Fun with Franchises: Favorite Images from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
One of the recurring features that we do in Fun with Franchises (a feature within a feature) is, after we finish watching a film, we go through and pick out our favorite images from that film. These images could be anything from really famous images from the film or franchise, really beautifully composed shots, shots that are funny to us because of the facial expressions being made in them or because of what we said about them in the article in which they appeared, or simply because they have boobs in them.
What we usually do is, just how we watch the films, Colin and I go in separately and pick out about ten to fifteen shots that we really liked. Then we compare lists, and whichever ones we both picked automatically go on our final list. And everything else we talk through and discuss why we like them, and eventually we’re left with a final list of ten images we liked the best, along with ten honorable mentions, which were also as good, but just missed out on making the list proper.
It’s not very complicated (like most things we do here on B+ Movie Blog), and is just a way for us to point out shots that we really liked in the films, especially since we tend to pick stuff that’s not always on the beaten path. (We also don’t officially rank the list of shots. We just put them in chronological order. Simply picking them is hard enough. We don’t want to make our lives any harder. Plus, we’re lazy.)
That said — here are our favorite images from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:
We had a lot of goddamn shots from this movie.
I thought about doing the intro the way we did Revenge of the Sith — Colin and I alternating shots we liked until we hit them all, but I decided that would take up too much unnecessary space. So I’m quickly gonna run down a bunch of shots I like that don’t need to be explained much (since they’re things I point out all the time), and see where that leaves us:
I love armies marching into battle, in formation. Especially when in wide shot. And the Dead Marshes is a location I really like quite a bit. We also love maps. And Elijah Wood being stabbed. And UNLIMITED POWER! And things being smote. And the Black Gate is just terrific.
Seriously, that lake is really nice.
Now, Colin and I have two shots that, if we had extra spaces (or wanted to try harder), we’d put them on the list. So we’ll talk about them briefly (or not), since these were the ones that came the closest to making the list (or, in the first one’s case, I just really wanted to talk about it):
You guys know how much I love multiple planes of action. It goes back to my love of old movies, silent film, and the basic elements of filmmaking. I’ve seen my share of films from 1900-1913, before features, and it’s exciting when movies learn how to use multiple planes of action. Since you’re literally watching people learn how to tell stories on this brand new medium. Even if you’re not into stuff from that old, you watch things from the silent era or early sound — and it’s just basic staging. Watch most Capra movies. The staging isn’t very complex. So, having watched so many movies like that, from that era, I naturally get excited when I see really complex staging. (Not that this shot is particularly complex, but it’s still visually interesting.) I remember rewatching All Quiet on the Western Front and practically nutting in my pants when I saw how Milestone shot that. I went all film student in that Oscar Quest article, explaining just how great that direction was. (It literally could have went up against any movie nominated for Best Director before Gone With the Wind (which was a decade after the film was released), and it would have won, and been the best choice in the category. That’s how great that film is directed.
So anyway — I love multiple planes of action. It’s like how I get crazy excited when I see rear projection. Old movie tricks. They’re the best. So that’s why this shot will always be really close to making a shots list.
This place doesn’t even look real. Like, this should have a voiceover by David Attenborough, talking about how the earth’s crazy natural processes created this shit over 700 million years and now it looks like this. This is simply breathtaking, and the prospect that it could be a real place that REALLY looks like this is exciting to me.
All right. Now for the actual list.
Let’s get to it!
1. This shot
This image is gorgeous. Aside from what’s actually going on, you just have the dark cave, the fire illuminating it as they fall, the reflection on the water — I think we’d all single out this shot as one of the best in the film. I’d be surprised if you saw this and didn’t go, “Wow, that’s nice.”
That’s such a huge cavern, you could fly a jet through it. And here’s this fight, shining light on the cave walls and water for the first time in centuries, most likely. I love the idea of an enormous, subterranean cavern. Look at the ceiling! I’d chill down here all the time if I had a sweet house boat or something. Like the one from Munich, where they shot that chick in the titties with zip guns for killing Ciaran Hinds. Moving on.
2. Goddamn, New Zealand, The Sequel
This place just looks fucking nice. Personal favorite is everyone walking to Helm’s Deep being reflected in the water. (Also very Disney.) Big shout out to the burning village shot too.
I’m just so glad we both picked that shot of the kid falling off the horse, cause what the hell? New Zealand looks like, but you’re doing it wrong.
These two shots are ones that amuse Colin and I to no end.
The first one is too much for me. I lose it every time I see this. It’s like that combination of calendar pin-up and the loving look from someone with whom you’re deeply enamored. Like the shot that Eowyn gives Aragorn as she’s helping Gimli up. There’s something way too…”nice” about this for Gollum.
The second is great cause I can finally show people how I get up every morning.
Look at that second shot. It’s so hilarious. And you can hear the noise he’s making when you look at it — I can’t not laugh.
