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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers(2002)
Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship continue their quest to destroy the One Ring and stand against the evil of the dark lord Sauron.
The Fellowship has divided; they now find themselves taking different paths to defeating Sauron and his allies. Their destinies now lie at two towers — Orthanc Tower in Isengard, where the corrupted wizard Saruman waits, and Sauron's fortress at Barad-dur, deep within the dark lands of Mordor. Based on the novel The Two Towers, the second in The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
For more about The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray release, see the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 17, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett
Director: Peter Jackson
» See full cast & crew
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray Review
"A red sun rises, blood has been spilled this night..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 17, 2011
There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.
After rejecting Morton Grady Zimmerman's screenplay for producer Al Brodax's proposed 1957 adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings," J.R.R. Tolkien eviscerated their first and only script, particularly as it pertained to "The Two Towers." Tolkien took issue with Brodax and Zimmerman's decision to intercut the splintered fellowship's storylines (rather than tell them one at a time, as the author did in his books), criticized their "preference for fights" and rallied against their use of "blue lights" and "irrelevant magic." He felt the battle of Helm's Deep would be better served on the cutting room floor, balked at stylistic changes made to the dialogue he had so carefully penned, and disagreed with their disregard for the true hearts of his characters. Suffice it to say, Tolkien was irritated and dismayed by Brodax and Zimmerman's treatment. Of course, the full "Lord of the Rings" saga wouldn't make its way onto the silver screen for another forty-four years -- three decades after Tolkien's passing -- when a crafty, daring Kiwi by the name of Peter Jackson was handed the keys to the kingdom.
So how would Tolkien have responded to Jackson's decidedly sinewy adaptation of The Two Towers? After all, Jackson, like Zimmerman before him, made the deliberate choice to move freely between Aragorn and Frodo's separate journeys. Then there's his battle scenes, chief among them Helm's Deep, which certainly show a penchant (albeit not a preference) for fights. And Weta's visual effects wizardry, which would have most likely given Tolkien some measure of pause. I would humbly suggest, though, that the question of Tolkien's posthumous satisfaction or dissatisfaction be replaced with more relevant questions: How true does Jackson remain to the spirit of Tolkien's characters and tale? Is he eager to alter Tolkien's text or is he merely making tough decisions for the betterment of a film? Does his adaptation retain the heart, muscle and blood of the next leg of Frodo's journey? Does his Two Towers wash over you? Raise the hair on your arms? Draw you in? Move you to tears? In my case, the answer to each question is simple. Jackson, even in departing from Tolkien's text, proves himself a devoted, dutiful steward, and his affection for the original tale is purer and his grip on its nuances is surer than ever.
The extended version of The Two Towers expands and enriches Jackson's theatrical cut with poetic ease; so much so that it's difficult to imagine Jackson, Walsh and Boyens struggling with the decisions they eventually made as much as they did. Sam uses his Elvish rope (in a sequence that ties in nicely with an extended scene in The Fellowship of the Ring), Théodred's funeral is held in Rohan, Merry, Pippin and Treebeard earn more screentime, Old Man Willow (or an incarnation of the character) makes an appearance in Fangorn Forest, Gandalf and Aragorn share a quiet conversation about Frodo, Faramir discovers the boat that carried Boromir's body, flashbacks reveal more of Faramir's backstory and his relationships with Boromir and Denethor, and an extended speech in Osgiliath fleshes out another important milestone in Sam's arc as a character. Other scenes appear throughout -- some significant, some fleeting -- but each one is in keeping with Jackson's vision his extended versions as enhancements, rather than replacements, of his theatrical cuts. And, in many ways, the extended version of The Two Towers is arguably the most rewarding of the trilogy. Its additions and extensions are more essential and revealing than those that grace The Fellowship of the Ring, and more balanced and refined than those that appear in The Return of the King. (Although little can top King's inclusion of Saruman's fate and the Mouth of Sauron's arrival.)
No matter which version you prefer, though -- extended and theatrical -- Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens deliver an exceedingly judicious, altogether faithful adaptation of "The Two Towers" that's both a seamless continuation of The Fellowship of the Ring and a substantial evolution in the trilogy. In spite of relentlessly dissecting every passage of the book, viciously exorcising entire subplots and characters, rearranging key sequences and events, and making several broad changes to Tolkien's mythos, the sharp-penned threesome evoke much of what the author so poetically spilled on the page, even when making departures from his text. As writers, Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens are so in tune with the substance of Tolkien's "Two Towers" that they're able to adapt it as readily and effortlessly as they adapted "The Fellowship of the Ring" (which was, by all accounts, an easier story to bring to the screen). Paramount to their success was an instinctive understanding of the limitations of a sprawling literary text and the needs of a cohesive and absorbing film. They identified what would work and what wouldn't translate to the screen -- no matter how much it pained them to do so -- and fashioned it into a digestible epic; one that sings a sweet song to those familiar with the original book and one that weaves an engrossing tale for newcomers. Their dialogue is as beautiful and lyrical as Tolkien's, yet never sounds stuffy; their pacing is patient and weighty, yet builds legitimate tension and momentum; and their climactic battles are viscerally conceived and thrillingly envisioned, yet never lessen the impact of anything that comes before or after.
The Two Towers, be it the extended version or theatrical cut, is as perfect a fantasy epic as this feeble mind can imagine, and as perfect a cinematic adaptation of Tolkien's work ("cinematic," not "staunchly faithful," mind you) as The Fellowship of the Ring. Jackson's films will always have their critics; even The Two Towers, arguably the most beloved and critically acclaimed of the three. But I remain amazed. Not just by the film itself, but by its ability to continue speaking to me after so many viewings, to continue drawing viewers to its fold after so many years, to still stand so high above every fantasy film and franchise that's arrived in its wake.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray, Video Quality
All our hopes now lie with two little hobbits, somewhere in the wilderness.
