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New Zealand/USA 2001-3
Directed by
Peter Jackson
548 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

There is no doubt that Peter Jackson’s adaptation of  J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel, The Lord of the Rings, is a marvel but with a total running time of 548 minutes spread over the three instalments, The Fellowship Of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of The King you’ve got to be very keen on fantasy films to go the distance. Even sitting through one of them takes some doing as they are basically the same thing – the battle between good and evil followed by time out , followed by more battling  - over and over and over again.

Fans of the genre in general, and Tolkein’s epic novel, in particular will no doubt pillory me for this point of view but belonging to neither camp I found pleasure neither in wading through the complex mythology of Middle Earth nor in the derring-do adventures of Frodo the hobbit (Elijah Wood) on his mission to destroy the One Ring of the Dark Lord, Sauron.

Which is not to say that I fail to recognize Jackson’s extraordinary achievement. Fantasy films notoriously can look pretty cheesy but one cannot say this about this trilogy which from beginning to end is not just a magnificent cinematic vision but a very effective adaptation of a densely rich source text (one character, the elf, Arwen, has an expanded role but as she is played by the lovely Liv Tyler, made even more lovely by Andrew Lesnie’s camera, no-one is likely to complain).

The trend for film of this stripe is to use a lot of CGI effects, an approach produces a very ho-hum result. Jackson has been restrained in this respect and instead used all manner of traditional techniques from detailed miniatures to matte paintings, purpose-built sets to far-flung locations to create a remarkably convincing alternate universe. Andrew Lesnie's camerawork is first class and the calibre of the entire production (the three films were shot back-to-back) is maintained from start to finish (the final instalment, The Return of the KIng, won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Writing (adapted screenplay), Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Make-up, Best Sound Mixing, Best Scene and Best Song).

At the end of the day, however, The Lord Of The Rings is full of stock characters acting out the familiar tropes of the genre, fighting dragons and evil sorcerers, being counselled by wise wizards, being tempted by the dark side, saved by the light side and so on and so on. Better done than ever before maybe, but if this doesn’t sound like your kind of thing the marvel of the technical achievement is probably not going to be enough to sustain your interest.




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