This is exactly what we do when we have to do something we don’t want to do.
This place looks so fucking nice.
Mostly I like that it’s this giant kingdom and they’ve sectioned off an arbitrary area to call their capital city, and then the houses are just sort of spaced wherever, they have this big golden hall on a rock cliff, and, for the same reasons I like the Shire, I like a relatively small, contained place. I like that they can go and drink and hang out with people and do it all within a couple of square miles. I love that.
But yeah, look at these shots. It’s basically Goddamn. New Zealand, only film location related. We’ll be doing the same thing with Minas Tirith next week.
I know Mike has great love for this place, but I only appreciate it because they know how to throw back brew. I’m all about Minas Tirith. This place is just too depressing, even during the good times, I bet. Look at the shitty peasant town. I bet everyone’s always like, “Hey, I heard there’s a party in the great hall tonight! Are you going?” Plus, you have to recognize that it’s supposed to be the capital city, but it’s only the king’s pad and like 30 houses. Tops. Not even any farms, which — how do these people eat?
The things Edoras TOTALLY has going for it are that it’s in a particularly beautiful part of New Zealand (GODDAMN, NEW ZEALAND) and that it throws rip-roaring parties.
5. Helm’s Deep, Part I – Goddamn, Son
Everything about this location is great. I think we all nut at the idea of Helm’s Deep. It’s a fortress built into a mountain. That’s so great.
And it’s a miniature, which only adds to it.
Love this location so much.
Look at this! George Lucas should be looking at these shots and recognizing how much better a miniature looks compared with shitty CGI. This looks amazing because it’s like 9 feet tall and made of styrofoam. Just like — oh by the way — the original Death Star. I can’t describe what is is, but even something much smaller than it’s supposed to be looks way better than CGI because only real things have real texture. You can make the CGI more and more textured and amazing, but there’s still that grittiness it lacks.
Also, how great is their view out the front door?
Just when you thought you’d hit rock bottom…
Honestly, it was a lateral move.
This hiss is just so great. He could have just said “My… PRECIOUS!” and it would have been good, but the little scream thing he does (which is like Trelawney coughing up a hairball after making a prophecy) is just tremendous.
Serkis is unbelievable as Gollum. Motion capture is totally the way to go, and I don’t mean like with Jar Jar. Everything he does, including and especially the facial features, are spot-on. This one face is halfway between amazingly good and fucking hilarious. I think it’s both. I find great humor in this face and scream — especially because it comes after he yells something and is otherwise unnecessary — but it’s also just brilliant work.
8. The Orc with the Torch
Baddest motherfucker in the franchise. He has a job, he does it. Gets shot twice, keeps going. That’s some fucking willpower.
He was chosen for this. You know he’s a BAMF because he took multiple arrows from Legolas and still didn’t go down. Two, in vital areas, actually. For reference, three arrows from Legolas takes down an evil mega-elephant, so this guy clearly runs his shit. I just love how much of an Olympics thing it clearly is.
9. Helm’s Deep, Part II – The Battle
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for all film, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The shots of the uruks and orcs approaching the wall are so great.
And of course, my personal favorite shot is them sitting there in the rain, waiting for them like it’s a surprise party. That amuses me to no end.
Oh, COME ON! These views of the army approaching the Deeping Wall, then facing off against it and attacking — they’re all spectacular. This shit looked so good when it came out, I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to watch this over and over just for these scenes. The bit that I had to pick out when I saw the shot Mike took was the ballista POV shot, that came last here. I’m not wild about most POV shots, to be honest, but this is a BALLISTA. Which, I think that’s pretty fucking awesome.
10. This shot
What a great shot. Thousands of horses charging thousands of orcs outside Helm’s Deep. And then there’s the sunlight, which is basically Gandalf arriving exactly when he means to.
It’s a good thing that this place’s eastward exposure is blocked by a rather enormous slope, cause I’m pretty sure “dawn” happened quite awhile ago. The sun is now high enough to be shining over the ridge. But it’s a huge army of horsemasters about to fuck up a shit ton of orcs. And the Helm’s Deep miniature!
Another amazing shot in this moment — this one. The POV of it. That shot is fucking glorious. It works as a really nice double with that one.
– – – – – – – – –
And now for the honorable mentions. Let’s just tear right into them.
– – – – – – – – –
- The Eye of Sauron / The Final Shot
The first shot is cool because of the deep focus. And because it’s a giant fucking eye looking at a volcano.
The second shot — lightning is awesome. And I love volcanos. It’s almost a shot/reverse shot (but not really). They just both look really nice.
I picked the first image because I love the idea of a canal of lava that stretches all the way from the volcano to the tower. I mean, that’s not at all how lava works, but it’s awesome, so I don’t care. The second shot — well, it’s the last shot of the film. Feels like cheating. Don’t care.
