LOTR: The Two Towers Extended Edition 5-Disc Set [Blu-ray]

For the most part The Two Towers is a seamless merging of the films in the trilogy. As the center film within three, The Two Towers ran the risk of getting lost a little between the newness of the first film and the conclusion of the third, but it may actually be better precisely because it is the center film. Where The Fellowship of the Ring must deal with a lengthy introduction to the series and The Return of the King must close all of its storylines out, The Two Towers is all action. While The Fellowship of the Ring is a story about combining forces to meet a unique challenge, The Two Towers finds our heroes split apart and harried. Ultimately, they are still working to defeat Sauron, however, and although they split up, the bonds simply seem stretched rather than broken. Beyond this, the group’s various journeys allow us to see more of Middle-earth. This makes the world seem more vast and more dangerous, but also a creation so unique and varied that it is absolutely worth preserving, even if the nine are separated and fighting different battles along the way.

The Two Towers relies slightly more heavily on special effects (or at least creates a slew of different visions with special effects) than the first film in the trilogy, which actually proves to be a boon for the film. Battle intricacies and exquisite scenes featuring the bold-eyed Gollum (Andy Serkis) are the real standouts on the set. As Gollum, Serkis plays wretched and ghoulish perfectly, and in him we see the movements and textures of some important CGI characters that followed (think Harry Potter’s Dobby). As the design team notes in the commentary to the set, as a digital character, Gollum had to deliver as if he was a real performer on set, with the same range of movement and expressions. Gollum is a home run, but the character isn’t the only winning thing about the film.

There’s over forty minutes of extra footage with the film and with the extra time, nearly all of the characters are able to be fleshed out to more of an extent. Faramir gets the biggest bump that I’ve noticed in the extended edition, but it’s nice to see more from the hobbits and the other characters, as well.

When it was filmed, The Two Towers felt like a disaster to Jackson, the design crew, and the production crew. Not only was it difficult to translate the book into a script that would work for a theatrical film, it was difficult to build characterization when each of the characters was hopping from one location to another and there was more than one journey for the camera to follow at any given moment. This caused a lot of editing stress, and The Two Towers may be the film that is least close to Tolkien’s vision. However, sometimes stress can be inspiring. The Two Towers may not be perfect for series fans, but it’s cut together so well and it tells such compelling stories with such vivid action, for the less literary fan, it’s probably the easiest film in the trilogy to invest in, more intricate than the first film and less arduous than the third.

Are you looking for Cinema Blend’s reviews of the Extended Edition 5-Disc singles sets for The Fellowship of the Ring or The Return of the King? We’ve got them! The first 2 discs in the 5-Disc Extended Edition set feature the movie, as well as commentaries with the cast, director and writer, production team, and design team. Because there are the aforementioned four commentaries accompanying the movie, and because it is the extended version of the film, the movie is split onto the two separate discs. The cast commentary is certainly the most jovial of the commentaries, followed by the Peter Jackson-oriented director’s commentary. However, if you are more excited about the tricks of the trade and the technical specifications, you’ll want to check out the other two.

There’s a whole set of features that look at how the book came together and “J.R.R. Tolkien” Origins of Middle-earth” is a documentary about ‘The Inklings,” which was a group of friends—including C.S. Lewis—that met to hang out and read one another’s works in progress. There was more of a challenge with writing The Two Towers for Tolkien and for the movie creators because the ending of The Fellowship of the Rings leaves its characters in a very complicated arc. Producers had to mix and match book elements a lot more during this film, which is why Faramir (David Wenham) ends up taking a different trip and even certain fighting scenes are displaced. Several segments take a look at the significance of Gollum in the book and films. Like the other extended sets, there is a Middle-earth map and a look at how New Zealand was transformed for the film.

For the film buffs, Disc 4 might be the most fascinating. There’s a documentary, called “Filming the Two Towers,” that looks in depth at the making of the film, and following that, the disc looks at the editorial work, the music, and, the visual effects. Finally “The Battle for Helm’s Deep is Over” discusses how negative the entire cast and crew were while filming The Two Towers due to the problems with the script and the up-in-the-air way everyone thought the film might be received. Luckily things went well, and by the time the film premiere for The Two Tower occurred, the buzz was high and the hobbits (Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd), especially, had become super stars. This kind of helped to rejuvenate everyone’s mental state for some of the bonus feature interviews.

Disc 5 features a documentary by Costa Botes that features a lot of raw footage from the film production. While watching, I came to the realization that the behind-the-scenes look gives a lot of visual answers to how various special effects were achieved. Some of this stuff is even mentioned in the commentary, but to get a real visual of what the designers or Jackson had to accomplish really was invaluable.

The extras in The Two Towers Extended Edition 5-Disc set are mostly extras available with the regular DVD set. What you are trading up for this time around is remastered audio and a reworked picture. The set looks beautiful, and the menu is one of the most fun to navigate I have ever seen. Still, if you’ve doled out for the Extended Edition DVD, you may not want to risk the price. I would say it depends on how invested in the series you are.