The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Special Extended Edition) Review

The Film

Note that this Special Extended Version of The Two Towers is split across the first two discs of this set. The change over point comes at the end of Chapter 30 on disc 1.


The Two Towers was always going to be the most difficult of the three books to translate into a film as it is a story with no real beginning and no proper ending. Another problem facing the Two Towers was that audiences always expect the second chapter of a story to be bigger, bolder and better than the one before it. Luckily for everyone involved the Two Towers delivered in a big way, and it turned out to be just as good as the Fellowship of the Ring, and in some aspects it even bettered it.

When we join the Two Towers we are taken back to the first film in order to discover the fate of Gandalf (McKellan) after he fell into the lower levels of the Mines of Moria battling the Balrog.

Meanwhile the rest of the Fellowship are still separated from each other. Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd) are still prisoners of the Uruk-Hai, fortunately for them Aragorn (Mortensen), Legolas (Bloom) and Gimli (Rhys Davies) are hot on their trail determined to rescue their friends.

Frodo (Wood) and Sam (Astin) are making their way towards Mordor to destroy the Ring. Unfortunately for the fellowship things don’t always go so smoothly. Frodo and Sam find that they are not alone in their quest as Gollum (Serkis), is following them as he desperately wants to get his precious back i.e. the Ring. Despite Sam’s protests that Gollum can’t be trusted, Frodo decides to accept Gollum’s help as he is the only one who knows the way into Mordor.


The poor kidnapped hobbits Merry and Pippin manage to escape their Uruk-Hai captors by heading for Fangorn Forest. It is here that they meet the Ent, Treebeard (Rhys Davies), and later engage with the other Ents in a battle with Saruman (Lee). The Ents dislike Saruman’s treatment of the fauna surrounding Isengard, so they flood the area around his tower. (One of the highlights of the Two Towers)

In their quest to rescue Merry and Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli come across Gandalf in Fangorn Forest and later meet up with the people of Rohan, who they end up helping in an epic battle at Helm’s Deep, once again this is one of the major highlights of the film.


In addition to the theatrical version of the Two Towers, director Peter Jackson has included 14 new scenes, 19 extended scenes, which give you a total of 42 minutes extra footage. In the extra scenes you can expect to see in this new version include the following

  • Faramir Finds Boromir

    Boromir (Bean) returns in a flashback sequence that shows his brother Faramir (Wenham), finding the boat carrying his brother’s dead body. We also get a great scene explaining the two brother’s relationship with their father Denethor (John Nogle), who we see more of, in the Return of the King.

  • Eomer Retrieves Theodred

    A mortally wounded Theodred (Paris Howe Strewe) is discovered by Eomer (Urban), who takes his cousin back to the Rohan capital of Edoras, and to King Théoden (Hill).

  • The Entdraught

    This sees Merry and Pippin listening to some Ent poetry from Treebeard, as well as the sampling of some Entdraught which has a strange effect on the two hobbits.

  • Other Scenes

    There are many other scenes to enjoy on this extended edition. These include Aragorn tasting Eowyn’s (Otto) cooking, more footage including Saruman breeding his army for the attack on Helm’s Deep as well as setting up themes for Return of the King, an extended opening and other scenes as well.

    If you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more unused footage, you would be wrong. Elsewhere on this DVD, Peter Jackson jokes about unused footage of a young Aragorn and Arwen (Tyler) frolicking together in Lothlorien. He say’s he’ll put it in the 50th Anniversary Edition!!!

    Overall it’s very difficult not to like this extended version of the Two Towers, as it does a great job of fleshing out the characters, making the film seem more epic, whilst at the same time it feels more intimate to.


    Picture

    The Two Towers Special Extended Edition comes in an anamorphic 2:35:1 transfer and the quality of the print is excellent throughout. I can only concur with what Eammon said about the theatrical cut, as it really is a beautiful print that is rich and incredibly detailed. It is clear throughout and I could see very little in the way of any encoding problems, a superb job by New Line.

    Sound

    Note that when selecting a soundtrack, for example I watched the first Disc in DTS, you must then select it again when you get to Disc 2 of the movie, otherwise it will revert to the Dolby Digital EX track. This won’t apply if you just select the Dolby Digital EX track.

