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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that I absolutely loved The Two Towers. I guess my um… past pretty much guarantees that doesn’t it? There’s no getting around it though, I absolutely love it. But when I first saw it in theaters, there was something I had to admit: This movie is not as good as Fellowship of the Ring.

The Extended Edition DVD changes that. Not just because they’ve thrown in some great extra scenes, or because the DVD itself has the greatest set of features in the history of the format, though those things are all great. But then the Fellowship EE had all that too. No, what sets the Two Towers Extended Edition DVD apart from even the first Lord of the Rings Extended is that without all this, Two Towers doesn’t make sense. This is how the movie should have been cut in the first place. If you thought you were in love with Two Towers before, see the extended DVD and see it the way it should have been. What was almost as good as Fellowship is now in every way its equal.

I’ve already reviewed the theatrical edition, so reviewing this one might seem a bit redundant. But this sucker has 40 minutes of additional footage. Not just any 40 minutes either. We aren’t talking about cute scenes thrown in to add a few fan moments in, or things to appease Tolkien purists. This is pivotal stuff that makes what you saw in the Theatrical Edition not only deeper, but gives the entire film a much cleaner presence.

Remember Aragorn waking up on the riverbank after nearly drowning? Ever wonder why a horse suddenly appears out of nowhere to give him a lift? After all, finding a horse isn’t exactly like hailing a taxi. Hello Extended Edition! Peter Jackson didn’t forget to explain it; he was just forced to cut it to keep his movie short enough for the New Line suits. There are so many wonderful little improvements like that in this version, which make this SO MUCH a better movie. Fellowship of the Ring, though the EE makes it an even better movie, did not NEED the EE to make what was already there fit. The Two Towers did. Thank god Peter Jackson was able to go back and do it.

The character who most benefits from the extended cut is Faramir, who many (me included) thought got the short shrift in the theatrical cut, with most of his character falling to the editing axe. In the extended edition, he finally gets his fair share and we see him as more than just a guy in the way of the ring and more as someone who’s just trying to do what’s right.

Also of note, at least for me personally is the inclusion of more Merry and Pippin after the battle of Isengaard. You’ll see them floating on wreckage engaging in merriment. Perhaps not the most pivotal scenes, but for me some of the most memorable from the book. Keep your eyes open for walking trees. They’re in there too.

Like the previous EE, the material here is seamlessly incorporated into the film. Unless you are EXTREMELY familiar with the theatrical edition, you won’t go through it noticing every place where they’ve inserted something new. Sometimes it is a big sequence, several minutes in length. Sometimes it’s just a word or two of new dialogue. But it is integrated in such a way that this isn’t a movie with more stuff tacked on, but an entirely new film. Howard Shore even reworked the entire score to make it all completely seamless. This isn’t just reference material, this a new and better vision of what Two Towers is supposed to be.

This is another massive four disc set. The first two discs contain just the extended edition of the movie. Granted, it is a bit annoying to have to stop the movie and put in a new disc right in the middle of the film, but you’ll probably need snack break anyway. The other two discs are nothing but special features, or appendices. These shall hereafter be referred to as “goodies.” Here’s a tip: Watch them all.

The movie itself is fantastic, beautifully transferred with perfect sound and wonderful colors, exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from a premium DVD set. Obviously, anyone who buys this will be watching that. The movie itself is also accompanied by four commentary tracks, which really add some nice perspective on the film. Commentary is generally only for the uber-fan, it’s not the sort of thing that anyone will sit down and watch. For myself, the only one I listened to in its entirety was the cast commentary, which is witty, insightful, and fun. Most of the cast participates, with Viggo notably absent. This is the track you are most likely to enjoy. The others, which I skimmed, are educational, but really… how much commentary can you listen to? Most of us don’t ever listen to commentary on any DVD, but if you’re ever going to bother with it, this might be the one.

But it is the goodies that matter. I don’t know about you, but I find myself less and less interested in supplemental materials. Just about every DVD release these days has them. Most of them are either boring or so paper-thin they aren’t worth watching. It has gotten to the point where I just don’t bother with them anymore. Don’t make that mistake here. These goodies are a MUST SEE. Last year, pronounced the goodies on the FOTR Extended Edition, “the most comprehensive behind-the-scenes of a movie EVER.” If that’s true, then this is the follow up to the most comprehensive behind-the-scenes of a movie ever.

This is the middle film, so in some ways the goodies lack some of the excitement and pizzazz of the Fellowship features, if only because it avoids repeating all the set up Fellowship already covers. What it does focus on is that which is new in Two Towers, so you won’t see more stories about the Hobbits filming together, which was of course covered previously. Instead, you get in depth material on Andy Serkis and the fantastic work that went into making Gollum. You get beautiful and detailed looks at location shoots, set building, and the most incredible look at a movie making process ever captured before. Oh, and it’s pretty entertaining too. No dry narrator droning on about the type of glue to make their models. Instead you get the people involved telling amusing anecdotes and positively GUSHING about working on something which they so obviously love. That passion translates beautifully into every one of the mini-documentaries contained on the two goodies discs. For even the casual fan this is something that should NOT be missed.

In addition to the mini-documentaries, there are a lot of photo galleries, detailing production design, giving you a window into their pre-production process. Some of these even come with accompanying audio commentary, which I thought was a nice little touch to keep the photo galleries as passionate and alive as everything else in the set. After all, flipping through photos on your TV can get a little old, no matter how cool that sketch of Gollum might look. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition is the second in what is sure to be the three greatest DVD sets ever created in the history of the format. Heck, even if for some insane reason you HATED the movie, if you love DVD’s then this is something you just cannot live without. Jackson’s crew have taken an already great format and upped the ante, again and again. Here’s hoping that the rest of the DVD world gets a clue.