The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is, of course, the second in the movie trilogy and stars everybody from the first movie, plus Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, Craig Parker, and David Wenham.
The Fellowship is broken; Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) are captured by orcs, but said orcs are slaughtered by riders of Rohan led by Eomer (Urban), nephew to King Theoden (Hill) who's been banished by Grima Wormtongue (Dourif), an advisor to the king and puppet of Saruman (Lee) and whose name didn't somehow tip everybody off.
Gandalf (McKellan) comes back from the dead as Gandalf the White, and cures Theoden of his magical poison, Wormtongue gets kicked out of Rohan and fucks off to join Saruman. Meanwhile, Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) and tramping their way into Mordor, and wind up picking up Gollum (Serkis) as a guide. Gollum, of course, really wants the ring, but Frodo treats him with kindness and he manages to make himself free of his vicious alter ego. That is, at least, until the hobbits (and eventually Gollum) get picked up by Faramir (Wenham), younger brother to Boromir (Bean), and yanked back to Gondor until Faramir comes to his sense and lets the hobbits go.
Meanwhile, orcs attack Rohan, Aragorn (Mortensen), Gimli (Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Bloom) fall back with the Rohan folk into the massive fortress of Helm's Deep, and they're very nearly overrun until Gandalf Ex Machina returns with Eomer and his peeps, the orcs flee into the forest, said forest eats them (the trees are very angry with Saruman), and we get a bit of hope to end on.
Two Towers is a good continuation of the series. The scope just goes crazy-wide and we have three different main perspectives to consider (Merry/Pippin, Sam/Frodo/Gollum, Aragorn/Gimli/Legolas), plus a half-dozen others. We get a bunch of new characters dropped on us, but one thing I'll say for the extended edition, it plays fair by those folks and gives them enough attention that they feel like they belong here.
My big complaint about this movie is Gimli, if I'm honest. In the first movie he's got some personality, but he's a badass warrior and this dramatic and dire-sounding guy. And here he's got that, sure, but he's also the wacky comic relief, and it feels really out of joint. I'm also not crazy about extreme-sports Legolas, and I seem to remember that gets even weirder in the finale.
All in all, though, the scope of the movies is just epic, it's lovingly realized, and Sam's speech about the grand stories and being part of them at the end is always moving.
My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: Low
Next up: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King