Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers
Just like in any successful film, there is the tendency to go back to the well just to see what else can be withdrawn. Most sequels are made based on the success of the original, either critically or financially. For the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books, a sequel was necessary because the story is just too big for one film. You can even argue it is too big for three films, but three is certainly better than none!
The Two Towers has succeeded The Fellowship of the Ring both in time and success. The second installment in the film trilogy picks up right where the first leaves off, but the sequel actually goes one better. It was even more successful than the original, earning more money though it retained the same ranking as the original as the number two moneymaker of its release year. Monetary success aside, the second film didn't match the first in terms of either story-telling, or awards, though it clearly excelled at adding in plenty of special effects.
The Two Towers picks up the story started in Fellowship of the Ring. The party has been split asunder and each group is trying to stay alive and continue the quest. Along the way they run into various troubles and find new allies, and a huge battle takes place at the stronghold of Helm's Deep. Any more might be telling, so go see the movie. Better yet, read the books as they are much better than the movies (though the movies are still well worth watching).
The fourth series of single carded action figures from The Two Towers is actually the last assortment to hit shelves, even though there is a fifth assortment. The fifth assortment was made up of figures that had been previously released, most of them in multi-packs and now being released alone. Because the figures were re-releases they were ready earlier than series three and four, which both had new figures in them. When added to the two horse packs (Aragorn with Brego and Gandalf the White with Shadowfax), the deluxe Treebeard and several multi-packs, the characters from the Two Towers are well represented.
This assortment consists mostly of new versions of characters that have been previously released. Frodo, Sam, Legolas and King Theoden all have prior incarnations, but new to this assortment is Gollum. There is a version of Gimli in Helm's Deep armor pictured on some of the cardbacks, but it is unknown whether he will be released later as a single carded figure or only in the Helm's Deep boxed set.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Everyone needs a few friends, and you'd be hard pressed to find one as good as Sam. Samwise Gamgee is the stalwart companion of Frodo on his quest into Mordor, even though his chosen profession is as a gardener. The true color of his character is revealed on the quest to destroy the ring through the land of shadow.
The conclusion of Fellowship of the Ring left the nine companions in four groups - the dead or presumed dead (Gandalf and Boromir), the captured (Merry and Pippen), the hunters (Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas) and those still on the quest to Mordor (Sam and Frodo). The two hobbits make there way through the hills and rough country of Mordor, and it becomes clear early on that they could use some help. Their needs are unanswered by an unlikely guide in Gollum, a prior ring-bearer.
Sam is devoted to Frodo, but he has some doubts as to the intentions of Gollum. Sam is suspicious of Gollum the entire way because he can tell that the ring has corrupted Gollum and that while he seems to be making progress, Sam will never truly trust him. While Sam would like to be rid of Gollum, he respects Frodo wishes in the matter and he keeps his distance. Sam's fondness for Frodo is kind of creepy, in a 'precious' sort of way.
Throughout their travels in Mordor the trio had to overcome the geography of the land while hiding from the fauna. This requires lots and lots of climbing, making a stair stepper seem like a welcome break. To get around they have a rope given by Galadriel and made by the Elves, and they use it to good effect both to repel and ascend, and for keeping Gollum under control.
The climbing is the basis for the base and action feature that accompanies the Sam in Mordor figure. He has a rocky outcropping with a spring return rope that can simulate climbing once a button is pressed. It would probably be more accurate to say it is most like the original Michael Keaton Batman zooming up a rope. This base is identical in function to the gargoyle base included with the movie Spider-Man, and it differs only in the look of it. It might even have the gargoyle underneath the rubbery rock covering, but we opted not to perform a vivisection on the base. The base is wall-mountable, yet another great feature from Toy Biz. Toy Biz started using wall-mountable display bases in the Spider-Man Classics line, and they've continued to incorporate this innovative design into various lines from the company. The other feature of the base is the inclusion of a vise, so it can be attached to a table's edge. The vise can double as a Mordor torture device used to extract juice from oranges and 'Baggins!' from Gollum.
Like the other hobbit figures, Sam is around four inches tall (4.25 to be exact) though he has some nice improvements to his articulation. The big addition is a bicep twist, and for those keeping score Sam's arm has four points of articulation and a Justice League figure has five. He has ball-jointed shoulders, bending elbows and twisting wrists added to the bicep twists. He has a ball-jointed neck (though up and down are limited), twisting waist, swivel jointed thighs, bending knees and twisting calves. He has a sword with a scabbard, a nice Elvish cloak and a small wineskin. The face is pudgy looking, but the gut is a little small for Sam, so he must be losing some weight trekking through Mordor, or maybe he just sucked it in when posing for the figure.
