Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Special Extended Edition (2002)

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Released 17-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Menu Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Additional Footage-New And Extended Scenes
Audio Commentary-4
Introduction-Disc 3 - Peter Jackson (Director/Writer/Producer)
Featurette-J.R.R.Tolkien: Origins Of Middle Earth; From Book To Script
Featurette-Designing Middle Earth; Weta Workshop;Taming Of Smeagol
Featurette
Featurette-Middle-earth Atlas; New Zealand As Middle-earth
Gallery-With Commentary, 22+13+13
Introduction-Disc 4 - Elijah Wood (Actor)
Featurette-Warriors Of The Third Age; Cameras In Middle-earth
Featurette-Big-atures; Weta Digital; Editorial: Refining The Story
Featurette-Music For Middle-earth; The Soundscapes Of Middle-earth
Featurette-The Battle For Helm's Deep Is Over...
Featurette-The Flooding Of Isengard Animatic; Sound Demo: Helm's Deep
Gallery-Production Photos; Adandoned Concepts (2); Minatures (7)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 225:43 (Case: 223)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:42)
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Jackson
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Sean Astin
Viggo Mortensen
Miranda Otto
David Wenham
Dominic Monaghan
Billy Boyd
Christopher Lee
Bernard Hill
Karl Urban
Liv Tyler
Orlando Bloom
Case Gatefold
RPI $79.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English dts 6.1 ES Discrete (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Titling
English for the Hearing Impaired
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    With the final instalment in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy now only weeks away from hitting cinema screens around the world, here is a DVD release that will surely whet the appetites of every rabid fan eager to see just how Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic will conclude. The delightfully packaged four-disc The Fellowship of the Ring - Extended Edition was a huge success when released a year ago and it set new standards in DVD collector edition quality. It was, in this reviewer's humble opinion, the supreme release in the history of the format in this country. It offered a much improved version of the film with several key scenes extended and many new ones added. Above all, it just felt right and proper to be able to finally see this longer version in an unhurried manner. It was of course also bundled with a set of extras the likes of which we had never seen before, all of which gave us a superb understanding of the sheer amount of effort that went into realising the films. Peter Jackson had suddenly been elevated to the position of DVD demi-god.

    So if you thought last year's release was just about the pinnacle of how good a DVD package could get and it was going to be all downhill from here, well don't despair, because quite simply "you ain't seen nothing yet". The bar has been raised even further by every DVD collector's favourite director and Mr Jackson is certainly setting a standard that the likes of Messrs Spielberg and Lucas will have some difficulty attaining - if they can ever be bothered trying.

    The review of the original two-disc theatrical release of The Lord Of The Rings - The Two Towers can be viewed if you want to gain an insight into the perils of comparing the film to the original and much-loved novel. Let me say right now that I have only read the book twice, the first time when I was only about 10 years old and the second time about five years ago. As a result, I will not be offering any in-depth analysis of the differences and whether such differences are good, bad or even considered sacrilege. I am simply going to offer my thoughts on the film as it is, and this exquisitely packaged four-disc Extended Edition.

    The Two Towers leaps straight into where the story left off at the end of The Fellowship Of The Ring. The nine-member Fellowship has of course been broken, with the death of Boromir and the loss of Gandalf. The young ring-bearer Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and his constant companion Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) set off alone in the direction of Mordor and Mount Doom - with the ultimate aim of destroying the One Ring of power. The two Hobbits are wandering aimlessly around in a rocky maze getting hopelessly lost when they are tracked down by Gollum (Andy Serkis), the one-time owner of the ring who fell so far under its corrupting influence that he is now but a shadow of his former self. Despite the objections of Sam, Frodo feels a bond with this wretched creature and agrees to let him lead them to Mordor. Sam does not trust Gollum, but is also beginning to get worried about the effect the ring is having on Frodo so must battle on with doubts lingering in his mind.

