The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Extended Edition
July 4, 2004
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Miranda Otto, Brad Dourif, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Bernard Hill, ,
As with The Fellowship of the Ring before it, this extended cut of The Two Towers brings us some welcome new scenes to the most epic story ever told.
This isn’t so much a director’s cut as it is a simple re-intergration of segments that were trimmed out of the theatrical release for pacing reasons, and here we have a good forty-three minutes of addition material, bringing the final running time of the movie close to four hours. For any other project this would seem over-indulgent, but this is one trilogy where more is never enough for the fans.
The second part of a trilogy is always the hardest to pull off because it’s the middle of the story and can have no conclusive ending. Jackson also has to introduce new characters (Eomer, Eowyn, Theoden, Treebeard) whilst keeping the plot moving forward. The writers acknowledge this was the hardest film structurally, and were afraid it wouldn’t be nearly as good as the first film. Not so, said the fans. If anything, it’s better.
Essentially the story here is the same as we saw in the theatrical cut, just fleshed out with more character moments from the book. At the end of Fellowship the gang were broken into three seperate groups, which is where we pick up from at the start of Towers: Sam and Frodo are heading to Mordor to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped by nasty cockerney Orcs who take them into Fangorn Forest, and Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn are tracking them with the hope of launching a rescue.
It’s not long before Gollum makes his presence known and tries to take back his precious ring. But Frodo and Sam decide they have a use for him, and Gollum unwillingly leads them on a path directly to the black gates of Mordor.
If Fellowship was about unity, then Towers is about confrontation, whether it be physical (the battle of Helm’s Deep) or psychological (Frodo becoming increasingly possesive of the ring). But as Gandalf points out near the end: “The battle for Middle-Earth is about to begin.” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Some of the best new scenes include comedic moments between Pippin and Merry (the popular drinking of the Ent draught is present, as is finding Saruman’s stash of tabacco) and Legolas and Gimli arguing over how many enemies they’ve killed. “43,” Legolas says smugly.
“That one doesn’t count!” Gimli objects. “He was dead already.”
And a scene where Eowyn makes soup for Aragorn is just hilarious. Also interesting here is the inclusion of Faramir’s background, told through flashback, showing him with brother Boromir before he set out for Rivendell to join the Fellowship. This helps reveal more clearly Faramir’s motivation towards taking the ring from Frodo.
There’s an unspoken fact that true fans will accept these extended movies as the definitive versions. For example, in the extended Fellowship cut, Galadriel gives each of the main characters a gift – gifts which they will use in the course of the story. People who hadn’t read the books and not seen the longer cut of the movie would then be puzzled by the inclusion of such items in the theatrical edition of The Two Towers (such as Sam’s use of the elven rope to bind Gollum, or the lembas bread). So the idea is that you jump in to this trilogy with both feet, or get left by the wayside. People impatient enough to have bought the first DVD releases will now be kicking themselves. Once you’ve had silk, you don’t go back to cotton.
It would be a good idea to take a week’s holiday, because that’s how long it’ll take you to wade through this bounty of extra features. Deep breath… Here we go.
There are four feature commentaries, just like on the Fellowship DVD, split between the writers/director, then the cast, the production team and the design team. Each one is a well of information, from on-set anecdotes and technical information, to blatant self mockery. “Treebeard is going to have his own TV show,” Jackson jokes, “where he solves murders and mysteries in the forests…just very slowly.” His writing partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens also balk when he considers shooting more footage for an even longer edition. “Stop him!” Boyens cries in horror.
The movie and the commentaries are split over two discs, and the third is made up of documentaries covering design and planning. We see how Gollum was brought to life by Weta and how they had to prove to New Line that they could handle such a complicated digital character. The amusing footage of Andy Serkis acting out Gollum in a skin-tight white suit on set is worth the price alone.
Disc four covers the actual production process with regard to shooting the film, the visual FX, stunts and the music. There are also extensive galleries on both discs.
So the only thing missing is a decent blooper reel, which I have a feeling Jackson may be saving for the Return of the King DVD. Apart from that minor quibble, you couldn’t ask for a better package.