THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY: COLLECTED REVIEWS


Today sees the release of the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) on Blu-ray 3D. So I’m taking a look at my Lord Of The Ring’s reviews today, re-posted here in their entirety and for the first time  in production order, as The Two  Towers  was written two years before the others. So enjoy this trip down memory lane and deep into Middle Earth

2001/2002

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

May Contain Spoilers!

The Fellowship Of The Ring was the long, long-awaited first installment of the legendary Lord Of the Rings trilogy to be committed to celluloid. But, unless you were a fantasy geek, who cared?

I can’t say that I was too bothered at the time, and was often left baffled by the amount of time which was being lavished upon the film in magazines and other media of the day. I’m more into Sci-fi than fantasy but that didn’t stop me taking an interest and a pew at the local multiplex to see what all the fuss was  about.

Well, after 172 minutes and a numb bum, I wasn’t too impressed. This was a three-hour, ‘part 1’ of a trilogy, rather than a film in its own right. ‘What a jip!’ I thought as I regained the use of my legs and made my way out of the auditorium. But, I liked it enough to watch it again when it came out on DVD, and it fared a little better but was far from the masterpiece which everyone was talking about.

But that November, 2002, New Line released the first of the Extended Editions, now pushing the running past the three and half hour mark but that only served to encourage me. So, a year later and after something like 220 minutes, I was a changed man, certainly as where Lord Of The Rings were concerned. Finally, I began to get it. It took the extra material to flesh out the story even more for me to appreciate that it was the story that was the story.

The plot is relatively simple. An evil lord (Sauron) has forged a pile of magical rings, passed them out to the leaders of Middle Earth and has kept the Master Ring to rule the rest and in turn, taken over the world. But, the world has risen up against him, killed him, took his ring to be destroyed but the human king failed, and was seduced not only by the power of the ring, but by its supernatural soul as it were, as it was bonded with the Dark Lord, Sauron.

So, 3000 years later and the ring needs to be destroyed as Sauron is almost ready to return and wreak havoc on the world once again. The Ring tough, is now in the hands of a Hobbit named Frodo Baggins, a member of a peaceful race of little people who are drawn into the conflict and a journey which will take him far from comfort of his home to the darkest regions of the world.

After that, it all down to the details, and there are details up on details here. This is one of the most well crafted worlds that I have ever seen, with almost nothing left to chance. The effects are brilliant, with Weta Digital, more recently famous for their work on Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, skillfully blending CGI, Live action and Model Effects to create the perfect world.

At times though, the pacing can seem long-winded and plodding, but the more you watch it, the faster it becomes but that’s no excuse really. This long-windedness does put some people off and especially so with children who would normally be lapping up fantasy such as this. I do feel that it would have been possible to compromise a little without comprising the story in a real way, but saying that, it stands as a testament to real film-making, blending action, pacing and narrative to the maximum effect, translating a long saga into a definitive film series.

The cast are superb and the direction equally so, as were the production team at every level who got this right, and the results are right there on the screen for every to see and enjoy. This is how to make a blockbuster movie adaptation and with The Hobbit, (the prequel) due out later this year, we can only hope for more of the same.

2002/2003

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

May Contain Spoilers!

Completely underrated. This was, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy. We’d sat for an arse numbing 214 mins of intro, via the Fellowship, and now we get to it.

It has often been criticised for being the middle part and therefore dragging, but for my money, the first two movies make a nice story of their own, and in many ways it’s The Return Of The King that is tagged on. Short of seven hours of story had rolled on by the time we get to the end of this movie, and though you certainly feel it, I believe that is in fact the gem of this often criticised trilogy.

It is in many ways overly long but I feel that it’s just about paced correctly not to strain the audience to much. A problem which plagues this trilogy are its drawn out sequences which could easily be shortened without losing the impact. The camera work is also a problem for me. Jackson WILL NOT keep his camera still for 5 minutes. Whenever there’s an epic introduction of a hill, mountain, boat or horse, the camera is flying around, usually on a plane or helicopter.

It’s simply tells me that Jackson had no faith in these stunning environments conveying their own beauty without help form his over direction.

Otherwise this was a well conceived trilogy, and this was its underrated jewel in the crown.

2003/2004

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

May Contain Spoilers!

As the final chapter of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy begins, we finally see Gollum as he really was, Smeagol. By Christmas, 2003, the mania surrounding this franchise had reached fever pitch, as after two brilliant and epic outings, the long-awaited conclusion of Frodo’s journey to Mordor to dispose of the Ring was almost complete.

This was it. This had to not only meet all the expectations of the fans, old and new alike, but it also needed to meet a more cynical criteria, that of meeting the demands of a trilogy closer. This issue is all to apparent this week,  the week that The Dark Knight Rises finally arrives in theatres, concluding its own trilogy. The problem with finales, whether it be TV or film is that they must amp it up, as anything normal simply won’t satisfy.

This is of course true, as once you’ve seen one battle, you kinda seen them all, but the question here is does this film blow it or not? Well, no, it doesn’t, though there are parts which come close. The Frodo and Sam plot does meander and by the end, seems to lose credibility as to exactly how they can physically endure the land of Mordor, let alone climb Mount Doom, but the conclusion within the volcano itself well makes up for this, and is defiantly a suitable conclusion.

But speaking of conclusions, there were so many to choose from. On early viewings, this seemed to end, and end, and end, but I must admit, after ten years, the endings do seem to carry more poignancy than I first thought. Yes, there are too many but having said that, I don’t know which ones I would cut. But on the way to this ending, was an epic journey which high point was most defiantly the battle of Minas Tirith, the Gondorian capital city.

The set designs were magnificent and the action, drama and emotional essence were all well captured to not only conclude this saga, but to crown it as one of the best movie trilogies of all time. The saga as a whole lends a lot to many other films and genres, including Star Wars, Dungeons And Dragons and unfortunately, the last few Harry Potter books/films, most notably the inclusion of the Hocruxes, which bear a striking resemblance to the master ring, certainly in its effects on the people who have contact with it.

The extended cut is not quite as successful as the previous two in adding more significant plotting to the film, with the most notable addition being the restoration of Christopher Lee’s final scene. It does change a few things, but it does literally change the flow of some sequences and I’m not sure if I liked that to be honest but I would still recommend this version over the theatrical cut as it does include more explanation and detailed plotting which is at the heart of the story telling.

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