    Meanwhile, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), are in pursuit of the warriors who have captured the other two Hobbits, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). Hot on the trail of the Uruk-hai, they are led to the land of the horse people of Rohan and the city of Edoras. It is here they encounter Rohan leader King Théoden (Bernard Hill), who is under the spell of Saruman and heavily influenced by the evil Gríma Wormtongue (Brad Dourif). The King is finally released from his spell and, despite the advice of Aragorn to ride out and attack the approaching army of Saruman, orders the evacuation of Edoras. All the people of Rohan head for Helm's Deep, a magnificent stronghold in the mountains where they will easily defend themselves from the approaching horde...or so they think, and the ensuing Battle for Helm's Deep becomes one of the truly iconic moments of this epic film.

    Merry and Pippin meanwhile are on a quest of their own. Free from the clasp of the Uruk-hai, the two Hobbits stumble onto an Ent called Treebeard, a strange, huge and extremely old tree-like creature. The Hobbits must somehow convince the Ents that the evil hordes of Saruman and Mordor pose a threat to them as well and their assistance is needed to help defeat the dark powers. Ents don't do things particularly quickly, so it's a race against time to get these ancient beings to see the light.

    The real benefit of this four-disc box set over the original two-disc theatrical release is that this Extended Edition contains an extras 43 minutes of film footage. This does not include the 10 minutes devoted to the listing of the members of the official Lord Of The Rings fan club which takes place after the film credits have rolled. I have read somewhere that the Extended Edition is not just a collection of severed scenes that have been slapped back into the film in a slap-dash manner, but rather it is more like the belt has been loosened a couple of notches allowing more breathing space and time to enjoy the whole experience in an unhurried fashion.

    Now this is a perfect analogy as, just like the Fellowship Extended Edition, this version of The Two Towers just feels more complete and more coherent. We are treated to a little more explanation and exposition of several story threads. Examples of this include; the death of King Théoden's son Theodred is far better explained, as is just how the horse that rescues Aragorn came to be realised and a more detailed explanation of the backstory of Boromir and Faramir and their relationship to the ring of power. There are also a few more subtle touches of humour added throughout. Legolas and Gimli resolve their body-count contest during the Battle of Helm's Deep, and the mirth created by Merry and Pippin when they sample the Ent draft in the forest are just a couple of the small touches that make this a highly enjoyable version of the film, and surely the one that everyone will return to when eager for a repeat viewing.

    Debate may still rage about the merits of the film and the amount of change that was done in the adaptation from a much-loved novel. It is extremely interesting to hear one of the writers, Phillippa Boyens explain her reasons for the changes, and the articulate justification she presents can hardly be argued with. Moreover, she states that these films are simply "one group of fans' version". A statement that is truly spot-on.

    For my mind, Peter Jackson has created a trilogy of films that will stand the test of time. These are films that will be watched over and over again during the next fifty years and beyond. The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is simply reinforcing the reasons why we all love movies, go to the cinema, and collect them like mad on DVD.

    Go out and buy this now - you will not regret it for a moment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The superlatives cannot describe just how good this transfer is. It is clear, sharp, beautifully detailed and free from absolutely any imperfections.

    The original aspect ratio of The Two Towers was 2.35:1, and that is of course the aspect ratio we get here. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is as sharp as a tack throughout and exquisitely detailed. Every wispy hair on the head of the pasty, emaciated Gollum is evident, and every wrinkled line on the crusty face of Rohan's King Théoden when he is still under the spell of Saruman is clearly portrayed. Shadow detail is never compromised and amazingly there is not a trace of any grain at all. There is also no low level noise.

    The colours are incredibly different in this film when compared with The Fellowship Of The Ring. Whereas that film benefited from the bright and vibrant colours found in the Shire and Hobbiton, much of The Two Towers takes place in swamps, dark forests, and misty, rocky outcrops. As a result, much of the colour palette is grey and grim which effectively mirrors the pall of gloom that has descended over much of Middle-earth. Skin tones are perfect though, and blacks are pretty well spot on.

