(Film review written 12/02)
I have now sat through "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings" several times, including a few viewings of the film's extended edition, which was released on DVD earlier this Winter. When I originally saw the film theatrically, I liked it, but didn't love it and found it rather flawed - the first hour seemed too slow and I never really found myself fully involved in the characters. However, I warmed up to the film after its first DVD release and consider the extended version to be a very considerable improvement over the theatrical cut.
I'm pleased to say that I found "The Two Towers", the follow-up to the first picture, to be mostly a phenomenal piece of cinema (once again, I have not read the books - I'm going simply on what I thought of the film). The film may be the middle part of the trilogy, but that actually works for the opening of the picture - we know these characters and after the sudden close of the first film, most will likely be eager to see the adventure continue on-screen. The opening sixty minutes of the picture opens at a full-throttle pace as Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas the elf (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies) continue to try and rescue hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) from their Orc captors. Elsewhere, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey to destroy the ring, guided by Gollum (Andy Serkis), a CGI-creature who is obsessed with the ring, but decides to serve as the guide for the two hobbits. There is also the return of Gandalf (Ian McKellen).
The film does split the story into a few pieces, although it's a credit to director Peter Jackson and the film's editors that the film cuts between the stories perfectly, with not too much time spent on one or another. This film focuses on Aragorn's character considerably more than anyone else, but that's not a bad thing: Viggo Mortensen is a terrific actor and the progression of this character is the most engaging part of this picture. Still, Frodo's quest is compelling material and even Merry and Pippin's ending up on the shoulders of a giant tree creature, Tree Beard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies) is enjoyable - a good mix of comedy and drama. While Gollum's tragic battle with his own soul is often very well-played, there is one darkly funny sequence with the creature battling himself that is quite amusing. The human actors also all provide uniformly stellar performances, with even some of the performances that have less screen-time (Liv Tyler's Arwen) remaining memorable.
All of this eventually builds towards the battle of Helm's Deep, a giant stone fortress that Aragorn, Pippin, Gimli, king Theoden (Bernard Hill) and an army of a few hundred men have retreated to. Sauruman (Christopher Lee)'s armies are sweeping across the lands, however, and its only a matter of time before they reach the gates. When they do - the film's last 20-25 minutes - it's something truly breathtaking. Facing impossible odds, the band of a few hundred looks out to face nearly 10,000.
The film does have a bit of a slow point around the middle, but both the opening and closing of the film proceed with more forward momentum than the first picture did in general. "The Two Towers" story, split into several sections, also feels larger than the first film - there's more going on, there feels like even more at stake and the urgency and emotion that Jackson is able to give many events in the film is remarkable.
Technically, the film is also remarkable. Peter Jackson and team, whose careful use of CGI mixed with astonishingly beautiful real locations only enhances the film, shows how computer effects should be used, unlike the latest "Star Wars" pictures, where the effects overwhelm everything else. Gollum, for example, is a far better character - in animation, voicing, writing, emotion and movement - than Lucas's horrid Jar-Jar Binks. Andrew Lesnie's cinematography once again makes the New Zeland locations look breathtakingly beautiful and epic. Howard Shore's score adds drama, tension and excitement without calling too much attention to itself. Production design is, once again, first-rate.
"The Two Towers" is not a flawless picture, but it is grand, epic filmmaking unlike anything I've seen in recent years. The continuing story of these great characters continues to be compelling, the realization of this world by Peter Jackson and crew is visually stunning and many scenes here are powerful and incredibly memorable - especially the Helm's Deep sequence, which is more amazing than anything I've seen on the big screen in recent memory.
This is the second film and the second "extended edition" set that director Peter Jackson has supervised. While "Fellowship of the Ring" had an additional 30 minutes of completely produced and scored footage added back into the film itself, "The Two Towers" adds no less (and actually, a little bit more) than 40 minutes back into the picture. There's a great deal of smaller tidbits added back in, but most notably, there's more Gollum scattered throughout the film, more about Faramir, more with Merry and Pippin and the trees (the only thing that I felt was a little unnecessary), a nice little character moment between Sam and Frodo early on with a little reminder of their home, Theodred's funeral, a very enjoyable scene between Gandalf and Aragorn about what lies ahead of them, more Helm's deep and many other small additions. Also, over 200 new visual effects shots have been added in. The booklet that is included with the set specifically highlights which chapters new scenes are included in, as well as which chapters have scene extensions.