Sean Astin is Samwise in the film series, and you might remember him from such noteworthy films as White Water Summer and Safe Passage. No? How about Encino Man with Pauly Shore and Brendan Fraser, or the Goonies. Okay, he was Rudy in Rudy, there - we said it. Sean got his head scanned at Gentle Giant studios and Steve Kiwus (think curvy women from Marvel Select) sculpted the body. Bill Mancuso was responsible for the rock base that Sam climbs, and his work can be seen in many of the Marvel Legends bases. Basically, all your base belongs to Bill.
Gollum is a study in dichotomy and duality, with a bit of depravity thrown in for good measure. He's bad, he's good, and has multiple personalities. He's old, he's spry and agile, and doesn't seem to age any more. He's sneaky, clever and badly in need of some rogaine. In short, (and he's short too) he's possibly the most complex character in the film, and he's not even played directly by an actor but a virtual character to boot, one brought to life by the wizards at WETA.
Gollum is a twisted creature, one whose body and mind have decayed from too long a life and also from exposure to Sauron's ring. Gollum started life as Smeagol, the hobbit, and when his cousin Deagol actually found the One Ring, Smeagol grew jealous and killed his cousin and took it from him. That began his long association with the ring, one that would last over 600 years and gave Gollum long life, but one that also drove him mad and made him a slave to the same ring. He was given the appellation Gollum because of noises he made in his throat, and left the other hobbits and found his way to the Misty Mountains.
He stayed in the mountains until fate (or perhaps providence) led Gandalf the Gray and a party of dwarves and one hobbit (Bilbo Baggins) into the same mountains. The party was divided, and after Bilbo was separated he ended up finding a magical gold ring that he learned could turn him invisible. Found might be a relative term, because Gollum felt it belonged to him and when he discovered that Bilbo had it he was enraged and went crazy. The ring had such a hold on Gollum that years after Bilbo had left with the ring he still sought it out, to be re-united with his precious. This quest has led him to meeting up with Frodo and Sam on their journey across Mordor.
Through his travails Gollum has been torn between who he once was, and what he has become. His possession of the ring was punctuated with violence and murder, and so it has colored his relationship with it. While he is desperate for redemption, clearly no one in his entire life has ever tried to offer it to him until Frodo does (Bilbo felt pity, but never the same compassion as Frodo). This desire to be redeemed is truly genuine and this makes him sympathetic. The question is not about his desire for salvation, but in truth whether he can be saved from the ring, and this runs as a thread in the larger tapestry of the story of Lord of the Rings.
Gollum has probably been the most anticipated character and action figure from the Lord of the Rings films, and like his character he's a mixture of good and bad. There have been two Gollum action figures made prior to this one, the first by Knickerbocker Toys based on the Ralph Bakshi animated film, and the other from Toy Vault. The Toy Vault version was based on the literary descriptions of Gollum, and ended up rather close to the same appearance as the version that WETA and Peter Jackson developed for the film trilogy.
Gollum had many challenges in his translation, the first of which was that he was not an actor but a character that only existed as a computer construct. Since Gollum is very agile and flexible, but also very tiny as a figure, this needs to be taken into account by the product designer. The result was that Gollum was made as a bendy figure, with a rubbery skin and not as an articulated hard plastic one. He comes with a rock base that has a sound clip when a button is pressed, and the clip sounds perfect as Gollum says 'My Precious'. The only question about this display base is why it wasn't wall-mountable like Sam's Mordor base, as this would seem like a perfect application.
The bendy format has advantages and disadvantages, though it seems to be the best solution to the character. This format allows the figure to look more realistic without the signs of articulation in him, and when he is posed he looks less like a toy and more like the character. However, over time with repeated bendings the paint details will eventually chip and wear off (as it will on any toy that is well-played with). There are also poses that the figures cannot do and the fingers are very rubbery since the hands are too small to add in a wire. The paint detailing and sculpting is top notch and the figure turned out flawlessly.
The special effects company WETA is responsible for creating Gollum for the screen, and they received an Academy Award for their work on The Two Towers. Taking their cue, Toy Biz employed sculptor Phil Ramirez to translate Gollum into three dimensions in between his other work on Marvel Legends and a little side trip for some Muppets figures. Bill Mancuso sculpted the rock base modeled on Phil's head. Not really, Phil's head has a wall-mounting slot and he says other lines than 'my precious' when you push his button. Andy Serkis is the voice of Gollum, the same voice that can be heard from the base of this toy.
