Clocking in at 558 minutes (683 if you’re an elitist with the special extended editions, and a whopping 726 minutes is you’re lucky enough to have the Blu-ray editions), the Lord of the Rings trilogy requires some pretty epic commitment. Yet despite being closer to retirement age by the time Return of the King reaches its lengthy end credits, Peter Jackson’s films are widely regarded amongst certain circles as some of the best of all time.
If you’ve been living under a rock, Lord of the Rings – based on J.R.R Tolkien’s novel from 1955 – tells the story of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit from The Shire who inherits a golden ring from his uncle; a ring that naturally turns out to the One Ring (or Ring of Power, depending who you ask), forged by the Dark Lord Sauron to rule Middle Earth. Simply put, what follows is an epic adventure with a rag-tag group of dwarves, elves and men to destroy the ring and save Middle Earth from evil.
Jackson’s take is not the first adaptation of Tolkien’s doorstop novels. In 1978, director Ralph Bakshi developed an animated version, which was did well in the box office but was met with mix reviews. This was followed two years later by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin’s The Return of the King (1980), a musical made-for-television film. While it is known among fans as the unofficial sequel to Bakshi’s effort, it is in fact a continuation of their musical television special of The Hobbit from 1977.
Peter Jackson has stated that it was Bakshi’s animated film that first introduced him to the Lord of the Rings universe. After finishing the book he, along with partner Fran Walsh, began to develop a two-film adaptation project with Harvey Weinstein (of Miramax films) in the late ‘90s. This eventually escalated into three films as it allowed Jackson, Walsh and screen writer Phillipa Boyens more time to tell the full story of Tolkien’s expansive universe.
It seems hard to believe that their trilogy opener Fellowship of the Ring was released just over eleven years ago (2001) – with The Two Towers and Return of the King following in 2002 and 2003 respectively – given the fact that Middle Earth does not feel dated or lumbered with clunky visual effects; time has been very kind indeed to Jackson’s films.
They also have a spectacular fan following, both those who regard the original novels as sacred, as well as the newer fans lured in by Jackson’s incredible adaptations. And yet, ask any fan their favourite of the three, and you’ll find that they are more often than not partial to one film in particular. Their answer tells us a few things about the individual: be they a man, an elf or a dwarf.
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