#10 “The Lord of The Rings”
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens
Stars: Ian McKellan, Elijah Woods, Viggo Mortenson,
Original Release Date: 2001, 2002, 2003
Fellowship: 4 (Score, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Effects), 8 other nominations
Two Towers: 2 (Visual effects, sound effects), 4 other nominations
Return of the King: 11 (Picture, director, screenplay, score, original song, visual effect, sound, editing, art direction, costume design, make up)
Critics and Users
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, 96%, 94% Berardinelli: 4.0 stars for all three, #20 All time top 100, #1 of the 2000’s
Metacritic: 92, 88, 94 Ebert: 3.0, 3.0. 3.5
IMDB Top 250: 11, 16, 9
I have these movies as one entry for three reasons. First, they were filmed in one seven-year stretch and they tell one story. Second, I love them all. Third, it allows me the little cheat of adding two more films to my list.
Before we start for the record, if I entered them separately, Two Towers would be Top 10, followed by Return of the King in the 20s and Fellowship in the 40s.
I love the way these films seamlessly blend special effects into the plot and the leading edge use of CGI. Smeagol is purely CGI, but he is evil and good, creepy and sympathetic and 100% real. He is the key to the success of the series. Never for a moment in any of these movies do we feel that we are watching animation interact with Frodo and Sam. I would argue that no CGI character has ever had more depth.
The battle scenes are epic, relentless swashbuckling classics. The reason I love Two Towers the most is the Battle of Helms Deep. Yes yes yes I know it takes up a third of the film and 20 pages of the book. But in the film, it works. It’s not just the battles, but the stories within, the cuts to Isengard and to Sam and Frodo, the sense of utter helplessness then finally, the great White Rider appearing when all seems lost. A smidge hokey? You bet, but never dull and made with total conviction to the material.
The films are also brilliantly cast. I really cannot stand Orlando Bloom, but he is perfect as Legolas. Sir Ian makes Gandalf a wise advisor, good friend, skilled general and fearless warrior.
If you want to nitpick about the differences between the movies and the books, we could be here all day. Ebert did not like the way the movies took attention away from The Hobbits and towards Aragorn. Others did not like Gimli as comic relief. But again, in the movies, this works. Knowledge of the books is not required to enjoy the film adaptations. I read them afterwards. I love both equally.
The theatrical release was excellent but the extended version available on Blu Ray adds to the already epic adventure but there is nothing extraneous added. These are the versions I watch. The more I watch the more I understand why certain creative liberties were taken in the screenplay process. There is never a time when the movie seems choppy and they all stay true to the soul of the novels.
In creating Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson advances CGI and made fantasy a viable movie genre. Before that, most were flops, including some ill-advised LOTR adaptations. Now, it is common place and the technology used for Gollum was key in films like King Kong, Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Lord of the Rings has its detractors because of the way it adapted a nearly unadaptable series of books. Oddly, my favourite book and movie is Two Towers and of the three, that film strays furthest from the book.
These films work best as whole, when the full vision is realized. I own the Blu Ray extended version box set and have gone coast to coast on it, on my own and with my kids, at least 10 times and will several more. This is one movie project where you can see $300 million on the screen.
Treebeard: “You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”
So much in these films, but here is some interesting casting trivia. Patrick Stewart turned down Gandlaf because he did not like the script. Both Daniel Day Lewis and Nicolas Cage turned down Aragorn. Uma Thurman was cast as Arwen but dropped out due to pregnancy. Lucy Lawless turned down Galadriel for the same reason. Christopher Lee was the only cast member to have met J.R.R. Tolkien and lobbied for the role of Gandalf but accepted Saruman because he wanted to be a part of the project.
Producer Harvey Weinstein’s vision of this project was two movies of two hours each. Disney who felt that there was no market for fantasy films turned this down.