    There are no compression artefacts, no video artefacts such as aliasing and absolutely no film artefacts of any description. It is clean and crisp and just plain beautiful.

    This Region 4 release has only a limited number of subtitle streams. The usual English for the Hearing Impaired variety were sampled extensively and found to be highly accurate and beautifully placed on screen. There is also an English titling stream that activates whenever the elves speak in tongue.

    With the film running to nearly four hours, it has naturally enough been spread over two discs. Both of these are dual layered efforts with RSDL formatting. The layer change in part one occurs at 48:42 just after the visit to the Dead Marshes by the Black Rider and the Fell Beast. Gollum pauses noticeably but there is no dialogue or other audio so the pause is not too disruptive. The layer change in part two occurs at 50:38 just as the male townsfolk are being led out to defend the walls for the coming battle of Helm's Deep. It is right on a scene change but is a little clunky in its delivery (at least it was on my player).

    Since this film has now been spread over two discs, it is worth mentioning the location of the disc change-over. It occurs at 102:10 and is at the end of the scene where Captain Faramir has just captured Frodo and Sam and orders his men to "Bind their hands". Disc two starts with the evacuation of Edoras, just before the Warg attack. The placement is suitable and is a natural enough point for a quick break.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Just like the Fellowship Extended Edition, there are a staggering seven soundtracks covering the film over the two discs. What we are treated to here is a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the piece de resistance, a dts 6.1 ES discrete soundtrack encoded at the lower bitrate of 768 Kb/s.

    I have of course, as detailed in the extras section, listened to all the commentary soundtracks, of which there are again four, all recorded in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. In terms of the main film soundtracks, all the following comments apply equally to both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts tracks.

    There has been plenty of controversy in the past about the pitch correction (or time compression) of the film soundtracks for both Fellowship and The Two Towers. I even took part in a direct comparison session at one stage when the first disc of The Fellowship Of The Ring was released. To my ears, which I count as being no better or worse than any average reasonable person's, I really can't pick any serious artefacts caused by this pitch correction process, which I again assume has been applied to these soundtracks.

    In my opinion the dts soundtrack is sensational. It is full. It is clean. It is powerful. It has a dynamic range the likes of which we seldom hear. From the scream and rumbles of the mighty Balrog to the whisper of the scheming Wormtongue, this soundtrack has it all. It will make use of every speaker you own to its absolute fullest and I cannot recommend it more highly.

    And who can ignore the score? The music in this film consists of a score once again by the renowned Howard Shore. His music for The Fellowship Of The Ring was undoubtedly one of the finest score compositions ever put in a film. While his The Two Towers score shares many common elements with that magnificent set of compositions, it didn't quite have the same rousing effect on me as it did for the first film. Make no mistake, it is still superb, and the Themes of Rohan and Gollum/Sméagol are in particular quite evocative, but I found the main opening theme in Fellowship to be among the pinnacles of movie music.

    The dts soundtrack also features significant surround activity throughout much of the film. From the opening moments when the Balrog and Gandalf are engaged in fierce battle to the absolute cacophony of sounds at the Battle Of Helm's Deep with arrows, bodies, sword thrusts, battering rams, and various other projectiles hurling around the screen, this is one truly immersive and aggressive surround soundtrack.

    The subwoofer use on the dts soundtrack is also absolutely awesome. Magnificent deep and rumbling bass that you can virtually feel pervades many of the scenes. The fight with the Balrog, the charge of the Uruk-Hai, the beat of the Fell Beast's wings, and the explosion of the Deeping Wall at Helm's Deep are the most obvious examples of where the bass extension and the use of the subwoofer are absolutely second-to-none.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    My fellow reviewer, DeanM, offered this assessment of the extras contained in The Fellowship of the Ring - Extended Edition when he reviewed the title around this time last year:

    "...this is quite simply the best extras package Region 4 is going to see until (possibly) the release of The Two Towers around this time next year."

