It's fitting that The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the middle film in director Peter Jackson’s trilogy, since what I appreciate most about it is what it has to say about transitions.
The Two Towers reminds us that for something to grow or change, something must be sacrificed. It is not only my favorite of the series, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. It has the best fight scenes (Helm’s Deep, anyone?), the most memorable moments, and the most powerful message. It's the film I always look forward to rewatching. From Gollum's movements as he slides down a river, to the Uruk-hais’ battle-scarred faces, the movie looks fantastic, with riveting visuals and exciting editing. It also boasts a near-perfect soundtrack; whenever I listen to songs like “Glamdring” and “Théoden Rides Forth,” I’m immediately brought back to Middle-earth.
Yet, for me, what sticks the most is the message of the film. As a Christian, Tolkien presented a story influenced by his faith, with a heavy emphasis on endings and the new beginnings that come after them.
Consider Arwen (Liv Tyler), who could have had immortality by leaving Middle-earth to live in peace and harmony amongst the elves. Instead, she chose to sacrifice that immortality for a future with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen). The flashback scenes which lead to her eventual decision remind us that letting go is never easy. She must abandon her community, including her father, to spend only a small part of her life with her beloved.
Then there is Faramir (David Wenham), who long sought the approval of his father, but gave up his opportunity to appease him to become a man of integrity. By letting Hobbits Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) go, he decided his dreams must die for the world of man to continue living. Wenham shows the turmoil in Faramir’s heart as he fights against his urge to win his father’s approval, bringing a heavy weight to each of his scenes.
As for Gandalf (Ian McKellen), he literally had to die in order for something new to live. As Gandalf the Grey, he fell while fending off the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring, but here he returns as Gandalf the White, a glowing essence emanating from his robe and beard, a hopeful presence in the movie’s dark and fallen world.
TC Podcast: Tolkien Theology
These stories share a powerful message of death and rebirth, a message that’s deeply biblical. Jesus himself tells us we must deny ourselves and take up our cross. The Apostle Paul reminds us that anyone in Christ is a new creation, that the old has gone and the new is here. In Romans, he assures us that we are dead to sin, but alive in God! There is a common theme here: we need to become less (die), so that Christ can become more in our lives and we may truly live.
I can closely relate to this message. I recently started counseling because I realized there were things from my past holding me back. While expecting the need to acknowledge my past and its impact, I did not realize I would need to let go of many beliefs I held over myself because of it. And in their place, new realizations would have to arise: that my broken relationship with my father was not my fault; that no matter what I see in the mirror, I am enough; that I am not a time bomb counting down to the next disaster. I need to see myself as God sees me.
As happens over and over in The Two Towers, some things needed to end so that I can live out God's truth in my life. I understand the difficulty of letting these things go. I’ve built up years of blame toward myself for the bad things that happened in my life. Much like Faramir, I had built my entire self-worth around proving myself to those around me. How radical is it for me to fight that thought and instead accept that I’m good enough?
We are enough. We are loved. We are wonderfully made in the Lord’s image. It’s time for us to let some things go. Sacrifice them on the altar of our Lord. Our God wants us to live a life abundantly, fulfilled by his presence and purpose. In order for us to reach this we need to begin to realize what mentalities are holding us back. The Two Towers shows that’s what makes a true hero.