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The Two Towers is the second episode in the film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, based on J. R. R. Tolkien's classic trilogy of novels of the same name. The three film episodes were shot simultaneously in 1999-2000 and were released in consecutive Decembers, from 2001 through 2003. The second episode of director-producer-writer Peter Jackson's adventurous production is darker than the first, reflecting the mood of the original novel. For further information about the film trilogy, its first episode and background of the source book and its creator, J. R. R. Tolkien, please see entry above for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
There are no opening cast or crew credits in The Two Towers. Some of the cast is credited twice in the ending credits. In the first appearance, most of the lead performers are credited in individual title cards without a character name. The one exception appears in the middle of these credits and reads: "featuring Andy Serkis as Gollum." The film editors' credits read: "D. Michael Horton with Jabez Olssen." Later, John Rhys-Davies, who also appears as dwarf "Gimli," is credited as "Voice of Treebeard," followed by all featured players in alphabetical order. The children of Jackson and writer Fran Walsh appear in the film and are credited onscreen as: "Cute Rohan Refugee Children Billy Jackson and Katie Jackson." Their credit and those of "Hero Orcs" are presented later in the production crew, just before the list of doubles and stand-ins.
Ending credits include a "personal thanks" from the "Filmmakers" to several people and organizations "for their contribution to the making of this movie," among them, E-Film and various New Zealand governmental agencies. Following is a "special thanks to Peter Nelson & Ken Kamins and to the thousands of others who helped make this film a reality." The film is dedicated to "Carla Fry, Brian Bansgrove and Brent Robb, People we loved." After the dedication, the following inscription in the Maori language appears: "He maungrongo kit e whenua, He whakaaro pai ki ng tngata katoa." Although many of the character and place names in Tolkien's novels, such as "Barad-dr," "Thoden" and "Smagol," appear with diacritical marks, the film's onscreen credits list them without the diacritics. Whenever characters speak in the Elvish language invented by Tolkien, subtitles are used.
The film begins with a reprisal of "Gandalf's" fight with the Balrog and his plunge into the pit at Khazad-dum, this time shown as "Frodo's" nightmare. Gandalf's recounting of his experience after the battle with the Balrog appears as a montage with Ian McKellen's voice-over narration. "Aragorn's" conversation with "Elrond" is shown as a flashback with dialogue. Later in the film, as Elrond counsels "Arwen" about her short-lived future with Aragorn, he speaks in a voice-over as she is shown mourning at the crypt of an older, gray Aragorn, who has been laid out for his funeral. The scene quickly changes to winter many years later, showing Arwen, still in mourning at the crypt, which now has a metal sculpture of the dead Aragorn lying atop it.
The romance between Aragorn and Arwen, depicted in the film as flashbacks and dreams, did not appear as shown in Tolkien's trilogy. According to a December 2002 Time article, Hollywood Reporter review and other sources, the screenwriters based these scenes on information given in an appendix that Tolkien wrote after The Two Towers. The article reported that these scenes were filmed in the summer of 2002, after the principal filming of the trilogy had been completed. Also added in September 2002, according to the Time article, was Sam's "there's good in the world worth fighting for" monologue urging Frodo not to give up, which the screenwriters felt was needed to tie all of the story lines in the film together.
In addition to the Aragorn-Arwen romance sequences, the screenwriters took other liberties that were not in the book, but were true to the spirit of Tolkien's oeuvre. In Tolkien's novel, the battle of Helm's Deep, which is central to the film, was only a brief episode. "Shelob," a spider creature introduced in the second novel, is only mentioned by Gollum in the film, but will make her appearance in the third film. In the Time article, Jackson admitted that The Two Towers departed from Tolkien's novels more than the other two films in the trilogy.
As noted in the film's website and a December 2002 Los Angeles Times article, the character Gollum was computer-generated, using Shakespearean actor Serkis' voice and his own movements as a model. The Los Angeles Times article reported that each scene containing Gollum was shot three times, the first time with Serkis, wearing a lycra suit fitted with motion-capture equipment, acting with the cast. The final digital character was added later to the second take of the scene, which was filmed without Serkis. Other CGI characters in the film were "Treebeard" and his fellow Ents.
The film was shot entirely in New Zealand. According to the film's website, the battle at Helm's Deep was filmed over four months in night shoots. A December 2002 American Cinematographer article reported that "life-size" sets of the city of Edoras were built and filmed on a hill in New Zealand's South Island. A castle and a wall of the Helm's Deep fortress were built in a quarry in Wellington. Although Jackson considered filming the Dead Marshes sequence in an actual marsh at Te Anau, South Island, only a brief aerial shot was used, as the area was dangerous and difficult to tread. Instead, three sets were built at the Wellington studios. The shooting locations of the film trilogy have been prominently featured in Tourism New Zealand's website and television commercials to entice vacationers to the area.
According to a December 2001 article found on Zap2it.com, there was some question over whether the film would retain Tolkien's title The Two Towers for the film, after the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. According to a December 2002, Hollywood Reporter article, executives of the film's distributor, New Line Cinema, noting the lack of Whoppers in Middle-earth and the inappropriateness of the dark film for younger school children, dropped Burger King as the film's promotional tie-in. Instead, New Line negotiated a two-year contract with Verizon Wireless, which plans to target a young, male audience. Within five days after The Two Towers was released, it broke box-office records by grossing $101.5 million, according to a December 2002 Los Angeles Daily News article. A few weeks later, a January 2003 CNN.com article reported that Tolkien fans were celebrating the author's "eleventy-first" birthday, which is the Hobbit age that the character Bilbo Baggins celebrates at the beginning of the Rings trilogy.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was selected as one of AFI's top ten films of 2002 and was nominated for Golden Globe awards for Best Picture-Drama and Best Direction. The film won Academy Awards fo Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects, and was nominated in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction and Best Sound. SAG nominated the film's cast for the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Award. In addition, the film was nominated by the PGA for its Darryl Zanuck Producer of the Year Award, and Jackson was nominated by the DGA for its Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film award. The film received BAFTAs for Achievement in Costume Design and Special Visual Effects.