    The Two Towers Special Extended Edition comes with both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS-ES 6.1 soundtracks. The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is the same as on the theatrical cut, it is an excellent track that is rich and detailed throughout and it will give your subwoofer a decent workout. Just like the extended version of the Fellowship of the Ring the Two Towers comes with a DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack. The DTS track is very dynamic, and always clear. The surround channels are particularly great with arrows, swords, horses and general ambiance that really transport you into the world of Middle-earth. Howard Shore's score is also wonderfully recreated on both tracks. Overall both tracks have been well crafted and are a joy to listen to.


    Extras

    The Packaging: The Two Towers Extended Edition comes in a sumptuous foldgate packaging that is in the style of a book. There are numerous beautiful conceptual sketches used throughout the package and on the discs themselves. Finally you get a little book detailing the new and extended scenes as well as the extras that are included across the discs.

    The Menus:The menus across the four discs have been beautifully crafted with great care and attention. The menus on the four discs open up with a Lord of the Rings themed background that on each occasion centres on a book that says the Two Towers Special Edition.

    On Disc 1, you have a play movie button along with sub menus for Special Features; Select a Scene and Screen and Audio Setup, these are the same on Disc 2 except it’s continue movie rather than play.

    Within the 3 sub menus there are more brilliant conceptual sketches and all menus are accompanied by music from the films which changes across all four discs.

    On Discs 3 and 4 there is the option of watching the extras with subtitles if you wish to do so.


    Disc 1 & Disc 2 – Special Extended Edition of the Film

    Audio Commentaries featuring, Director Peter Jackson, Writer/Producer Fran Walsh and Writer Philippa Boyens. The Design Team featuring, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger, Grant Major, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah and Chris Hennah. The Production/Post Production Team featuring, Barrie M.Osbourne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, Mike Horton, Jabez Olssen, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel and many more and finally the Cast featuring, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernhard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker and Andy Serkis.

    Note that each commentary comes with subtitles to tell you who is talking at a particular time. One other point to mention is that the commentary you have decided to watch over the film needs to be selected again when you get onto Disc 2 of the film in order to carry on listening to it.

    Whilst it could be said that four commentaries is perhaps a bit of an overkill the participation of over 40 cast and crew members do a great job of giving you their undivided attention to what is taking place onscreen. Listening to these commentaries will tell you everything you could ever want to know about The Two Towers.

    The best of the four commentaries is the one with Peter Jackson and co-writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (Peter Jackson’s writing partner and wife). It is full of information and packed with some wonderful anecdotes. In terms of the other commentaries the cast one was almost certainly recorded separately with each individual actor’s comments skilfully edited together and it works very well, and it is probably my second favourite of the four. The other two I felt were more of a dip in and out of listen rather than wanting to watch them as a whole, although having said that they were still good.


    All extra features on Discs 3 and 4 come with subtitles in English if you wish to use them. Also both discs have a superb indexing system where you can choose to watch things individually rather than watching it with the Play All option. The indexing system is set out in the style of a book and seamlessly branches from one page to the next making it very easy to use.

    Disc 3: The Appendices Part Three – The Journey Continues…

    Introduction by Peter Jackson (2 mins) - He talks a little bit about the Two Towers and also about what you can expect to see on disc 3.

    JRR Tolkien: Origins of Middle-earth documentary (30 mins) - This is a profile of Tolkien and how the themes of the Lord of the Rings came about. Having been involved in war he was looking for a way of depicting evil in a book and he often had to restart writing as he thought this was a much better idea than trying to overcome his writers block. The stories themselves were split into three volumes by the publishers, which greatly annoyed Tolkien but he had little choice as at the time they were published there was a paper shortage and no publisher would agree to print one big book. He also didn’t like the title for book three, the Return of the King as it sort of gives away what happens, as he preferred the War of the Ring. Other things to note from this documentary are that the character of Treebeard was based on his great friend C.S. Lewis as he had a deep booming voice, and also that Saruman was quite like Hitler as they their power came from the use of their voices.


    From Book To Script: Finding The Story Featurette (22 mins) - In this feature Peter Jackson and others remark that the Two Towers was always going to be a difficult story to adapt to the screen. For example they had to cut out sequences like Shelob’s Lair from book two as it would overshadow the Helm’s Deep battle in the film. They also changed around some of the dialogue by giving speeches to other characters, e.g. a Gandalf speech to Eowyn is now spoken by Wormtongue. Early on in the production they had Arwen join up with Aragorn at Helm’s Deep so that the lovers could be together again, but his was later cut out as fans got word of it from the Internet and didn’t like the idea. Finally there was a scene put in that symbolised the old alliance between elves and men as they fought together at Helm’s Deep before passing on into the undying lands that wasn’t in the book.