Extended scenes include: "The Taming of Smeagol", "The Uruk-Hai", "The Burning of the Westfold", "The Banishment of Eomer", "Night Camp at Fangorn", "The Passage of the Marshes", "The White Rider", "The King of Golden Hall", "A Daughter of Kings", "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit". In part 2: "Dwarf Women", "Evenstar", "Helm's Deep", "Window of the West", "Forbidden Pool", "Glittering Caves", "The Battle of Hornburg", "Retreat to Hornburg" and "The Last March of the Ents".
The complete listing of new scenes: scene 2: "Elven Rope"; Scene 7: "Massacre at the Fords of Isen"; Scene 16: "The Song of the Entwives"; Scene 17: "The Heir of Numenor"; Scene 19: "Ent Draft"; Scene 21: The Funeral of Theodred"; Scene 24: Brego", Scene 25: "The Ring of Barahir"; Scene 32: "One of the Dunedain"; Scene 41: "Sons of the Steward"; Scene 47: "Don't Be Hasty, Master Meriadoc!"; Scene 61: "Fanghorn Comes To Helm's Deep"; Scene 62: "The Final Tally"; Scene 63: "Flotsam and Jetsam"; Scene 64, "Farewell to Faramir". Additionally, there are fan club credits that follow the film credits at the end - this footage is not counted as part of the additional 43 minutes.
The realities of theatrical distribution and how many showtimes per day can be fit in probably limit these films to a certain running time when released, which is too bad: as with the extended edition of the first film, the fact that a three hour film is now nearly a four-hour film actually helps it - more development of main and supporting characters, as well as more story depth and detail make for an even more involving, dramatic and emotional adventure. Certainly, interest in the trilogy has grown even larger in the few years since the release of the first film. Recently, special "trilogy" showings of all three films were announced for a day this December. The tickets sold out within moments - nearly crashing ticketing websites - and then started fetching prices of as much as several hundred dollars on Ebay. According to the lordoftherings.net website, fans will be able to catch screenings of the extended versions of the first two films on the big screen in selected theaters for a limited time in early December.
VIDEO: "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" is presented, in this extended edition, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, as was the previous edition. While the previous edition looked awfully good and quite nearly flawless, I was even a bit more impressed by this effort. Spread across two discs this time around, the film has even a bit more room to breathe, and the result is improvements in several areas. While sharpness and detail looked exceptional on the first release of the film, definition is subtly, but noticably, improved here. Fine details are just a tad more apparent.
The print used is absolutely pristine, with no dirt, debris or other wear apparent. Edge enhancement wasn't noticed, but I did spot some minor shimmering on some mountains. Compression artifacts were also not seen. The new footage added back in was done seamlessly, with no change in picture quality between the new and previous footage.
Colors remained beautifully rendered, with strong saturation and no smearing or other concerns. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked natural and accurate. Overall, this is a first-rate presentation. Optional English and Spanish subtitles and English captions are included.
SOUND: "The Two Towers" is presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES (Discrete). The majority of the sound design crew from the first film return again here, such as sound designer David Farmer ("Space Cowboys", "Armageddon"), sound re-recording mixer Christopher Boyes ("Pirates of the Caribbean", "Pearl Harbor") and scoring mixer John Kurlander ("Ice Age", "Master and Commander"). The film's sound team has come up with an equally remarkable universe for these characters once again, as the "Two Towers" boasts a superbly crafted, rich and thrilling sound experience. Howard Shore has provided new score for the added material, as well. This is an official EX mix, and those who have the ability to engage a back surround will find that it adds greatly to the experience, especially with the DTS 6.1-ES discrete soundtrack (the DTS 6.1 soundtrack is compatible with DTS 5.1-compatible equipment). As with the first film, the back surround is smartly used for subtle sound effects and to further immerse the viewer in the sounds of battle, providing a more convincing and effective 360 degree experience.
Again, as with the sound design of the second film, the surrounds are used not only for action, but in the quiet moments, as well. A gust of wind, a subtle noise or other low-key sounds can often be heard from the rear speakers, as can the occasional reinforcement of Howard Shore's score. The action scenes put the rear speakers into overdrive, with the sounds of horses, swords, explosions and other battle sounds spilling from all sides - especially during the "Helm's Deep" sequence. Sounds - moreso on the DTS track - don't sound speaker-specific, instead filling the listening space quite marvelously.
