Movies & Books
The Two Towers, currently in theatres, is the second of three movies, directed by Peter Jackson. The first in this trilogy is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Both movies are works of art, and set a very high standard in many areas. The battle scenes in Two Towers are almost like a dream, like a collection of paintings or a biblical epic. Some of the creatures in Two Towers are new and surprising. Many of the scenes in both films take place outdoors in the breathtaking New Zealand landscape. And the acting evokes very strong emotions.
Both movies are faithful to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I enjoyed reading years ago.
The Lord of the Rings is about the temptation of absolute power, a theme that Two Towers drives home again, just as in Fellowship. The ring offers itself as a temptation to those who believe they might deserve its power or use it only for good. The presence of the ring, a burden to Frodo the hobbit, tests everyone, weakens them, as it tries to corrupt and invade their souls. But the ring belongs to the Dark Lord Sauron, and the end result of anyone else using it would be the same tyranny and destruction that Sauron himself has in mind for Middle Earth.
This weakness in human (or elven, or hobbit) nature is exposed constantly, and the hobbits are much healthier in this respect. The men – the human beings – seem to be less happy, prone to arrogance, caught in feudalism and warfare, dependent on their kings, and tempted to worship power.
The hobbits have some advantages over the men. The hobbits have a more civilized society with middle-class bourgeois values, where life focuses around farming, trades, mealtimes and parties.
Both movies are about friendship and loyalty, especially between Sam and Frodo. What is striking about Fellowship of the Ring and Two Towers is the faithful way in which they capture old-fashioned English camaraderie and unabashed affection and love between friends. This was the way people were supposed to be back when Tolkien wrote.
Magic stands in for science in this movie, and in this case, some form of genetics or cloning is used for evil and by evil. Technology is not good in itself. It matters who uses it and what it‘s used for. And if no one made moral judgments about the use of technology except those in power, what kind of world would that be? The world would be filled with Sarumans in white coats – Saruman “the White“ – creating monster armies and high-tech super-bombs. And there would be no one to throw the “ring” into the fires of Mount Doom. Imagine that.
One weakness in the story is the portrayal of the orcs and their cloned mutated offspring as necessarily evil. But they have been programmed and trained from “birth” to destroy, so they are evil because of what they do. They act out of ignorance and deserve less condemnation than Saruman, who knows what he is doing. Saruman corrupts and brainwashes a whole species to serve his master Sauron.
The Lord of the Rings series also portrays how a peaceful, stable, productive and happy society of hobbits, minding their own business, is threatened by Sauron, a spirit without a body, that seeks out absolute power, threatening to crush everything that stands in his way. Everything is his business. He can’t leave his hands off anybody. He has got to have control over Middle Earth, and he sends his ring-wraiths to intimidate defenceless villagers, while Saruman sends his gangs to kill and burn. Sauron’s Eye is searching out the whole world for those who challenge him, those who would keep him from possessing his ring.
These two movies demonstrate how fantasy can bring out core truths. The Lord of the Rings presents the choices concerning power and its results. Peace and civilization is the result of freedom, and a world of fear and smouldering ruins is the result of letting power, control and force concentrate in the hands of unaccountable lawless entities.
Official website for the movies.