    Well Dean can now stop pondering. If he and all of you thought Mr Jackson and his crew had maybe got too far ahead of themselves and possibly given us all the really good stuff last time and left nothing for the middle course, think again. This set of extras is the equal of anything contained in the Extended Edition of Fellowship, covering all aspects of the film making process. Most of it is particular to The Two Towers and goes into exquisite detail on just about everything, with specific emphasis on any new characters or locations not present the last time round.

    The only negative is that unfortunately just like the Fellowship Extended Edition, there are no theatrical trailers available.

    Unless otherwise stated, all extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Audio is provided by a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack.

    Counting the audio commentaries, I have estimated there are approximately 21 hours of extra material here, enough to keep you occupied until just about the time that The Return Of The King is due for release!

DISCS 1 & 2

Menu Audio

Scene Selection Animation & Audio

Dolby Digital Trailer

    Rain - I would have certainly preferred a theatrical trailer to this.

dts Trailer

    Piano

Additional Footage

    As I have already mentioned, there is an additional 43 minutes of footage that has been included throughout the film covering both discs one and two. In exactly the same way as the Fellowship Extended Edition, there is a page in the booklet listing all the scenes in this edition and marking with an asterisk those that are either new or extended scenes. This is a handy guide, though for those intimately familiar with the theatrical version of the film, the new material will be quite obvious. All up, there are an additional 14 new scenes and 18 extended scenes.

Audio Commentary - Peter Jackson (Director/Producer/Writer), Fran Walsh (Writer/Producer), and Philippa Boyens (Writer).

    A quick note about all the audio commentaries. Make sure you select them from the Special Features menu on either disc one or two and don't simply change to soundtracks 4,5,6, or 7 on-the-fly while watching the film. If you do it the latter way, you will not activate the caption stream that contains the name and title of the person speaking, which is an absolute must-have when some of the commentaries feature upwards of ten people talking.

    First up is a relaxed screen-specific audio commentary from the team who obviously had a significant creative input into the whole film. Peter Jackson more or less leads the commentary with both Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens bouncing ideas and other anecdotes off him throughout. They explain a great many of the new or extended scenes and actually point them out right at the moment you are seeing something new. They take great pains to provide reasons for why various scenes are missing or have been included in this Extended Edition. Listen out for Peter Jackson's lament about peasants and the effects Monty Python and the Holy Grail has on films such as these - it's quite a laugh.

Audio Commentary - Grant Major, Richard Taylor, Alan Lee, John Howe, Dan Hennah, Chris Hennah, and Tania Rodger (Design Team)

    This is also a screen-specific commentary track that is all about what the sets, the actors, and the props look like. Being the principal players in the design team, these guys concentrate on virtually every design aspect of the film, and no topic is too small. The important stuff like the set design, the models, and the visual effects are covered, right down to the minute detail of belts, buckles, and helmets. These are essentially bits and pieces that most viewers will never see, but they still get some discussion time. These people are incredibly passionate about their particular subject and as a result this is an incredibly informative commentary, even if it does get weighed down a little by technical detail.

    The inclusion of long-time Tolkien artists Alan Lee and John Howe is particularly interesting as these two have many, many years of ideas about how things should have looked. For the most part, it has all turned out just as they imagined.

Audio Commentary - Barrie Osborne, Mark Ordesky, Andrew Lesnie, Mike Norton, Jabez Olssen, Rick Porras, Howard Shore, Jim Rygiel, Mike Hopkins, Randy Cook, Christian Rivers, Brian Van’t Hul, and Alex Funke (Production Team)

    This is probably the driest of the four commentaries because it was weighed down more by the technical production style aspects such as lighting design, camera angle selection, editing decisions, and various other production issues, but it is by no means dull. Thankfully all the speakers are clear and articulate and with their name and title appearing on the screen just before they talk you get an instant idea about what angle they will be coming from. The director of photography Andrew Lesnie is particularly interesting and certainly has a few more anecdotes to tell than some of the others.