Both the Dolby Digital and DTS options provide very good sound quality, but the DTS track was a step above, providing better imaging and a seemingly greater dynamic range. Sound effects, score and dialogue remained crisply and clearly recorded, with no issues. Sound effects pack a considerable punch in many scenes, not sounding compressed at all. Bass - well, there's certainly a good deal of bass both heard and felt throughout. The film's soundtrack remains well-balanced, with sound effects, music and dialogue cleanly, clearly and comfortably sharing space. More information from supervising sound editors Mike Hopkins and Ethan Van Der Ryn can be found in the third commentary track. The audio for the DVD was mastered for home theater by Brant Biles at Mi Casa Multimedia, the famed company that has worked with New Line on many releases.
EXTRAS: Once again, New Line has triumphed with this remarkable tour of the second film. Similar in structure to the first "extended edition" set, this set offers four discs housed in a handsome slipcover, decorated with conceptual art by artist Alan Lee (a new painting by Lee, featuring a scene from the film, is featured on one of the sides of the disc case).
On the first two discs, viewers will find the film itself, as well as four full-length audio commentaries. The third and fourth discs offer hours of documentary features about the history of the "Lord of the Rings" series and the production of the film. A booklet maps out the supplements, provides a detailed chapter listing and gives some additional information about the creation of this set. Also, there is a Collector's Edition Gift Set, which includes a bonus DVD, a collectable Gollum statue and more.
As for the supplements themselves, they really explore every aspect of the second film aside from one: I was a little surprised that more detail about the creation of this "extended edition" of the second film wasn't really offered. Certainly, a minor note about an otherwise extraordinary presentation.
Full-Length Audio Commentaries: The film is offered with the option of four audio commentaries. The first commentary is the "Director and Writers" commentary, with director Peter Jackson, writer/producer Fran Walsh and writer Phillipa Boyens. The second commentary is with Weta Worshop creative supervisor Richard Taylor, Weta Workshop manager Tanya Rodger, production designer Grant Major, conceptual designer Alan Lee, conceptual designer John Howe, supervising art director Dan Hannah and art department manager Chris Hannah.
The third commentary is from producer Barrie Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, editors Mike Horton and Jabez Olssen, visual FX supervisor Jim Rydel, composer Howard Shore, co-producer Rick Porras, visual FX supervisor Joe Letter, supervising sound editor Ethan Van Der Ryn, supervising sound editor Mike Hopkins, Weta animation designer Randy Cook, previsualization supervisor Christian Rivers and Visual Effects DPs Brian Vant Hul and Alex Funke.
The fourth and final commentary is from the cast, including: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Moynahan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker and, Gollum himself, Andy Serkis.
The commentaries that will likely interest most viewers are the first and the fourth. The opening commentary with director Peter Jackson and the film's writers is an interesting track, indeed. I'll also mention a nice touch on these commentaries - although many fans will likely be familiar with various participants throughout these commentaries, there are little subtitles that note who is speaking when. As for the commentary, Jackson and the writers go into a great amount of detail about a whole wealth of topics, such as pointing out the locations, discussing the added footage and its relevance to the story, effects work (mainly, the creation of Gollum), production obstacles and great stories from the set. As for stories from the set, that's the main focus of the cast commentary, as the participants have a great deal of fun chatting about their experiences while filming the second picture and point out small details and comment on both the final film and scenes that have been added back into the picture.
As I mentioned before, I'd guess that most casual viewers will be more interested in the first and fourth commentaries, those who are interested in the development and production specifics should certainly try the second and third commentaries, as the participants shed light on more specific elements such as visual effects, editing, production design and cinematography. Some aspects of these tracks may be a little bit dry and technical, but the participants do their best to provide an involving overview of the massive task that everyone - such as the editors, who had to sift through miles of footage - faced. Although the second commentary does provide an interesting discussion of how the look of the film was conceptualized, I found the third track a bit more compelling, as the visual effects artists provided an energetic discussion of their efforts and the producers shared more valuable information about what happened behind-the-scenes.
Disc 3: The Trilogy Continues:
Note: Both the third and fourth discs have "index" sections, which allow viewers to specifically go through all of the sections and sub-sections of each disc. Additionally, there is a "play all" feature offered. English and Spanish subtitles are available on the featurette/documentary material.
