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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD Review

How To Improve On Professor Tolkien

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By Jurgen Fauth

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The ring is getting heavier in widescreen: Frodo (Elija Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin).

You don't have to be a Tolkien nerd to see that New Zealand director Peter Jackson's "Lord Of the Rings" adaptation is an unbelievable stroke of luck. "The Two Towers" is, simply put, the best fantasy movie ever made -- at least until the third part hits the theaters in December.

With its stunning vistas, fearless direction, sweeping battles, and cutting-edge effects that never overpower a screenplay which brilliantly adapts (and, dare I say, improves) Tolkien's novels, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy has already made movie history. Too bad that New Line has decided to repeat last year's marketing stunt and release the film in two separate DVD versions.

Just like "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" appears first on a two-disc DVD with bare-bones extra features. Three months from now, New Line will release a deluxe box set with an extended version of the film and a lavish amount of well-produced extras. The question is whether or not the two-disc DVD is worth buying, or if it's worth waiting until the release of the expanded set in November.

The August release, which is available in stores today, includes the film's theatrical cut and one disc of special features. Owning the film itself is well worth the price and I will happily confess that ever since the mailman brought my review copy, I've been lovingly caressing the plastic box, muttering "my precious.

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Unfortunately, the features that come with the two-disc set are not terribly nourishing; there are two TV specials that mainly hype the film for a prospective audience and, apart from some anecdotes and footage of Andy Serkis as Gollum, don't have much to offer fans of the film. A series of brief net featurettes that were originally produced for the official website are interesting, but much too short.

The only two extras produced specifically for this DVD are what amounts to an ad for the extended set (not exactly a selling point for this one) and a titillating preview of "The Return of the King" which is exciting but doesn't show the sights and creatures fans have been waiting for most, like Shelob, the frightening monster Gollum alluded to in the last scene of "The Two Towers."

Also included is a short film by Sean Astin, which the actor shot on one of his off-days, using cast and crew of "The Lord of the Rings." The film is sweet and amusing (Peter Jackson shows up in a cameo), but the inclusion of a "Making Of" featurette is where the projects turns from harmless fun to self-indulgent padding.

If last year's

extended DVD set of "The Fellowship of the Ring" is any indication, the "Two Towers" deluxe box will provide a much more satisfactory experience. The film's expanded scenes add layers of character and motivation, and the features on the four-disc set are absolutely first-rate. We can expect several commentary tracks with the writers, actors, designers, and so forth, as well as a thorough, full-length documentary on the making of the film, which is unique enough to warrant the attention.

We'll graciously assume that New Line is releasing the two versions because of the time constrains on Peter Jackson's schedule, and not because the studio is trying to cash in on the phenomenon twice. Be that as it may, unless you're one of the Frodo-fanatics who cannot live for a few more months without having the film at their fingertips, I highly recommend putting off your Hobbit-hankering to wait for the extended DVD set.

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