    Designing Middle- earth documentary (45 mins) - This excellent documentary takes you through the whole designing of the project including, the creation of sets for Fangorn Forest, Edoras, the Dead Marshes, Ithilien. Osgiliath and Helm’s Deep. On this project they were always designing things even in the post production phase. The major change in the Two Towers was that the colour palette was much darker than the Fellowship of the Ring. Throughout this piece there are interviews with all the amazingly talented people who helped create the wonderful sets you see in the finished film plus the construction of them.

    Weta Workshop documentary (44 mins) - Here we get to see the team of people at Weta studios that put together armour and costumes for the various people of Middle-earth, from the Uruk-Hai and the Elves to the people of Rohan. It shows you all their armour and weapons being made along with the finished pieces. They made over 100 suits of armour for the Elves and about 250 suits of armour for the peoples of Rohan. There were 100 swords made for the film, and making one took about 3-6 days. A pump action crossbow was made for the Uruk-Hai as using a normal one would take too long to reload.

    In the rest of the documentary you will get to see work on prosthetics and make up for the Uruk-Hai and other characters like Gimli and Wormtongue, as well as the creation of the Fellbeasts, the Wargs and Treebeard.

    Finally Peter Jackson jokes that two people in Weta studios that put together the chain mail on the suits of armour can now have a successful career in crime, because they have lost the fingerprints from their finger and thumb from putting all the chain mail together.

    The Peoples of Middle-earth, The Realms of Middle-earth design galleries and Gollum design gallery - There are 22 galleries of images for the peoples of Middle-earth including Gollum’s design gallery and 13 galleries for the Realms of Middle-earth. The pictures can be viewed as a slideshow or individually, and some of the images come with audio commentaries.

    The Taming of Sméagol documentary (40 mins) - This superb documentary covers the creation of Gollum. It was vitally important that he was believable as he is a central character in books two and three, and if he didn’t look right it would have ruined the films. It starts off with early sketches then moves on to sculptures and finally onto markettes to be scanned into the computer by Weta. However New Line studios did not have confidence in Weta’s ability to make Gollum believable, so they decided to create some early screen tests of the character, and New Line eventually relented. They had originally decided that they just wanted an actor to do a voice for Gollum and the rest would be a CG creation.

    However they eventually decided to use British actor Andy Serkis, who in his screen tests provided wonderful facial expressions to create the voice. He would performer the character of Gollum on set with the other actors and then the animators would later replicate his performance on the computer.

    Having Andy Serkis as Gollum created one major problem for the animators, and that was that back in 1998 when the Gollum puppet was created it looked nothing like Andy Serkis, because they had never planned to do Gollum with a human actor. S they had to go back and create all over again so that it did resemble him.

    Also included in the documentary is motion captured footage of Andy Serkis as Gollum, a segment on the animators at work trying to put Gollum together and the texture painters from Weta working on his skin to make him look as realistic as possible onscreen.


    Andy Serkis Animation Reference Featurette (2 mins) - This is a split screen feature with Andy Serkis performing the actions of Gollum alongside the finished version of the Gollum/Sméagol schizophrenia sequence.

    Gollum’s “Stand In” Featurette (3 mins) - Rick Porras who is one of the Co-Producers of the Lord of the Rings films who had to stand in for Andy Serkis as Gollum, this short feature details that day.

    Middle-earth Atlas – interactive map - This is an interactive feature that allows you to use your remote control to follow the journeys that the members of the fellowship take in the Two Towers. You can follow the travels of Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli and finally Gandalf. On the journeys there are clips from the film showing you what happened to the characters.

    New Zealand As Middle-earth interactive map - Just like the Middle-earth atlas map this takes you on a journey around the North and South Islands of New Zealand to show you the real locations for the sequences in the Two Towers at Emyn Muil, The Dead Marshes, Rohan, Edoras, Ithilien, Fangorn Forest and Helm’s Deep. This feature shows off the wonderful New Zealand landscapes used in the film.

    Disc 4: The Appendices Part Four – The Battle for Middle Earth Begins

    Introduction by Elijah Wood (2 mins) - Just like on disc three, there is an introduction to the disc. This time it is by Elijah Wood and he gives you a brief overview of what you can expect to see on this DVD.

