The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) - Platinum Series Special Extended Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Fantasy
New Line || PG13 - 208 minutes - $29.98 || November 18, 2003
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-06-15


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer(s): J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Frances Walsh (written by) & Philippa Boyens (written by) & Stephen Sinclair (written by) & Peter Jackson (written by)
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee


Theatrical Release Date: December 18, 2002


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Discs 1 & 2:
  • Director & Writers' Commentary
  • Design Team Commentary
  • Production/Post-Production Commentary
  • Cast Commentary


  • Disc 3:
  • Introduction
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-Earth
  • From Book to Script: Finding the Story
  • Designing and Building Middle-Earth
  • Gollum
  • Middle-Earth Atlas
  • New Zealand as Middle-Earth


  • Disc 4:
  • Introduction
  • Filming The Two Towers
  • Visual Effects
  • Editorial: Refining the Story
  • Music & Sound
  • "The Battle for Helm's Deep is Over..."


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-ES 6.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

The movie all in all is still great. The extended/deleted scenes are seemlessly intercutted into the film with no problems. I enjoyed the characters for sure and the action was great!

Original Review:
It was only a year ago that Fellowship of the Ring introduced us to author J.R.R. Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth in all of its grandeur. The film followed hobbit Frodo Baggins (Wood) as he, along with his companion Sam (Astin), takes a journey to destroy a ring that would rule and destroy everybody. The Lord of the Ring: The Two Towers continues this path but leaves Frodo to the sidelines somewhat as the story focuses on Aragon (Mortensen) and the battle to save the men from Saruman's (Lee) army of 10,000 strong.

Many of the characters that were introduced in FotR return including dwarf Gimli (Rhys-Davies), Elf sharpshooter Legolas (Bloom), Frodo's other two companions Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd), the mystical Arwen (Tyler) and of course Fellowship Oscar nominee Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White. The story revolves around Saruman's attempt to help Dark Lord Sauran take over Middle Earth and destroy everything and everybody in it's path- but most of all, regain the possession of the One Ring. Frodo and Sam continue on their journey to Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Meanwhile, Aragon, Gimli and Legolas team up with the Rohans and their king, Théoden (Hill), to battle Saruman's attack on Gondor and other towns in Middle Earth. A long battle ensues (almost an hour long) and the War of the Ring has begun.

I can't say that The Two Towers is better than The Fellowship of the Ring, however it does offer a little more action and adventure than it's predecessor. Fellowship took probably half of the film to introduce Tolkien's many colorful characters while at the same time trying to move the story forward. This time around, we know the characters and therefore the story takes center stage as we are now introduced to Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth. Yes, his vision was there in Fellowship, however my attention was more focused on the characters, while this time I could stay along with the story AND take in director Peter Jackson's glorious visuals.

First and foremost, Peter Jackson deserves an Oscar for Best Director because to undertake such a huge project such as this is phenomenal. Even though I already knew he filmed all three Ring movies at the same time, and even after watching the Fellowship extended edition, it only dawned on me now on how much work he must've went through to give us such a masterful vision. He makes great use of the New Zealand location and nicely mixes in special effects to the maximum point to that I could not tell in many of the scenes. I cannot praise Peter Jackson enough for the job he has done thus far.

What I appreciate from Peter Jackson's direction and the fact that they filmed all these in a row is the look of the film remains constant. As an added bonus, the actors themselves look the same and rather than taking a few months off, are already in character. Maybe Harry Potter should've done the same (Daniel Radcliffe looks like he'll be shaving soon).

Peter Jackson also deserves credit for weaving together such a complex plot with so many characters that needed a certain amount of screentime to move the story along. Each of the story segments have good transitions and we change from Frodo's journey to Mary and Pippin's adventure to Aragon's fight, all the while keeping a good pace (which is saying alot for a 3 hour movie).

As for the cast, there really is no one actor who gets a huge amount of screentime (although one could argue Aragon got quite a bit), but each of the actors hold their own in their scenes. The best acting credits I would give go to Viggo Mortensen as his character gets to expand more and Brad Dourif as Saruman's assistant Gríma Wormtongue. The rest of the cast including Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood and Sean Astin to a fine job with their roles.

The visuals are the biggest star in The Two Towers along with an epic battle that trumps anything I have seen since Braveheart. As of right now (December 18th), The Two Towers is my favorite film of 2002.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Because this is a massive DVD set, I will try to make this as short as possible while still giving you the reader a sense of what's on these discs.

Commentaries:
* The Director and Writers [Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyen]

The first commentary track is actually the best of the four. All three of the speakers are in the same room so the audience who actually enjoys a commentary track can follow what the people are saying rather than their words referring to something generic rather than what's onscreen. Further more, on this track, director Jackson and the writers seem to have a good time in between the info. they present- like one of them taking a jab at Jackson's weight (sounds harsh, but you would have to listen to know).

* The Cast [Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis]

This was the weaker of the tracks sadly because there are SO many speakers that I had somewhat of a hard time tracking who was who (even with the subtitles at the top of the screen displaying the actor's name and his/her character). One good thing though, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and Andy Serkis were together as were Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan. Before I had listened to the track, I was disappointed to see that Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellen did not provide commentary (I believe both did for Fellowship), but upon viewing the film, they would've just been two more in a crowded field.

It was interesting to see some of the contrast of what the cast was saying. Of course there was the usual ass-kissing as they compliment whichever actor was onscreen at the time but some of the actors are more professional than another while ones (like Wood and Astin) have both those qualities. Now, in all honesty, I only "listened" to about two-thirds of the commentary with the rest I was working on some college homework (multi-tasking at its best). The reason I bring this up is I never remembered Orlando Bloom saying anything even though he's listed as being on the track. . .

