The Lord of The Rings Trilogy

I’m off to see The Hobbit later, hoping that some of the dreadful reviews have been on the cruel side rather than wholly fair. As I was running my series on Blu-Ray box-sets to give as Christmas gifts this seemed the perfect time to revisit the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. Then I panicked – I have the theatrical release box-set, would this be the best one to review? What about the Extended Edition? Then I considered whether or not it would make a good present? Don’t all Lord of The Rings fans own everything they want?

We showed the trilogy to my parents, not sure if they would like it – they loved it. The quality of the story and stunning cinematography make the box-set a sure-fire winner for most family members, not just fantasy lovers.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Released: 2001
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen

On the happy occasion of his 111th birthday hobbit Bilbo Baggins decides to leave his home in the Shire for one last great adventure. He leaves his nephew Frodo all his possessions including a mysterious ring. On learning that the ring is a source of evil power, wizard Gandalf instructs Frodo to leave the Shire. It is discovered that the only way for the ring to be destroyed is for it to be cast into the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor where it was forged. A group of 12 including men, hobbits, an elf and a dwarf come together to ensure that Frodo makes it to Mordor safely and Middle Earth’s future can be secured.

That’s probably a little simplistic but I’m a simple girl and I like to cut through all talk of hobbits of The Shire and the third age of man, of Rivendell and Nazgûl and all the back-story and lore that turns off people who just want to enjoy a well-made, action-packed and well-acted film.

There is so much to commend this film and it’s the perfect start to the trilogy. The action scenes are exhilarating, the hobbits Merry and Pippin are fabulous light relief and the lush New Zealand countryside could almost be regarded as the 13th member of the fellowship. I suppose it’s likely that the early moments with Ian Holm as a young Bilbo will be retrofitted with Martin Freeman’s face for the almost inevitable super box-set of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies but that’s a shame as this is an almost perfect film as it is.

The Two Towers

Released: 2002
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen

The fellowship of the first film has broken. Frodo and Sam are travelling to Mordor on their own. Boromir has been killed, Pippin and Merry have been taken prisoner by the Uruk-hai who are being pursued by the surviving Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. The Kingdom of Rohan is under attack and the King is turning against his own nephew. Middle Earth is under increasing threat meanwhile Frodo meets the strange creature Gollum, a previous owner of the ring who is desperate to have his ‘precious’ back.

As the danger faced by the characters is increased so too is the tension and the spectacle offered by director Peter Jackson. The introduction of new characters is welcome and I’m a particular fan of Karl Urban’s Eomer and Miranda Otto’s Eowyn (more on Eowyn later). The invention of Gollum is an absolute triumph of special effects by the labs of WETA Digital but it is the human element of Andy Serkis’s performance that truly brings him to life.

There is a slight element in The Two Towers of exciting battle followed by travel followed by exposition followed by Frodo moaning followed by exciting battle [breathe!] and repeat. As the evil power of the ring takes hold of Frodo he does seem to become a bit of a complaining teenager and I greet his arrival on the screen as a distraction from the action.

The battles on the other hand are utterly enthralling and the sight of Sauroman’s army getting ready to attack is awe-inspiring in a really terrifying way.  The climatic Battle of Helm’s Deep is one of the most exhilarating ever committed to film and is a high point of the trilogy.

The Return of The King

Released: 2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen

The Return of The King belongs on every self-respecting film fan’s shelf.  One of the most successful and award-laden films of all-time, it won eleven Academy Awards – every single one for which it was nominated including Best Picture and Best Director.

Following the Battle of Helm’s Deep Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are reunited with Merry and Pippin. Frodo and Sam are continuing their journey to Mordor with Gollum as their guide. As the fight to destroy Middle-Earth reaches Gondor, Aragorn is forced to face his destiny as King while Frodo has to fight Gollum’s determination to reclaim the ring, the ring’s influence over his own mental state, and other threats to his safety.

The battle scenes, beautiful New Zealand landscapes and acting performances are as wonderful as in the previous films. Sean Astin is a personal favourite for his moving portrayal of Samwise Gamgee who remains loyal, despite Frodo being a petulant brat (influenced by the evil power of the ring). Ian McKellan is wonderful as Gandalf and while Orlando Bloom isn’t the best actor in the world he is good as Legolas, or at least he looks good, fires his arrows well and does a decent job of counting his kills.

Now for my major problem with this film. Aragorn is a good-looking man who leads armies well and will make a wonderful King. Why then would this man choose the constantly crying, weedy and frankly quite thick Arwen over the gorgeous, brave, intelligent and feisty Eowyn? Every time we get to the love story in Return of the King I end up muttering that he’s letting Eowyn get away and that Arwen’s rubbish. Please someone tell me I’m not alone in this. Please?

My soapbox aside I’m always surprised by how much I enjoy The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I always forget how luscious the scenery is and how exciting the battle scenes are. I hope The Hobbit lives up to the very high expectations of its ‘sequel’.

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