Introduction (1:49) : This is an introduction from director Peter Jackson, who gives an overview of the difficulties of "The Two Towers" (Gollum; the long and wet night shoots for "Helm's Deep" and much more.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle Earth (29:29): Tolkien experts, as well as members of the film's cast and crew, discuss the development of the second book, as well as the author's friendship with fellow author C.S. Lewis. This enjoyable documentary takes us through aspects of the development of the "Lord of the Rings" novels (at the time of publishing, there was a paper shortage, which would have made one large book too expensive, for example.) We also learn more about compressing the book for the film, the story's language and the source of the title.
From Book To Script: Finding The Story (20:29): Here, Peter Jackson, the film's writers, cast and others discuss the structure of the trilogy and the difficulties to try and adapt the second film for the screen. Jackson and the writers do most of the talking, going into specifics about solutions to problems in adapting certain scenes, characters (adorable Liv Tyler's dismay at negative fan reaction to her casting) and relationships.
Designing Middle Earth (45:42): This documentary focuses on the art and conceptual development departments of the production. An important part of the trilogy production, these teams - which were located in the Weta workshop - consistently were working on creating and revising designs for the look of the film throughout the entire time. Conceptual designer Alan Lee, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, director Peter Jackson, construction supervisor Ed Mulholland, actor Ian McKellen, co-producer Rick Porras, producer Barrie Osbourne, miniature builder Roger Lewis and many others discuss trying to keep to deadlines, communication between groups and trying to achieve the desired look of the designs on film. Of particular interest a quarter of the way through the documentary is seeing how the gloomy marsh was built from scratch. The remainder of the documentary focuses on the challenges of building some of the other major sets of the film, including some of the inspirations for the look and tricks that the production designers used to try and save money and still make a visually interesting set. It's fascinating to learn about all of the separate elements involved.
WETA Workshop (43:48): This documentary focuses on the production house that has worked on all three films. This documentary also focuses on the design, construction and creation of various aspects of the film, such as the swords and armor used. We are shown conceptual designs, work literally being done (and this is a nice thing about the documentaries included on this "extended" set and the prior one - we don't just hear about aspects of the production, we're shown the behind-the-scenes work) and even some rehearsals by the fight coordinators. Later in the documentary, we're shown the prosthetic make-up work (which got soggy in the wet scenes)
Design Galleries: This section is broken down into two groups: "Peoples of Middle Earth" (The Enemy, Gandalf the White, Rohan, Third Age Elven Warriors, Treebeard, Ents, Faramir and Irhilien Rangers) and "Realms of Middle Earth" (Emyn Mul, Dead Marshes, Rohan, Fanghorn Forest, Irhilien, Isengard, Henneth Annun and Osgilath).
The Taming of Smeagol (39:34): This documentary focuses on Gollum. We hear from director Peter Jackson, producer Barrie Osbourne, artist John Howe and members of the Weta workshop. Again, as stated in the commentaries, the importance of a convincing Gollum character - especially for the second and third films - proved to be a tough challenge - one that New Line wasn't entirely sure that the production was up to. As with the rest of the set's supplements, we are shown a very informative arc: we hear more about the concepts behinds the creation of Gollum and see some of the many tries the filmmakers came up with to get the look they wanted. Actor Andy Serkis talks more about his experiences trying to perform Gollum (we see Serkis in the effects outfit on tests, hear from him in interviews and see tests for the "voice", which was inspired by his cats when they cough up hairballs), as well. While a great documentary overall, it's just fascinating to see the actual footage of Serkis in the suit, on-set (or in a motion capture suit), trying - 150% - to act out Gollum.
Andy Serkis Animation Reference (1:47): This is a split-screen comparison of the scene where Gollum confronts Smeagol, with the final scene in the lower half of the screen and actor Andy Serkis's actual on-set performance in the upper half.
Gollum's "Stand In" (3:09): This is a brief featurette that shows producer Rick Porras trying to "stand in" for Gollum while Andy Serkis was filming as Gollum in another scene. Didn't work too well, but it's pretty funny to see.
Gollum Gallery: This is a gallery of design/concept images, some of which have optional commentary from members of the Weta Workshop.
Map of Middle Earth: This interactive map provides a look at the four different paths taken by the characters in "The Two Towers". Selecting a path allows one to connect the dots between the destination and see clips from that area.
