`Two Towers' on four discs

New on DVD

`Two Towers' on four discs is rich with extras

Movies: on screen, DVD/Video

November 27, 2003|By Susan King | Susan King,LOS ANGELES TIMES

The extended-edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a class act - a veritable "everything you wanted to know" about the film. That shouldn't be a surprise, considering that the extended version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was one of last year's best DVD releases.

Not only does this edition of The Two Towers feature 43 extra minutes of the Peter Jackson blockbuster, but there also are four audio commentaries and numerous intelligent documentaries on the film's complicated production.

Cynics may wag their tongues about the set's timing: just a month before Christmas and the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the final installment of Jackson's trilogy of the J.R.R. Tolkien books. But it's such a satisfying experience that, in the end, who cares?

Most of the time, when a DVD includes an "extended" version of a film, the added scenes tend to weigh it down; you can see why they were originally cut. That isn't the case here. Just as with The Fellowship of the Ring, the new material makes The Two Towers only richer.

Fans will especially enjoy a new scene near the beginning that features Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Elijah Wood) in a particularly lighthearted moment; there also are new moments with the tragic Gollum (voiced by the marvelous Andy Serkis) to relish.

The commentary tracks have an optical sub-layer, which identifies each speaker. And unlike some commentary tracks where directors and stars seem to struggle to come up with anything interesting to say, there isn't a bad apple in this bunch.

The first commentary track features Jackson, writer-producer Fran Walsh and writer Philippa Boyens. The second highlights the design team. The third is packed with production and post-production members, including producer Barrie M. Osborne, executive producer Mark Ordesky, director of photography Andrew Lesnie and composer Howard Shore.

Cast members discuss making the film on the fourth track. They include Wood, Astin, Serkis, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies and Christopher Lee.

The third disc features an introduction by Jackson, a scholarly documentary on Tolkien's writing of The Lord of the Rings, an examination of how the screenwriters struggled to adapt The Two Towers, an exploration of the design of Middle Earth, a report on the creation and animation of Gollum and visits to the New Zealand locations used in the film.

Wood introduces the equally rich fourth disc, which focuses on the lengthy training that the cast and stuntmen went through to prepare for the battle scenes, the extensive use of miniatures, abandoned concepts, a look at the score and the use of sound and sound effects.

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