For over 10 years, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy directed by Peter Jackson has been my favourite set of films. Every year or so, I sit down to watch all three, sometimes in no particular order, and immerse myself in the magical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I also often indulge myself in all the extra features, over nine hours of footage per film so I can find out about every aspect of the filming, and then wish I was part of that crew in New Zealand.
I know that Lord of the Rings is not to everyone’s taste, or they prefer Star Wars over it (idiots I say) and the long time it takes to watch it is off putting. In fact all three films, extended version comes in just under 12 hours viewing time. That does take up a large part of your day. Nevertheless, however many bad things people say about these films, I am never put off. And at times, I am the biggest critic of them all.
I have found with these films is that I can see spoofs, parodies, hear jokes made about how Legolas (Orlando Bloom) never gets dirty, or teasing that Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) are secretly gay and I can watch them again and still find immense enjoyment. They do not bore me, I still can tear up when Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) says “For Frodo” then runs at the Orc army of Mordor when the odds are completely against them. I laugh at Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) as they get high smoking pipe weed. And then I get shivers when the riders of Rohan come to Gondor’s aid, charging down the hill. The films also hold strong meaning for the lessons they teach. Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) may speak in riddles, but what he does say has a powerful effect.
Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens managed to create a near perfect adaption of Tolkien’s works. They gave character to all members of the Fellowship and other supporting characters, and an epic story that has horror, tension, pity and love throughout. Even despicable characters like Gollum/Sméagol (Andy Serkis doing wonder with mo-cap) have intrigue and you want to know more of their story. Then with the help of Weta Workshop and Weta Digital enhanced this magical world to the very last detail.
The extras on the DVDs that look at all the set pieces, costumes and props are some of the most interesting. The company works diligently to get every last piece perfect, from the swords and weapons to the grand sets, some built on location, the prosthetic’s that make the Orcs, goblins and Uruk-Hai truly disgusting to look at, and the CGI characters. It is almost as if the Fell Beasts are real and that trolls do roam around in New Zealand’s mountains.
New Zealand itself plays such a huge part of these films. As Jackson is from there, and the country has such beautiful landscapes, it makes sense that it doubles for Middle Earth. Even Hobbiton has become a real place. Despite the characters of Lord of the Rings facing many dangers in Middle Earth, everything still looks stunning on camera due to the brilliant cinematography of late, great Andrew Lesnie. The gorgeous locations, some only accessible by helicopter, shows the filmmakers went the extra mile to make The Lord of the Rings look real.
I could happily talk about these films all day, from how you can tell the different fighting styles of different Elves, and that Viggo Mortensen broke his toe on camera, a shot which was used in the final cut and that though you can tell at times what is shot on green screen, the emotion in the scene makes it irrelevant. These books were meant to be made on this epic scale and it is a wonderful feeling to lose yourself in their magic.
My favourite of the three – The Two Towers. The battle of Helm’s Deep still makes me nervous.