3. 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy (2001-03)
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I'm going to cheat here by considering "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy of
films as one epic, mega-movie — nine to 11 ½ hours of cinematic wonder,
depending on whether you are watching the theatrical or extended editions.
Director Peter Jackson, who co-wrote the screen adaptation with fellow
Tolkienists Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, faithfully transformed the author's
vision into a beautifully-crafted, perfectly-paced, gripping story that
immediately pulls you into Middle-earth and makes you want to stay.
"The Fellowship of the Ring" introduces us to characters beloved in the world
of fantasy, the Fellowship: Frodo and his fellow Hobbits, the brave and
mysterious Aragorn, the flaxen-haired Elven prince Legolas, the big-hearted
dwarf Gimli, the valiant but tragic Boromir and that hippie wizard Gandalf. "The
Two Towers" brings us deeper into the evil worlds of Sauron and Saruman, as well
as the noble, weakened house of Rohan. We meet Gollum, the most brilliantly
rendered CGI character to ever clamber across the screen. And we get an awesome
battle scene at Helm's Deep, where men and Elves fight side-by-side once again.
By the time we get to "Return of the King," all the divergent plots have been
nicely set up and we are pulling for Frodo and Sam to get to Mt. Doom and
destroy the Ring, for the marathon Battle of Pelennor Fields to end well and for
Aragorn to take his place on the throne of Gondor.
The casting is spot-on, and the talented ensemble of actors imbue their
characters with such genuineness and believability, it's easy to forget most of
them aren't even human. The costumes and make-up, sets, special effects and
cinematography are pretty damn amazing; at times, truly breathtaking. The films'
score by Howard Shore perfectly captures the story's moods and environments, as
well as the specific cultures of Middle-earth. The trilogy has an impeccable
balance of everything you want in a movie: a tight plot, credible protagonists,
complex bad guys, plenty of peril, action and fighting, suspense, romance,
humor, tragedy. Did I miss something?
This was truly a labor of love for Jackson. The DVDs' extensive bonus
features show that involvement in the project was a dream-come-true for
literally hundreds of cast and crew — and for the millions of fans who basked in
the glorious result. - Myriam Gabriel-Pollock
(Ian McKellan in "The Two Towers"/MGM)