Two Towers Extended
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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Version)

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Now, many studios have bought into the growing trend of releasing special, extended, deluxe super-duper editions either along side the standard editions or released slightly after them. While in many such cases these are mere fluff additions but in the case of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, well at least the two episodes currently available on DVD, the additional scenes and material is well worth it. First, in considering the extensions to the actual film they are welcomed and do extend the audience’s understanding and emotional investment in the film. Where most added scenes appear to have be compiled from sweepings off the editing floor, here they are seamlessly incorporated into the film. It would appear that the only reason that director Peter Jackson left them out of the theatrical release is that version was already pushing the three hour mark, a long time to sit in a theater. With the DVD format you can pause at will, get up and take a break and return to the exact spot you left. Some stories are almost impossible to fit into the confines of a film length considered acceptable to a theatrical audience. While the quality of many additions varies from the original material here only those devoted fans that have memorized the first incarnation will be able to tell where the extra or extended scenes have been placed. They fit and more importantly they work. Among the extra scenes here are some extensions to the incredible digital battle scenes. There is also more in the way of expository material, all as true to the book as possible. They flesh out the history of the mystical Ents including a bit about why their species is on the decline. Some comic relief is provided thanks to added scenes with Merry and Pippin and we get to see Aragorn and Arwen together in Rivendell. More background information is given that foreshadows the climax in the next film. In all this is not an after thought, it is using the DVD media by a director that knows how to work it.

In order to preserve the excellent quality of this presentation the film is divided over two discs. Now many people want a film on one disc. They also want the highest possible video and audio standards. With the limitations of the DVD format you can’t have both. Personally I think it is better to brave the trek across your living room to remove one disc and insert another. Those of us old enough to remember there was a time when you had to actually get up off the sofa to change the television channel or even adjust the volume. The reference standard here is worth the minute it will take you to change discs.

On the two feature discs there are four commentaries. The one by director Peter Jackson details the precision and attention to detail that this man gave this production. The efforts that he put into to filming three very long, very intense films is amazing. The next commentary is by the design team. These people where devoted to recreating the vary textures of the author’s grand design for Middle Earth. The third commentary track is the production team, the task of assembling the best in each field and creating a city of cast and crew that would endure for almost a year and half is a feat on its own. The last commentary track is my personal favorite, about 30 members of the cast reflect on their experiences during the making of this film. The round robin discussion waxes and wanes a bit but it is usually full of the little details of the experience they shared.

The many documentaries, far more detailed than the typical making-of featurettes, you get a crash course in creating a world from the imagination. Almost every prop, dwelling and costume was created specifically for this production. Each detail reflects the species for which it was intended. The make-up alone required a small army of skilled professionals. Added to the wonders of the cast and crew you add the modern marvels of the computer effects team. While many films depend on these CGI effects to replace talent, here the computer graphics create the world that the talented actors can interact. There is even a look at the computer program ‘Massive’ which created much of the famous battle scenes. This program was able to individually manipulate thousands of virtual extras, each with their own movements and personalities. Of course there are the behind the scenes ‘dirt’ that so many of us secretly enjoy. Long after you are done with the film you will have hours of entertainment with these extras.

The technical specifications of the feature are reference quality. This is one of those DVDs that will push the sales of players even more. Just pop in this film and show your neighbors what home theater is really about. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is so clear it is as if you are there in Middle Earth. There is not a defect to be found. The color pallet is stunning. The edge between the blacks is free of any distortion. Make sure your sound system is properly calibrated. The audio is in Dolby EX and DTS ES. While most of us do not currently have systems that can make full advantage of the extra channels the down mix to six channel sound will fill your living room. This is not a movie to watch late at night. You might as well invite your neighbors over; they are going to hear this film anyway.

This is a must have to people serious about collecting films that have changed the way movies are made. It is also something that you can return to time and time again and still get that rush of excitement. The case is of course bigger than most DVDs but well worth the prized place it will hold on your video shelf. Even if you invested in the theatrical edition this is a must have for all.

Posted 11/5/03

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