NOTE: This release is completely identical to the version included with last year's trilogy boxed set, except for the packaging.
Second parts of film trilogies are kind of like middle children: they try their hardest to stand out but usually get overlooked. They're also saddled with the disadvantage of "bridging the gap" between setup and conclusion...and in most cases, end up being the weak link in the chain. There are exceptions, of course: The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back are widely considered ever-so-slightly better than the originals, and I'd be inclined to agree. While The Two Towers isn't the best of the three Lord of the Rings film adaptations, it's still a satisfying film in its own right. Chock full of action, drama, intrigue and the same exquisite eye for detail as its predecessor, Towers is anything but a sophomore slump.
Without the burden of introduction, The Two Towers picks up immediately and devotes its attention to our fragmented group of adventurers. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Samwise (Sean Astin) are eventually paired with the treacherous but sympathetic Gollum (Andy Serkis), who secretly lusts after the ring our Hobbits are desperately attempting to destroy. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) are reunited with Gandalf (Ian McKellan), who was presumed dead during the events of the first film. They will eventually plan and participate in a ferocious battle at the fortress of Helm's Deep, which serves as the film's main action set piece. Meanwhile, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) accidentally encounter friends who will prove invaluable soon enough. Though the latter scenes also double as the film's only pacing problem (where, more often than not, they derail the momentum generated during the battle itself), The Two Towers does a fine overall job of layering the character dynamics while setting up plenty of events for the third and final chapter of the trilogy.
Originally released in a multitude of editions on DVD (as well as separate theatrical/extended Blu-Ray boxed sets), the Lord of the Rings trilogy has flooded fans with top-notch bonus features, amazing A/V presentations and deluxe packaging designs. This set of three individual releases marks the first time each Extended Edition has enjoyed its own Blu-Ray release...but as expected, the only thing different here is the price point and packaging. If you're on a budget, this might be the way to go; otherwise, I'd probably say the trilogy boxed set is the more desirable of the two. Either way, you're getting a wealth of content here that will take several days to dig through. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 2.41:1 aspect ratio, this pitch-perfect visual presentation should disappoint no one. The original color palette is represented quite well, black levels are excellent and textures are uniformly crisp from start to finish. No apparent digital problems could be spotted along the way either... though it's not surprising, given that the film is still divided on two dual-layer BDs. The Two Towers is simply a great looking film, and this high-def presentation replicates it as perfectly as possible.
DISCLAIMER: The images in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent the picture presented on this Blu-Ray.
From start to finish, the audio is simply fantastic. Presented in DTS-HD 6.1 Master Audio (with an optional Portuguese DD 5.1 dub), viewers will be continually amazed at the level of detail and dynamic range on display here. Dialogue is incredibly crisp, surrounds are used perfectly and a generous amount of LFE will continually test the quality of your subwoofer (and walls). The film's excellent score is also well-represented and the music never seems to fight for attention with dialogue or other sound effects. Optional English (SDH), Spanish and Portuguese subtitles are also included during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
As expected, the simple and straightforward designed menu interface is organized nicely, especially considering the wealth of options available. Seen below, this five-disc set is housed in a compact and practical multi-hubbed keepcase; also included is a Digital Copy code and a slipcover that recycles the 2006 Limited Edition DVD artwork. Although the design of the Extended Edition DVD "book" packaging ranks among my all-time favorites, this space-saving package is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
NOTE: These extensive extras have already been detailed in DVD Talk's review of the trilogy boxed set, not to mention the Extended and Limited Edition DVD releases that they were initially created for. A summary list is included below for posterity.
Discs One and Two include four recycled Audio Commentary tracks, which total more than 12 hours of details about the film's development, production, lasting impact and much more. Participants are grouped by "The Director & Writers", "Cast Members", "The Production Team" and "The Design Team"...and as a helpful bonus, on-screen subtitles are present to identify the speakers. All things considered, there's enough here to exhaust even the most rabid fan. But, of course, there's more where that came from...
Discs Three and Four delve into the exhaustive Appendices from the Extended Edition; essentially, they're just recycled DVDs. Disc Three ("The Journey Continues") includes several Multi-Part Featurettes and Galleries, including "J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins of Middle-Earth" (29:31), "From Book to Script: Finding the Story" (20:58), "Designing and Building Middle-Earth" (90 minutes total), "Gollum" (45 minutes total), plus a Middle-Earth Atlas and Map. Disc Four ("The Battle for Middle-Earth Begins") continues on with "Filming The Two Towers" (90 minutes total), "Visual Effects" (30 minutes total), "Editorial: Refining the Story" (21:57), "Music and Sound" (45 minutes total) and "The Battle for Helm's Deep is Over" (9:27).
Disc Five includes a Documentary by Costa Botes (106 minutes) which provides an abstract, fly-on-the-wall experience rather than a purely informative one. It stands in good contrast to the Appendices from Discs Three and Four, serving up occasional doses of humor and off-the-cuff footage of key cast and crew members. Though the visual presentation is far from ideal, this fascinating documentary (originally created for the Limited Edition DVD release of The Two Towers) is definitely worth your attention.
All applicable bonus features are presented on standard definition DVDs and include optional subtitles. Though it's a shame they couldn't have been combined onto a single Blu-Ray, at least everything's here. Pair this with the theatrical Blu-Ray edition and you'll truly get the complete overkill experience.
The Two Towers is a worthy successor to Fellowship and, for this viewer, plays a little better now than it did several years ago. Featuring a terrific balance of action, intrigue and drama, this darker leg of the journey does a fine job of bridging the gap and building momentum simultaneously...except for those boring Treebeard scenes, of course. This individual release is identical to the version contained in last year's trilogy boxed set, save for the packaging. Featuring an excellent technical presentation and an exhaustive assortment of bonus features, this is truly a Collector's Series title on paper...but since it's really just a repackage of what's already available, this part of the whole is simply Recommended.
View my other reviews in this series:
The Fellowship of the Ring | The Return of the King
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.