Frodo Baggins is the primary protagonist in the Lord of the Rings, and he's the official ring-bearer since he inherited it from his Uncle Bilbo. After accepting the ring from Bilbo and then taking on the quest at the Council of Elrond the real fun begins. From there he traveled with his companions until he entered Mordor with only Sam, and Gollum in tow.
Carrying the ring isn't like going to the corner store, and while the myriad creatures that stand between Frodo and his goal seem to be the problem, they are far from the most dangerous foe. The true enemy is the ring, because it's inherently evil and as it gets closer to Sauron and Mount Doom, and as Sauron's power increases, so does the draw of the ring. As the quest progresses the question becomes not whether they can get to Mount Doom, but whether Frodo will give in to the ring before then.
The two companions of Frodo on his journey through Mordor are instrumental in him keeping his sanity. On one hand he has Sam, whose devotion and love for Frodo keep his spirits up and help him fight the influence of the ring. On the other, there is Gollum. He is the other end of the spectrum, and what will happen if Frodo cannot fight off the power of the ring. Gollum also represents the possibility of redemption, and Frodo sees in him a chance to save himself and so has great compassion for the creature.
Just as he would be hard to find wearing the One Ring, so it is with the Twilight Frodo action figure. He's a chase figure, meaning he's packed much less than other figures in this assortment so you have much less chance in finding him on casual trips. The actual numbers are being kept secret, though he is clearly packed at one per case or less. Whether this may change over time is unknown, but historically you'll either have to get lucky and find this, or pay an inflated price on the secondary market if you want to have this figure.
As with most chase figures, this one has heavy re-use of parts so the smaller runs cost can be spread among this and another figure. The figure is molded in clear plastic to simulate Frodo being invisible while he is wearing the One Ring. The cardback is for The Two Towers, but the figure does not represent Frodo as seen in that film. The figure is the same one used for the initial Frodo figure released fro Fellowship of the Ring, albeit now totally clear. The cloak he wears doesn't have the leaf clasp given by Galadriel and the elves so he makes a better Weathertop Frodo than anything else.
The articulation and action feature were also retained from the original Frodo from Fellowship of the Ring. When you squeeze his legs together he right arm raises up in a battle action and his groin hurts from the squeezing. Because of the action feature the left leg really can't move very much at the thigh, but the right one has a full range of motion. The calves can twist and the shoulders have ball-joints. The neck twists and so do the wrists and there are no knee or elbow joints. He has a transparent Sting and the layers of clothing and the cloak are make of softer plastic, just like the first figure.
One of the cool touches with this figure is that it doesn't use the same standard cardback as other figures in the Two Towers line. The standard cardback has a map of Rohan as a background for the carded figure but Twilight Frodo has a giant Eye of Sauron behind him, as the eye is always watching when you wear his ring. He's kind of a nasty stalker.
Gentle Giant did the scanning of actor Elijah Woods as Frodo, both the regular figure and when he was in the twilight world. That's because they have special twilight lasers. Steve Kiwus sculpted the body and accessories for Frodo, and since there is no rock base poor Bill Mancuso doesn't get any credit.
When King Theoden of Rohan is first introduced to audiences in The Two Towers, he's a feeble old man whose years have had the better of him. While he is an older man, we later learn that it isn't the years so much as the magic. Grima Wormtongue had cast a bit of a spell on the King (with some help from Saruman) to make him weak and easy to control. Sounds like marriage. When Gandalf rejoins Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, they visit the king and after a little staff-work from Gandalf, the spell is broken and poor Grima is out in the wild and the king is all better.
Once revived and thinking clearly, and after a little intelligence briefing from his guests, Theoden decides that they should evacuate his capital and all head out for Helm's Deep. Helm's Deep is the refuge for the people of Rohan and where they have the best beer in all the land. Once they get there, now they have to hold off Saruman's army of orcs, who seem dead set on killing them (and getting that great beer).
They say that clothes make the man, and when you have an impending battle with 10,000 Orcs you like to get out the good clothes. For Theoden, he wears his finest armor to ensure he looks his best, even if the battle may be his last. The armor itself is detailed and decorated with images of an equine nature, since the people of Rohan are linked with their horses. That and their big stone fortresses.
