Welcome back friends! We’re now at least SEVEN HOURS into this saga, and I’m sure Annemarie has things to say. So kick us off, AM.
AM: Only 7 hours? Just kidding. These are long films, but they do indeed move quickly. There’s a lot happening and that’s why I know I missed some details during our second of three epic watch parties. I might also have been distracted by roast, cake and mulled wine. I did ask a few times to clarify details, because as true fans know, the list of characters is growing and I’m assuming will continue to grow. What simplifies this somewhat is that you’ve basically got two sides: Good vs Evil. One of my favorite parts was when Merry and Pip (after escaping the clutches of the Orcs) demand that the Giant Tree Men aka Ents pick a side. This is happening all over Middle Earth to different degrees of success for the side of the Good, but I like that even in the second of three movies in the trilogy, we’re given some good reasons to cheer for our heroes.
Brooke, break it down for me. How much would you love to ride an Ent through the forest? Where does Two Towers rank amongst your favorite LoTR movies? Actually, I’ll clarify. Do you like it more or less than Fellowship, since that’s the only other one I’ve seen up until this exact point in time? You did mention that one of the reasons for making me watch this series (besides our dear friend Daniel’s rage that I had made it this far in life without seeing them) was so you could make me watch two YouTube videos in particular. What are those videos and why was it so important for me to see them in addition to the 3,536 (approximately) hours of LoTR footage?
B: Before I jump in, I must pause to observe that I love your decision to refer to Pippin as Pip. That is an intentional choice, yeah? Not you not knowing his name? Either way, I agree with the statement that it’s a strength of the narrative that our heroes keep winning out our affection and support. This is a lengthy saga that’s massive in scope and scale, so it’s key that we see the former Fellowship struggling to bring the wide world into the battle.
And now, on to your questions. Riding an Ent through a forest is quite high on my LoTR wish list — living the hobbit lifestyle and a place in Rivendell are still higher on the list, but the Ents are absolutely glorious. I adore TreeBeard and all of his random stories and musings too much for words. He’s basically what would happen if Groot and the sloth from Zootopia birthed a grandfatherly giant. So basically, the best character ever.
In fact, before we started our rewatch I probably would have said unequivocally that Two Towers was my favorite of the trilogy not least because I like watching the Ents trash Isengard. I’m curious to see how my favor will net out when we have finished the saga, as it’s been probably a decade since I’ve seen these pictures and I’m experiencing them in a whole new way. I still like Two Towers more than Fellowship, and it’s probably fair to say that is in no small part because of the videos you mention. We’ll get there in a moment. But, I also like the acceleration of everything in the story and the sense that we’re building to a really, really big finish. And even more than that, I love that I get a little bit teary-eyed every time I see Sam and Frodo having their little chat about whether or not they will ever be featured in songs and great stories.
Sam: I wonder if we’ll ever be put into songs or tales.
Sam: I wonder if people will ever say, ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.’ And they’ll say ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, Dad?’ ‘Yes, my boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying a lot.’
Frodo: [continue walking] You’ve left out one of the chief characters — Samwise the Brave. I want to hear more about Sam. … Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam.
Sam: Now Mr. Frodo, you shouldn’t make fun; I was being serious.
Frodo: So was I.
Isn’t that just the sweetest? Anyway, back to the videos that I demanded you watch. These videos — Taters and They’re Taking The Hobbits To Isengard — are staples of early 2000s internet culture, and they were absolutely central in Young Brooke’s world. In our last installment I mentioned the life-size stand-ups of Aragorn and Legolas that provided hours of entertainment at gatherings with my friends. Those gatherings also featured many, many viewings of these videos. And Potter Puppet Pals and Shoes and Old Greg and Salad Fingers and Trogdor the Burninator — please tell me you know what all of those are so we don’t have to have a randomcore internet edition of this column. Anywho, let’s give the Two Towers-relevant videos a quick watch and I’ll get into what makes each of them absolutely essential.
Ahhh, Taters. Who doesn’t love an ode to one of the greatest vegetables in the land? This is one of Sam’s defining moments as a character and a brilliant example of the internet’s tendency to rally around a random line or phrase and make said line or phrase into a thing. Bask in them taters.
They’re Taking The Hobbits To Isengard is by far my favorite of the two. It’s obnoxious and absurd and it never fails to make me laugh. That kazoo-sounding music and the images of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli running along to the soundtrack are just too delightful. And this video was such a phenomenon that it spawned many, many imitators and tributes. Like this spot-on Lego remake or actual Orlando Bloom’s live, in-costume re-creation, which was a really cool thing to do. You couldn’t see Kelsey and I while we were watching Fellowship, but I’ll have you know that we were in silent hysterics when a few of the clips from this video surfaced.
