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Monday, July 22, 2013

Howard Shore -- The Lord of the Rings-The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

 photo Tttcd-cover_zps90982af0.jpg

The first time I saw The Two Towers, I was quite angry afterward. Before the movie started, a friend who had never read the books asked me what he should expect.
"One word," I said. "Shelob."
Shelob is a giant spider, and she most definitely does not make an appearance in the film, The Two Towers. This is one of countless changes from the book to the film, and on first viewing, I hated every single one of them.
The Lord of the Rings films came out during the Christmas breaks of my sophomore, junior, and senior years of college (the first time). During that period, I learned a very valuable lesson. A movie and a book are not the same thing. After three or four viewings, I began to appreciate The Two Towers film as its own entity. I began to appreciate the excellence of its final battle scene. I began to appreciate that it had heart to go with its bombast. But what I appreciate most about this film are its more quiet, hypnotic moments. An immortal elf imagining a life alone, wandering an empty, dying Earth. The moon coming up over a forbidden pool. A wizard watching the stars wheel overheard. Ships passing silently over the sea as an ancient character describes the passage of time. This movie really excels in its middle-chapterness, and it does not lack action. The hour long 300 worn out men (2,000 in the book) versus 10,000 warrior orcs final battle pretty much ruined any fantasy film trying to do the same thing (I love the latter Harry Potter movies, but the final battle there is but a shadow of this one...not to mention the even better one to follow in Return of the King). But beyond the action,these quiet moments that contemplate what has happened, and what is yet to come, are, in my opinion, the most enjoyable. Fittingly, my favorite cue on the soundtrack to the film comes from one of these scenes, in this case, a moment where a hero, unconscious from battle, attempts to reawaken.

The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack captures these kind of moments well, and pumps up the adrenaline fittingly during the battle scenes. It introduces several memorable new themes, including a stirring, violin-led piece for the people of the horse-riding kingdom of Rohan. It also features some excellent choral work, much like its predecessor. Composer, Howard Shore, wisely lets vocalist, Enya, sit out of the proceedings. In her place, he uses a bevy of more exotic sounding singers, like the afore-linked Sheila Chandra in "Breath of Life." This lends the film a more epic landscape, as it takes place between much larger parties, and among characters now separated by greater distances.
One thing this soundtrack lacks compared to Fellowship of the Ring's, though, is a greater sense of continuity. The album just doesn't flow as excellently as its predecessor, but that's okay. Just like the film it is taken from, The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is quite fine on its own merits.

2002 Reprise
1. Foundations of Stone 3:51
2. The Taming of Sméagol 2:48
3. The Riders of Rohan 4:05
4. The Passage of the Marshes 2:46
5. The Uruk-hai 2:58
6. The King of the Golden Hall 3:49
7. The Black Gate Is Closed 3:17
8. Evenstar (feat. Isabel Bayrakdarian) 3:15
9. The White Rider 2:28
10. Treebeard 2:43
11. The Leave Taking 3:41
12. Helm's Deep 3:53
13. The Forbidden Pool 5:27
14. Breath of Life (feat. Sheila Chandra) 5:07
15. The Hornburg 4:36
16. Forth Eorlingas (feat. Ben Del Maestro) 3:15
17. Isengard Unleashed (feat. Elizabeth Fraser and Ben Del Maestro) 5:01
18. Samwise the Brave 3:46
19. Gollum's Song (performed by Emilíana Torrini) 5:51


Neal said...

Interesting. I wasn't really annoyed by Shelob not being in The Two Towers, actually. I think I had heard it was going to happen and understood how it was going to affect the rhythm of things.

On the other hand, I thought Aragorn's "death" was perfectly daft and still do. The books already have Gandalf doing something slightly similar (and Frodo), so they really didn't need to overdo it (and I think the ones from the book make a lot more sense). I liked how Arwen inspired Aragorn, don't get me wrong, but they could have done this without Aragron "dying." Blech.

Ugh, and the Ents needing to be persuaded as much as they were to do something about Saruman. Yes, I'm referencing the books, but the movies did the "I have to be convinced before I'll fight this terrible evil" way too much again.

*ahem* I have nerd/writer/critic issues.

Great analysis of the music in this soundtrack, too. Helped me remember what I liked in this one quite a bit, too.

I always liked Gollum's song as well. Poignant and captured the feel of the character quite well.

Nicholas said...

Thanks, Neal!
After repeat views, the kind of extraneous "dead Aragorn" section of the film took on more of a poetic tone for me. Not saying it is necessary, but I enjoyed the visual exploration of ephemerality.
The Ent persuasion did bother me. Hard to see it clearly with the shadow of the book hanging over, though. I think the filmmakers thought, Merry and Pippin have to be more important! but this could have been better conveyed by just having them convince the Ents the first time like the book.

Neal (the viking) said...

I've just never gotten the Ent thing because Merry and Pippin are important in the book as well--they're what causes the Ents to get moving beyond thinking "hmmm, maybe we should do something about that." They could have showed that very well, and the march of the Ents would have been a great visual.

I think the Ents stand out to me because it's part of a consistent maneuver in the movies as well. Theoden drags his feet even after having Saruman's influence removed. Denethor... for some reason doesn't give a crap. It's a seeking of drama in places that don't need it (not unlike a pile of skulls falling in a... haunted cave. That really was needed to make the scene more scary).

But I do agree that there are interesting elements to Aragorn's death. I just wish they had done it without the death, heh.