- Raid on the Village
It’s crisp, there are multiple planes of action, and New Zealand looks nice.
Cause fuck peasants.
- The Golden Hall
The hall is nice, he has horse heads on the wall, and check out the lighting in the second image. It obscures everything on either side of the frame, and all that’s illuminated is the action in the center. Which is great, set-wise, since the throne area is illuminated but nothing else is, and it’s almost theatrical, lighting only the area of the stage where the action is right now.
I picked the first image. I like that the focal point of the image is the carved horse head, rather than them. I like it when stuff is going on another part of the frame, while you get to look straight at something else that’s cool. The second image has glorious lighting (which — it’s nighttime and that isn’t being lit by candles or torches, so…what?), but the best part is the carving on the wall behind the throne. That’s magnificent.
- Doo Doo Cloud
Seriously. Doo doo cloud. That’s what you would see behind me in this shot.
Colin chose this shot, which is exactly what should be on this list. It’s a hilarious moment, it’s the moment that generated the famous Doo Doo Cloud story, Elijah Wood is making a stupid face. It has everything going for it.
And, honestly, I probably would have chosen this shot as well, since a shot from this moment had to be in this article somewhere.
Only, while looking through the shots for this scene, I noticed something else.
Something that very quickly had to make it into this article, much more than the previous shot (even though the previous shot needed to make it as well).
Because this shot is —
The greatest photobomb ever.
That is so fucking funny to me.
That is a great photobomb. He looks like someone punched him in the left cheek.
- “Theoden, baby!”
I love this moment. They’re all beating the shit out of everyone, and he’s like, “Hey, my man, what’s up?!”
It’s the blur that makes it for me. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are going buck wild at the moment, fucking up all the guards that Wormtongue owns. Meanwhile, Gandalf’s greeting him like they’re old buddies. No, no, don’t mind them. They do that.
And then, of course, we can’t leave out Theoden’s reaction.
Driver’s license photo.
- This shot
I love this shot. We all know by now that I love shots of cities. Or rather, layouts of houses and buildings and stuff. Like when I picked the slums in Phantom Menace. Or even Edoras up there. I like layouts. I like looking at them. (And yet… never was a SimCity fan.) So that was part of my love of this shot.
And then the river running through the city is really nice. Plus the idea that this was a capital and is now a run-down military garrison. I love that idea as well.
Plus we have the shadow moving over it over the course of the shot — this was definitely one of the more memorable images for me.
Not gonna lie, I have a huge boner for urban decay.
- This shot (pun ridiculously intended)
He just runs up to a ridge, looses an arrow seemingly at random, and NAILS an orc that’s a couple of hundred yards away like it’s nothing.
It’s so badass.
And then he just swings up on the back of Theoden’s horse.
Seriously, the most badass moment in the film to me. I love precision and accuracy. Sniping is soooo much cooler than shotguns or machine guns to me. He’s just chillin’ by himself, letting arrows off the chain, and warg riders at a full gallop are going down like 200 yards away. That’s insane. He can hit fucking ANYTHING HE WANTS. It also makes me wonder how the elves later on don’t do more damage to the orcs. Plus, it makes the torch carrying orc that much more badass. Legolas’ bow has a draw weight of 150 lbs (large, muscular men are good for around 65 lbs) and has one of Galadriel’s hairs entwined with the string to make the arrow go faster somehow. It’s got enough force to kill something at 400 yards. And that dude took two pretty much point blank.
That’s why he’s the best.
- This image
It’s the time lapse as they pull back that I like.
But really, guys. I have a boner for urban decay. This city just ended around them. Think someone came by as they were leaving? And unless the place was conquered and destroyed, why would people leave a perfectly good city? There are so many questions for this image.
Because sometimes it’s as simple as a good ass looking waterfall.
That is a nice ass waterfall, though.
- Isengard in ruins
It’s just a nice shot.
Colin and I both saw this and went, “That’s nice.”
It’s just a big circle in flames surrounded by beautiful New Zealand.
I love submerging evil. You know that in those holes, all the furnaces and everything are steaming up, and everything’ll be cool in a few minutes. Water’s awesome. I’ll always remember how much I enjoyed the end of Spiderman 2, when they’re trying to figure out what to do to stop the fusion reaction. It has the potential to destroy the city, so they dump it in the Hudson River. Cause if anything has the power to swallow up evil and keep on chugging, it’s the Hudson River.
So that’s our list.
But of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the greatest moment in the film:
A TREE ON FIRE RUNNING TO PUT ITSELF OUT!
Think about that. Denethor runs away screaming off a giant ledge onto his city — this tree, which is made of WOOD, runs over like, “Man, I gotta put myself out.”
Love that tree.
– – – – – – – – – –
Tomorrow is final thoughts, and Monday we start Return of the King.
And then the franchise is over.
(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)