The holiday season of 2001 was a dream com true for many. It was when the first installment of Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy hit the big screen. To say expectations were high would be an understatement. To say the first film and the following two films delivered would also be an understatement. They met and exceeded the expectations of fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s dearly beloved series. They did the nearly impossible. They took one of the most outstanding works of 20th century literature and translated them to the big screen in a manner that captured the spirit of the books faithfully. I’m reviewing the movies together because they are one seamless story and were even all filmed at the same time. The films were critical and box office successes. All three films were heavily nominated for Academy Awards and the first two managed to bring home some technical trophies. “The Return of The King” cleaned house at the Oscars having been nominated in eleven categories and winning in all eleven.
Note- This review is of the Blu-Ray theatrical releases, not the extended editions which added in a lot of extra content from the books that was cut from the theatrical releases due to time constraints.
Should these films be considered classics? Many of the films on this list of movies were released before I was born. I had the privilege of seeing these three films on the big screen during their theatrical runs. I actually watched FOTR without having read the book. After seeing the film I went to my high school library and promptly checked out the books and read all of them. The short answer to the “classic” question is, yes, they should be considered classics. Peter Jackson was able to strike the delicate balance between epic and personal. The story of LOTR is epic in its scope but also very personal in how it tells about the way individuals respond to the trials and tribulations they find themselves a part of. Peter Jackson captured this marvelously. The cinematography is absolutely perfect in its framing of the landscapes and battles of Middle Earth. The personal level comes in how the movies are able to tell the stories of multiple characters and make us care about each of them. These films have such a huge cast that they could easily have turned into a big jumbled mess, but the screenwriters were able to develop fleshed out primary, secondary, and tertiary characters that make the story pack a real emotional punch. So, less then a decade after the release of the first film, it is very easy to see how and why these films will endure. They are films that I believe generations of film goers will love because they tell a timeless tale in an effective and beautiful manner.
Would I own these films? Yup. I’m anxiously awaiting the Blu-Ray release of the extended editions this summer to replace my DVD versions. These are movies that should be on the shelf of every film buff. They are outstanding entertainment and tell a timelessstory about the struggle of good in the face of unspeakable evil. Here’s hoping Jackson is able to have as much success with “The Hobbit” as he did with the LOTR trilogy.