I was already fairly pleased with the VC-1 encoded transfer afforded to The Two Towers' theatrical cut in 2010. And while the Extended Edition's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation isn't all that different, it does feature several subtle but welcome improvements. A faint hint of edge halos remain, but some of the more distracting bouts of ringing have been tamed or banished altogether. Compression artifacts, though far from a pervasive nuisance in the 2010 theatrical cut release, have all but been eliminated. (Spreading the film across two BD-50 discs helped in that regard, no doubt.) And what little smearing does appear most likely traces back to Jackson and director of photography Andrew Lesnie's tinkering years ago, not an extra helping of studio-applied DNR. (Reports are a bit conflicting, but signs point to the extended edition of The Two Towers being born from a new HD master.) Again though, the differences between the theatrical and extended presentations are small and delicate, and most viewers won't even notice they've been made.
As before, skintones are relatively lifelike, contrast is strong and reliable, and black levels are deep and earthy. Lesnie's bleak colors aren't as far removed from The Fellowship of the Ring's palette as they once were -- Jackson and Lesnie have re-graded the extended edition of Fellowship, making it much darker -- but each scene is faithful to its source. Moreover, unsullied fine textures, crisply detailed rocks and grasslands, wonderfully refined cloaks and well-resolved hairs, pores and shards of bark don't disappoint. Note Gandalf's beard and pocky nose during his battle with the Balrog, Gollum's craggly cheeks, the sun-scorched knolls and stony cliffs of Rohan, the rustling leaves in the Ents' shadowy realm and the grizzled walls of Helm's Deep. Granted, the transfer is no stranger to softness and a number of special effects sequences show their age (Théoden's awakening doesn't hold up and Merry and Pippin's travels with Treebeard remain eyesores), but almost every instance is attributable to the original source, not the studio's subsequent encode. (It's important to keep in mind that Towers was shot more than ten years ago. I can't believe it either.)
I don't have many complaints, actually. Minor crush takes a slight toll and delineation isn't always ideal, but it all seems inherent to the original photography. Noise spikes at times, but it rarely proves to be unruly (at least for very long). And there isn't any significant artifacting, aliasing, banding or other nonsense of their kind to report. I suspect if criticism does arise, it will be of the original print, whether the person issuing the criticism realizes it or not. I can't imagine The Two Towers looking much better than it does here. I'm sure there's room for some further improvement -- a frame here, a frame there -- but I was thoroughly pleased with the results. As to my score, I bobbled between a 4.0 and 4.5, landed squarely on a 4.25 and rounded up to the nearest half-point.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.
No need to break down each individual release here. Like the 2010 theatrical cut releases, the Extended Editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King charge the fields of Blu-ray with a trio of powerful DTS-HD Master Audio surround tracks, all of which allow Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy to storm every home theater, no matter how grand in scale. Dialogue, whether whispered or shouted, is crisp, clean, and intelligible; voices, whether human, beast or ethereal warrior, ring true across the soundfield; and creature cries, whether spittled roars or high-pitched screeches, are sharp and stable. LFE output deserves a score of its own, aggressively supporting every amassing horde, topping tower, rickety weapon of war and exploding wall the various members of the Fellowship encounter. Close your eyes as Wargs ambush a passing caravan. Listen intently as the trees of Fangorn Forest begin to groan and murmur. Try to lift your jaw off the floor when the Uruk-hai forces charge the soon-to-be-toppled defenses of a fortified keep. Environmental ambience never relents (Treebeard's enveloping realm!), directionality is impeccable (the climactic battle at Helm's Deep!), and pans are smoother than Wormtongue's silver tongue (the volley of arrows that sail over those same walls and rain down on advancing foes). Best of all, the experience is as immersive as they come. Howard Shore's masterful score is perfectly prioritized beneath the film's soundscape, gut punch revelations are as pitch-perfect as they are emotional, restless armies will make viewers turn their heads, and the terrifying clamor of orcs, underwater spirits, Uruk-hai, fell beasts and more will unsettle the most steely listener. And dynamics? Prepare yourself. The Two Towers, and really The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole, is a sonic powerhouse.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.
Like The Fellowship of the Ring, the Blu-ray edition of the The Two Towers boasts all of the special features that appear on the 2003 Extended Edition DVD, and then some. A feature-length documentary from filmmaker Costa Botes (previously found on the Limited Edition DVD) is included as well, and those who haven't seen it will be thrilled with every fly-on-the-wall inlet to the production it offers. Again, the only complaint that could really be registered against the extras is that they're all presented in standard definition. But considering the sheer volume of content on hand, and the fact that they were all produced in SD, I doubt many fans will get worked up about it.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain, like wind in the meadow. The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow. How did it come to this?
The Extended Edition release of The Two Towers brushes nearer to perfection. The film itself is arguably the best of the trilogy (a trilogy that already towers over most every fantasy film since), its supplemental package is vast and rewarding, and its DTS-HD Master Audio track is outstanding. Yes, a few kinks remain in the otherwise striking video presentation, but they're all easy to overlook, particularly when the rest of Warner's transfer, spread comfortably across two BD-50 discs, is so impressive. It even offers a small upgrade when compared to the theatrical cut's Blu-ray presentation. I couldn't ask for much more from the transfer or the entirety of the 5-disc set.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Other Editions
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