Unnecessary Debate: The Two Towers vs. The Return of the King

So maybe this seems like a random time to have this monumental debate. I guess I could make up some reason about the new Hobbit movie coming this December and try to make it seem relevant, but I would be lying. You can have your debates on the meaning of life and existence of God; just let me have my Two Towers vs. Return of the King battle. It’s been almost 11 years since the release of RotK, the beyond epic conclusion to Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Nevertheless, this debate remains pressing always. I will keep it grounded in the films themselves rather than bringing in the complexities of Tolkien’s written works (That debate might take years.). You might point towards the disparities in Oscars and the like between King and its predecessor, but for now I will be the only one doing significant pointing, so put your fingers away and keep reading. Please.

 

Length

Less is more, quite often. 179 and 201 are closer to being SAT section scores than acceptable movie times, but Jackson managed to make them bearable with his stunning action sequences and filmmaking, which we will discuss later. The Two Towers’  long (LONG) action sequences flirt with being too long, but the film at least manages to end rather efficiently and set the stage for the mammoth conclusion. King, on the other hand, ends at least six times by my count, and that is a fairly safe estimate. This fact doesn’t stop me from enjoying the movie immensely, of course, but brevity is not one of its redeeming  factors.

Winner: The Two Towers

 

Battle Helpers

This may not be the most technical of terms, but it will have to do. Our main heroes — the Frodos and Aragorns and Gandalfs of the world — can’t do it all on their own. Actually, scratch that. Gandalf definitely could have. But, forgetting that, they can’t do it all on their own. Throughout the saga, reinforcements must be called upon in order to defeat evil forces. Elves of Lórien come to help the cause at Helm’s Deep in Towers, followed later by Gandalf and the riders, led by Éomer. In King, Aragorn gains the help of the Army of the Dead, which almost wins this category simply based on the intimidating bluntness of their name. Moreover, said army absolutely overpowers Sauron’s forces. More moreover, after they have helped facilitate the saving of Middle Earth and all goodness and so on, the dead fighters have their souls freed. Pretty good day. This debate still presents intrigue, however, considering the desperation facing the good fighters at Helm’s Deep before the help arrives. The Elves’ arrival is inspiring, but Gandalf’s entrance is downright transcendental. Then again, the Army of the Dead is essentially unstoppable and driven by their collective desire to free their souls. All of these auxiliary forces are powerful and push the good guys towards victory, but it’s hard to argue with the freeing of souls long since imprisoned.

Winner: The Return of the King

 

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I ain’t messing with them.

 

Amount of Walking

Neither film can match the relentless ambulation of The Fellowship of the Ring, but the quests of Frodo and company still require enormous amounts of foot travel. One would have to closely consider the original texts and maps in order to track just how far our heroes walk, but…that’s not going to happen here. Perhaps this largely arbitrary category should have been named something more general — “Walking” — as one must consider that not all walking is created equal. Some walking is social and chatty; some is important for the sake of tracking but not dire; some is vital to the fate of the world. Towers‘ key moments consist of people holding strong in a fortress while King‘s consist of Frodo and Sam traversing dangerous lands filled with dangerous beings. All three films in the series boast strong walking performances, but King‘s are the most impressive.

Winner: The Return of the King

 

Gandalf Badassery

This is a hard category to quantify, given Gandalf’s incredible consistency in terms of awesomeness, but we can still look at the impact he has in Jackson’s final entries. Two Towers begins with Gandalf badassery, but the scene is a flashback to Fellowship, so that cannot be a factor. He does show up, as previously mentioned, to help save the day at Helm’s Deep, and he does become Gandalf the White. I don’t think we should discount the changing of colors — quite badass. In King, Gandalf lays down the law with Sarumon and saves Pippin, though Pippin himself does get the glory of lighting the beacon. But, even if all of this did not occur, there are the EAGLES. Maybe Gandalf could have utilized these creatures earlier, but one could argue that making Frodo and Sam struggle a bit is, in itself, badass. Still, holding out on using those things is sort of a downer, Gandalf. I can’t imagine the good guys winning out in Towers without shiny new Gandalf showing up now and then, but in King the wizard allows the men and tinier people to have most of the glory. That is noble and honorable, but badassery is blatant and showy, so selflessness need not apply.

Winner: The Two Towers

 

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Majestic.

 

Ingenuity of Hobbits

This debate is heated and tight, and I would be remiss if I left out the tiny heroes of this journey, the people to whom much power fell and of whom much was asked by Gandalf at the outset of the quest. Frodo and Sam are, of course, the main stars, but we must also consider the help and comic relief provided by Merry and Pippin. The Two Towers has the friend pairs separated, with Frodo and Sam mistakenly trusting in Gollum’s guidance and Merry and Pippin escaping the Uruk-hai, eventually getting to hang with Treebeard and the Ents. Frodo does not help Towers‘ cause with his persistent loyalty to Gollum, though Merry and Pippin do help the cause by pushing the Ents against Saruman. In King, Sam saves the day, a lot. Pippin threatens the cause, as mentioned in the previous section, yet he redeems himself by creating my favorite scene while serving Denethor, and going on to light the distress beacon. Furthermore, Merry helps Éowyn slay the Witch King! From there, Frodo is still kind of a whiny baby, but Sam counteracts that and then some, saving the Ring and then Frodo after the still-disgusting attack of Shelob. So it looks like King may be unstoppable here.

NOT SO FAST. Would any of the Hobbits have gotten their chance to shine, to survive, if not for Sam’s remarkable speech at the close of The Two Towers? No, really. Watch that link before reading, please. I could watch Pippin’s Song over and over again, but Sam’s speech is the glue that holds the story together and sets the stage for epic conclusions. Moreover, it captures the essence of Lord of the Rings, the simple but trying task of fighting for the good of which Sam speaks, of pushing onward when forces are trying to push you back. This scene solidifies both Sam as the series’ most lovable character and the film as the one in which Hobbits — or at least a Hobbit — truly show the depth of their character.

Winner: The Two Towers

 

Overall Winner: The Two Towers

 

Now remember: both films are incredible and deserving of endless praise. King deserved its immense Oscar haul. This debate, like all of our debates, is arbitrary and unnecessary, so don’t get too upset. Keep fighting for good.

 

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He’s upset that I didn’t mention him. So adorable.

 

 

 

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About Author: Brian McMahon

Brian is an author and co-founder of GoodWillWatching. He likes to write and is deathly afraid of bugs. His Great American Novel, not yet titled or existent, will be shocking the world some time or another. He once stayed up for two days straight because of poor information regarding the arrival of Halley’s Comet, which was not due for approximately 57 years. You can follow him @bm1313 on Twitter, or in real life from a safe distance.

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