The extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
was perhaps the most comprehensive DVD release to date, and its follow-up, The Two Towers
, proves a similarly colossal achievement, with significant extra footage and a multitude of worthwhile bonus features. The extended version of The Two Towers
adds 43 minutes to the theatrical version's 179-minute running time, and there are significant, valuable additions to the film. Two new scenes might appease those who feel that the characterization of Faramir was the film's most egregious departure from the book, and fans will appreciate an appearance of the Huorns at Helm's Deep plus a nod to the absence of Tom Bombadil. Seeing a little more interplay between the gorgeous Eowyn and Aragorn is welcome, as is a grim introduction to Eomer and Theoden's son. And among the many other additions, there's an extended epilogue that might not have worked in the theater, but is more effective here in setting up The Return of the King
. While the 30 minutes added to The Fellowship of the Ring
felt just right in enriching the film, the extra footage in The Two Towers
at times seems a bit extraneous--we see
moments that in the theatrical version we had been told about, and some fleshed-out conversations and incidents are rather minor. But director Peter Jackson's vision of J.R.R. Tolkien's world is so marvelous that it's hard to complain about any extra time we can spend there.
While it may seem that there would be nothing left to say after the bevy of features on the extended Fellowship, the four commentary tracks and two discs of supplements on The Two Towers remain informative, fascinating, and funny, far surpassing the recycled materials on the two-disc theatrical version. Highlights of the 6.5 hours' worth of documentaries offer insight on the stunts, the design work, the locations, and the creation of Gollum, and--most intriguing for rabid fans--the film's writers (including Jackson) discuss why they created events that weren't in the book. Providing variety are animatics, rough footage, countless sketches, and a sound-mixing demonstration. Again, the most interesting commentary tracks are by Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and by 16 members of the cast (eight of whom didn't appear in the first film, and even including John Noble, whose Denethor character only appears in this extended cut). The first two installments of Peter Jackson's trilogy have established themselves as the best fantasy films of all time, and among the best film trilogies of all time, and their extended-edition DVD sets have set a new standard for expanding on the already-epic films and providing comprehensive bonus features. --David Horiuchi
This collector's box of The Two Towers
contains the four-disc extended version of the movie (also available separately) as well as three unique additional extras. Like The Fellowship of the Ring
before it, the whole is packaged in a chunky cardboard outer box illustrated by Alan Lee. Inside is a limited-edition polystone statue of Gollum, complete with fish, perched on a moss-covered base (it weighs in at a solid 3.5 pounds and comes with a certificate of authenticity). Unlike the "Argonath" bookends, the statue is purely decorative: sculpted by the same artist who created Gollum for the screen, it's painted in faithfully "lifelike" colors and has an authentically oily sheen to his flesh that makes him a somewhat less-than-attractive ornament for your mantelpiece. Fans, though, will appreciate the attention to detail and the statue's unique pedigree.
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