Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tolkien Month Part 2: The Two Towers (2002)

     For the next few weeks, we’ll be continuing on “Reel Christianity” to look at movies based on the books of J.R.R. Tolkien and how some of these characters resemble Christ in their actions. Today, I’m looking at the second “Lord of the Rings” film, and in a lot of ways, it’s my favorite of the trilogy. Even though the groups of characters are on different paths and never meet up, there’s still an incredible character arc that happens, and there are a ton of really cool scenes—a couple of which we’ll look at today!

     In “The Two Towers”, Frodo and Sam are alone on their journey to Mordor, while Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli look for Merry and Pippin after Boromir and Gandalf has sacrificed themselves. The film begins with the flashback to Gandalf’s death as he battles a monster underground (that’s basically what happens, I don’t have time to explain the whole situation), and then we follow Frodo and Sam as they walk through the middle of nowhere. But one night, they are snuck up on by a stranger: Gollum (Andy Serkis), a sort-of person who long ago was consumed by greed for the Ring and now lives as a CGI skeleton basically. When Frodo and Sam find him, they decide (Sam being more reluctant) to bring him along and have him show them the way to the Black Gate into Mordor.

     Meanwhile, the three others find that the Hobbits have been taken to Isengard, where Saruman is working with Sauron to attack the villages of Middle-Earth. One of these is Rohan, where King Théoden (Bernard Hill) is pretty much decrepit because Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif), who is secretly working with Saruman, has put Théoden under a spell. Aragorn and company go to rescue him, but not before they get help from a certain someone: Gandalf.

     As you might have guessed, Gandalf is the first example I’d like to talk about today that relates to Christ. For one thing, yeah, he basically rose from the dead. When fighting with the Belrog in the cave and elsewhere, Gandalf “died” but found new life in his sacrifice, and has now transformed from Gandalf the Grey into Gandalf the White. But in addition to all that, the timing of his return and its purpose is incredibly similar to that of Jesus. And I’m not necessarily talking about Jesus’ return at the end of the world.

     Here’s what Christ promises in Acts 1, as he is about to ascend into Heaven:

     He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

     After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

     They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (1:7-11)

     Jesus promised his followers that one day, once His work was done on this earth, He would return and save the world finally. That is a promise not too different from what Gandalf tells Aragorn when he finally reveals himself, and it is a powerful revelation.

GANDALF: I have been sent back until my task is done. …I am Gandalf the White. And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.

     So they go to Rohan, Gandalf performs an exorcism on Théoden basically, and turns him back into his normal self, who casts Grima out of the kingdom. Grima eventually goes back to Saruman, but meanwhile, Gandalf and the others work with Théoden to help him get ready for an impending battle. (By the way, through all of this, Merry and Pippin have escaped from the Orcs and found shelter in the Ents, talking trees in a forest, one of which is named Treebeard [John Rhys-Davies]. So the two Hobbits are pretty safe at this point.)

     And while all that is going on, Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are still making their way to the Black Gate. There’s danger, but they stay alive (obviously), leading up to a pivotal scene where Gollum battles with himself. Gollum, it turns out, has a split personality—he used to be known as Sméagol, a Hobbit-like being, but Gollum is his new self after the Ring has possessed him. And in one scene, he literally talks to himself, and Gollum and Sméagol fight it out.

GOLLUM: Where would you be without me? (coughing) Gollum! Gollum! (normal) I saved us! It was me. We survived because of me!

SMÉAGOL: Not anymore.

GOLLUM: What did you say?

SMÉAGOL: Master [Frodo] looks after us now. We don’t need you. …Leave now and never come back!

     And again, as you might have guessed, this is the other example of a character in the film becoming more like Christ. Sméagol, like all of us, battles with a darker part of himself (or, honestly, the Enemy inside him), that tells him that he is not good enough or not worthy. This scene with Sméagol/Gollum battling in the darkness reminded me a little of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (a scene that I referenced last week), where Jesus is anguished about being crucified but prays: “Yet not my will, but yours.”

     Sméagol, after finding a new and better master in Frodo, tells his old self to leave and never bother him again, and Gollum does in fact leave him. (He’s not gone for long, however, but when you see this scene for the first time, it’s pretty victorious.) And a scene like that should inspire us as followers of Christ to put aside our sinful natures, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus.

     Soon after this scene happens, however, Sméagol and the two Hobbits are captured and brought to Gondor, a former ally of Rohan. There, they meet Faramir (David Wenham), Boromir’s brother who wants the Ring for himself to take to his father the king (he learns that Frodo has it after ambushing Sméagol, causing Gollum to slowly return into Sméagol’s spirit). Long story short, Gondor is attacked by Orcs, and at the same time, Rohan is being invaded by another Orc army. (There’s just a lot of fighting going on.) And at one point, a Ringwraith approaches Frodo and tempts him to give up the Ring. However, at the last moment, Sam overtakes him and saves him. And because of Sam’s bravery, the Hobbits are able to continue on their quest, once again with Gollum, who once again tries to figure out a way to take the Ring for himself.

     I apologize that I’m not able to explain these movies in full detail because they’re so long, but I pray that these articles will help open doors for you as readers to discover other ways that these characters represent Christ. I’ll close once again with the theme verse for the series, Ephesians 5:1-2: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

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