Audio Commentary -Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, John Noble, Craig Parker, and Andy Serkis (The Cast)

    Truth be told I have never been a great fan of cast commentaries and have yet to find one that I enjoyed listening to. Cast members are involved in so little of the actual production when you think about it that many don't really have anything interesting to say other than stating the obvious and congratulating everyone involved on how great they all are.

    This isn't so much of a problem here, because after listening to the three other almost technically based commentaries, which focus most on the film making process, this one is a bit more light-hearted and at times quite funny. The actors are not all together, with most being individually recorded and their thoughts slotted into the soundtrack whenever their character appears on screen. It does sound like Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, and Sean Astin are together, as are Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd in another group. In fact, the latter are probably the funniest and do get a considerable amount of time in the soundtrack. Recommended for a bit of techno-relief.

DISC 3

Introduction

    Director Peter Jackson welcomes you to the four disc Extended Edition in this brief, 1:48 introduction. He briefly introduces the film, explains the layout of the discs and the fact they have included a nice play-all option for the entire extra material.

Featurette - J.R.R. Tolkien: Origins Of Middle Earth

    Running for 29:27, this featurette looks at the history of J.R.R. Tolkien and his relationship with another famous author, C.S. Lewis. With some other learned friends they formed a literary group called the Inklings and this is also covered here. Mostly made up of interviews with several Tolkien biographers, it is a quite interesting piece. The latter half focuses on the splitting of the original book into three volumes for ease and cost-efficiency of printing immediately after the war. There is much debate about the technical aspects of the book which I found quite fascinating. You almost get the opinion that many learned scholars think it isn't very well written at all.

Featurette - From Book To Script

    This featurette runs for 20:56 and discusses the difficulty the writers had in adapting the second Tolkien book to the screen. Some of the more obvious and certainly controversial changes that have been the point of discussion in many forums are explained here and co-writer Phillips Boyens provides her justification for the changes which were made. It is here that she states that these films are merely "one group of fans' version". All the critics of the adaptation should definitely take a look at this featurette.

Featurette - Designing Middle Earth

    A fairly meaty 45:43 featurette that deals with the overall look of Middle-earth from the early design perspective. The involvement of veteran Tolkien artists Alan Lee and John Howe which was so critical in the achievement of an authentic look is covered in great detail here. As with the other featurettes, this one focuses on the design of locations, buildings, characters, and other objects that are specific to The Two Towers. Much attention is paid to Edoras and other bits of Rohan in general, Fangorn, and of course Helm's Deep.

Featurette - Weta Workshop

    Another comprehensive featurette that deals with the now famous Weta Workshop. This is the mob that in an almost unhealthy way dedicated so much time, effort and manhours to making all the props, and costumes, and sets look as authentic as possible. Hosted by the extremely passionate and dedicated Richard Taylor, this time round the focus is placed on much of the armour used in the many battle scenes and the make-up of the many characters with special attention paid to King Theoden. There is also a significant explanation of just how they made the Ent Treebeard. Running time here is 43:45.

Gallery - Design Galleries

    This is an amazingly extensive photograph and drawing gallery featuring stills of practically every location and character found in the film - all from a design perspective, so some naturally enough didn't make the final film. They are split into two main galleries (The People of Middle Earth and The Realms of Middle Earth). Each is broken down again into a number of sub-headings. All are presented as thumbnails which can be selected to view full screen. Many have an additional commentary sound bite with them where the artist or designer responsible fully explains what their intentions are in the design. There are an amazing 1642 images in total.

Featurette - Taming Of Sméagol

    This is the first of four items dedicated to the magnificent character that is Gollum. This one runs for 39:32 and covers just about everything you ever wanted to know about the finest computer generated character to ever appear in a film. The design of Gollum is covered in detail, as is the dilemma faced by the crew when Andy Serkis was cast for The Two Towers. He brought such a presence to the character that it was effectively redesigned from how it briefly appeared in Fellowship. This caused no end of angst, especially with the head honchos at New Line Cinema who really wanted the CG work done in the US, but the guys at Weta Digital in Wellington put so much effort into this character and, coupled with Andy Serkis' voice and performance, the result is without peer.

