After a nervous wait, The Fellowship of the Ring proved that the army assembled in New Zealand did in fact know what they were doing, delivering a smash hit that not only resonated with the general movie going public keen to delve into a make believe world far from the horror of 9/11 a few short months previously, but also with the legions of literary fans whom were no doubt waiting for Jackson and company with a pitchfork in one hand and a flaming torch in the other.
With a newly confirmed sense of confidence and more post production funds unleashed, Peter Jackson delivered the second installment in the trilogy - The Two Towers one year later, premiering in December 2002.
In this middle of three films, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) continues his journey to Mount Doom with his trusted companion Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), now separated from the Fellowship whom were entrusted with Frodo's safety and reeling from the death of his friend and mentor, Gandalf. The journey becomes all the more difficult with the arrival of the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis), a previous owner of the Ring who has become deformed both physically and mentally by its power. The Ring also continues to become a psychological burden for Frodo, which could unravel his relationship with Samwise, jeopardising the mission.
With the theatrical film, theatrical DVD and extended DVD releases becoming so overwhelmingly popular, there was no doubt that the same attention would be bestowed upon the sequel and that's what we have here. For The Two Towers Jackson added 44 minutes of footage (including the elongated fan club credits). Whilst many, if not most Lord of the Rings fans prefer these extended cuts, it would be remiss to point out that Peter Jackson does indeed prefer the theatrical cuts for their more balanced approach, of which he had final cut.
The Two Towers - Extended Edition is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (its original aspect ratio), encoded with AVC MPEG-4 compression.
Unlike the newly reformed colour grading performed for Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers has had no obvious revisions to the look of the film, although Warner have confirmed that this too is a newly struck transfer.
The image is very sharp and detailed, although not quite to the exquisite level as its predecessor. Colour balance is very good, although much of the film is bathed in blue toned moonlight. Importantly for a film that plays much of the action out under the cover of darkness, there is a myriad of detail in the dark and shadows, not lost to black crush.
Letting the transfer breathe over two discs has done the film a world of good and the transfer exhibits only extremely minor compression artifacts which can only be found in background shots on a large display.
Overall, a very pleasing upgrade from my old NTSC DVD.
The main audio track is encoded in 6.1 DTS HD Master Audio at 24 bits.
The audio transfer afforded to the extended cut is every bit as aggressive and impressive as the transfer afforded the theatrical cut last year. Importantly, the same care and attention was given to the newly reinstated footage as to that of the theatrical cut.
Again, there were no problems with audio sync, despite the heavy use of post production ADR that was performed. Surround usage is very aggressive, as is the LFE channel which is used to great effect during the climactic finale with the march of the Ents. The score is once again provided by Howard Shore, which will go down with some other notable film trilogies as some of the best orchestral cues ever produced.
The European and Australian versions of the extended cut DVDs were pulverized by some terrible pitch correction which resulted in awful juddering and clipping, most noticeable in the score. Thanks to the wonders of 24p, we can finally listen to the films as they were meant to be heard, at their proper pitch and run time.
This is a spectacular mix and a perfect accompaniment to a wonderful video transfer.
Village Roadshow have once again ported across all the extra features from the previous DVD release, even including the Costa Botes documentary which was featured on the limited edition DVD release. Since the extra features are copious and picked apart many times by many different reviewers, I'll pick out what I consider to be the best of the bunch.
Once again, the film features four audio commentaries - a grand total of 1000 minutes of audio commentary, otherwise known as 'film school in a box'. There is a seriously awesome amount of tidbits, trivia and other assorted nuggets of gold in these hills. If you have the time (or can make the time), I'd seriously recommend.
Most of the extra features take the form of self contained featurettes which look at almost every segment of the films' production. The second part of the From Book to Script section continues the discussion of adapting the middle part of the book series into a relatively self contained feature film in its own right - no mean feat if you've read the books.
Gollum is a 50 minute documentary which takes a look at the many facets the character that would be a pivotal part of the story, from concept design, to CG creation and motion capture. I fondly remember viewing The Two Towers at the cinema and the minute that Gollum came on screen - a living, breathing and thoroughly convincing digital character - I knew it was a watershed moment in cinema. It still holds up magnificently nearly 10 years later.
Filming the Two Towers is the bulkiest documentary at nearly 90 minutes in length. I can't even begin to convey the logistical nightmare that filming this movie must have been - one minute shooting a scene for one movie, then another scene for another in the next. This documentary will give you a new appreciation for the film and touches on basically every noteworthy aspect to the production.
Finally, the last notable extra is the Visual Effects section. Whilst the character of Gollum is such a large and important part of the series (if he wasn't convincing then the film would have crumbled), crafting him as a believable character was just one of the many trials and tribulations that the talented crew at Weta Digital had to pioneer. This section discusses the creation of the more visually intensive sequences and even gives tantalizing glimpses into some that were dropped.