The Lord of the Rings trilogy is an epic fantasy movie drama series directed by Peter Jackson, based on the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels viz. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King. The trilogy was released from 2001 – 2003 and was critically acclaimed and a smash hit at the box office (almost $3 billion), with the final movie sweeping the Academy Awards in 2004.
With the prequel series, The Rings of Power being – like most modern-day adaptations – highly divisive, it is probably instructional to analyse the reasons why The Lord of the Rings trilogy works in a way that seems to have eluded the folks behind The Rings of Power series. Thus, although almost everybody in the civilised world has probably seen these films, a spoiler warning is still necessary.
S P O I L E R S
As we have mentioned before in our Story Analysis post, an effective story needs to have an engaging protagonist possessed of a clear albeit difficult quest, which drives the narrative forward. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the main character is Frodo Baggins, an ordinary Hobbit who inherits a seemingly innocuous ring from his uncle Bilbo. He then learns from the wizard Gandalf the Grey (an old friend) that it is the One Ring, once belonging to the Dark Lord Sauron! Frodo has to leave his home to escape Sauron’s minions, and find a way to destroy the One Ring, and save the world!
This basic premise is what runs through the story of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. From the beginning to the end – with several variations and deviations along the way – this quest never changes. This premise maintains tension, drama, conflict and engagement in the story and the characters. Of course, this premise comes from Tolkien’s books, but director Jackson keeps the movie story reasonably faithful to the source material, while tastefully updating the story for modern audiences, without offending the spirit of Tolkien’s world-building.
In the latter case, the action, thriller and horror aspects of modern movie-making are clearly evident in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which allow the story elements of the source material to be appreciated by viewers of all-ages in the 21st century. The epic scope of Tolkien’s imagination is kept largely intact thanks to ground-breaking visual effects.
In addition, the casting of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a big factor as well. With Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Elijah Wood (Frodo) and Viggo Mortensen (Aragon) leading a talented ensemble cast. Also, Jackson’s decision to shoot the trilogy simultaneously in a 9-month period turns out to be a masterstroke, as the consistency in tone, style and look is a main strength.
Much has changed in Hollywood in the 20 years since the debut of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. One main issue in 2022 is that studios are placing diversity and representation above effective story-telling. This, of course, did not exist in 2001. The studios now seem to use diversity issues as a shield against criticism for poor writing. Of course, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was untouched by these issues and is the better for it, overall. It is truly depressing to realise that our beloved scifi, fantasy and superhero genre properties will never be the same again. But at least we can still enjoy a fantasy trilogy that was done right!
Now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
… still there’s more …