Featurette - Andy Serkis Reference

    This is a short featurette, running for just 1:45, but it is really interesting nonetheless. In one half of a split screen we see the scene where Sméagol and Gollum are having that inner battle with themselves. In the other half is the real Andy Serkis performing this same scene. The amount of effort he puts into the performance is quite remarkable.

Featurette - Gollum's 'Stand-in'

    This is a short and quite funny look at the day that Andy Serkis wasn't available to perform as Gollum and so a stand-in was required. Producer Rick Porras agreed to get dressed in the lycra suit and run around on all fours in the bush. He's pretty bad, but at least can have a laugh at his own expense. Total running time here is only 3:17.

Gallery - Design Gallery (Gollum)

    95 images of various Gollum drawings and maquettes (these are like a small 3D clay model). They are all presented as thumbnails over some 11 pages. 20 of them have a small sound bite of commentary from one of the artists involved in the design.

Featurette - Middle-earth Atlas

    For someone such as myself who isn't 100 per cent familiar with all the mystifying place names and directions that each of the groups head off in, a featurette like this one is invaluable. Much like the one offered in the Fellowship Extended Edition, this is simply a huge map of Middle-earth which allows you to select one of four different paths travelled by either Sam and Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, or Gandalf. An animated trail then appears showing the locations they each found themselves in along with a brief snippet of around one minute showing key scenes from the film at that location. You can get a sort of summarised view of the whole film in around 15 minutes here.

Featurette - New Zealand As Middle-earth

    If you are like me and have been lucky enough to travel extensively in New Zealand, you will know instantly why it was chosen for the filming location of all three films. The scenery in New Zealand is simply stunning, with perpetual snow-capped peaks surrounded by lush dark green rain forest and crystal clear rivers and streams. Every time that I visit I am more and more awestruck with its beauty. It really is Middle-earth and was an inspired choice as location for these films.

    This is a similar featurette to the one contained in the Fellowship Extended Edition. This one runs for 14:19 when played via the play-all option, or each location can be selected individually if you so desire. Various locations in both the North and South Islands of New Zealand were used for many scenes in The Two Towers. Included here are sections on The Dead Marshes (Kepler Mire), Rohan (Poolburn Reservoir and other bits of Central Otago), Edoras (Mt. Sunday in Canterbury), Fangorn (close to Mavora Lakes near Te Anau ) and Helm's Deep (a quarry in Wellington!).

    For those that are after more information about actual locations than is offered here, you might be interested to know there is a guidebook available called the Lord Of The Rings Location Guidebook which details almost all of the locations used in the first two films. In amongst many maps and photographs, it provides exact GPS coordinates for most of the famous spots so you can trek around and see just exactly where all the magic took place.

DISC 4

Introduction

    This is similar to the introduction on disc 3, but this time round it is actor Elijah Wood who does the job. It runs for 1:06 and contains pretty much the same explanation as the other introduction from Peter Jackson.

Featurette -Warriors Of The Third Age

    This is the first part of a series of featurettes dedicated to the filming of The Two Towers. This part runs for 20:57 and is dedicated to the actors, stunt people, and extras who performed the actual battles. It looks at the training the actors and stunties went through to make the battle scenes as authentic as possible.

Featurette - Cameras In Middle-earth

    This is probably the best of all the featurettes. It is by far the meatiest at 68:14 and is a truly more comprehensive making-of than any of the other featurettes. It looks at the actual filming process and the methods used to ensure Peter Jackson could almost be in five different places at once. There are significant interviews with all the principal cast members and crew and plenty of humour from all participants. Many humorous stories are recounted by the cast and this provides a far more human element to what are often clinical and overly technical featurettes. I enjoyed this one immensely and recommend that if you only want to watch a small portion of the extras that this is the one to take a look at.

