Without a shadow of a doubt, this is one of the greatest trilogies of all-time.
Dir. Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean, Christopher Lee
Distributor: Warner Bros
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
2001 | New Zealand/USA | Action/Adventure/Fantasy | 178 mins | 2.35:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for epic battle sequences and some scary images
Plot: In a small village in the Shire, a young Hobbit named Frodo has been entrusted with an ancient Ring. Now he must embark on an epic quest to the Cracks of Doom in order to destroy it.
Awards: Won 4 Oscars – Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score. Nom. for 9 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Original Song.
THE TWO TOWERS
2002 | New Zealand/USA | Action/Adventure/Fantasy | 179 mins | 2.35:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for epic battle sequences and scary images
Plot: Frodo and Sam continue on to Mordor in their mission to destroy the One Ring whilst their former companions make new allies and launch an assault on Isengard.
Awards: Won 2 Oscars – Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects. Nom. for 4 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Sound.
THE RETURN OF THE KING
2003 | New Zealand/USA | Action/Adventure/Fantasy | 201 mins | 2.35:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images
Plot: The former Fellowship of the Ring prepare for the final battle for Middle Earth, while Frodo and Sam approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.
Awards: Won 11 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects.
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Mainstream
(Reviewed on DVD – first published 16 Apr 2008)
Director Peter Jackson’s achievement with The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy is nothing short of historic. It does everything to assure him of a place in the history of cinema for the next century. Winning seventeen Oscars in total, with almost two-thirds coming from the third installment, the LOTR series is arguably the most successful trilogy ever produced. Often compared with George Lucas’ 1980s Star Wars trilogy and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy, LOTR is in my opinion the better package because there’s no ‘weak link’ ala Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Godfather Part III (1990) respectively.
“You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!”
Jackson made the wise choice of filming three separate three-hour pictures instead of cramming Tolkien’s Middle-Earth into one long-drawn epic. The monetary benefits are obvious; in fact the trilogy has made more than a billion dollars since its first theatrical release in 2001 and through the millions of DVDs sold year after year. Furthermore, a trilogy will mean more space for the story and characters to develop. This is very important as giving the right treatment to Tolkien’s masterwork is essential, not only in terms of reproducing accurately his stunning vision of Middle-Earth, but also to do so out of respect to a great literary giant.
When The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001, it set new standards in cinematography and visual effects. Filmed on location in New Zealand, Fellowship features unbelievable scenes of snow-capped mountains and rocky terrain that are mostly shot with a moving camera at varying angles and heights that captures what Jackson wants – an epic-like feel that complements the grandeur of the story. Because all three films were shot back-to-back-to-back in less than three years, the photography and lighting remain fairly consistent throughout the trilogy, though Fellowship is undeniably the most beautifully-filmed picture of the trio.
“A red sun rises, blood has been spilled this night.”
I’m running out of superlatives to describe the incredible visual effects by WETA (finally a worthy competitor to Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic). It’s important to note that the accomplishments of WETA are central to the success of LOTR. Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants owe a great debt to it. The Return of the King features the most awe-inspiring effects of the lot, though the CGI in the final hour when Frodo and Sam make the tortuous journey up Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring appear to be too indulgent and at times lacking in visual quality.
The battle sequences are expertly-staged and are one for the senses. Sound mixing and editing are extraordinary, from the frightening stomping march of tens of thousands of Orcs to the spine-tingling clashes of sharp blades during the much furious swordplay that punctuates the three films. Nothing as huge and large-scale as ‘The Battle at Helm’s Deep’ in The Two Towers or ‘The Battle of Minas Tirith’ in The Return of the King have ever been committed to the screen.
“From the ashes, a fire shall be woken. A light from the shadow shall spring. Renewed shall be blade that was broken. The crownless again shall be king.”
LOTR established the careers of Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood while rejuvenating that of Ian MacKellen’s and Christopher Lee’s. The performances are even and consistent, far better than what the genre would traditionally allow. If there’s anyone worthy of an Oscar for an acting performance in LOTR, it would be Andy Serkis (who also plays the title role in Peter Jackson’s King Kong) for his chilling yet humanistic portrayal of Gollum, one of the most memorable villains of the 2000s decade.
Howard Shore’s original score is spectacular. Its main theme is instantly recognizable and is used with better effect in Fellowship than its sequels. Even though he won two Oscars for LOTR, Shore lays the musical groundwork firmly and most impressively in Fellowship. In sum, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is not only cinema at its most entertaining, it also features filmmakers, artists, writers, special effects wizards and sound engineers working at the height of their powers.