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The great Treebeard is angered upon being
asked if he's ever heard of a razor.

The Two Towers:
Special Extended DVD Edition

Review written by: Alex Sandell

With over 40 minutes of cut scenes reinstated, The Two Towers:  Special Extended DVD Edition is a brand new movie.  It wasn't until I watched the Special Extended DVD Edition that I realized what a masterstroke of genius The Two Towers truly is.  I can honestly say, without reservation, that the extended edition of this movie is one of the best fantasy films ever concocted, and has already earned a special place right along with Star Wars and Indiana Jones in my geeky heart.

The extended edition of The Two Towers further verifies the fact that the theatrical editions of The Lord of the Rings films simply do not take the casual fantasy fan into account once they hit the chopping block (IE - editing room).  For those who hadn't read the books, the three hour version of The Two Towers was a superlatively wearisome game of fill in the blanks.  Again, director Peter Jackson shaved away most of the jocose moments and scenes of character development, in favor of action-packed battle scenes.  Sure, fans of AC/DC and NASCAR are more likely to stay awake during a movie with a lot of racket and rambunctious swordplay, but the rest of us left the theater scratching our heads even those of us without head lice.

But, in the case of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, patience is definitely a virtue.  The Fellowship of the Ring:  Special Extended DVD Edition opened me up to the wonder of the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien and aggrandized by Peter Jackson.  It brought me close to characters that had seemed to be nothing more than sketches in the theatrical film.  It made me aware of the perils and sacrifices each member of the fellowship was going through.  But The Two Towers: Special Extended DVD Edition went a step further it allowed me to see why The Lord of the Rings was second only to the Bible, when it came to the most read books of the 20th century, and why these movies are making over 300 million dollars a piece.  The film transfixed me like a curvaceous Latino woman at an exotic Mexican strip club.  And, more than anything, it made me a lifelong fan of the trilogy. 

I now look back at my initial dislike of the film and wonder where it came from.  I expeditiously realize that it stemmed from a lack of answers.  Why were the Ents so limited in number?  Where were the female Ents?  Why did Eowyn take such a great interest in Aragorn?  Why was she so lost over his supposed death?  Where did that damn horse that revived Aragorn come from?  Why was Treebeard so willing to help two Hobbits he originally thought were Orcs?  What caused Faramir's compunction?  Why was he so determined to fill his elder brother Boromir's shoes?  For what reason did Gandalf the Grey turn into Gandalf the White?  The guy isn't Michael Jackson, for Gawd's sake.

All of these questions are answered in the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Two Towers.  The film now has a congenital flow.  The choppy nature of the theatrical version has all but dissipated.  There is more comedy scattered throughout.  One scene, featuring Merry and Pippin, is straight out of the Fellowship novel (the hobbits are swallowed up by an old willow tree).  Another scene features the two hobbits smoking barrels of pipeweed, with a lurking Treebeard looking on, curiously (the weed could be a distant relative).  The moment with the weed comes after the intense battle, and eventual flooding, of Isengard.  It's the perfect spot to break up the 30 odd minutes of darkness and fighting.

While funnier at times, the extended edition is actually darker and more serious than its theatrical cousin.  There is an entire scene added, featuring Theodred's funeral.  This scene again accentuates how much is being lost in the battle for Middle-Earth.  Gandalf's initial appearance in the film is also more dramatic than it was in the edited version.  It's obvious that Jackson, while scripting the movie, didn't want the audience to know that The White Wizard was Gandalf.  He played Gandalf off as Saruman the White.  When Gandalf initially speaks, his face is bleached out and his voice sounds like Saruman's.  It turns out that, in some ways, he is the white wizard.  He's Saruman as Saruman should have been, had he not submitted to greed, power and Sauron. 

Some of the scenes in the Special Extended DVD Edition of The Two Towers tie directly into scenes which you can only see in The Fellowship of the Ring:  Special Extended DVD Edition.  It's becoming more and more obvious that there are two very different Lord of the Rings trilogies being released.  One you can stare at in a theater, the other you can take in on your TV.  This isn't incontrovertibly a bad thing.  The extended DVDs enhance the theatrical experience.  The Return of the King will be a far more pleasurable experience at the cinema, due to the home versions of Fellowship and Towers.  And if you miss something in King -- such as Saruman (hint, hint) -- you know that the answers will be provided, and characters will be added, as soon as the final installment in the trilogy has its own Special Extended DVD Edition.

The extended DVD editions of The Lord of the Rings have become the standard bearers for all DVDs to come.  These are the real deal.  You can tell that this is about art as much as it's about money.  Peter Jackson cares about The Lord of the Rings.  He's an artist and a fan as much as he's a businessman.  If he can't release four hour movies at the theater, he'll release them on DVD.  None of the new effects look any worse than those created for the theatrical versions.  Unless you're one of those newsgroup folks who have "LoTR Theater Count:  48, and counting" in your default signature, you'd be hard-pressed to point out exactly where the theatrical versions end and the extended editions begin.

The DVD extras are prodigious.  Two full discs of interviews and behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the film.  The DVDS do an excellent job at avoiding overlapping one-another.  When you watch interviews with various people on the Fellowship supplemental discs, they'll be discussing Fellowship.  When you watch interviews with various people on the Towers supplemental discs, they'll be discussing Towers

The image and sound quality of the discs themselves are impeccable.  The film itself can be played in either DTS-ES or Dolby Digital-EX 6.1 surround sound, both providing exemplary sound separation (although ES provides genuine sound separation for the center rear speaker, whereas EX only gives matrixed sound for said speaker).  Four separate commentary tracks, each worthy of a listen.  Brand new music composed by the trilogy's original composer, Howard Shore.  If only Spielberg and Lucas gave the same treatment to the recently released Indiana Jones trilogy (I woulda settled for a commentary track by one of the Production Assistants). 

I respect Peter Jackson for his devotion to The Lord of the Rings.  I revere the story of The Two Towers for daring to come off as a picture created by and for "tree-huggers."  The film is surprisingly environmental and emphatically anti-war.  At the end of Part One (Disc One) there is a brief monologue that is befitting of Iraqi, English and American soldiers in the current Iraqi war.  It reads, in regards to a dead soldier:  "His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem.  You wonder what his name is.  Where he came from.  And if he was really evil at heart.  What lies or threats led him on this long march from home?  If he would not rather have stayed there, in peace.  War will make corpses of us all." 

I admire New Line for releasing a DVD of this magnitude.  And, most of all, I love The Two Towers:  Special Extended DVD Edition for being an amazing movie worthy of watching time and time again, and for being a DVD that any serious film connoisseur should immediately add to their collection.

On a scale of 1-10?

9 (I can't warrant giving
it a 10, being that it still becomes
rather slow-moving, at times)

What does this rating mean?  Everyone rates things differently.  Your "5" could be my "7," or vice-versa.  Find out what MY rating means by clicking here

Agree? Disagree? Feeling bored and wanna write a letter that you'll probably never get a response to?  Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

Coming soon -- Reviews of The Last Samurai, The Haunted Mansion, and Timeline!

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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].