Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Blu-ray) (2002)
Trailer-Lord of the Rings Supertrailer (6.39)
Trailer-Video Games - Aragorn's Quest (1.24)
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Peter Jackson|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 6.1 ES Matrix (4608Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Two Towers is, of course, the second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson. My review of The Fellowship of the Ring on Blu-ray can be found here.
The Two Towers is often seen, unfairly in my view, as the ugly duckling of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some hardcore fans are still in their dark, dank caves, Gollum-like, moaning about the liberties that Peter Jackson and co-scriptwriter Fran Walsh took with the original novel. Putting Boromir's demise in the last film and Shelob into the next is only the beginning of the changes. Jackson finally bowed to fan pressure when he dropped the idea, already partly filmed, of including Arwen at the Battle of Helms Deep. Still a number of elves did manage to turn up at this legendary battle. Finally, the Hobbits Frodo and Sam are taken by Faramir to Osgiliath, leading to that often quoted line from Sam : "By rights we shouldn't even be here!".
Perhaps enough water has passed under the bridge for even some of the dissenters to come to the side of the screenwriters in adapting these unwieldy novels for the screen. In fact it is only when seen in company with the other films that the true genius of The Two Towers comes through. This is a dramatic, tight film (as tight as a three hour film can be) that intensifies the drama of the first film and adds some great performances and scenes to the rabbit stew.
Whilst some fans adore the slow-moving, thoughtful Treebeard and the Ents, for me there are two welcome highlights for The Two Towers. One is the impassioned physical and vocal performance of Andy Serkis as Gollum. In his book How We Made Movie Magic (yes, I have a book on Gollum!) Serkis details the lengths he went to in order to create the wretched creature, twisting and contorting his body for motion capture and shredding his voice to create the tortured Gollum dialogue. He even took to recording the dialogue crouched on all fours in the studio!
The greatness of the performance and the CGI work that followed is to create a character that is pathetic and despicable in equal measures - devious yet cowardly. He is truly the most conflicted character in the film. Whilst others may not want the roles that have been thrust upon them Gollum constantly addresses both parts of his personality, best seen in the moonlit scene where he strips his own soul bare, trying to decide whether good or evil will eventuate.
The other great addition is Miranda Otto as Eowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan, who develops a mighty crush on Aragorn. Otto plays the character dead straight, with a core of steel. So earthy and enticing is her character that in spite of the habit of Arwen popping up in Aragorn's dreams, we just get the feeling she might be a better match for the Dunedain Aragorn. In a moment reminiscent of Richard III she repels the loathsome Grima Wormtongue as he tries to force her into accepting him as a match. Then, in a favourite scene she crosses swords (literally) with Aragorn and reveals her greatest fear (admittedly taken from Return of the King) to be caged (t)o stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire. Stirring stuff!
To concentrate on Gollum and Eowyn is not to take anything away from the fine performances of the existing cast and the other newcomers, David Wenham as Faramir, Bernard Hill as King Theoden, Karl Urban as Eomer and, of course, Brad Dourif as the detestable Wormtongue.
This Blu-ray, like Fellowship is a barebones release containing the theatrical edition of the film and not the extended versions. In the case of Two Towers that means some 38 minutes of extra material. Is it worth it for the average fan to wait until the inevitable fully fledged editions are issued?
Again, as with Fellowship, your choice. To my mind the addition of further material about the Ents is interesting from a fidelity point of view but adds little to the overarching story in which the Ents play only a small part. What is missing is the chapter The Heir of Numenor from the Extended Edition, which is a great moment between Gandalf and Aragorn. Also missing are two scenes between Eowyn and Aragon: when he tames her brothers horse and the moment when Eowyn learns of Aragorn's history. To me both these moments are important in emphasizing the human story. If I were to hazard a guess both were removed because they made the relationship between the pair stronger than that between Aragorn and Arwen (that's not what Jackson says in the commentary track though). As it is Jackson had to resort to dream sequences to keep the fires of that love kindling when the two are never geographically near.
