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Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
Sean Astin as Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee
Billy Boyd as Peregrin 'Pippin' Took
Liv Tyler as Arwen Undómiel
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, son of Glóin/Treebeard (voice)
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Miranda Otto as Éowyn
Brad Dourif as Gríma Wormtongue
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Karl Urban as Éomer
Bernard Hill as Théoden, King of Rohan
David Wenham as Faramir
Andy Serkis as Gollum/Sméagol
Theatrical trailers, TV spots
Documentary "On the Set: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Starz/Encore special)
Documentary "Return to Middle-Earth" (WB special)
Eight featurettes originally created for lordoftherings.net: "Forces of Darkness," "Sounds of Middle-earth," "Edoras & Rohan Culture," "Creatures," "Gandalf the White," "Arms & Armor," "Helm's Deep," and "Gollum: Andy Serkis, Bay Raitt"
Emiliana Torrini "Gollum Song" music video
Short film by Sean Astin "The Long and Short of It"
Exclusive 10-minute behind-the-scenes preview of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Preview of video game, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
An inside look at the Special Extended DVD Edition of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"
DVD ROM Features: Exclusive online content
Stereo Surround Sound
Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound
English Subtitles and Closed Captioned
Running Time: 179 Minutes
"The Two Towers" is the second film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and it picks up immediately where the first film left off. The Fellowship is now broken and our heroes are split into three separate adventures.
Frodo and Sam continue the quest to destroy the ring in Mt. Doom, but they have difficulty finding their way to the land of Mordor. However, an unlikely guide comes to their aid. Gollum, the previous owner of the ring, catches up with the Hobbits and agrees to show them the way. Schizophrenic and twisted, he is pitied by his new master Frodo. Sam, though, does not trust the creature and suspects that he is leading them towards a trap so he can reclaim the ring. But can Frodo resist the temptations of the ring and complete his quest before it destroys him?
Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin remain captured by the orcs who intend to deliver them to Isengard. Through good luck, they are able to escape into some ancient woods where they encounter a tree-like creature called an Ent. Named Treebeard, the creature is the leader of his species and he pledges to protect the two Hobbits. Though the Ents are disinterested in the affairs of Middle Earth and are rather slow to rise to action, they end up playing a pivotal role in the war against evil.
Finally, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn pursue the orcs who have captured their friends. Intensely driven to save them, they make their way into the land of Rohan that is inhabited by horse riding men. There, they encounter the last person they expected to meet - Gandalf. It turns out that the wizard was able to escape certain doom and defeat the Balrog demon. Gandalf assures them that the Hobbits are all right and he diverts them to meet with the king of Rohan, Théoden. The king's mind has been taken over by the evil wizard Saruman and he sits idly by as his land is overrun by orcs. After Gandalf "exorcises" the king, he leads them into retreat to Helm's Deep, a fortress where they intend to make a final stand. There 300 men must face 10,000 orcs in a battle that will be the turning point in the war with Sauron.
"The Two Towers" is rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences and scary images.
I liked the book "The Two Towers" better than "The Fellowship of the Ring," and the same goes for the movie. The film is much more action oriented and it hits the ground running without letting up for around 1 ½ hours. While the first film spent a lot of time setting up the story, this sequel dives right into things and keeps your attention for the full 3 hours. I think people that didn't like the slowness of the first film will be much more impressed by this one. It is the LOTR equivalent of "The Empire Strikes Back". The movie features the heroes striking out in different directions, it's a bit darker, and it expands on the foundations of the first film.
All of the characters of the first movie return in full form. While Gandalf, Saruman, Merry, and Pippin don't get nearly as much screentime in this movie as they did in the first, they all still play pivotal roles. What impressed me was how the new characters were introduced and quickly established themselves as memorable in the cast. Bernard Hill as Théoden, King of Rohan, really stands out in my mind. He transforms from senile old man to sword wielding king with relative ease. The scenes where he mourns the death of his son are particularly heart wrenching and they underline the seriousness of the events taking place. Miranda Otto as Éowyn, Karl Urban as Éomer, and David Wenham as Faramir all step up to the plate and deliver memorable characters as well. That's a lot to say considering how much they had to live up to after the first movie.
However, the real breakout character of the film is Gollum. Voiced and acted by Andy Serkis, he delivers the most memorable performance of any of the characters. His monologues with his evil and good side alone will captivate you and haunt you. They are brilliantly edited and are some of the more memorable scenes from the film. The animation on this character is outstanding. While he ranges from being totally realistic to being very fake, that is not what strikes you. What makes him impressive is the incredibly expressive animation of his face. Subtle changes in his mannerisms, eye dilation, and voice help emphasize his split personality. It's rare to see such an emotional performance from a CG creation, but he delivers. Gollum sets the new standard for CG characters.
While the effects don't really break new ground, they greatly enhance the action to make it even more exciting. The opening scene where Gandalf battles the Balrog while in freefall is absolutely stunning. A battle with orcs riding jackal-like wargs is really intense. While it's obviously CG, you find yourself holding your breath because you're drawn into it thanks to the characters. Gimli also adds some much needed humor to lighten things up in this scene and throughout the film. The final battle that takes place at Helm's Deep is a real showstopper, too. When you think "epic cinema", it's scenes like this that will spring to mind. The LOTR equivalent of the Alamo, our heroes find themselves vastly outnumbered with their backs against the wall. Jackson does a good job emphasizing the hopelessness of the situation by showing old men and boys taking up arms to battle the orcs. He does a fantastic job of putting a face on those in battle and adding emotion to what would otherwise just be a cool action scene. The ending cuts between this battle, one between Saruman and the Ents, and the siege at Gondor. While the battle at Gondor is not in the book, it offers up some additional cool imagery and a chance to highlight man rising up to resist the temptations of the ring.
