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J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST:

Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood

REVIEW:

A decade ago, Peter Jackson took us to Middle Earth and raised epic fantasy adventure to a high bar that all that followed in its wake would be hard-pressed to equal, let alone surpass. Ironically but probably inevitably, Jackson himself has fallen short of that herculean task with the first installment of the prequel trilogy, but while The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not as consistently enthralling as The Lord of the Rings, it is still an enjoyable adventure worth going on. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis

REVIEW:

New Zealand director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema took a big risk with 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of their colossal film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings.  Fortunately, not only did The Fellowship of the Ring pay off, it went on to become one of the biggest box office smashes in recent history and one of the most acclaimed motion pictures of the year, winning four Academy Awards (though not the coveted Best Picture) and setting a new standard for epic fantasy adventure.  But therein lay a new danger.  With the first film being deservedly acclaimed, what if the second didn’t live up to the now high expectations?  The first installment was one of the great films of 2001 or any other year, but even the most enthusiastic viewers had room for some doubt.  This would not be the first time a solid film was followed by an inferior sequel.  The Two Towers would also have the unenviable position of providing the middle act, advancing events from the first movie while leading into the third, incomplete on its own.  Fortunately, if it’s not quite as flawless a film as The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers is no slouch, continuing to paint on an epic, immersive, and enthralling canvas, and builds to one of the most tremendous battle scenes yet committed to film. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis

REVIEW:

The origins of this epic film trilogy date back to the early 1930s, when a British scholar named J.R.R. Tolkien began writing an equally epic series of books.  The first to be completed and published was The Hobbit in 1937, but Tolkien had a more ambitious story in mind.  Originally setting out to write one enormous novel, he ultimately realized that such a tale as he was spinning was too vast to be contained in one book, and instead formed it into a trilogy.  Parts one and two, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, were released in 1954, followed by the climax, The Return of the King, in 1957.  Together, the trilogy was known as The Lord of the Rings.  The significance of this fantasy series cannot be understated.  Tolkien’s books were adored by millions the world over during his time, and since his death in 1973, they have remained a beloved and integral part of the fantasy literature genre.  With such a following, it was inevitable that film versions would at least be attempted, but few filmmakers had either the inclination or the means to tackle such a daunting production.  Mediocre animated versions of both The Lord of the Rings and its prequel The Hobbit were made—and flopped—in the 1970s, with the poor quality of the animation and various story omissions rankling fans.  Two more decades passed, and finally New Zealand director Peter Jackson has taken on the ambitious task of bringing Tolkien’s epic trilogy to the big screen with the backing of New Line Cinema’s investment of nearly $300 million for the package deal of all three installments.  Those worried about whether it is even possible to translate The Lord of the Rings intact to the screen can breathe a sigh of relief, at least if this first installment is any indication.  Jackson and his cast and crew have succeeded on every level, and the result is not only a definitive film adaptation of part one of one of the most popular fantasy stories ever written, not only a majestic, enthralling adventure in its own right, but itself a pinnacle in filmmaking, one of the most colossal film productions ever made, and raising the meaning of “epic filmmaking” to a whole new level.  In the future all epic fantasy adventures—including its own sequels—will have a high bar to hurdle. Continue reading

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