    Warriors of the Third Age Featurette (23 mins) - This looks at the different fighting styles of the various races of Middle-earth. There is behind the scenes footage of the stunts team practising, the various fighting styles with veteran sword master Bob Anderson. The major thing that is covered in this feature is the Battle at Helm’s Deep. It is amazing to watch what all the talented stunts people had to put up with when filming this sequence, which included about three months of night shoots. It is easy to see why from watching this sequence that the stunt men and women were called the true heroes of Helm’s Deep.

    Cameras In Middle-earth documentary (65 mins) - A superb and extensive making of documentary charting the filming process of the Two Towers, from the beginning of the film at Emyn Muil to the end battle at Helm’s Deep. It interviews everyone involved with the project, they share their thoughts of what it was like filming the Two Towers as well as regaling us with wonderful anecdotes from the film set.

    Big-atures Featurette (22 mins) - This is about the models used in the film. It shows the creation of the miniatures, including the ones for Helm’s Deep. In order to visualize how the battle would play out on screen they brought 40,000 toy soldiers that represented the Uruk-Hai.

    Other miniatures that this feature looks at include Sauron’s tower at Barad-dur, although it could hardly be called a miniature at 27ft tall, the Black Gate of Mordor, Fangorn Forest and the city of Osgiliath.

    The Flooding of Isengard Animatic (2 mins) - This feature shows some early animatic work from this sequence in the film. You can either watch the original animatic on its own or you can watch it in a split-screen comparison with the final film version.

    Visual effects design galleries - There are various galleries housing hundreds of images, ranging from production photos and abandoned concepts to galleries on the miniatures. Like the galleries on disc 3 these images can be viewed individually, in a slideshow, and with some of the images there are audio commentaries available.

    Weta Digital documentary (30 mins) - This fascinating documentary gives us a detailed look at the digital effects shots from the film, in fact The Two Towers had about twice as many effects shots as the Fellowship of the Ring.

    Editorial: Redefining The Story Featurette (23 mins) - They decided early on in the project that there would be a different editor for each film. This feature takes you through the editing process on the Two Towers. It was a struggle to edit it because it doesn’t really have a beginning or an end. There was originally a prologue for the Two Towers as a recap from the first film, but this was ultimately dropped as Peter Jackson just wanted to get on with telling the story.

    Music For Middle-earth Featurette (25 mins) - This looks at the music of the Two Towers. The problem for composer Howard Shore was that it was a difficult score to compose as it had no real beginning and no real end. Another problem was that he would have to create a lot of new themes, as only 10 or 11 of these themes from the first film were used in the second film. It takes you right through the recording process and showcases some of the films new themes.

    The Soundscapes Of Middle-earth Featurette (22 mins) - This looks at the creation of the sound effects that you hear in the film. It is a very long and intricate process whereby, they had groups of people going out and recording sounds from everyday life that they think they could use. They actually recorded a lot of sounds at night, and in a cemetery as it was often too noisy to record in Wellington during the day.

    The sequences covered in this feature include the Uruk-Hai in battle at Helm’s Deep, the spooky noises of Fangorn Forest and the sounds of the wargs and fellbeasts in action. It also talks to the Foley artists who created sounds for movements, that the characters in the film create, e.g. footsteps, movements of clothes and combat sounds like firing arrows etc...

    Sound Demonstration: Helm’s Deep audio comparison - We learn that in a typical battle sequence there are more than 80 separate sound elements. In this demonstration you will see the progression of the soundtrack from the original sound shot on set right through to the final mix.

    The Battle For Helm’s Deep Is Over…Featurette (5 mins) - This basically sums up the production of the Two Towers. Everyone involved with it seemed to find it a lot tougher to get it finished on time, just because of the huge size of the project, and the fact that it was a much darker picture than fellowship was. But everyone in it agrees that despite all that it was worthwhile as it was both a critical and a box office success. It also includes footage from the various premieres from around the world.


    Overall

    The Two Towers Extended Edition is an extraordinary well put together package. The longer cut of the film is the main reason for buying this set and when coupled with an amazing set of extras, that are more in-depth, stylish and entertaining than most of the DVD’s on the market today, it is a DVD to rule them all. Well at least until the Return of the King Extended Edition.

    Film
    10 out of 10
    Video
    10 out of 10
    Audio
    10 out of 10
    Extras
    10 out of 10
    Overall

    10

    out of 10

    Last updated: 17/05/2018 10:03:36

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