#39 Lord Of The Rings
(2001-3, Peter Jackson)
“We wants it, we needs it, we must have the precious”
(The Fellowship Of The Ring, 2001)
(The Two Towers, 2002)
(Return Of The King, 2003)
In the fifth decade of the twentieth century of mankind, there was a man named J.R.R. Tolkien, who had finally completed his master work, a great tome of a novel he called The Lord Of The Rings. His publishers liked it, but refused to publish it in its existing form, for it was too long a work to put into a single volume. And so it was split into three smaller works, and in this form it travelled about the globe, spreading the word of Tolkien’s history of the fantasy world Middle-Earth. Tolkien himself felt that no film studio could ever place his work into cinemas; that his work was too expansive, too populated with strange mystical creatures that it would fail.
And yet, half a century later, a man hailing from the far-off land known as New Zealand heard these words and said no. The work would be made into a film, a great expansive film, one that would cover all the intricacies of Tolkien’s literature. However, much like Tolkien’s novels, Peter Jackson’s vision was split into three distinct movies, each based off one of the parts of the novel trilogy.
And now, based off a decree from the book of 1001 Movies, I, Sven, shall review these three movies as a whole, for reviewing them as individuals dampens the impact of the story itself. That, and the 1001 Movies book lists them as one film while simultaneously counting Star Wars as three. This remains a mystery to me.
The tale is vast and contains many characters and creatures of various shapes and sizes, but centres largely on the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) of The Shire. Hobbits are simple folk, living their days drinking fine ale and eating fine food. However, one hobbit is not satisfied. Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) has long returned from his great adventures – as told in Tolkien’s prequel novel The Hobbit – and wishes to go out into the world again. Using a magical ring he obtained on his adventures, he turns himself invisible, allowing him to slip out of his birthday party, only to be confronted by the mighty wizard Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen). Bilbo flees, leaving the ring behind. Gandalf cannot touch the ring, and instead asks Frodo to throw the ring in the fire upon his return to the house.
It turns out the ring is The One Ring, a magic ring forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. Sauron is bound to it, and possession of it may lead to his evil power spreading over the land. As such, Frodo must take it, along with his friends Samwise (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), to the land of the elves so they might be able to use their wisdom to decide what to do with it.
In Rivendell, the great elf Elrond (Hugo Weaving) decides that the ring must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, deep in the dark lands of Mordor, and so Frodo sets out to do this with a Fellowship of other travellers, including human fighters Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean), the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). And so begins the great Ring War, as men battle the Dark Lord’s orc forces in a great clash of good and evil.
Of course, the depiction of all this grandeur takes a very long time, and so embarking on a viewing of this tale takes tremendous patience. Each part of the trilogy takes up roughly three hours and the extended versions can stretch up to four. At times this length can feel like a chore, which is the film’s key downfall. It’s not clear if it’s the fault of Tolkien’s storytelling or Jackson’s attempts at bringing it to the big screen, but some parts of the movie feel like they drag on a little longer than necessary.
Perhaps this is down to the fact that Lord Of The Rings perhaps isn’t trying to tell a story, more offer an intricate account of an entire war, and the effects of the people living in the world at war. In a sense, it is as if every movie ever made about World War II was condensed into a single ten hour retelling. Only instead of the invasion of Poland, we have a hobbit putting on a ring, and instead of an atomic bomb, that ring gets thrown into a volcano. In this sense, it succeeds, as the world of Middle-Earth feels alive and vibrant, particularly in its visuals.
Practically the entire nation of New Zealand was transformed into the fantasy realm, with only a few CGI tweaks to add ancient castles and mysterious Elvish script. The design of the monsters and the races of the world are superb, from the lowliest hobbit to the mightiest Uruk-Hai orc warrior. And the battles are the true definition of the word epic, tightly choreographed and sprawling out with thousands of soldiers battling to the death.
But none of this would matter in the slightest if the characters within weren’t identifiable, and they are for the most part. Despite the high fantasy, much of the film concerns friendship, loyalty and honour. The travellers develop a tight bond, even when they end up separated, and this is most notable in Frodo and Sam, whose friendship is intensely close, and despite numerous trials, survives to give them both the strength to see their journey through to its end. But even then, we witness a close friendship develop between Legolas and Gimli, both of races that traditionally aren’t fond of each other.
We also see humanising aspects in the character of Gollum (Andy Serkis), a creature deformed and sent mad by the powers of the ring. He splits between good and evil rapidly due to his split personality, and his struggle between these two sides makes him an incredibly interesting character despite being rendered entirely in CGI.
The performances are also fantastic across the board, with almost every actor in the trilogy giving it their all. This is to be expected with old hands such as McKellen and Lee, but it can be seen in everyone. Well, almost everyone. Orlando Bloom, as usual with his appearances in anything, is consistently bland and usually consists of a single expression and tone no matter what the scenario. His performance is so bad it threatens to drag the whole film down, but fortunately the rest of the cast is strong enough to carry him.
But, as stated at the beginning, the films are so long that watching them almost feels like embarking on your own epic quest, so it requires a lot of patience. Sure, it’s probably quicker than reading the books, but at nine hours, it demands a lot of attention. A small complaint, sure, and complaining about Lord Of The Rings being long is like complaining that the sky is blue.
If you have the time to invest in it, Lord Of The Rings is an entertaining, if sometimes meandering, experience, and needs to be watched at least once.
Starring Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Bean, Dominic Monaghan, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Billy Boyd & the voice of Andy Serkis
Written by J.R.R. Tolkien (novels), Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens
Produced by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Barrie M. Osbourne
Music score by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Andrew Lesnie
Edited by John Gilbert, Michael J. Horton, Jabez Olssen & Jamie Selkirk
Favourite Scene: Gollum’s debate with himself where he tries to force his evil side out is highly entertaining. Not bad for a CGI puppet.
Scene That Bugged Me: Aragorn pulling out a ghost army for one of the many epic battles. That just feels like exploiting a game glitch or something.
Watch it if: You have a day to kill and fancy watching some orcs gets stabbed
Avoid it if: You’re afraid of elves and wizards
Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 9 January 2012