Gallery-Production Photos

    A series of 60 behind-the-scenes production photos, all presented as a series of thumbnails across seven screens. Each thumbnail can be selected from the remote thus presenting the image full size in a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 screen. Only two are complemented by an audio soundbite offering an explanation of what is happening in the shot.

Featurette - Big-atures

    Much the same as the featurette that focused on the bigatures used in The Fellowship Of The Ring, this one runs for 21:51. It looks at the models created for scenes at Helms Deep, Barad Dúr, The Black Gate, Fangorn, Osgiliath, and the Flooding Of Isengard. It really is quite amazing to see what can be done with a few chunks of polystyrene, a little imagination and the right camera angle.

Featurette - The Flooding Of Isengard

    There are actually two mini-featurettes available to look at here. They both deal with the crude and roughly done visualisation video made to allow Peter Jackson to see just how the Flooding of Isengard scene might look. The first part shows the extremely crude (and I mean crude - water is represented by plastic and the Ents as sticks) mock-up of the scene when the dam bursts. This video runs for 2:31. The second option allows a split screen style presentation where the crude visualisation is compared with how the finished product appeared. This one runs for 1:30.

Gallery - Miniatures

    There are seven galleries in total that feature many photos of the models. All are presented as thumbnails which can be selected and viewed full screen. These cover the following locations:

    Barad Dur - 54 photos
    Fangorn - 8 photos
    Helm's Deep - 27 photos
    Ruined Isengard - 52 photos
    Osgiliath - 22 photos
    The Black Gate - 32 photos
    Zira Kzigil - 9 photos

Featurette - Weta Digital

    The department of the Weta Workshop that dealt with all the digital effects shots really had to ramp up their operations for the production of the second film. For more than 700 shots in The Two Towers which had visual effects in them, they needed to double the number of staff, triple the computer storage, and quadruple the CPU power when compared to The Fellowship Of The Ring. This is a 27:32 featurette covers the work the digital effects people did including an explanation of the famous scene where Legolas performs that incredible leap onto the back of the horse during the Warg attack.

Gallery - Abandoned Concepts

    This is some artwork for two concepts that were abandoned early on in the process. The first comprises 27 drawings titled Slime Balrog, which deals with what happened when Gandalf and the Balrog fell into the pool in the cavern. The other is four drawings of the Endless Stair, the location where Gandalf finally overcame and defeated the Balrog.

Featurette - Editorial: Refining The Story

    This 21:58 featurette is dedicated to the editing of the film. Peter Jackson had a different editor for each of the three films, purely because he felt one person would not be able to manage to do it all themselves. This featurette concentrates purely on the editing process and the decisions made for The Two Towers.

Featurette - Music For Middle-earth

    The first part of the three part Music and Sound section is dedicated to the music and of course the work of the renowned Howard Shore. Running for 25:22, there is quite a bit of material covered here including the scoring of the various themes used in The Two Towers - the themes of Rohan, Gollum, and Sméagol are most notable.

    Unlike the other featurettes which rely on Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks only, the three music and sound featurettes all benefit greatly from being blessed with a full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack.

Featurette - The Soundscapes Of Middle-earth

    This 21:28 featurette deals with all the other audio in the film other than the musical score. It includes a quick look at the ADR work and just how the audio engineers achieved some of the sound effects that they did. There is an odd scene with a flying cheese grater which I found amusing. For those of you lucky punters that were at the cricket match in Wellington that day when Peter Jackson recorded some crowd noise for use in the Uruk-hai scene at Isengard, there is some footage of you all chanting and jumping up and down.

    Another added bonus is for anyone who wants to know what Foley effects are. If you do you should look no further than this section. Several minutes are dedicated to the Foley artists used on the film and how they went about their work capturing many of the miscellaneous 'people' sounds.