New Zealand as Middle Earth: This section shows a map of New Zealand, highlighting where some areas of Middle Earth (Emyn Mul, The Dead Marshes, Rohan, Edoras, Ithilien, Fanghorn Forest and Helm's Deep) were shot. Clicking on one of the locations brings up a featurette that introduces the location in New Zealand and briefly shows how the set was constructed there.
Disc 4: The Battle For Middle Earth Begins:
Introduction (1:10): The second disc of supplements starts with a fun intro from actor Elijah Wood.
Warriors of the Third Age (20:57): This is a documentary that focuses on the film's stunt work. We hear from some of the film's stunt performers and supervisors (including legendary stunt supervisor Bob Anderson), as well as the actors and crew. Behind-the-scenes footage includes both looks on-set during filming and some impressive footage of rehearsals. This piece overall focuses on the choreography of the film's action sequences - designing them, understanding the different styles of fighting that exist in the different characters and - most importantly - the safety involved in trying to portray the action accurately and smoothly. The Helm's Deep sequence, certainly one of the most detailed action sequences in the film - and in recent memory - is a focus.
Cameras in Middle Earth (1:08:09): With the second film, the characters spread out on different journeys, requiring the cast and crew to be in different areas across New Zealand doing very different tasks. With the expanded production that resembled something of an army, it became even more difficult to try and maintain some sort of unity for the film (as well as trying to seamlessly piece together different footage for the same scene). This documentary, which is really the main overview piece for the supplemental disc - focuses on the immense difficulty of the massive production of the second film.
Throughout this documentary, we hear from director Peter Jackson, the film's actors, producer Barrie Osbourne, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, second unit director Geoff Murphy and others. The piece takes us through much of the behind-the-scenes work, showing the different locations and the sets that were created for the show. Middle Earth map inserts create somewhat of a "chapter" for each section of the documentary, as we are taken through many of the film's major sequences through behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.
Other aspects of the documentary include: extras casting - trying to find extras that were skilled in specific tasks (some of the bearded horse riders were skilled female riders); some of the jokes between actors and some of the injuries they sustained; the experiences of Billy Boyd and Dominic Moynahan getting to know Treebeard; dealing with tough weather conditions; casting and stunt work and more. It's a very enjoyable and detailed documentary, ending with a look at the months of filming involved in the Helm's Deep sequence. There's also certainly some very funny moments scattered throughout the piece, too.
Production Photos: Ending the "Fiming The Two Towers" section that also houses the prior two documentaries is this still gallery of production photos.
Visual Effects: Minatures: Big-Atures (21:45): This piece visits with conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, Weta manager Richard Taylor, director Peter Jackson and others. Starting off with a snippet of footage that Jackson introduces that was filmed in the days when the film was originally going to be filmed by Miramax, this documentary details the strategy that had to be planned out in order to construct, design and choreograph the sequences (most notably, in "Helm's Deep") involving large-scale miniatures. There's some incredible, incredible miniature work throughout both of the first two "Lord of the Rings" films and it's really remarkable to, once again, visit with these talented artists and take a look at how these detailed (even described as "micro-detailed") creations were integrated (we are shown the steps of trying to photograph miniatures) into the final film.
Visual Effects: Miniatures: Flooding of Isengard (1:30): This section provides the original animatic (moving storyboard) that was presented to Peter Jackson when the sequence was being designed and developed. Viewers can either view the animatic itself or a comparison between the animatic and final film.
Visual Effects: Miniatures: Galleries: Accompanying the miniatures section are several galleries, featuring a look at the miniature elements involved in: Barad-Dur, Fanghorn Forest, Helm's Deep, Ruined Isengard, Osgiliath, The Black Gate and Zirakzigl. Additionally, some of the images included in these galleries also have audio commentary.
Visual Effects: WETA Digital (27:31): This documentary looks at the effects house that has worked on all three films. In this piece, we hear from director Peter Jackson as well as many of the film's visual effects artists. Some of the film's major effects sequences - such as Helm's Deep and work with Treebeard - are broken down and discussed. We also learn more about sequences that appear minor or quick in the film - Legolas quickly getting on a horse - that were actually quite difficult digital work. As with the "Cameras in Middle Earth" documentary, we learn that the visual effects staff and the processing power had to be increased greatly for the challenges of the second film. We also are shown many of the early tests here for some of the FX footage and learn more about the AI program that allows the filmmakers to portray the massive on-screen battles that involve tens of thousands.
