The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

by Richard A. Zwelling (razwee AT yahoo DOT com)
November 24th, 2003

**** (out of ****)
a film review by
Richard A. Zwelling

I was not planning on writing a review for the new four-disc edition of The Two Towers, but then again, I was not expecting such a monumental and astounding improvement. This is a scary thought, because the theatrical cut is such a fabulous motion picture, in and of itself (I had no qualms about awarding it my highest rating). In almost every way that counts, however, this new cut brilliantly outclasses its original.

Despite the strengths of the theatrical release, there were some drawbacks (albeit minor ones), mostly in terms of pacing and character development. Events had to move from Point A to Point B by the film's conclusion, but in the three-hour cut, the journey was more or less a straight line and moved at a frenzied pace with little or no respite.
With the extended cut, as expected, there is considerably more breathing room, but there is also much more. The added character development and more relaxed pacing are impressive enough, in that they more readily allow the audience to soak in the Tolkien spirit, but what is truly outstanding is the heightened atmosphere. Granted, the theatrical cut was very dark and foreboding, but with the extended cut, Peter Jackson has been given freedom to add new, minute details that heighten the brutal and bleak nature of the film's darker moments. (By the way, some of these additions certainly show that Jackson is an avid practitioner of horror genre conventions.)
The added material includes, among other things, a deeper look into the romance between Aragorn and the shieldmaiden Eowyn, more background regarding the nature and history of the tree-herding Ents, some wonderful comedic moments from the hobbits Merry and Pippen, an even darker presentation of Gollum, references to the feud between the Uruks and the Orcs, an ending to the Battle of Hornburg (Helm's Deep) that is truer to the book, and more exposition of Faramir's character.
One could easily argue that these additions are unnecessary for their lack of plot advancement, but for enthusiastic Tolkien fans, they will be more than welcome. What surprised me the most was how much some of the small changes affected my interpretations of what was already in the theatrical cut. There was increased emotional resonance, a more complete picture of several characters, and overall, a feeling that this cut is much more Tolkien in its construction. (Incidentally, this probably means that the extended cut is how Jackson envisioned the movie in the first place, so anyone with complaints about initial excisions should complain to the studios, not to Jackson).

This is simply incredible, a feat that will not likely be repeated anytime soon. In a time where so many movies have me looking at my watch after less than only one hour, it boggles my mind to think that this film had me engrossed for almost four. Peter Jackson, we salute you.

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