The one thing the King could really use is a horse, but barring that he's in good shape when it comes to armor. The figure is well-sculpted with the equine motif all over his armor, built into the various pieces of armor. The armor's detail is amazing and underneath is a highly articulated figure. He has ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, bicep twists, bending elbows and twisting wrists. The neck has a ball-joint, the waist twists and the knees can bend, though usually knees are bend to the King. His ankles move up and down and have side-to-side motion. He's armed with a sword that fits into the scabbard on his belt and a removable helmet just as ornate as the armor.
The King has an action feature that lets you attack with his left arm when you push his button. That button is actually a large button on his back, and it's very obvious and really doesn't fit in with the horse decorations. Well, only part of the horse we shouldn't mention... With a big button on his back, no wonder he was easily manipulated!
Bernard Hill is the King of the Hill, er, Mark. He was also the Captain of the Titanic. Why does that make us think something bad will happen to him in the next movie? It's good to be the King, and even better when Dave CortÚs is your sculptor. Dave sculpted the Cave Troll figure (which rocks) and his work can be seen in some of the Ultimate X-Men busts from Diamond Select (Cyclops and Magneto).
Legolas seems to be the break out character for the series of films, as thousands of women across the world will eagerly attest. You might think it's the skintight clothing, or his Elvish grace. You might say he's thin and tall, but the truth is that it's the hair. Long blond hair is terribly sexy, and chicks dig the hair. For all the bald men out there take some solace in knowing that the actor wore a wig, so it isn't so bad.
After the fellowship is broken, Legolas finds himself traveling with Gimli and Aragorn in search of Merry and Pippen. As they travel across the plains of Rohan the three are able to bond, and even Gimli becomes a close friend to Legolas despite the fact that Dwarves and Elves tend not to get along. They stay together as they travel to Edoras, the capital of Rohan. There they can take a short break, break the spell on King Theoden, get some food and then head out to Helm's Deep to fight an Orc army that's on the way. Talk about your hectic days!
Once they arrive at Helm's Deep, they dig in to make their stand against Saruman's army. It is at the fortress that the heroes decide to go a little native, and they take on some of the armor from the people of Rohan. The best stuff ends up on the King, but there is certainly enough left for the main characters to looks different and feel a little safer. After that, battle ensues and during the fight Legolas goes Tony Hawk on the Orcs, using a shield for a makeshift skateboard to get down the stairs quicker since they don't have any disability laws in Rohan that require ramps.
There are really only small differences between this figure and the Rohan armored version released with the Two Towers Asst 1. The figure is identical in body, but there is a new head (with a different expression) and the cape looks slightly different in that it is more open. Weapons are the same as before, with the addition of the shield with wheels on it used as a means of passage. The good news is that he can still hold or store all his weapons and skate around. The shield has a strap on it to hold one foot and there is a peg for the other. The wheels are pretty obviously after-market parts on the Mark 3 Orc shield.
As with the prior figure, this has ball-jointed shoulders and thighs, and the neck has a limited ball-joint so he can look up and down and from side to side. The wrists and mid-biceps have twists and the elbows and knees can bend. The ankles just move up and down but the calves have twists that are hidden under the boot cuffs. As for weaponry, he has a pair of daggers, the bow given to him by Galadriel (unless you only saw the first movie in a theatre, in which case you will have to trust us), a Rohan sword and five arrows. The arrows fit in the quiver on his back, there are sheathes for the knives attached to the quiver and the sword stores in a scabbard on the front. The skateboard he usually leaves home.
You can thank the folks at Gentle Giant for the Legolas figure, as they created it just to satisfy millions of women. Why do they do it? To satisfy millions of women. Plus it's fun. Orlando Bloom is the man behind the elf, and he's going to be part of the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean. The movie, not the ride.
Pictures of Sam in Mordor
Pictures of Gollum
Pictures of Twilight Frodo
Pictures of Armored King Theoden
Pictures of Helm's Deep Legolas
Lord of the Rings Links
|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 Action Figure Xpress. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)
Treebeard & Sauron
Two Towers Asst. 1 - (Faramir, Legolas, Gandalf the White, Gondorian Ranger, Easterling)
Two Towers Asst. 2 - (Saruman, Aragorn, Eomer, Theoden, Wormtongue, Rohirrim Soldier)
Two Towers 2-packs - (Pippin and Ugluk, Merry and Grishnakh, elf archer and berserker uruk-hai)