|LOTR: The Two Towers (2002)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom
Director: Peter Jackson
In the second installment of Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," the franchise exceeds the majestic heights achieved a year ago by the first film of the series. Maintaining the commitment to cinematic beauty, story and amazing special effects he established with "The Fellowship of the Ring," Jackson once again gives stunning life to one of the finest stories ever written with "The Two Towers."
The film is divided into three subplots: Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) continue their hunt of the nasty Uru-kai tribes in their search to rescue Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd) from the Orcs who kidnapped them in the closing moments of "Fellowship"; Merry and Pippin meet a new friend in their quest to regroup with their comrades; and Sam (Sean Astin) stands by Frodo's (Elijah Wood) side in their burdensome journey to Mordor, where they meet the treacherous yet helpful Gollum along the way. All of this happens in the midst of a brewing battle between Men and Orcs at the Rohan stronghold, Helm's Deep, by far one of the most engaging and exciting battle sequences ever filmed.
While comparing the two movies is unfair because they each were produced with different goals in mind, "Two Towers" soars above "Fellowship" as the better film, probably due to the grander scale upon which it was made. The CGI character Gollum looks quite stunning as well, at times resembling a human actor so closely that you'll forget he's a computer creation.
Peter Jackson upholds his credentials as a director, staying true to Tolkien's original work full of great battles, complicated love stories and the strengthening ties of friendship, while still incorporating the uniqueness he brings as a member of "The Lord of the Rings" team. This second film is just as long as the first, though, and it doesn't quite finish the second book, which leaves a lot of leftover work for the third and final film of this series. In other words, the wait for "The Return of the King" will drag on even more painfully than the past year did.
For anyone who thought that the four-disc extended editions of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was the be-all and end-all of DVD releases, you’re sadly mistaken. The limited edition releases of the film deliver the definitive “LOTR” experience. Sure, they don’t have two extra discs worth of bonus material, but who needs to sort through all of that junk when the included documentary features everything you could ever want? Produced by critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker Costa Boates, the three never-before-seen documentaries total just over five hours and includes coverage on everything from production, post-production, and even a few on-set antics with the cast/crew. Also featured on the two-disc set for the first time ever are both the theatrical and extended versions of the film (via seamless branching), which makes this a no-brainer purchase for those who currently own the original theatrical releases on DVD.