Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers
The bridging part of a trilogy (technically known as the middle) can be the most interesting part. The characters and situations are defined from the first part, so exposition to bring the reader up to date can be minimized. Since the second part needs to lead in to the third part and not resolve the story, it can surely lead to interesting endings. While setting up the ultimate climax of the tale it can bring in new characters. The Two Towers is the bridge between The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King in the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books (and lately films), and it meets all the criteria to be a stronger bridge than the one at Khazad-Dûm when the fellowship escapes the mines of Moria.
The Lord of the Rings is a series of novels that take place in the land of Middle Earth, where an evil lord made a very powerful ring. This ring is key to his plans for ruling Middle Earth, and it can also be his undoing if it were to be destroyed. Destroying it is the plan of the heroes of this epic, but like any quest doing this won't be easy. Having only one way and place to destroy the ring makes it hard, having that place in the heart of the enemy's territory makes it harder. When the enemy and others who covet its power know about it and are actively seeking it out, well that makes it harder than counting ballots in Florida.
In the first part of the saga, the heroes have decided that they will destroy the ring, and they have gathered and set into motion their plan to do so. Not everything goes according to plan since Murphy's Law holds sway in Middle Earth and there are difficulties, but they are still slowly moving towards success. The band of brothers that are assembled represent many of the peoples of the land, including humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits, the latter of whom play the most crucial role in the story. At the end of the first part they have lost several of their number (nine was the initial roster) and have been broken into three groups, each with a different agenda. One seeks escape, the other seeks to rescue the first group and the final pair seeks to fulfill the quest. If it sounds confusing, you may wish to watch the first film or better yet - read the book. You can go ahead now; this page will wait for you!
Toy Biz has the master toy license for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and they built a large line for the initial film. For the second they are off to a good start, with two assortments of single figures and one of two-packs. To supplement these are 12" figures, deluxe sets of figures with horses, a deluxe version of the big baddie himself - Sauron, and a deluxe version of a new character from The Two Towers - Treebeard. The first three waves of figures (assortment 1, assortment 2 and the two-packs) have all been released close together and they are working their way through the distribution chain.
The first assortment had five figures - Gandalf the White, Faramir, Easterling, Gondorian Ranger and Legolas, while the two-packs contained Pippin and Ugluk, Merry and Grishnakh and an elf archer with a berserker uruk-hai. Assortment Two of single figures weighs in at six figures, with Saruman the White, Aragorn, Éomer, Rohirrim, Theoden and Grima Wormtongue. Originally the single assortments were designed around four figures per assortment, but this was changed to help beef them up a bit. In the first assortment Gandalf wasn't shipping with the early cases and the same fate has befallen Theoden for Assortment Two, with him currently shipping but not appearing in the early cases.
Four of the characters in the assortment are making their debut as figures and the remaining two were issued under Fellowship of the Ring. Aragorn and Saruman were previously released and Aragorn is the same figure released in the last assortment of toys from Fellowship of the Ring exactly, just with a different package. The Saruman figure is nearly the same, with a slightly different paint decoration and a change in the accessories from the previous release. All the figures are fully articulated and many have action features. The figures are based around a six inch scale, meaning one inch is roughly equivalent to one foot so these will fit in with most six and seven inch scale figures.
All the figures come carded in the same style packaging as the prior figures from this film and the first. They are blister carded in a semi-cylindrical package that has a map of Gondor and Rohan as the background. The cards are reddish in hue, and they stand out when compared with the lush, green cards from Fellowship of the Ring.
The two figures that were re-released as Two Towers figures really stand out from the newer figures in terms of the overall articulation and quality of the sculpt. The improvements that have been made by Toy Biz are very apparent and welcome, and the line should get even better as it progresses.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Saruman the White is the head of the order of wizards known as the Istari. The Istari are really beings of great power known as Maiar, and if that seems confusing they decided to color-code themselves for ranking, just to make it easier. White is the top color, then gray, then brown and after that, well who cares. You really aren't anybody unless you are at least someone the brown, though we might suppose the other two (there were five of the Istari) might be Mr. Pink and Mr. Blonde. Not only was he the head of the Istari, but he served in the same capacity on the White Council, which is sort of like the UN of Middle Earth with the big guns as part of it planning to watch for and finish off Sauron.
Saruman was a good guy for a while, being friendly with the people of Rohan and taking over Isengard (or Orthanc in Elvish) as a guardian. He was wise and he studied long and hard about the great rings of power and became envious of their power. He became obsessed with getting the One Ring for himself, and even deceived his friends and beat up Gandalf over it. Eventually his treachery was unveiled, though it only caused him to speed up his destruction of the land around Isengard, build a huge Orc army and start to move against Rohan. He sent his army to kill all the men in Rohan and you have to watch the movie to find out if they win. There is a third film, so it shouldn't be too much of a mystery...
Christopher Lee has been busy with part two films this year, making appearances as number two bad guys in LOTR and Star Wars Episode 2. That is way too many number twos to be good.