Featurette - Sound Demo: Helm's Deep

    This is a really good, quick demonstration of just how the various layers of sound are all put together to create a finished scene. The demonstration revolves around a 1:08 sequence taken during the battle for Helm's Deep. There are seven separate layers of sound that can be listened to individually or they can all be put together to listen to the final theatrical mix. Layers such as the plain old on-set audio (which is incredibly lifeless!) or the Foley effects, or just the musical score can be listened to. Each as a separate part is pretty dull, but when it is all added together we get the magnificent finished product.

Featurette - The Battle For Helm's Deep Is Over...

    This is a sort of epilogue to the whole Extended Edition DVD set. This one runs for 9:28 and provides the crew and cast a chance to wrap up their thoughts on the filming and post-production of the most difficult film in the trilogy.

Easter Egg

    This is well worth looking for - though a little difficult to find (a small hint - think 30). At the 2003 MTV awards, Gollum was presented with the award for Best Virtual Character. This is the presentation of that award to Andy Serkis who of course voiced and acted the character of Gollum. He was not actually at the awards but was still filming in New Zealand at the time and so accepts the award via a satellite link. Things start out quite normally, but there's a little surprise in store. A real hoot that had me in stitches. Running time is 2:56.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Based purely on the contents of the discs, the Region 1 disc is identical to the Region 4, save for a minor difference with the subtitles (Spanish instead of Greek). I am unable to provide at this stage any direct comparisons in audio and video terms of the Region 1 to the Region 4.

Summary

    The Two Towers - Extended Edition continues the magnificent legacy of top class DVD production that director Peter Jackson introduced to us all in the Fellowship Of The Ring Extended Edition. If you thought that superb effort couldn't be matched, well think again.

    The video quality is sensational.

    The audio is spectacular.

    The extras are sensational and spectacular.

    Does DVD get much better than this? I'd like to think there is room for improvement somewhere, but right now I am struggling to think of just what could be done. Just like the Fellowship Extended Edition, this four disc Extended Edition of The Two Towers is the reason why all of us love movies and DVD so much.

    Bring on The Return Of The King Extended Edition!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Monday, November 17, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - Wayne F
Web Wombat - James A

Comments (Add)
The 2nd most boring movie ever made -
Richard Taylor's voice -
One other slight difference, re: R1 vs R4... -
audio commentary by Viggo Mortensen? -
Boring! -
Viggo Mortensen Commentary -
Why bother ? - AndrewW
Boring! - Anonymous - Response - CatonaPC© (read my bio)
Why - REPLY POSTED
JB-HIFI Melbourne - $54.98. - TurkeyTom
Pitch correction artifacts -
Re: Pitch correction - grug (there is no bio.)
Viggo the Unwordy... -
Love the EE...well, the first 3/4's anyway!! >:( D*** defective disc!! - Zinzan (This is my.... bio)
Collectors Box Set & getting Gollum out... - Darque
One fan's thoughts on the first 2 movies and EE's - Sheeds
Re: Collectors Box Set & getting Gollum out... - M D B
Prices for other stores? -
Re: Prices for other stores? -
Re: Prices for other stores - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
Re: Prices for other stores? - AndrewW
$54.98 JB HiFi Rundle Mall, Adelaide -
Pitch correction solved -
Return of the time compression artefacts. - MickJT (Have a look at my biography)
Smoking ? - AndrewW
Smoking warning - why? - Shane C (read my bio, you will)
Re: Smoking warning - why? - AndrewW
To AndrewW - Shane C (read my bio, you will)
i give up -
Re: I give Up -
Easter Egg - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
My favourite DVD package so far -
Re: Collectors Box Set & getting Gollum out -
New Line does it better. -
Stained Foldout -
Minor flaw on Disc 4 on my copy - TurkeyTom
Dodgy on some players? - Spiff
Re: Dodgy on some players - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
Ordering from EzyDvd -
re-Dodgy on some players? - Nick
Re: Dodgy on some players -
Return Of The King EE News On TheOneRing.Net - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Richard Taylor Is A Total Goomba! -
Richard Taylor -