What do you get?
Both the theatrical and extended versions of The Two Towers are on one double-sided disc. The versions use seamless branching, meaning that the scenes that are common to both versions are stored on the disc only once. If you choose to watch the extended version, the disc "branches" out to the added or extended scenes. What does this mean to the viewer? Not much. The viewing experience is the same because the branching is imperceptible. But because both versions of the film don't have to be stored on the disc in their entirety (which would be almost seven hours total), both versions together fit on two sides of one disc. The downside is that whichever version you watch, you have to flip over the disc halfway through; the film breaks at the same spot it did on the Extended Edition, right after Faramir finds Frodo and Sam. Also lost are the meager features included on the theatrical edition, plus the four commentary tracks, two discs of bonus features, and DTS 6.1 ES sound from the four-disc Extended Edition.
Costa Botes' 105-minute documentary reminds us just how rich The Two Towers is. It covers the mechanics of Treebeard, Gollum, Rohan, and other elements, and all that iss before we get to the half-hour segment on Helm's Deep. What's interesting is how Peter Jackson and others appear in the documentary, but even more time is spent interviewing the extra actors and the lesser-known technicians who get into the nuts and bolts of how the film was made. Most of the cast members aren't interviewed at all, though Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd's clowning serves as a framing device. Some of the shots are quite funny, including the anachronistic glimpse of someone vacuuming the Great Hall of Rohan. It's entertaining, but because there's no structure (there are chapters, but no menu or chapter listing), it's not as convenient to watch, and go back to, as a documentary broken up into bite-size pieces. Oddly, the documentary is in widescreen, but not anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. Note: New Line Home Entertainment couldn't release this material on its own a la the King Kong Production Diaries due to contractual restrictions.
Bottom line: Do I need this edition?
This Limited Edition combination of theatrical and extended versions plus new documentary seems likely to appeal to two camps. One is the devoted fan, who already owns both editions but has to have everything LOTR. The other is the casual fan who liked the movie in theaters, heard good things about the Extended Edition, and doesn't need a ton of bonus material. This edition is attractively priced for that buyer, and the packaging is quite handsome. In between is the devoted fan who already owns both editions but doesn't feel the need to watch more bonus material. When watching the whole movie, that fan will always choose the Extended Edition, but keeps the theatrical edition for (1) watching with guests, (2) Sean Astin's short film, or (3) the convenience of skimming through favorite scenes without having to change discs. That fan can safely skip this edition, as can home-theater fans who love DTS. --David Horiuchi
Also included is a box within a box containing yet another bonus DVD, this one devoted to the creation of the Sideshow Weta statue series. Some 24 minutes long, this documentary is introduced by Peter Jackson, who shows us his own extraordinary collection of statues; Jackson and Weta supremo Richard Taylor explain how they insisted that these models were created by the same artists who had worked on the movies, ensuring complete authenticity (the actors themselves are suitably appreciative). Taylor narrates in detail the whole production process. There's also a printed 44-page companion piece specifically devoted to Gollum, showing his evolution from early sketches to final on-screen character. --Mark Walker
Well, this review is about to tell you!
DISCS 1-2: THE FEATURE
FEATURE (approx. 214 minutes) -
A new version of the second installment in the epic trilogy! The film includes over 40 minutes of never-before-seen footage incorporated into the film, made especially for this video release:
-Widescreen (2.35:1) version of the Special Extended Edition
-Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround Sound
-DTS ES 6.1 Surround Sound
-Stereo Surround Sound
-Four audio commentaries by director and writers, the design team the production team and the cast featuring more than 30 participants including Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom and Academy Award® winners Richard Taylor, Howard Shore, Randy Cook...and many more
DISCS 3-4: THE APPENDICES
Two discs with hours of original content including multiple documentaries and design/photo galleries with thousands of images to give viewers an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:
-Adapting the book into a screenplay & planning the film
-Designing and inspiration for locations in Middle-earth
-Storyboards to pre-visualization
-Weta Workshop visit - See sculptors in action as they create the weapons, armor, creatures and miniatures from the film
-Atlas of Middle-earth: Tracing the journey of the Fellowship
-An interactive map of New Zealand highlighting the location scouting process
-Galleries of art and slideshows with commentaries by the artists
And much more!
-Sending actors to battle - preparation for sword fighting
-Principal photography: Stories from the set
-Digital effects including motion capture and "Massive" (a program to create armies of Orcs)
-"Bigatures" - A close-up look at the detailed miniatures used in the film
-Galleries of behind-the-scenes photographs and personal cast photos
-Post-production - editing it all together
-Sound design demonstration
And much more!
DVD-ROM CONTENT: Includes access to exclusive online features
I for one will be purchasing this Special Extended Version come November 18th. The Special Extended Version of Fellowship of the Rings was definately the best buy of DVD's in 2002 and I believe this will be no exception. Come onnnn...I know you wanna buy it! We all need out PRECIOUS!