:I thought it had the opposite effect shouting 'hey look remember Gandalf? Here's a reminder and a huge hint that he is not dead but coming back later on in the film!"

It ruins the entire coming back bit before the films even started.

Setting aside the fact that the marketing material spoiled everyone before they even found their seats in the theatre, I have no idea why something as big (and potentially off-putting to the audience, since it retroactively changes the emotional stakes of the first film) as a character resurrection should not be foreshadowed.

Right at the start when he is catching up with the Balrog with his sword pointed out in front of himself (he is catching the Balrog up so he must be moving under his own power so he must be flying) and again when the Balrog flips him up and and Gandalf goes spinning off backward and the side and then uses his super flying power again to fall quicker, grab the Balrog by one horn and swing round and back onto the Balrog- its like watching someone play Shadow of Colossus. And is no less preposterous than any of Legolas' stunts.

They actually try to at least give the appearance of plausibility at the beginning of that scene by showing Gandalf trying to reduce friction while the Balrog is flailing around and smashing off the walls, but honestly, who gives a shit?  Physics went out the window the moment someone suggested that two people could fall thousands of meters into water and survive to keep fighting (reminder: that someone was Tolkien).
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 7:54 pm

Tolkien was smart enough not to break suspension of disbelief by showing us it , let alone making it so typically over the top as PJ does with Gandalf.
All Tolkien gives us is "ever he clutched me and ever I hewed him.... I was burned."- that implies to me something a lot more unpleasant going on and something that caused a great deal of physical pain to Gandalf- not him supermanning about and gleefully sitting astride the Balrog in a cheesy action sequence.

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In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?) Empty Re: In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?)

Post by bungobaggins on Wed May 07, 2014 8:00 pm

I think I'm going to up it from "pretty good" to "good." Smile

Not even to mention the soundtrack during the opening. I remember listening to that opening track more than any other when I first got the CD way back in 2002. Very Happy


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In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?) Empty Re: In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?)

Post by Eldorion on Wed May 07, 2014 8:01 pm

I'm no English major, but the only difference in Tolkien's description and the film's is that the Balrog was not constantly holding Gandalf against him.  And even then, I think that "ever he clutched me" is vague enough to allow some artistic interpretation.  If that means the characters fall apart briefly before coming back together to keep fighting ("hewing"), so be it.

Any action sequence can be "cheesy", but in this case, it's extremely close to Tolkien's own description.  And since the movies are a visual medium, of course they're going to show it.  Although I suppose some people might have preferred a static shot of Gandalf describing his epic battle with an ancient demon (I say "epic battle" because Gandalf himself, in the book, though it was amazing enough that people would have written songs about it if there had been any witnesses).
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In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?) Empty Re: In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?)

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed May 07, 2014 8:07 pm

He is not even burnt! It could have been a chance to see Gandalf fight to the death- which is what actually happens- so hurt, so damaged he is victorious but at price of his own physical life- in Pj's he has a small cut above one eye by the end of it and his hair is a bit rough.

And I stand by it being stupid to give away Gandalf return before the film has even started. And dont give me posters crap, anyone who sees these films from now on is as unlikely to influenced by its poster campaign than they are for Casablancas when they watch that.
Its a huge story spoiler in a not very subtle and spoilery fashion.
Tolkiens hints at Gandalfs return, but they are hints.

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In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?) Empty Re: In defense of The Two Towers (which is your favorite?)

Post by malickfan on Wed May 07, 2014 8:12 pm

I came across this thread in the LOTR plaza archives which should be of interest to you Eldo...

http://www.lotrplaza.com/archives/index.php?Archive=Second%20Age&TID=235930

I haven't watched TT in four or five years, and I've yet to read through this thread properly, though from memory, my main issues were Gimli/Legolas becoming ever more gimmicky, Aragorn's stupid fall over the cliff (even before reading the book I found it very melodramatic and silly) and The ents deciding on a whim to attack on Insenguard (Jackson spent all that time bulidung up the ents, even taking the micky out of the slow accents, then reduced Treebeard to a angry old man 'Noooooo! Come my friends the ents are going to war...'.

I'm in two minds about Faramir, and I love the Balrog fight (though it didn't make alot of sense, hurtling towards a lake, then on top of the mountains, Gandalf's return wasn't explained that well....)

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