Film Face-off: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' vs. 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Film Face-off: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' vs. 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

Dec 16, 2013

The middle movie of a trilogy is rarely looked at like the middle child. The middle child is forgotten. Thanks to The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2, that isn't always the case for films. Sure, there are more examples of a bad middle (Men in Black II), but we have hope with number two.

At first it didn't even look possible that we could have this Film Face-off. After all, The Hobbit book is typically less than 325 pages. Through the "magic" of Peter Jackson and company, they made it into two films, and eventually decided on three. Now we can compare Jackson's middle children. That's right, this week's Film Face-off is The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers vs. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.


The Title

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the exact title of J. R. R. Tolkien's novel, which was published in 1954. The two towers refer to Sauron and Saruman's (Christopher Lee) growing armies.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the title the creative team decided on since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again were taken by parts one and three. Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a talking dragon.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Ugh, the "Desolation of Smaug" doesn't roll of the tongue. Listening to everyone over-pronounce Smaug has been amazing, whether it is in the preview or from David Letterman. For humor's sake, it would win. While they do say, "desolation of Smaug" in the film, it's something that happened in the past, not something that happens over the course of this adventure. I guess the title's purpose is to help illustrate how difficult Smaug has been on the people of Laketown (though the film doesn't make you feel much of anything for these people). I believe "Laketown" is officially the laziest Tolkien location name ever and I'm all for it. With "Two Towers" we know what we're dealing with... two different growing powers. Done.


The Hobbit(s)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue to make there way to Mordor. Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan) talk to Ents (trees).

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) continues on his journey with the dwarves. He is not sure exactly what his purpose is, but he's growing in confidence and loves to play with his magical ring.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. For a film that includes the word "Hobbit" in its title, they sure seem to forget about the little guy. Bilbo blends in with the dwarves, unless he's using his ring to save the day. Bilbo keeps a secret from Gandalf (Ian McKellen), names his sword, and does a little burgling. While he's a little more motivated than in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, it doesn't compare to the drama of Frodo and Sam. Yes, having Gollum (Andy Serkis) helps, but the authentic friendship that Frodo and Sam share, along with Frodo truly looking like he's struggling to survive, Two Towers wins. Even if Pippin and Merry are bored hanging out with trees.


The Women

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

We have ourselves a love triangle. Arwen (Liv Tyler) is an elf who longs to be with Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), but Eowyn (Miranda Otto) thinks he's pretty great as well, plus she's hanging out with him more.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I don't think there is a love triangle here. Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is an elf who comes from a humble background. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) might have feelings for her, but she has her eyes on a dwarf. Tauriel kicks a lot of orc butt.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Trust me, I wanted to avoid the more obvious love triangle, and go with the girl who kills everything in her sight. Unfortunately, Tauriel doesn't make a lot of sense. Legolas' dad explains that she's not good enough for his son. I guess she's fine with that, but then seems to use that information to manipulate Legolas into following her into danger. She also has no problem disobeying her king, though she also seems to respect him. The most amusing part is that she has a heart-to-heart with a dwarf while all the other dwarves can clearly hear them. Arwen and Eowyn are right to desire Aragorn, even if it slows the movie down a little bit. I wonder if anyone besides me has realized Arwen and Aragorn are going through the same relationship difficulties as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).


The Others

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Gandalf has to go check on something. Aragon, Legolas and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) are trying to rally the troops. Gollum is going nuts. Saruman the White is growing orcs. The Ents eventually wage war.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Gandalf has to go check on something. Legolas kills orcs, beheading them when given the opportunity. Thorin (Richard Armitage) really wants to take back a mountain from a dragon. Bard (Luke Evans) helps Throin and the rest of the dwarves get where they need to go.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Let's talk about motivation here. The dwarves want Thorin to reclaim his thrown, and the Arkenstone, which is important because... it's important. Bard works way too hard to help get the dwarves into Laketown. Listening to Legolas and Gimli bicker is one of the comedic highlights of these films. Legolas didn't have anyone to play off of this time around. Gollum is Gollum (amazing). It's comical at this point when Gandalf tells everyone he's sorry, but he has to go. In Two Towers at least he makes a grand comeback.


The Ending

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Things look desperately bad at Helm's Deep with Aragon, Legolas, Gimli and others barely hanging on. Gandalf appears with Éomer (Karl Urban) and his men, turning the tide. The Ents win their battle. Sam and Frodo continue to walk, with Gollum going even madder than before.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Plot Spoilers! Gandalf realizes who is is up against. Bilbo tries to help the dwarves, who eventually return the favor. Smaug doesn't want anyone taking his gold, so he does a lot of dragon things to prevent that from happening. Smaug then turns his sights onto Laketown.

Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Back in 2002, I was shocked when Gandalf showed up at Helm's Deep. This is probably because it was almost three a.m. since I saw the Thursday midnight screening. It was still a nice surprise. Better than that was the fun conversation between Sam and Frodo, imagining their tiny lives would be the talk of fables. Even better than that is the insane danger that was lurking in Gollum's big eyes. With Desolation the film ends. Seriously, that's how it felt. They just picked a random moment and faded to black. Most importantly, I would have easily sat through The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King once Two Towers ended, even though it would have meant no sleep for work the next day. I didn't have the same motivation with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.


OVERALL WINNER: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers defeats The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 5-0.

I feel like The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers could have done this all day. Another category was going to be "Best Moment." That would have been another Two Towers victory with Gimli saying, "Toss me" beating the very fun barrel-rolling scene from Desolation. At this point, two things are becoming very clear. One, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is better than The Hobbit trilogy. Whether you think it's fair to compare the two is up to you. The other thing is that The Hobbit trilogy is shaping up to be better than The Star Wars prequels. Desolation is an improvement on An Unexpected Journey, but not much more than that.




Categories: Features
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