The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers (Widescreen Edition)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // $29.95 // August 26, 2003
Review by David Blair | posted August 21, 2003
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

- "The battle for Helm's Deep is over, and the battle for Middle-earth is about to begin"

The Movie

Peter Jackson is a genius. His Lord of the Ring movies don't just show you the classic tale of a humble hobbit and his quest to destroy the ring to rule them all; they drench you in their lush visuals and encompass you into the story as if you were a participant, not an observer. His eye for each intricate detail, and his passion and dedication of remaining true to the original story is unbelievable. When The Return of the King is released later this year, I believe his trilogy will reign as the most grand and artistically expressive epic to ever grace the silver screen.

After seeing The Fellowship of the Ring last year, I had a hard time believing the follow-up could possibly deliver the same level of wonder and fantastic enchantment as the first, but to my delight it did. I won't go so far as to say it was better, because the first was so incredible in its own way, however I will say it was just as good. Whereas TFOTR started our great adventure and set the stage for the following two movies, The Two Towers slows the pace a little bit to prepare for the great climactic standoff between evil and whomever else deems courageous enough to fight side by side with Man to defend Middle-earth.

I won't go into detail about the plot, because most likely those interested in this DVD will have already seen the movie. And likewise, those who didn't see it in theaters will not want any spoilers to ruin the overall effect. For those who fall into latter group, I can assure you that TTT is just as good as the first, and is a must see.

Computer animation makes a more lasting impression on TTT than it did in TFOTR. The greatest example of this is in the expanded character of Gollum, who now plays a much more intricate part in the story. The CG used to create Gollum is the absolute best example of computer-enhanced effects I've ever seen in a movie - period. It was so realistic that my wife actually asked me whom they had managed to find to play his part. Gollum is just about perfect, and his character comes to life in a way I never thought would be possible in a movie. Again, another credit to Jackson's uncanny vision for remaining true to J.R.R. Tolkien's original novels.

As in the TFOTR, the sweeping visuals are awe-inspiring. This movie looks just as big as it feels. When Jackson's beautiful matte paintings and miniature models are coupled with the stunning mountains and valleys of New Zealand, the effect is breathtaking. From the opening scene you feel as though you've been transported into another world; a world larger than the escalating evil trying to destroy it, and larger than the good brotherhood fighting to save it.

There were some scenes where the blue screen effects come off looking a little fake, but it never took me out of the movie. Instead, TTT faults end up giving it a magical feel that almost reassures you; telling you that you are indeed seeing a truly magical story unfolding in front of your eyes. But even the TTT downfalls aren't really downfalls. The trilogy is still riddled with some of the best special effects to ever be implemented into a motion picture, and in my opinion, far exceeds the efforts put forth in George Lucas' Attack of the Clones, both in realistic presentation, and emotional effectiveness.

There are only two aspects to this DVD that bothered me. The first is the presence of edge enhancement. In fact, I'd say the video quality is worse than TFOTR in terms of edge enhancement halos. But it is better than TFOTR in terms of clarity, graininess, and pixelation. The other problem is the very noticeable layer change halfway through the movie. The transition is very abrupt, and occurs at a pivotal point in the story. Better care should have been taken as to the proper timing of the layer change. But other than these two gripes, I'd say the DVD is nearly perfect. The audio is without question reference quality, and the movie itself is worthy of even the stingiest of collections.

So the question arises; do you buy this two-disc set, or hold out for the forthcoming Extended Edition? Well, if the Two Tower's Extended Edition is half as good as the TFOTR Extended Edition, I'd recommend holding out. But there is something to be said about having the entire movie on one disc. However, if you are a hardcore fan of the trilogy, the addition of extra scenes along with the dizzying amount of special features, makes the burden easily forgettable. Then again, I love these movies so much; I'm actually crazy enough to go buy both. There are so few (morally right) guilty pleasures that exist in this world, so why not indulge in them when you have the chance?


The DVD

Video:
The Two Towers is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Each time I've plopped in a Lord of the Rings DVD in my player, I've crossed my fingers hoping for a reference quality disc, however my wishes have never been answered. Yes the picture looks fantastic, but it falls clearly short of being reference grade. With TFOTR it was the presence of graininess and pixelation that did it in, and with TTT it's edge enhancement. The edge enhancement halos aren't visible all the time, but when they are, they're easily noticed. It's apparent most often on the mountain ranges in the background, and the subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Thankfully it's not very noticeable during close-ups of the characters.

