Last month John S began his look back at Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He looked at The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Now, he turns his attention to the last chapter in the trilogy, The Return of the King.
Of all the films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I had the highest expectations for The Return of the King. The final installment in the series did make Oscar history, winning all 11 Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Picture. On IMDb, the movie is ranked 11th on the Top 250 films of all time. According to many critics, including Roger Ebert, it was The Return of the King that cemented the status of Peter Jackson’s films as true epics.
Aside from the praise of others, though, was the simple fact that The Return of the King was the final installment in the Lord of the Rings series. As I’ve said before about other things, conclusions are always important to a story that you’ve invested a lot of time in, and how a story ends often reshapes how we see its beginnings. The Return of the King, then, was where things that seemed odd or irrelevant in the first two movies would start to make sense, and where the ongoing stories of those films would finally get their much-worked-for payoffs.
Unfortunately, The Return of the King was a big letdown. Continue reading
Last week, John S started his look back at Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy with a review of The Fellowship of the Ring. Now he takes a look at the second film in the series, The Two Towers.
When we last left our heroes of Middle-Earth, Frodo and Sam had abandoned the rest of the Fellowship to head for Mordor on their own. Meanwhile, Merry and Pippin had been kidnapped by Saruman’s Orcs while the rest of the now-dissolved Fellowship—Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli—are trying to hunt down the Orcs and free the hobbits.
In any trilogy, the second film is the least set in stone. The first film is going to introduce us to our protagonists and antagonists, and set up the conflict. The last film is going to present the final confrontation between the good guys and the bad guys. But the second film serves mainly as a bridge from Act I to Act III, with a lot of its efforts spent putting the pieces in place for the last showdown. This can be a mixed blessing. While some second acts feel as if they are treading water or repeating themselves (The Matrix Reloaded, The Bourne Supremacy), others are often considered the best of the series, thanks in part to a lack of necessary exposition or resolution. The Empire Strikes Back, the only legitimately good Star Wars movie, is the best example of this phenomenon.* Continue reading
A few months ago, during NPI’s retrospective on the Aughts, I looked back at the ten best films of the last decade. One noticeable and unacknowledged omission was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was one of the most commercially successful and critically beloved franchises of the Aughts. Indeed, it may even be the defining film phenomenon of the last decade (it’d certainly be a better choice than fucking Avatar). I’d love to say that there was a well-thought out and sophisticated reason for leaving the films out, but the only real reason was that I had yet to see any of the movies. So to rectify this oversight, I thought I’d revisit the films in order, and see if they really deserve the acclaim and attention they received.
I should preface my review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by explaining that I’ve never read Tolkien’s novels and have only a passing understanding of the story going in. Luckily, there’s an eight-minute prologue at the beginning of Peter Jackson’s epic that provides us with a nice, if lengthy, backstory. The truth is that for Tolkien’s epic story, rich enough to fill three very long movies, eight minutes seems about necessary to fill you in on everything. Continue reading