The figure of Saruman is identical to the Saruman released for The Fellowship of the Ring except for some of the paint and accessories. The difference is that the Two Towers version no longer has a pedestal to rest the Palantir on, and that the Palantir is no longer simply black but filled with the eye of Sauron. It looks kind of like a basketball, maybe for the new basketball league that the WWE will sponsor in Middle Earth. Saruman's staff is the same, and the Palantir stays in his hand by magic (known here as magnetism).
The paint decoration of the figure has changed slightly, most notably in the way the face is painted. There is a simpler style for Two Towers which looks better than the previous version, and the trim on the robes seems shinier. Press images of the new release of Saruman showed him having a significantly whiter costume, but the production piece does not and the colors are the same as the original version. Saruman has an action feature which allows staff raising action when a lever is pressed in his back. His head can twist though the hair sculpting prevents much movement at all, the shoulders both have ball-joints and the elbows bend. The wrists can twist, as can the waist and the knees bend and the thighs twist (no ball-joints).
Theoden is the king of Rohan, but sometimes it's not good to be the king! Rohan is the land of horses, and Saruman has his eye on it. He works a few spells through his servant Grima and is able to weaken and control the king. Theoden was once a great warrior but under the machinations of Saruman he is pretty much a lay about, or in modern terms a throne potato.
Luckily, there is a cure for what ails him. Gandalf slips him a few aspirin and with a wave of his wand - bam! He's cured, just like Emeril getting his show cancelled. Once he gets his head clear he can organize the country, get a retreat going to a place of relative safety (and much more dramatic for battle) he can lead his people against the hordes of Saruman. Then they can ride into the sunset on their beloved horses!
Bernard Hill, who also played the Captain of the Titanic in the eponymous film, plays Theoden. Not to ruin it, but he lost the ship in that one. Three guesses as to whether he left that off his resume when he ran for king.
Theoden's figure has gone all out for articulation, and he has ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, mid-bicep twists and bending elbows. Add to that wrists that twist, neck and waist that twist, knees and ankles that bend and a mid-calf twist hidden at the cuff of the boot and you'd have it all covered. Theoden also has a sword that fits into its sheath, cape (which can be removed, but may take a little work to re-attach) and an action feature. He has sword attack action on the right arm when a button is pressed on his back. That's much more than you'll ever get from a Titanic action figure (with sinking action).
Éomer is the nephew of King Theoden, and the brother of Eowyn. Since he doesn't like Grima, the King doesn't like him, especially after calling the king his 'crazy uncle Theo'. Éomer is third in line for the throne, though whoever is second is never spoken of, maybe because he's lying low just in case Éomer wants to move up a spot.
Éomer is a great horseman and warrior, and ends up being loyal not only to Gandalf but to Aragorn. Once Gandalf cures the king, Éomer is back in the King's good graces (after slipping him a twenty). He helps Theoden lead the men of Rohan at the battle of Helm's Deep, scoring major brownie points.
Karl Urban portrays Éomer in the film. The New Zealander might be familiar for viewers of Xena: Warrior Princess because he played Cupid and Caesar on the show, and he got to make out with Xena. Some guys have all the luck...
Just because you are a high-ranking rider of the mark it doesn't mean you get a horse. You do get a cool helmet and a sword that fits neatly into a sheath on your belt. The helmet is removable and fits well, and the sculpting on it it detailed enough to see the horses head on the nose-piece. All the armor is just as well sculpted with detailed scales and plating that have paint washes.
The figure has ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, though the shoulders movements are hampered somewhat by the armor on the biceps. The neck twists but is limited in motion by the hair sculpting. Elbows bend and the wrists twist, knees bend as do the ankles. The waist can twist but it has an action feature that spring returns it to center when it is twisted counter-clockwise. This is the sword attack action, which is useful for orcs or other pests.
Grima Wormtongue is a nasty little man who acts as King Theoden's advisor but also a spy for Saruman. With a name like Wormtongue you'd think he might have seemed suspicious, but it must be a decent name in Middle Earth. He helped to slowly influence Theoden to look the other way as Saruman grew in power, and also helped him quite smoking as a side effect.
Grima is a treacherous man and when things start to go sour in Rohan he heads out to hide with Saruman. Most people would betray others for power or money, but Grima did it because Saruman promised him Eowyn when everything was over. Eowyn is clearly a woman to motivate one to do things he shouldn't, but most of them are just embarrassing rather than traitorous. Some of them chafe.
Brad Dourif is the man behind Grima, and his work is both distinguished and extensive. His first role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest garnered him and Academy Award nomination and helped start him in the role of disturbed or deranged characters. His intensity is his trademark and he appeared on Star Trek: Voyager, the movie Dune and is the unforgettable voice of Chucky from Child's Play. Knowing that he's originally from West Virginia makes it all make sense.
Grima has a built-in action feature, and one that fits him perfectly - knife slashing action. When you press a button on his back (hidden under the layers of his robes) his left arm moves forward to slash anyone in the wrong place. To aid the knife slashing the figure has two knives - a dagger in a sheath on his belt, and a larger one that he carries in the left hand. In the right is a handkerchief that has a loop that fits around one of the fingers. He also has a vial of some nefarious liquid, maybe poison or possibly Fresca.
