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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) [Blu-ray] 
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The extended edition (over 40 extra minutes) of the second film in Peter Jackson's epic big screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. The Fellowship of the Ring has now divided and Sam and Frodo are lost in the hills of Emyn Muil. They are also being followed by Gollum, a creature who promises to help them find the Mountain of Doom. Meanwhile Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli search for the hobbits Merry and Pippin in the Kingdom of Rohan, which is currently being attacked by Saruman's orc armies. Gandalf returns as Gandalf the White to remind Aragorn of his destiny to unite the people of Rohan with Gondor. Whilst the Fellowship are not travelling together they must unite against the powerful forces coming from the Two Towers: Orthanc Tower in Isengard where Saruman has bred a deadly army of 10,000, and Sauron's fortress at Barad-dûr.
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films gave "double-dipping"--releasing a DVD then releasing an improved version shortly afterward--a good name by offering both a better film and stupendous extras in the Extended Editions. This "triple-dip" 2006 Limited Edition falls far short of that standard but is still of interest to devoted and casual fans.
What do you get?
Both the theatrical and extended versions of The Two Towers are on one double-sided disc. The versions use seamless branching, meaning that the scenes that are common to both versions are stored on the disc only once. If you choose to watch the extended version, the disc "branches" out to the added or extended scenes. What does this mean to the viewer? Not much. The viewing experience is the same because the branching is imperceptible. But because both versions of the film don't have to be stored on the disc in their entirety (which would be almost seven hours total), both versions together fit on two sides of one disc. The downside is that whichever version you watch, you have to flip over the disc halfway through; the film breaks at the same spot it did on the Extended Edition, right after Faramir finds Frodo and Sam. Also lost are the meager features included on the theatrical edition, plus the four commentary tracks, two discs of bonus features, and DTS 6.1 ES sound from the four-disc Extended Edition.
Costa Botes' 105-minute documentary reminds us just how rich The Two Towers is. It covers the mechanics of Treebeard, Gollum, Rohan, and other elements, and all that iss before we get to the half-hour segment on Helm's Deep. What's interesting is how Peter Jackson and others appear in the documentary, but even more time is spent interviewing the extra actors and the lesser-known technicians who get into the nuts and bolts of how the film was made. Most of the cast members aren't interviewed at all, though Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd's clowning serves as a framing device. Some of the shots are quite funny, including the anachronistic glimpse of someone vacuuming the Great Hall of Rohan. It's entertaining, but because there's no structure (there are chapters, but no menu or chapter listing), it's not as convenient to watch, and go back to, as a documentary broken up into bite-size pieces. Oddly, the documentary is in widescreen, but not anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. Note: New Line Home Entertainment couldn't release this material on its own a la the King Kong Production Diaries due to contractual restrictions.
Bottom line: Do I need this edition?
This Limited Edition combination of theatrical and extended versions plus new documentary seems likely to appeal to two camps. One is the devoted fan, who already owns both editions but has to have everything LOTR. The other is the casual fan who liked the movie in theaters, heard good things about the Extended Edition, and doesn't need a ton of bonus material. This edition is attractively priced for that buyer, and the packaging is quite handsome. In between is the devoted fan who already owns both editions but doesn't feel the need to watch more bonus material. When watching the whole movie, that fan will always choose the Extended Edition, but keeps the theatrical edition for (1) watching with guests, (2) Sean Astin's short film, or (3) the convenience of skimming through favorite scenes without having to change discs. That fan can safely skip this edition, as can home-theater fans who love DTS. --David Horiuchi --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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