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April 15, 2010
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/200215/4/2010Village RoadshowPeter Jackson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1MElijah Wood

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Sam, Frodo and Gollum continue their journey...

After a superb opening movie in The Lord of the Rings trilogy with Fellowship of the Ring the second movie was always going to have a lot of pressure to perform, and being released only twelve months later Peter Jackson and all the filmmakers had little time to finish off the massively increased number of visual effects, and edit this monster movie to something manageable by cinemas. Of course he did it and having been shot back-to-back all the actors and visuals in this movie match the first. So what is this second movie about? Read on (or skip the next two paragraphs if you want to remain spoiler free).

(Spoiler Start) The Fellowship has been broken. Boromir (Sean Bean) is dead, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) have gone to Mordor alone to destroy the One Ring, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) have been captured by the Uruk-hai, and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) have made friends of the Rohan, a race of humans that are in the path of the upcoming war, led by its aging king, Théoden (Bernard Hill).

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Surprise, it's Gandalf the White!
The two towers between Mordor and Isengard, Barad-dúr and Orthanc, have united in their lust for destruction. The corrupt wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee), under the power of the Dark Lord Sauron, and his slimy assistant, Gríma Wormtongue (Brad Dourif), have created a grand Uruk-hai army bent on the destruction of Man and Middle-earth. The rebellion against Sauron is building up and will be led by Gandalf the White (Sir Ian McKellen), who was thought to be dead after the Balrog captured him. One of the Ring's original bearers, the creature Gollum (Andy Serkis), has tracked Frodo and Sam down in search of his 'precious', but is captured by the Hobbits and used as a way to lead them to Mt. Doom. (Spoilers End)

With a runtime of just on three hours this movie is certainly long, but it also packs so much into it that it never feels dragged out. In fact there are so many locations here that you will always be in awe of what the filmmakers have created with some of the most epic battles, in this case the battle at Helm's Deep, ever put to celluloid (well, until Return of the King a year later). The actors have settled into their roles and indeed their characters now have a purpose for their journeys. There are also some new characters introduced to the storyline including the brilliant Grima Wormtongue, while the film in general seems to have a bit more spit and polish to it - especially when it comes to the visual effects. We also have to say that the comedy too is particularly impressive - with much of it centering on Gimli's stature. Classic stuff.

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Battles in The Two Towers are absolutely epic!
Again this Blu-Ray release is only the Theatrical version, and not the Extended Edition which appeared on DVD a few years ago. This version of the film runs for 179 minutes while the Extended Edition runs for an additional 44 minutes with a runtime of 223 minutes. The extra scenes include extra time in the marshes, Gandalf tells Aragorn that Sauron is afraid of him, Merry and Pippin getting swallowed by the tree, and extended funeral scene, Éowyn offering Aragorn some foul brew and he discusses his age, a flashback scene were Boromir and Faramir took back Osgiliath back from the orcs, and plenty of other smaller extensions and edits. Again, the extended edition is certainly our preferred version, but the Theatricals are solid too.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a great movie in its own right, although we find it to be the weakest of the trilogy overall. Still, you're not going to leave this second movie out of the collection now are you?

As with the two other films in the trilogy this film is presented at the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 at 1080p resolution using the VC-1 codec. If you've read our review of Fellowship of the Ring then you would know that - while a marked improvement over the DVD release - it wasn't the perfect Blu-Ray transfer we expected, or indeed hoped for, with some technical issues relating to the visual effects and compression, and a little too much DNR applied scrubbing away the grain and some of the detail.

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What to do with the hobbits, and Gollum?
Fortunately this second film in the trilogy is more impressive from start to finish. Compression artifacts, even in the smoky or water-filled scenes seem minimal, there is better image consistency when looking at grain levels and colour reproduction while the level of DNR applied to this Blu-Ray transfer seems to have been dialed back a little bit giving the image a much more consistent, impressive level of visual quality. Perfect, no, still not quite there, but it's a fair effort.

Yet again it's the audio that shines on this Blu-Ray release and again we are presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track which is simply astounding and, if anything, even a notch or two above the superb audio for Fellowship with clearer dialogue, and a little more aggressiveness to the surround sound - particularly during the epic battle sequences. For us though, and as is the case with all the movies it's the delightful musical score from Howard Shore that really ties these movies together, and provides much of the emotional pull during various scenes.

As with the other discs in this trilogy this Blu-Ray includes a single subtitle track - English Captions (Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired) which, from some brief samples throughout the film, seemed to have good pacing and were accurate to the on-screen dialogue.

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Gollum truly is a stunning CG character.
Sadly these Blu-Ray releases are being released in Australia in bare-bones versions - there's no Digital Copy or second disc of (recycled from the 2-disc DVD set) extras as per the American release, but in doing so Village Roadshow have kept this disc solely about the movie, and the price below $AU30 which is a positive in our books. Still there's some tidbits here, which in all honesty are more about marketing other LOTR products.

Trailers (4:56/HD): Two Trailers are presented here "Teaser" (1:56) and "Trailer" (3:00) which are focused on this movie alone.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Supertrailer (6:39/HD): This is indeed a Supertrailer. Running for almost seven minutes this covers the entire trilogy of movies but we certainly don't recommend you watch this before watching the feature movies as it gives a lot of the storyline away. This is presented with HD video as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoded at 448kbps.

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Viggo Mortensen continues his quest as Aragorn.
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest Videogame Trailer (1:24/HD): A trailer for the upcoming videogame from Warner Brothers Interactive. As a side note this game will be one of the first to make use of the new Playstation Move controller when it releases later this year - no doubt to swing around like a sword.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is another great entry in this epic trilogy, but for me probably the weakest of the three films as it leaves almost everything hanging for the epic finale.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.