Dipping into The Two Towers again is not a slog to Helms Deep but an invigorating experience.
The Two Towers is presented in its correct cinematic aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It uses the VC1 codec and occupies 37.6 Gb of this dual layer Blu-ray disc. I could not detect the timing of the layer change on my player.
Any concerns about the image quality of this release are blown away in the first few minutes. This is a seriously good looking transfer. When the snowy mountains give way to the Mines of Moria and Gandalf battles the flaming Balrog the difference between DVD and Blu-ray becomes readily apparent. The Balrog glows with infernal fire, every inch of its body detailed to perfection.
As well as anything the Blu-ray shows off the exquisite costuming of the production team. The Hobbits in their rough weave fabrics, the robes of the elves - even minor characters are show off to great effect. For this, see the Hobbits and humans outside the Black Gate at 50.00.
Colours are stable and rich throughout without being over-enhanced. After all, this is not a fantasy film where everyone trots around in glistening armour, these are working, fighting men.
There is no hint of compression throughout. Naturally the print is clear and free of any damage, dirt or artefacts. There is light grain consistent with the film source.
There are subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action. Elvish language scenes are also subtitled.
About the only criticism which can be levelled at the film relates to the CGI work. As detailed, complex and expensive as it was the fact remains that CGI has continually improved exponentially. As a result the Ents look a little fake and occasionally Gollum looks less convincing in some scenes than others. This is, however, a very minor point.
The Blu-ray of The Two Towers carries but one soundtrack - a powerful English 6.1 DTS -HD Master Audio track. Being a lossless track it doesn't run at any consistent bit rate.
As said in my review of Fellowship DTS Master Audio has one clear advantage over its rival HD sound format, True HD, in that it downconverts to DTS if the player can't decode the higher format. For that reason one soundtrack will do.
Two Towers already sounded impressive on DVD. Certain parts were reference quality and served as a good demonstration of the merits of a good surround system to sceptical friends.
The quality of the soundtrack is evident from the first moments through the superlative combination of music, dialogue and noise. As the camera sweeps across lofty, snow-capped peaks the whistling wind begins to echo with the sound of Gandalf on the bridge at Khazad-dum. After his desperate "Flee, you fools!" the brass kicks in as the Grey Wizard and the molten Balrog fall into the boundless depths. Twisting and turning, fighting and flailing each moment crisply captured on the soundtrack and delivered with enormous power. A cut to the vast underground caverns and the choral elements of the score come to the fore.
Make sure that your receiver is not on 11 when the battle of the Hornburg at Helm's Deep begins, particularly the explosion. There is more meat in this track than in an Orc stew. The surrounds are used to great effect throughout and, as said, the sub-woofer laps up the battle scenes.
Dialogue is in sync and can be heard clearly at all times. The whispered dialogue comes through effortlessly and Gollum's strained vocals are comprehensible. The minor problems associated with pitch correction caused an Ent Moot of MichaelDVD reviewers to be convened to listen to The Two Towers DVD soundtrack. As with all Blu-rays there is no PAL 4% speed up and no need to pitch correct means those problems do not exist on this Blu-ray.
It is an all-round excellent track.
|Surround Channel Use|
This game is apparently coming out this year. The graphics resemble World of Warcraft and it is telling that it will be on Wii and PS2 but not Xbox 360 or PS3.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
As previously stated the Region A release is of the same theatrical edition and comes in a box set with extras. Those extras are only those issued with earlier DVD releases and are not in High Definition. I call it a draw.
The Two Towers may be the Empire Strikes Back of this fantasy trilogy, a serious work of art that entrances with characterisation and dazzles with the spectacle of massed orc armies.
This Blu-ray transfer is extremely good and will tide any fan over until the next edition.
Once again the lack of extras is a disappointment but understandable given the nature of the releases and the pricepoint.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|