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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - May, 2010

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"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Book Two of the Lord of the Rings saga picks up right where The Fellowship of the Ring left off.  The Fellowship has been separated by their fierce battle with the Uruk-Hai.  Two of the Hobbits are captured.  Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn are following after them in a rescue attempt.  And Frodo and Sam continue toward Mordor on their quest to destroy the Ring of Power.  They soon encounter Gollum who tricks them into becoming their guide.  His real intent of course is to regain the Ring for himself.

The captured Hobbits are rescued by Ents, giant walking trees, as the Uruks are slaughtered by an army of men from Rohan.  Meanwhile, Sauron’s armies have started taking the lands around Mordor in hopes of controlling all Middle Earth.  Rohan is ruled by King Theodan who is under a powerful spell cast by Saruman and the evil Grima Wormtongue.  Fortunately the spell is broken by Gandalf, who has returned victorious from his battle with the Balrog.  He along with Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn evacuate the people of Rohan to a fortress at Helm’s Deep.  There they await the coming battle with Sauron’s army.

Gollum manages to guide Frodo and Sam to the Black Gate, the entrance to Mordor.  Just as they start to enter, they are captured by an army from Gondor, led by Boromir’s brother Feremir.  He recognizes the ring and means to use it to end the war.

Our wayward Hobbits, Took and Merry convince the Ents to attack Isengard and destroy Saruman’s war machines.  The battle for Helm’s Deep begins and Frodo arrives at Gondor just in time for an attack by Sauron’s army and a dragon-riding Ring Wraith.  Just as the Uruks are poised to take Helm’s Deep, Gandalf and an army of men appear and defeat them.  Isengard is destroyed by the trees and Frodo is released by Faramir when he realized the Ring can only destroy them.

 

Specifications

  • New Line Cinema
  • 2002, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 59 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen
  • Directed by Peter Jackson
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Where The Fellowship of the Ring merely whetted our appetites for the coming saga, The Two Towers is a feast of epic storytelling.  Even though this film is nearly three hours long, you won’t perceive the passage of time; it’s that immersive.  Fantasy film lovers will have all they could want in a movie; amazing battles, wild creatures, magical characters and a beautiful backdrop for everything.  Again, the acting is first-rate and the production quality second-to-none.  The screenplay is equally wonderful with dialog that reads like fine poetry yet is exceedingly easy to follow.  The final battle sequence which takes about 45 minutes is never boring and will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Even though I’ve seen The Two Towers several times, my heart still pounded and my blood still raced.  If you enjoyed the first film, the second will draw you in like the power of The Ring itself.

Technical

Video quality is markedly better than that of The Fellowship of the Ring.  Facial detail and texture is greatly improved and the image is much cleaner and more sharply delineated.  Contrast is at reference quality.  Blacks are as deep as my projector can display them and shadow detail is among the best I’ve seen from any transfer.  Highlights are equally exquisite with a real pop to the picture.  The only thing that kept me from giving that last half-star was the color.  Much of the film has a filtered look which is done well without the usual flatness; but the naturally-colored scenes looked drab and under-saturated.  Dark scene content was simply riveting to watch but bright outdoor scenes lacked the 3D look of the rest of the movie.  I am picking nits here but The Two Towers comes up just short of reference video quality.

Audio was again fantastic.  I’ve said it many times but Blu-ray’s greatest contribution to the art is its uncompressed sound.  If you are considering a subwoofer upgrade, do it before you watch The Lord of the Rings.  My favorite scenes are those with the Ents, the giant walking talking trees.  Their footfalls practically lifted my recliner off the floor.  And when they speak, you can feel their words in your chest.  Despite the extreme sound effects, balance was always perfect and the sound was super-clean.  The soundstage was as big as my room would allow and every scene sounded exactly like the environment in which it took place.  Caves sounded like caves, forests sounded like forests; you know what I mean.  This disc, like its predecessor, is firmly in the home theater demo category.

Extras

The bonus features are similar in scope to the first film.  Most of the documentaries are from television and fairly un-inspiring.  They are also SD only, presented on a supplemental DVD.  The only good feature is a collection of shorts from LordOfTheRings.net.  There are trailers and a short film from actor Sean Astin.  Also included is a digital copy for your PC or mobile device.