December 31, 2012

Queer Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, and Peter Jackson. Based upon the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham,

Note: As with The Fellowship of the Ring this review applies only to the Extended Editions, since that is the version I have available to watch.

Peter Jackson's epic translation of the Lord of the Rings to the big screen continues in The Two Towers. As bold and invigorating as The Fellowship of the Ring In this second entry into the trilogy, the subtexts both queer and with World War II are expanded upon.

Following the breaking of the fellowship, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) continue their journey to Mordor, but the dangerous dead marshes force them to accept the help of the traitorous Gollum (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) pursue the band of orcs who had kidnapped Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). Their pursuit takes them to kingdom of Rohan where they join forces with King Théoden (Bernard Hill) to repeal an invasion of orcs sent by Sarumon (Christopher Lee). Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin attempt to convince Treebeard (John Rhys-Davies) and the other Ents to join in the fight against Sarumon and Sauron.

The Queering
Yes, I love the Lord of the Rings films. Yes, I know that there can be read into them all kinds of problematic pro-war and racist subtexts, although I will be neither exploring nor refuting those here. What I want to talk about are the same subtexts both queer and with regards to World War II that I talked about in the previous entry. So before I lose my head talking about how awesome the special effects/cinematography/acting/direction is, I'll just jump right into that.

In The Two Towers, the relationship between Samwise and Frodo is complicated by the inclusion of Gollum, whose help they are forced to accept. This causes Gollum and Sam to now compete for the attention of Frodo, who is finding the ring an increasingly difficult burden to bear.

Frenemies Gimli and Legolas have bonded now. In an early scene, Legolas shows he's willing to kill anyone who merely threatens Gimli. While a threesome is not in the cards for Sam/Frodo/Gollum, there is now one going on between Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn. In one scene Eowyn (Miranda Otto), who inexplicably develops the hots for Aragorn, says of Legolas and Gimli, "They fight beside you because they would not be parted from you! Because they love you."

Also regarding Aragorn, with Boromir out of the picture, the future king is now free to bond with King Théoden. Before and during the Battle of Helms Deep, the two appear to be drawing a certain strength from each other as they inspire each other to face the horrors of Sarumon's army.

Then there are the Ents, who have lost their Entwives, who presumably ran off to form some sort of Lesbian Tree Nymph Commune, leaving the Ents to their own devices. Since the Ents are now practicing some rather harsh gender segregation, one wonders exatly what it means for their love lives.

It also made me wonder what exactly Tolkien thought of the United States, given that the Ents reluctance to join in the war against Sauron/Sarumon reflects that of the United States reluctance to fight against the Axis powers. It is only after Treebeard finds out about Pearl Harbor the destruction of Fangorn Forst, that the Ents end up going into battle.

Another parallel from World War II is the way in which Sarumon draws much of his power from his voice, a reflection of the way Hitler could manipulate others through his words and speech. The way he goes about destroying Fangorn Forest was not only an expression of Tolkien's horror at gross industrialization but also mirrors the ways that the NAZI's turned the entirety of the German population and production resources into a singular war machine.

Recommended more highly then the tallest towers in Middle Earth.

The Rating
**** out of ****


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