As in the first movie, colors are purposely dingy, giving it that made-in-1970 look. Black levels are superb, and overall clarity is much improved over the TFOTR. Although the cleanness of the picture doesn't approach the same level of that of Starship Troopers - Superbit Collection, which has one of the cleanest transfers I've ever seen. The TTT is an excellent looking DVD, just not as good as it rightly deserves.

Audio:
The Two Towers comes with a Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround audio track. The sound in this movie just plain rocks! The lows will rumble your living room when the raging battles begin, and the screeching of flying dragons will piece your ears from all directions. The soundtrack seems almost perfectly separated, with most of the sound coming from the front three speakers. However the rear channels are always active giving the appropriate ambiance to the scene at hand, while speaking up when the action escalates and all hell breaks loose. This is a fantastic sounding DVD, and will probably only get better with the DTS-ES audio track that will be included on the Extended Edition. If the audio sounds this good on this disc, the Extended Edition will most likely please to no end.

Extras:
This may not be the Extended Edition, but it's no slouch in the special features department. So lets get started.

On the Set of the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Stars Encore Special: This feature appeared on the Stars network. It dives a little bit into the characters of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We learn a little about the special effects used in The Two Towers, and more specifically about Gollum and the Fanghorn Forest. Some of the information is new, but a majority of it appeared in TFOTR Extended Edition. So if you own that set much of this will old news. (14:00)

Return to Middle-earth: WB Special: This originally aired on the WB network and was really quite interesting. Here we get a brief recap of all the main characters again, but we also get to see several behind the scenes clips from The Two Towers. This was a highly entertaining feature as it offered excellent information about set locations. If you didn't catch this special on TV, this is definitely worth watching. (42:00)

A short film by Sean Astin: "The Long and Short of it.": This is a cute short film that was written, produced and directed by Sean Astin. It's about comradery, and was filmed on location in New Zealand between the shooting schedules for The Two Towers. Astin managed to finagle tons of workers from the main movie, so it really was a group effort that exemplified the true theme of the short film. (6:00)

Making of "The Long and Short of it.": This is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Sean Astin's short film. (7:00)

Featurettes created for lordoftherings.net: This is a series of eight featurettes that take a closer look at certain subjects of The Two Towers. All of them are informative and entertaining, and are worth a look. The features are, Forces of Darkness, Designing the Sounds of Middle-earth, Edoras: The Rohan Capital, Creatures of Middle-earth, Gandalf the White, Arms and Armor, The Battle of Helm's Deep, and Bringing Gollum to Life.

Behind-the-scenes preview for the Return of the King: Here we get a small glimpse of what we have to look forward to come December. And I have to admit, after seeing this it looks like Return of the King will be the best of the three. I can't wait! (10:00)

Inside look at the Extended Edition for The Two Towers: This was a fantastic sneak peak at what we have to look forward to come November 18th. There will be an additional 200 new shots included in the Extended Edition. That's right, 200 new shots! The added scenes will add more background information to the storyline, better explanations for the plot, more depth to the characters, and important sequences that stay true to the original book. In short, the Extended Edition is going to make the movie longer, but much better.

Music video by Emiliana Torrini: "Gollum's Song": This is a hauntingly beautiful song that really hits a chord in the main theme of this movie. I'm very glad it was included in this set.

Rounding out the rest of the features include the original theatrical movie trailers, TV spots, and a preview of Electronic Art's video game, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

I was quite satisfied with this array of special features. If I had no desire to purchase the Extended Edition, I would feel quite content with this two-disc DVD set. However, those in the know will not be able to resist our precious Extended Edition coming out in November.


Final Thoughts:
The Two Towers may be a sequel, but it aint no Caddy Shack 2. This movie is just as good as the first, plain and simple. The action is intense, the visuals are stunning, the characters are moving, and Jackson's direction is exquisite. This is one of the greatest sequel movies of all time, and should be in every movie lover's collection. Die-hard fans will want to wait for the Extended Edition, but if you simply can't wait till November 18th, you should feel no guilt in buying this set to hold you off.

If it weren't for the impending Extended Edition, this would be a DVD Talk Collectors disc for sure, but I'll reserve that title for that set, as it looks to be every bit as good as TFOTR Extended Edition. Highly Recommended



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