The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is the middle film about Middle-earth in a wildly popular epic trilogy of good against evil, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time the credits rolled at the end of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, the fellowship was nowhere near their final destination, where Frodo (Wood) is to fulfill his quest of casting the evil ring of Mordor into the fires at Mount Doom. The fellowship had disbanded after their tremendous losses following Gandalf The Grey's (McKellan) plunge into the pit at Khazad-dûm and Boromir's (Bean) heroic death. Frodo and Sam (Astin) press on toward Mordor, joined by the visual effects marvel Gollum (Serkis) who has been given the task to guide them there. Across Middle-earth in search of Merry and Pippin (Monaghan and Boyd), Aragorn (Mortensen), Legolas (Bloom), and Gimli (Rhys-Davies) learn of the besieged kingdom of Rohan, whose King has fallen under the spell of the evil wizard Saruman The White (Lee). Yet, Gandalf emerges as Gandalf The White and encourages Aragorn to unite the people of Rohan with Gondor, to be the last remaining stronghold of human resistance. Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin have escaped their captors only to find unexpected allies in the ancient trees of a forest that Saruman has all but destroyed. Though separated, the fellowship still has strength to stand against the powerful force spreading from Saruman's Orthanc Tower in Isengard and Sauron's Mordor fortress at Barad-dûr. Yet, can Gollum and his passion for his "precious" be trusted to safely deliver the Hobbits to Mordor, despite feeling betrayed by Frodo? And will the rest of the fellowship survive the ensuing battles to save Middle-earth? (Suzanne Hodges)
Disc One features Part 1 of the film and special features include commentary with the director and writers, commentary with the design team, commentary with the production/post-production team, commentary with the cast, The Lord Of The Rings: War In The North Trailer: The Untold Story (HD 01:38), an Easter Egg (SD 02:55), and BD-Live. Disc Two features Part 2 of the film and includes the same commentary tracks as on Disc One and BD-Live. Disc Three is the DVD of Part 1 of the film and Disc Four is the DVD of Part 2 of the film. Both discs include special features. Disc Five is also a DVD and includes a behind-the-scenes documentary. Also included in the packaging is a booklet.
The 2.40:1 1080p AVC picture, as with the Blu-ray theatrical version previously reviewed in Issue 148, exhibits a picture that is consistent with the look of The Fellowship Of The Ring (sans the green/cyan color shift), offering a satisfyingly sharp and detailed picture. The picture, spread across two BD-50 discs, is not really different in character from the theatrical version on Blu-ray. Some scenes can have a soft, hazy appearance. The color scheme is stylized, to evoke emotion for certain settings, often using cold grays and blues in the eerie darker scenes, while many of the daytime scenes are naturally rendered, highlighting the lovely New Zealand countryside. Fleshtones are generally naturally hued. As Frodo and Sam near the Black Gates Of Mordor, the color scheme turns an ashy gray, perfectly complementing the evil that dwells there and the fire theme for the land. The scenes in Rohan are a muted version of what appears to have once been a grand kingdom, with bold colors in the worn tapestries and stone floors. Much of the film's color scheme tends to be a bit dark and desaturated, since a good portion of this movie deals with the evil encountered by the characters. Contrast is well balanced, and blacks appear deeper. There are times when edge enhancement cannot be ignored, and other scenes where it is not a problem. However, the picture appears much cleaner than the DVD reviewed in Issue 80. For viewers who have an eye for digital video noise reduction usage, the process was used to tone down grain structure evident in some shots for the theatrical release and was, therefore, carried over into the look of the DVD and the Blu-ray Disc. Still, this is an overall pristine presentation that is immensely satisfying. (Gary Reber/Suzanne Hodges)
The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 6.1-channel soundtrack, with the Surround EX encoding, essentially continues where the first movie left off in terms of a dynamic, often powerful sonic presence, with incredible and sometimes intense spatial soundstage engagement. The many battle sequences throughout the film all serve as excellent examples of the many attributes of great movie sound, including aggressive split surround activity, a downright sense of holosonic® immersion, wide dynamic range, and powerful deep bass. In Chapter 39, the Battle at Rohan, you'll really get an incredible sense of the prominent directional activity of acute sound effects, such as the fly-by of the arrows and the sudden crashes of thunder. The low-end content in this and many other scenes is enough to put your subwoofer to the test (try the explosion in Chapter 41). It wasn't unusual for the LFE meter on our monitoring system to be pegged during particularly intense moments. But this soundtrack also has a special characteristic, in addition to the prominent engagement of dimension. This is one of the rare sound mixes for which spatial imaging of sound effects and music really shines through. You should be able to image sounds all around you, seemingly in phantom, yet pinpoint, locations not associated with those of the loudspeakers. There are many instances encountered for which sounds image behind you, somewhere between the left/right and back surround loudspeakers (listen to the "trees" of Fangoria in Chapter 8, for example). And then there's Howard Shore's magnificent orchestral music score. It has been wonderfully recorded and has a nicely spacious, holosonic presence all around. Associated with the music is a full-bodied, sometimes even subsonic, deep bass foundation that makes the experience of the score all the more satisfying. Last but not least, it must be noted that the dialogue is a standout production. Voices consistently exhibit natural tonality and sound very well correlated with the visual environments. This is very simply a benchmark soundtrack and, of course, an essential element in the full experience of this epic. The post-production creative team included the talent from Skywalker Sound (final mix took place in New Zealand). The team at MiCasa Multimedia, who worked with the remix and mastering of the first DVD release, as well as the original creators of the soundtrack, did an excellent job with the new segments relevant to the extended edition. Fans deserved this treatment, and it is delivered here on the special extended edition Blu-ray Disc installments, now the definitive versions of the trilogy. (Gary Reber/Perry Sun)