Visual Effects: Abandoned Concepts: This section provides concept art for two abandoned FX sequences, "Slime Balrog" and "Endless Stair". The "Slime Balrog" sequence is discussed occasionally by director Peter Jackson during the other documentaries as being too costly for the amount of screen time.
Editorial: Refining the Story (21:57): One of the more interesting of the documentaries (given this film's scope and the scope of all three productions), this piece explores the editing process behind "Lord of the Rings", as all three films had their own editor trying to piece together the miles and miles of footage. As for specifics on the second film, the piece focuses on the challenges of trying to interweave multiple storylines, changes in structure, decisions on how to open the film, geography, pacing and more. Additionally, the documentary talks more about how the films are refined and reworked, with pick-up shots and critical screenings for both cast and crew.
Music and Sound: Music For Middle Earth (25:19): This documentary visits with composer Howard Shore, who has provided score for all three "Lord of the Rings" films. Here, we learn more about the development of some of the themes heard throughout the score and some of the musical textures/instrumentals/moods/styles found within. Also, Shore talks about providing score for the added material on this set's "extended cut".
Music and Sound: The Soundscapes of Middle Earth (21:26): Director Peter Jackson and members of the sound design crew are featured on this very interesting featurette. The documentary shows how the sound design of the "Lord of the Rings" films is a very complex process, including sound recording that has to take place in a clean way (we are shown footage of director Peter Jackson leading a stadium in a chant that was recorded, sound designer David Farmer trying to create his own sounds and the designers going out to try and record sounds), altering sounds, foley (recording sounds such as footsteps), experimenting and trying to streamline sound effects to keep things dynamic and intense and not turn a complex sequence into a muddle of noise.
Sound Demonstration Reel: This is a fun feature that ends off the "Music and Sound" section. In it, we see part of the "Helm's Deep" sequence, with 8 numbers, each of which feature a different part of the film's audio. They include: 1) On-Set Production Audio; 2) Foley; 3, 4, 5): Effects Layers; 6): Dialogue and Vocal Effects and 7): Music. The 8th option plays the final mix. The actual sequence itself required more than 80 different sound elements.
The Battle For Helm's Deep Is Over: This 10-minute featurette is a nice wrap-up of the difficulty that the filmmakers faced with "The Two Towers" and how things have changed since the first film. Overall, a good exploration of the kind of "global phenomenon" that the films have turned into.
DVD-ROM Features: When viewers insert the first disc into the player, they will find three options: watch the special edition: part one, lordoftherings.net and exclusive online features. Lordoftherings.net is the film's official website and, currently, offers behind-the-scenes information and trailers for all three films, galleries, downloads and the latest news. The exclusive online content currently (I'm guessing more may be added or changed) included more detailed character and crew information, as well as sheet music for "Gollum's Song". Some of the exclusive features require the Shockwave plug-in on your computer.
Also: Production credits are available on both the third and the fourth discs. There are also some Easter Eggs included.
Final Thoughts: "The Two Towers" presented a great challenge to everyone involved with the production: trying to compress the middle passage of this epic journey that serves as a "middle" - following up the events of the first film and preparing audiences for a third and final film. Personally, I think that the film is a phenomenal success, masterfully following and developing the film's different adventures. The film's action is magnificently and skillfully realized, with scenes that are both emotionally and visually thrilling. The second film's performances continue the high quality and dedication that was shown in the first film, this time by both the returning members and the newcomers. The extended edition only adds to the picture, with more wonderfully developed drama, more character moments and overall, I find it to be an even more involving film.
The "Extended Edition" set of "The Two Towers" continues the remarkable presentation that viewers found with the 4-DVD set of "Fellowship of the Ring". Not only are the film's audio/video quality remarkable, but the superbly produced documentary features explore the care, energy and devotion that every member of the cast and crew offered in the making of these films. There's nothing promotional here, just a pure and fascinating look at every aspect of the journey that these hundreds of people faced in making this film.
Certainly, the set gets my highest recommendation. A great gift idea and a great addition to the collection of any casual or hardcore "Rings" fan. At the $29.99 - or less - most stores are offering this set at, this is a terrific deal.