I gave this movie a perfect score for several reasons. First of all, I was thoroughly entertained by it. It was everything I was looking for in a sequel. Second, I rated the first film with a 9 and I liked this one better. Third, I think this film will hold up over time. It will still be a great film 20 years from now. That being said, it does have a few minor flaws that I'm willing to overlook which may annoy others.
Gollum's Song, which ends the movie, is rather psychedelic and weird. While it fits the character well, it's not the note to end the movie on. The story ends on a hopeful upbeat note and then gets dragged down again with this depressing closing song. Something else would have worked better.
The other thing is Aragorn's romance with Arwen. While it's a nice beautiful little romance, it has very little to do with the overall story. The only time the movie slows down is when these scenes come on the film. They were the only times I checked my watch.
The last thing is something I did not have a problem with, yet some people I have talked to griped about. A few people who were big fans of the book railed about the changes made by Jackson. They didn't like Frodo's side trip to Gondor or the fact that the Ents weren't the ones to save Helm's Deep. While I thought they were necessary for the screen adaptation, these people felt they were totally unnecessary. To each his own, but this is something you may want to be prepared for. I was not bothered in the least by them.
While this DVD is jam packed with extras, the menus aren’t nearly as flashy as those you would find on other DVDs. However, that’s really a blessing because it allows you to navigate the DVD extras much quicker. Here are some highlights of the DVD:
Documentary "On the Set: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Starz/Encore special) – This is a short video on the making of the movie. It mainly features interviews with the cast and crew while showing some behind the scenes footage. It’s about 15 minutes long or so.
Documentary "Return to Middle-earth" (WB special) – This is the better of the two main documentaries. While featuring the standard behind the scenes footage and interviews, this special goes the extra mile and follows the cast around on their time off. One of the highlights is an afternoon on the town with the hilarious Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan. You’ll want to view this one. While some of the footage is from the Fellowship Of The Ring DVD, most of it is new stuff. It is also narrated by Michael Rosenbaum of “Smallville” fame. Go, Lex, go!
Eight Featurettes originally created for lordoftherings.net: These were the short videos on the making of the film that were featured on the official LOTR website. Each lasts about 5 minutes long and covers varying aspects on the creation of TTT. They include specials on the bad guys, sound design, Rohan and Edoras, creatures, Gandalf, the arms and armor, Helm’s Deep, and of course Gollum. While they aren’t all as in-depth as you might hope, they are very thorough in giving an overall look at the making of the film. One of the more amusing moments features the sound design team recording sound effects in a cemetery late at night. You think all that screaming might disturb the locals?
Emiliana Torrini "Gollum Song" music video – I personally didn’t care for this song much, so the music video didn’t thrill me either. It’s just a wee bit depressing for my tastes. The video shows clips from the film intercut with footage of Torrini singing the song while looking dark and depressed.
Short film by Sean Astin "The Long and Short of It" – Taking advantage of the cast, crew, and equipment on the set, Sean Astin used his day off to shoot a short film (that isn’t LOTR related). It features a very tall man and a very short woman helping a guy paste a poster on a wall. Once they are done, they all hop on a bus driven by Peter Jackson in a brief cameo. While I didn’t like the short film, I think it was a great idea and it’s very cool to see this new formed family team together to make Astin’s dream come true.
The Making Of "The Long and Short of It" – While I wasn’t impressed with the short film, I thought this making of video was hilarious. The producer, cast, and crew are all shown being roped into making this film for Astin. Serkis direct traffic and attempts to work his way up the chain of command. Elijah Wood acts as assistant director. Everyone steps in to make this happen for Astin though you can tell they’d probably rather be elsewhere on their day off. It’s cool to see them come together for this, but they still manage to poke fun in this video. It’s well worth viewing.
Exclusive 10-minute behind-the-scenes preview of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" – Are you ready for ROTK? If not, this preview will make you eager for it. This is more than a simple trailer for the film. This is a full behind the scenes feature showing Jackson editing footage of Shelob, details of creating the battle scenes, and much more. The cast and crew also appear to hype the final film in the LOTR trilogy. Let’s hope they’re right when they say it’s the best of the three.
Preview of video game, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" – I don’t play many video games, but if I was going to play one, this would be it. In this preview, narrated by John Rhys Davies, you get a full look at the TTT and ROTK games as well as behind the scenes footage of their creation. Amazingly, they managed to round up the entire original cast to voice the characters in the game. The graphics are also impressive as they recreate Middle Earth in the game environment.
An inside look at the Special Extended DVD Edition of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" – It’s pretty bold of New Line to advertise another TTT DVD that will be released a mere three months after you purchase this one, but I must say that I’ll be eagerly shelling out more dollars for this special edition. Like the Fellowship Of The Ring special edition DVD, this version features a ton of new footage. This preview is quite long and every bit of footage in it is new stuff never before seen. They also show behind the scenes clips as they create new effects and music for this extended edition. I can’t wait to check it out despite having to pay more money.
The Bottom Line:
Simply put, this is a required addition for your DVD collection. Both the film and extras are superb. The only drawback is trying to decide whether to wait for the extended edition that will come later or buy this one now.