* The Design Team & The Production/Post-Production Team [Barrie M. Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, et al]

I decided to group these two together as they both have the same type of people speaking. The design team composed of individuals from Weta, a production designer, and I think a producer or two. The other track is almost all producers but with two editors, visual effects supervisors, sound editors, "previsualiaztion supervisor" and two more visual effects people. Both tracks basically say the same things but put together gives a lot more information than one would probably care to know.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-Earth
a documentary of sorts looking further into Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien's life. This feature is basically part 2 extending from the Fellowship of the Ring Extended DVD that chronicled Tolkien's childhood and such. This time around, they talk about his unusual friendship with C.S. Lewis. It was unusual because Tolkien was a devout Catholic while Lewis was an atheist. This was an interesting featurette but got a little boring for me.

From Book to Script: Finding the Story
is a featurette that interviews the screenwriters and the difficulties they had in writing the screenplay, in particular, writing a coherent story for a movie that really has no beginning or end. Although this featurette was a tad long at around 20 minutes, it was fun to watch and see why they did this or that. They explain why the Elves were placed into Helm's Deep (apparently they weren't there in the novel?).

Designing and Building Middle-Earth
is a two-part featurette with a runtime around an hour and a half. The first part "Designing Middle-Earth", interviews members of the art department as they talk about the process of making the structures that are sometimes vaguely describes in Tolkien's novel. The second featurette, "Weta Workshop" focuses on the men and women who have worked on this movie (and the other two as well) for years. They show us the behind the scenes of using technology to build up this magical world of Middle-Earth. Also included in this section are design galleries with drawings.

Gollum
Like the previous featurette, this one also is a two-parter running just over 40 minutes. "The Taming of Smeagol" looks at the casting process to find the one who will play this CGI character. They show us how Weta animated Gollum using the actor, Andy Serkis (who's latex suit playing the character in real life) as a model (apparently Serkis will be used in Return of the King in human form). The second part, "Gollum's 'Stand In' " is a funny 3 minute short showing Rick Porras, a co-producer of the LOTR trilogy, plays Gollum for a short time while Serkis was filming somewhere else.

Middle-Earth Atlas
Here you can select the paths of our heroes. You can follow the trail of: 1. Frodo & Sam, 2. Merry & Pippen, 3. Aragon, Legolas & Gimli and 4. Gandalf. You can select certain towns within Middle-Earth which will take you to that scene in the movie. This is not my favorite of the special features but for unknowledgable Lord of the Rings fan like myself, it helps sorting out who was going where and why.

New Zealand as Middle-Earth
is made up of 7 mini-featurettes. "Emyn, The Dead Marshes", "Edoras", "Rohan", "Fangorn Forrest", "Ithilien" and "Helm's Deep" all focus on the set designs and locations. They're short but somewhat informative as can be.

Filming "The Two Towers"
This is bascially an hour and a half, making-of featurette. . . .but a great one. This featurette covers basically everything about costume design to filming location scouting throughout New Zealand. The first part is "Warriors of the Third Age" that covers the costume design and makeup of the Orkes and such. Second part is "Cameras in Middle-Earth" painstakingly follows Peter Jackson and crew scouting locations to film certain scenes and how they could be shot and where the digital shots may be. What I found fascinating was seeing Jackson's vision of looking over rolling hills or rugged mountains and determining if it would work in the film.

Visual Effects
This is a two-parter running at 50 minutes. "Big-atures" shows us how the production team made the Helm's Deep set or some of the towns and villages. For example, Helm's Deep was a mixture of minatures made on a set with the real action on the real-life set with yet still the animation done by Weta. "Weta Digital" expands further on this talking about the time and energy spent to complete the scenes. It also shows us Peter Jackson keeping in touch with all the aspects of the film via a private Internet line created just for this project. While Weta was working on something far away, Jackson would be in London looking over it on the Internet. There's was actually a funny story when a guy had literally a portion of The Two Towers on an iPod, he was going to take it a few blocks to Jackson (because the lines for some reason could not extend to where he was) and was followed by two men who obviously wanted to rob him!

Editorial: Refining the Story
This was a fascinating featurette showing the massive undertaking the crew had to go through to get this project done on time. When one thing would be done, Peter Jackson would have something else that would need to be cut or extended or whatever. Apparently with only a few months till The Two Towers was to be released, they were still working on the editing (and some animation issues as well- covered in another featurette).

Music & Sound
The final featurette on this massive DVD set covers an important and often overlooked aspect of films: the score and sound editing. Like in Fellowship, this one uses interviews veteran composer Howard Shore who had the difficult task of creating new scores that were both different than original yet retaining the original's style. Beyond just the score, they also examine how they make some of the sounds such as the dragon-like creature (using the cry of a donkey). Along with the two parts of this featurette ("Music for Middle-Earth" and "The Soundscapes of Middle-Earth") there is also an annoying little featurette that I had a hard time using on my computer. It was a Sound Demonstration for Helm's Deep. You could turn off or on some elements of sound during the big Helm's Deep battle scene. I couldn't really get it to work properly but it wasn't a big deal considering the other features.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Like the theatrical DVD, the sound and picture are crisp including the extended scenes. What else can I say? Well, one thing. The extended versions also include the DTS mix which is supremely better! Even though the Dolby 5.1 mix on the theatrical release was good, this set makes it look 10x better.



.::OVERALL::.

What I loved about most of the featurettes was how fresh they were. There may have been some repeated information that was already presented in The Fellowship of the Ring extended edition DVD but considering there is well over five hours of extras between the two appendicies, to present something fresh is amazing.