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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (Extended Edition)

The Lord of the Rings is the Ur Example of epic fantasy literature. Thus, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is the Ur Example of epic fantasy films. Originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien, these books detail the quest of the hobbit Frodo and his companions to destroy the One Ring of Sauron, and bring an end to the dark lord's evil reign. They must brave legions of orcs, treacherous terrain, and fractures within their fellowship.

Encompassing The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings is very much like the original books, yet at the same time quite different. Epic in scale, this special extended edition of the film trilogy, which my good friend Nathan was kind enough to loan to me, must be viewed in all its special extended edition glory to be fully appreciated. Combined with an exhaustive collection of documentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes, this edition is the definitive The Lord of the Rings experience, just short of the original novels. "But," you ask, "you've scarcely started this review, and yet you're already singing this trilogy's praises?" Indeed, I have barely begun.

I would like to say quite clearly that this trilogy is not a completely straightforward adaptation of the novels. Some details such as the role of Arwen and Aragorn's arc are different, for understandable reasons. You see, the novels were written as a tale of heroic characters on a heroic quest. The films portray the development of the characters from one thing to another. Aragorn, for example, transforms from an adventurer reluctant to take up his destiny as the heir apparent of the throne of Gondor, being the titular king in the third installment. Another good example is Sam, who starts off as a Frodo's meek gardener, and by the end of the trilogy is a confident, positively heroic young hobbit.

The movie is also filled with top-notch actors, from the Elijah Wood to Karl Urban. Viggo Mortenson, who plays Aragorn, and Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo, are exceptionally good, absolutely killing with their material, and how could I not mention Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf? My personal favorite was Orlando Bloom, who plays Legolas, though I just like Legolas a lot. In addition, I am of the opinion that there is virtually nothing wrong with these movies. The scenery, music, production design, action sequences, and special effects (also, props to Andy Serkis for his spectacular portrayal of Gollum) are all fantastically incredible. What's particularly notable is that this remarkable series came from the guy who directed a collection of no name films to becoming one of the premier directors of Hollywood, and he actually pulled it off.

Of the three, I of the opinion that the best was The Fellowship of the Ring. I know that The Return of the King was the one that won all of those Oscars, but The Fellowship of the Ring nails everything down right to the last line. The only thing that could possibly be better than Fellowship alone is the whole trilogy, the context of which you must see it in order to fully appreciate it. In short, I recommend that you save your money and buy it, because it is awesome. Of course, this would make me a hypocrite because I personally don't own it, but I'm sure you'll all forgive me.

One final note: It should be known that The Lord of the Rings, at heart, is a brooding war epic. It is not for kids younger than, say, thirteen, hence the PG-13. The carnage is largely bloodless, but there are a lot of intense battle sequences, some decapitations, and other violence. Ye be warned.

RATING (The Fellowship of the Ring): 10/10
RATING (The Two Towers): 9/10
RATING (The Return of the King): 9.5/10

RATING: 10/10

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