The last thing you’d associate with "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy is mediocrity, but this two-disc DVD release of "The Two Towers" feels thin and opportunistic.
To its credit, New Line has never made any secret of its intentions to release a two-disc edition followed by a four-disc extended edition for each movie. For the first film, that worked quite well with quality product evident for both releases.
"The Two Towers" double-disc release lacks effort or passion, and is soulless and boring. But the presentation of the film is excellent, so if all you’re after is a chance to enjoy the movie with stunning picture and sound, then this release is for you.
The over-riding feeling you get when watching the extra features is that the best has been saved for the four-disc release. You’d expect some hoarding of the premium material but what you soon realise from the extra features on the two-disc edition is that it's recycled footage already seen on the previous discs.
Picture Whatever the quality of the extras, let's be clear that the technical presentation of the film gives this review the stars it has. The clarity of the Helm's Deep battle is exceptional, and you're likely to see far more detail than in the cinema.
Sound The Dolby 5.1 EX mix is a thunderous delight that should put as much fear into your subwoofer as it will in you. The battle scenes are incredible and may well leave you checking your carpet for hoof prints, it's so realistic!
DISC TWO SPECIAL FEATURES
On the Set
Everyone interviewed for this 14-minute featurette agrees that the movie is cinematic history in the making. That’s nice, but the cast and crew comments on offer here feel like padding at best. What’s new in this selection of familiar material is Andy Serkis talking about playing Gollum, and that Billy Boyd needed to Vaseline his undercarriage for the walking tree sequences.
Return to Middle-earth
At 45-minutes long, this is the main extra feature of disc two and if it has something to recommend it then the behind-the-scenes footage is occasionally good. Other highlights are Sean Astin providing some amusing comments on an injury he sustained on-set, and Viggo Mortensen gets sucked under in a river shot that starts to go wrong. We also get some retrospective footage on the success of the first movie.
There is far too much explanation of plot and character details. It is not the insightful analysis that might help a non-Tolkien reader understand the depth behind what the movies show, but rather a tedious blow-by-blow account of what happens. There is also some blatant repetition of footage we’ve seen before on the earlier DVDs of Liv Tyler gushing about how she wishes she could talk Elivsh all the time. Maybe Liv could tell us what the Elvish is for 'old rope'?
"The Long and Short of It"
Seeing as Peter Jackson had so much equipment available and there was some spare time in the shooting schedule, Sean Astin asked if he could use both to direct his first film. Jackson not only agreed but is also one of the actors in it. You can judge for yourself what you think of Astin's debut here but it's safe to say it's quite a sweet little effort, although hardly ambitious given the resources available.
The Making of "The Long and Short of It"
Is this a sign of desperation that one of the main featurettes on this disc is about the making of something cobbled together on a day off? There are some odd amusing quips to enjoy, but sadly there is also footage recycled from other featurettes on the disc.
The eight mini-featurettes in this section have been available on the official site for some time now. Again much of the territory covered is familiar, with four of them merely explaining plot details. There is also some mildly interesting behind-the-scenes material, especially if you want to see how the Foley department create the impressive sound effects.
Exclusive "The Return of the King" Preview
After nearly two hours of largely weak material, it's with a somewhat jaded heart that you may approach the only other good thing on the DVD apart from the movie. We join Jackson as he is working on the beginning of the battle for Middle-earth. We're assured that in comparison, Helm's Deep was merely a skirmish.
At ten-minutes long this preview was always going to be too short but it does the job of getting the hairs on the back of your neck to rise just a little bit. Elijah Wood promises that the third and final film will be "better than one and two combined". Let's just hope that the eventual DVD release is more impressive than this one.
An Inside Look at the Special Extended DVD Edition
Watching this featurette is like pressing your nose against a shop window and looking at the absolute object of your desires. In your hands, you hold the hopelessly inferior substitute you’ve just been bought. Jackson teases us with some new footage and reveals that there will be a lot more of Faramir and Boromir in the extended cut of the film.
Additional Extra Features
Also on disc two are trailers and TV spots for the movie, a music video and an advert for the video game.
Ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, and 2.0 surround
Audio Tracks: English
Menus: Animated, with music
Special Features Subtitles All of the special features come with subtitles apart from the trailers and music.
This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-N5 DVD player.