Like many others, I was a fan of Tolkien’s trilogy long before Peter Jackson and New Line brought the films to our screens in 2001. My first introduction to Tolkien’s world was at 9 years of age when my school screened Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of the books. I did not discover until I read the books, as a teen, that his version stopped mid-way through The Two Towers. However, this was my entrée into Middle Earth and I was hooked.
For any (rare) people who don’t know the story of Lord of the Rings, it is about Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, who is left a ring by his Uncle, Bilbo Baggins. The ring happens to be the most powerful thing in Middle Earth and the dark lord Sauron wants it back. With this ring, Sauron and his dark army of orcs, goblins and uruk-hai will be able to control Middle Earth. Frodo, along with his hobbit friends, Sam, Pippin and Merry, end up on an adventure, travelling through Middle Earth, in a quest that must see Frodo destroy the ring….but, will it destroy him first? To help Frodo on his quest are; Gandalf the Grey, Aragorn (a mysterious Ranger), Boromir, Legolas (an elf) and Gimli (a dwarf). The trilogy is also about these friends and how they all have their own part to play in helping Frodo.
In my early 20’s, I eagerly followed the production progress of Peter Jackson’s films via Empire magazine and I vividly remember the first published photos of the ringwraiths. I think those pictures went viral. Here was a director who was a Tolkien fanboy too. Any cynicism was erased because I was looking at Tolkien’s world coming to life.
The LoTR films have already become modern classics. As with any other film in this category, casting is key. Peter Jackson found a cast who lived and breathed their characters, they invested themselves in the whole process with him and realised these films were a once in a lifetime opportunity.
If the actors don’t believe in the story, or director, how will it ever translate well on screen (for example, Natalie Portman in the Star Wars films). Before these films and Andy Serkis, who ever would have thought they would sympathise with Gollum?
Everybody has a favourite character, or characters. I love Legolas, Eowyn and Sam. My 5 year old is already a fan and he loves Legolas, Boromir and Frodo. Legolas because he is just too cool for school, surfing on shields as he fires arrows at orcs, taking down olyphants and making it look effortless. Eowyn feels trapped and wants to help fight for those she loves. She proves very brave indeed. And Sam? Sam is loyal and true and loves his friend, Frodo, and would do anything for him.
Boromir: “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.”
There are stand-out cinematic moments in each of the three films. For me personally, I love the Mines of Moria sequence, Helm’s Deep, I love Eowyn standing up to and destroying the Witch King and, although it made me cry, the scene with the boat departing for the undying lands (I will say no more, no spoilers!).
Friendship runs at the heart of each film, the Fellowship of 9, Sam and Frodo, Merry and Pippin, Merry and Eowyn, Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn, Aragorn and Boromir. It is these relationships that also carry the films through.
Peter Jackson achieved what George Lucas did not (with episodes 1-3) and created a world that you could see, feel and touch. The land of the Shire and Hobbiton were created a year before filming so that they had a lived in, real look and it shows in the films. Most of the sets and locations were real and the bits of CGI that are in the films, are so well done that you forget it’s CGI. You know that Peter Jackson believes in the books, his work, the creative process and getting it right and it comes out through every pore of these films.
Frodo: “I’m glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here, at the end of all things.”
Peter Jackson gave one of the rings used in the movies to both Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis as gift when the shoot was finished. They both thought they had the only one
The Fellowship of 9 actors (Sean Bean, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian Mckellen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan) all got a tattoo with the elvish word for ‘9’. John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) did not, but his stunt double did.
Christopher Lee (Saruman) reads the LoTR’s books once a year and has met Tolkien.
Images: IMDb and LoTR.wiki