Grima has more than just knives, he has articulation! The right shoulder and both thighs are ball-jointed while the left shoulder is limited to the movements of the action feature. The knees and ankles can bend, and the ankles have the side-to-side joint for the feet. There are mid-calf twists hidden at the boot cuffs, the waist and neck turn and the wrists twist. The right elbow bends while the left has some bending, but the action feature limits it so it isn't as poseable as the other elbow.
The Rohirrim are the men of Rohan, and they treasure one thing above all else - horses. A close second would be the absolute cheapest long-distance rates in Middle Earth. The men of Rohan are tall and blond, and they love to ride. Horses. They got the name of Rohirrim from Gondor, which means 'horse-lord people'. The horses just call them neigh-bors.
They would raise the noblest mounts in Middle Earth, and were known as the best horsemen in the land. They always remained friendly with Gondor and Isengard. The warriors of the Rohirrim fight with spears and swords, and they import a lot of saddle soap. Many of the younger men of Rohan like to say they are 'gifted' in certain ways like horses, but it isn't true. They just say it to pick up girls.
The Rohirrim soldier looks to be the best all-around for this assortment. He has loads of articulation and weapons, great sculpting and lacks only one thing - an action feature. He has a removable helmet that is very well sculpted, showing off the equine designs of it, and a removable cape. He has a shield that can be held or strapped around the back and a sword that rests in either his hand or a sheath on his belt. The overall level of detail for the armor's sculpting is very high, with the complex designs on armor looking sharp.
The shoulders and thighs are ball-jointed and both arms have mid-bicep twists. The elbows bend and wrists twist, while the waist and neck twist also. The knees and ankles can bend, and there is a mid-calf twist installed that is very hard to find but even allows the knee plate to move with the lower armor section. Toy Biz has taken great pains to ensure the figure is well-articulated but doesn't look that way, and they've succeeded. The mail shirt and skirt are a softer plastic that covers the body so when you twist the waist it still maintains the aesthetic look. If you only buy one figure from this assortment, get this one.
Aragorn is the true name of Strider the Ranger, and he's also the heir to the throne of Gondor and of Isildur. Aragorn can inherit a kingdom and he has first dibs on Narsil, the broken sword seen in the first film. With all that inheritance comes the responsibility of protecting it all, keeping the people safe and warding off evil. Having to collect taxes means that you do a little evil, so it can be a fine line.
Aragorn may be Middle Earth's number one bachelor. He's heir to a whole kingdom, has great genes, is in good shape, can fight and he's good looking. To top that off, he's always in danger so any future bride has a pretty good shot at early inheritance unless he gets a pre-nup. He does have some Numenorean and Elvish blood, so if he doesn't get killed he should live for a long time, which wouldn't work for any Middle Earth gold diggers.
Viggo Mortensen has the role of Aragorn, and during shooting he was so into the part that when he chipped a tooth during a fight scene he wanted to glue it back on and then get back into the scene. Aragorn is a far cry from one of his earliest roles as an Amish man in Witness, when he would have let the orcs beat him up rather than fight.
Aragorn seems a little dated when compared to the newer figures in this assortment, and the figure is identical to the Aragorn released with the last assortment of fellowship figures. He lacks ball-jointed thighs and the four new ones all have them. He does have a ball-jointed left shoulder though the right can't do much more than the built-in action feature allows (more on this later). The elbows can bend and the right arm does have a mid-bicep twist to counteract the shoulder design. The neck, waist and wrists all twist and the knees can bend. The thighs can move, but only in one plane since they aren't ball-jointed. The ankles can bend and they have the side-to-side joint for the feet.
He does come with lots of accessories, including a sword and sheath, four arrows (one with a feathered vane that is unable to be shot from the bow), a quiver, a bed roll and a rolled blanket. The rolled blanket and bedroll are molded as is and they can be strapped around his shoulders or arms. He has a bow with a string that can fire when combined with the action feature. The feature is similar to that of Lurtz from the Fellowship and the Two Towers assortment one Legolas. You have to thread an arrow through a hole in the bow and line it up with the string. Then you have to wedge it between the fingers of the right hand and when a button on the back is pressed he pulls the arm back and fires the arrow. The feature works pretty well even though the button is rather large. The arrows aren't notched so it may take a little work to get him to hold it properly. The sculpting of his coat is in an action pose and is very reminiscent of the Will Smith MIB toy with the jacket that looks like Will (and maybe Aragorn) have had too much Mexican food. Best to stick with lembas on the road.
Pictures of Saruman
Pictures of Theoden
Pictures of Éomer
Pictures of Grima Wormtongue
Pictures of the Rohirrim Soldier
Pictures of Aragorn
|Where to buy Two Towers figures: The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers action figures retail in the $7.99 to $9.99 USD price range and are sold at most mass-market toy retailers, such as Toys'R'Us, Target, and Wal-Mart, as well as specialty and trend stores, and a variety of online toy and collectibles retailers.
Several such online stores are RTM sponsors Big Bad Toy Store, The Outer Reaches, and NHAtoys.com. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)