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New Line Home Cinema presents
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

"There was an army bred for a single purpose, to destroy the world of man."
- Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: September 21, 2003

Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom
Other Stars: Cate Blanchett, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, Andy Serkis
Director: Peter Jackson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images
Run Time: 02h:59m:11s
Release Date: August 26, 2003
UPC: 794043635526
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A-A-A B

DVD Review

Prior to the initial release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in December 2001, writer/director Peter Jackson could not have expected such a monumental response from critics and audiences. The studio nervously hoped to make a profit, and Tolkien fanatics wondered if the ambitious trilogy would meet their high expectations. Following a lengthy and very successful theatrical showing, the film warranted two very different DVD releases. The original version appeared in August and included promotional featurettes and trailers. It delivers for the casual fan, but pales in comparison to the gigantic four-disc set released in November. Featuring considerable extra footage and a wealth of stunning documentaries, this collection raised the DVD standard. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers follows an identical format and also will be presented in two releases. This two-disc set gives us the memorable theatrical version, but it is merely a precursor for yet another huge November offering.

A massive army of evil Orcs and Uru-kai arrive at Helm's Deep with the single purpose of decimating every living being. By the decree of the traitorous wizard, Saruman (Christopher Lee), they will storm the structure and virtually eliminate the entire human kingdom of Rohan. Standing atop the walls are the honorable warrior Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), nimble elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and silly dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). They will fight alongside a small group of elves and humans and will almost assuredly not survive the night. The enemy slams its weapons into the group and shouts a massive battle cry before charging. Is this the last stand for Middle-earth?

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers begins immediately following the saddening conclusion of its predecessor. The Fellowship is broken, Boromir (Sean Bean) has been killed, and the Orcs have captured Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan). All is not lost, however. The two Hobbits' friends are vigorously pursuing them, and the essential quest continues. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) inch closer to Mount Doom and hope to destroy the Ring of Power. Unfortunately, they also are being tracked by the creature Gollum, who obsessively seeks "the precious."

The tale moves seamlessly between each element and pushes everything towards the final chapter. Being the second part of a trilogy, this film is very plot-heavy and lacks a bit of the wonder generated by the first entry. However, a similar drawback exists in the source novel, which must bridge the other parts and include considerable action. This movie actually removes several pivotal moments from the book and shifts them to the final chapter. Jackson and his co-writers took considerable heat from Tolkien fans for these alterations, but it should make the eventual The Return of the King a classic. Another major change occurs with Faramir (David Wenham)—Boromir's brother—who captures Frodo and Sam. They venture to a Gondor stronghold and encounter the Black Riders, which does not occur in the novel. Luckily, this sequence does serve an impressive purpose. It enhances the personal struggle and again demonstrates the ring's power to attract even well-meaning individuals.

When discussing this picture, it becomes nearly pointless to delve much into the specific plot elements. Even viewers who have not seen the film probably are familiar through countless articles, interviews, and television specials. Although slightly less emotionally involving than its predecessor, this film still provides stunning visuals and excellent acting across the board. The emphasis definitely shifts to Aragorn and the humans, which allows for less whimsical moments. However, this shift leads to the grand final battle at Helm's Deep, which represents a remarkable directorial achievement for Jackson. Mortensen admirably portrays the hero, and Wood brings heart to Frodo's struggles. The new actors also do well, especially Bernard Hill as the tormented King Theoden of Rohan. The final noteworthy element is the digitally created Gollum, who generates an emotional weight never seen in prior digital incarnations. Andy Serkis' voice works perfectly for the character and provides just the right emphasis.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers retains the momentum achieved by the first entry and pushes the characters towards an expectedly stunning final act. The abundance of designers, artisans, and effects artists deserve credit for the tale's enveloping atmosphere. They craft an engaging, realistic environment that avoids the Lucas-like pitfalls and keeps the story involving throughout its lengthy running time.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers features countless stunning images that have never been matched previously on the silver screen. This release provides a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that offers few disappointments. However, it does fall just a bit short of receiving my highest recommendation. The bright colors spring clearly from the screen, but they lack the stunning beauty inherent in the very best transfers. It's still an extremely worthy transfer, but is not a groundbreaking achievement.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release utilizes a powerful 5.1-channel Dolby Digital EX transfer that does should match viewers' high expectations. The rear speakers receive plenty of use throughout the film, and the audio flows effectively across the entire sound field. The final battle at Helm's Deep provides impressive complexity and really draws you into the action. I would have appreciated a DTS option, but have no complaints about Dolby Digital version. This disc also offers a solid 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track, which represents a significant dropoff but still delivers an acceptable presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 53 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
16 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Documentaries
10 Featurette(s)
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. "The Long and the Short of It," a short film directed by Sean Astin
  2. Emiliana Torrini "Gollum's Song" Music Video
  3. Special Extended DVD Edition Preview
  4. The Return of the King Preview
  5. The Return of the King Game Preview by EA
Extras Review: This two-disc edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers includes mostly promotional featurettes that offer limited information. Some worthwhile items do appear, but they offer just a quick glimpse at the production. On the Set of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a 14-minute special that originally appeared on the Starz network. It provides far too much plot summary and only glosses over the more interesting details. The actors speak pretty generally, and many shots appear from the preview trailers. Return to Middle-earth is a much longer WB television special with more extensive coverage. The material here remains on the promotional side, but there are some entertaining tidbits about the actors. They formed a very close bond during the two years in New Zealand, and it is present everywhere during this special. Initially running as an hour-long special on television, this entertaining show stays light, but it does provide an enjoyable time waster.

The other major inclusion is a collection of eight short featurettes that originally appeared on lordoftherings.net. Each entry offers film shots and promotional narration along with some interesting behind-the-scenes footage. The highlights present sound designers creating clips in a cemetery, and worthwhile descriptions from costume designer Richard Taylor. The following topics are covered within these featurettes:

Forces of Darkness (4:30)
Designing the Sounds of Middle-earth (4:00)
Edoras: The Rohan Capital (4:42)
Creatures of Middle-earth (4:35)
Gandalf the White (2:49)
Arms and Armor (4:41)
The Battle of Helm's Deep (4:05)
Bringing Gollum to Life (4:13)


An odd but enjoyable bonus is the short film The Long and the Short of It—written and directed by Sean Astin. Shot on a weekend break during reshoots of the The Two Towers, this six-minute gem is short and sweet. It stars director of photography Andrew Lesnie and contains no lines of dialogue. Peter Jackson also makes a silly cameo as a bus driver. You also can watch The Making of the Long and Short of It, which shows some big names doing menial jobs on the crew. Andy Serkis is especially funny discussing his rise and fall while filming the picture.

Tolkien fanatics will probably purchase this release just to catch a preview of The Return of the King. Running for 12 minutes, this worthwhile piece includes a quick plot overview, behind-the-scenes information, and quick scenes from the film. The final battle promises to be a stunning event that dwarfs even the Helm's Deep sequence. Also enjoyable is the preview of the extended edition of The Two Towers, which lasts five minutes and gives us some excellent cut footage.

The remaining supplements include two theatrical trailers, 16 TV spots, the music video of Gollum's Song, and a video game preview. The music video tune is sung by Emiliana Torrini, who sounds a bit like Bjork and projects the necessary melancholy with her voice. The game shots are very impressive and made me think about purchasing them. Finally, exclusive online DVD-ROM content is also available for computer users.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Smart buyers should probably wait and purchase the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in November. This two-disc release does contain some nice extras, but they pale dramatically in comparison to the gargantuan upcoming set. This version is recommended solely for completists and casual viewers who lack interest in bonus footage and countless supplements.

 


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