So, now that I’ve rambled on for roughly an age, I have to hear, did these videos do anything for you at all? Coming to them now might be a bit like watching a ’70s sitcom in the post 9-11 era — all of the cultural nuance could be lost. So, your thoughts, give them up! I must say, I’m also surprised that you’ve managed not to gloat about Gandalf. What burning questions do you have going into Return of the King? Do you have any predictions for us?
AM: I am right so frequently that it doesn’t do me good to gloat. I’m only kind of kidding, but I knew that Galdalf wasn’t dead because of the Grey-into-White name change. I too had many friends who were super into LoTR back in the early aughts, although this was my college experience, not high school, because I am an Old when it compares to Brooke. And I seemed to have picked up a reference or factoid or two. I will say that I know not much of Return of the King besides that I’ve heard there are about 5 “false” endings, or places the story could have stopped but it doesn’t.
You kind of hit the nail on the head with your comparison to watching pop culture 20 years after it came out. To start, LoTR does lose just a touch of the cultural cache, especially when it comes to the special effects that are unfortunately somewhat dated, partially because they decided against a lot of practical effects. I love the realistic hard work that Andy Serkis put into Gollum, but the rendering of the character against the live-action shots definitely pops out as green screen. That being said, when they de-age the Captain of the Titanic, the effect is still almost as seamless and spectacular as it looked 15 years ago.
Some minor VFX quibbles aside, the story as a whole holds up almost perfectly. It’s meant to be timeless and majestical and sweeping, and it absolutely is so far. I get why this story has so much adoration and why it’s endured for as long as it has. The friendship between Sam and Frodo is a bromance for the ages and I love it. You’ll laugh, but I’m reminded of why I love Jerry Maguire. For me, the true emotional center of that film is the relationship between Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding, Jr., not Tom and Renee Zellweger. Watching friends grow and change can be just as, if not more so, impactful as romantic relationships, and obviously LoTR is another good example of that.
Now, I think you’ll agree, the YouTube videos are DEFINITELY dated. They’re somewhat frozen in early-viral video amber, but that doesn’t make them any less delightful. The fact that we watched these AFTER viewing the 4-hour Two Towers might have dampened my enthusiasm somewhat, but I get the catchy cache they still hold for you and for many others.
I’ll be honest, I shortened Pippin to Pip because that’s what I thought his name was, and I missed almost all of what TreeBeard was saying. I got the broad strokes of his stories, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why the Ents were so hesitant to join either side of the fight. There was a lot of delicious food being passed around and also mulled wine and did I mention the movie is FOUR HOURS long? Brooke, what other details might I have missed?
And now, without further ado, here’s my predictions for Return of the King:
- The evil lord dudes will all be vanquished.
- At least one more of the Fellowship will die. I’m hoping it’s not a hobbit but I think it might be one of the four.
- Aragorn and Arwen will be reunited but will tragically not be able to stay together.
- The Ents will be a crucial piece of the fight and Merry and Pip will get some awards for their work.
- Speaking of awards, I’m imagining a fancy coronation/awards ceremony (like the one that happens at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope).
- Sam gets to snuggle up to the lady hobbit he was eyeing at the beginning of Fellowship.
- The army of orcs will continue to be disgusting and hopefully won’t have more lines because they’re scarier when they’re not talking.
- Gollum will sacrifice himself to defeat Sauron.
- Gimli and Legolas will bring the dwarves and elves together in harmony.
- This is more a request, but can Legolas do some more badass skateboarding stunts, please?
Don’t tell me how well I did, I kind of want to be surprised. I do want to know if there are any details I might have missed in the hubbub of a watch party that I need to know going into Return of the King?
B: AM, we are of one mind on so many things. I actually completely understand where you’re going with this whole Jerry Maguire line of thought, and I love it. But not quite as much as I love your predictions. I wouldn’t dream of telling you how you did in the effort, but I did read this list aloud to our boon companions Thomas and Daniel and we had a great time discussing. Soon enough you’ll know all and we’ll discuss again.
We didn’t talk about how Eowyn is a total badass, but like all things, we’ll get to it. (And we actually will next time.)
I think you’re pretty well prepared to see how it all ends when the time comes for Return of the King. We’ll found out for sure next time when we conclude our journey into The Lord of the Rings.
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