Episode 26: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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Sean and Cody set out on an epic quest through Middle Earth in this, the most nerd-tastic episode of Green Screen yet. In the 2002 fantasy epic The Two Towers, part of the Lord of the Rings saga, mild-mannered hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and his gardener and possible boyfriend Samwise (Sean Astin) are on a long walk to pitch a magic ring off a short pier into the fiery lava chasm of Mt. Doom in an attempt to bring an end to the disagreeable and environmentally unfriendly Sauron administration. Meanwhile, a CGI special effect with a split personality (Andy Serkis) plots to take the ring for himself. And there’s a huge battle scene. And orcs. Environmental issues discussed include the ecological vision of J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the source material; the “Black Country” of late 19th century England and its despoliation by coal mining; the linkage between power and environmental destruction, embodied by the history of oil and climate change; and the early theories of ecology that were developing at the time the Lord of the Rings books came out in the 1950s.

How did Tolkien’s upbringing and his experiences on the Western Front in World War I shape his expansive environmental vision? Was Peter Jackson faithful to that vision when he made these films? Of all the Lord of the Rings books, why was this one the most difficult to turn into a movie? How did New Line Cinema manage to flush the billions of dollars it made on these pictures right down the toilet? Is Sauruman an employee of the Koch brothers? What’s the fastest way to reverse climate change? Could this movie have been made in 1939? What does this film have to do with The Thief of Baghdad? Why is Ralph Bakshi ticked off at Peter Jackson? How many different ways can Maggie Smith pronounce the words “Mary McGregor”? All these questions and more are ready to be cast into the fiery chasms of Mt. Doom in this fantastical episode of Green Screen.

The original 2002 trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Additional Materials About This Episode

Treebeard, a character with an expressly ecological message, rescues hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) in The Two Towers. The science of ecology was just getting started as Tolkien published the novels in the early 1950s.

Gollum (Andy Serkis) argues with himself about the magic ring that corrupted him. This is perhaps the most iconic scene from the entire Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and the one that director Peter Jackson picks out as his favorite moment of the films. It turns out he did not direct it.

The Helm’s Deep battle is a comparatively minor part of the book The Two Towers, but it takes up most of the prime real estate in the 2002 film version. This could be the best medieval-style battle scene in the history of cinema.

The Environmental History

“The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien,” a profile of the book Ents, Elves and Eriador by Matthew Dickerson and Jonathan Evans, University Press of Kentucky blog, June 6, 2016:
https://kentuckypress.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/the-environmental-vision-of-j-r-r-tolkien/

W.A. Senior, Review of Ents, Elves and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien, Journal of the Fantastic Arts, Vol. 18, No. 1 (2007):
https://www.jstor.org/stable/24351037?seq=1

Paul Hawken, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, 2017:
https://www.betterworldbooks.com/product/detail/drawdown-the-most-comprehensive-plan-ever-proposed-to-reverse-global-warming-0143130447

Movie Stuff

Cliff Quickbeam Broadway, The Bakshi Interview: Uncloaking a Legacy, TheOneRing.net, April 20, 2015:
https://www.theonering.net/torwp/2015/04/20/97766-the-bakshi-interview-uncloaking-a-legacy/

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, UK, the geographical inspiration (according to J.R.R. Tolkien) for Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers book. Google Maps user-contributed photosphere.

Trailer for the 1940 fantasy film The Thief of Bagdad, with which the Lord of the Rings films have a lot of similarities.

Zack Sharf, “Peter Jackson Reveals He Didn’t Write or Direct His Favorite ‘Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy Scene, IndieWire, December 14, 2020:
https://www.indiewire.com/2020/12/peter-jackson-didnt-direct-favorite-lord-of-the-rings-scene-1234604508/

Andy Serkis reprises the role of Gollum to make fun of former British PM Theresa May and her disastrous Brexit plan. “My precious!”

Josh Gad’s charming “One Zoom to Rule Them All,” a Lord of the Rings cast reunion recorded in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) at IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167261/
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) at Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/film/the-lord-of-the-rings-the-two-towers/

Next Movie Up: Strange Days (1995)

The header image from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is presumably copyright (c) 2002 by New Line Cinema and Wingnut Films. Its inclusion here is believed to be permissible under fair use. We are not the uploaders of any YouTube clips embedded here. 

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