The Lord of the Rings (film series)
The Lord of the Rings is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003). Produced and distributed by New Line Cinema with the co-production of WingNut Films, it is an international venture between New Zealand and the United States. The films feature an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, and Sean Bean.
|The Lord of the Rings|
|Directed by||Peter Jackson|
|Based on||The Lord of the Rings|
by J. R. R. Tolkien
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Total (3 films):|
|Budget||Total (3 films):|
|Box office||Total (3 films):|
Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins as he and the Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, to ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. The Fellowship eventually splits up and Frodo continues the quest with his loyal companion Sam and the treacherous Gollum. Meanwhile, Aragorn, heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, along with Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Merry, Pippin, and the wizard Gandalf, unite to rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth in the War of the Ring to aid Frodo by distracting Sauron's attention.
The three films were shot simultaneously and entirely in Jackson's native New Zealand from 11 October 1999 until 22 December 2000, with pick-up shots done from 2001 to 2004. It was one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, with a budget of $281 million. The first film in the series premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on 10 December 2001; the second film premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City on 5 December 2002; the third film premiered at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington on 1 December 2003. An extended edition of each film was released on home video a year after its release in cinemas.
The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential film series ever made. It was a major financial success and is among the highest-grossing film series of all time with $2.991 billion in worldwide receipts. Each film was critically acclaimed, with high praise for their innovative special effects, acting, musical score, and emotional depth, and heavily awarded, the series winning 17 out of its 30 Academy Award nominations.
The Fellowship of the Ring
In the Second Age of Middle-earth, the lords of Elves, Dwarves, and Men are given Rings of Power. Unbeknownst to them, the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring in Mount Doom, instilling into it a great part of his power, in order to dominate the other Rings so he might conquer Middle-earth. A final alliance of Men and Elves battles Sauron's forces in Mordor. Isildur of Gondor severs Sauron's finger and the Ring with it, thereby vanquishing Sauron and returning him to spirit form. With Sauron's first defeat, the Third Age of Middle-earth begins. The Ring's influence corrupts Isildur, who takes it for himself. Isildur is later killed by Orcs and the Ring is lost in a river for 2,500 years until it is found by Gollum, who owns it for five centuries. The Ring is then found by a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who is unaware of its history.
Sixty years later, Bilbo celebrates his 111th birthday in the Shire, reuniting with his old friend, the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Bilbo reveals that he intends to leave the Shire for one last adventure, and he leaves his inheritance, including the Ring, to his nephew Frodo. Gandalf investigates the Ring, discovers its true nature, and learns that Gollum was captured and tortured by Sauron's Orcs, revealing two words during his interrogation: "Shire" and "Baggins." Gandalf returns and warns Frodo to leave the Shire. As Frodo departs with his friend, gardener Samwise Gamgee, Gandalf rides to Isengard to meet with the wizard Saruman, but learns that he has joined forces with Sauron, who has dispatched his nine undead Nazgûl servants to find Frodo.
Frodo and Sam are joined by fellow hobbits Merry and Pippin, and they evade the Nazgûl before arriving in Bree, where they are meant to meet Gandalf. However, Gandalf never arrives, having been taken prisoner by Saruman. The hobbits are then aided by a Ranger named Strider, who promises to escort them to Rivendell; however, they are ambushed by the Nazgûl on Weathertop, and their leader, the Witch-King, stabs Frodo with a Morgul blade. Arwen, an Elf and Strider's beloved, locates Strider and rescues Frodo, summoning flood-waters that sweep the Nazgûl away. She takes him to Rivendell, where he is healed by the Elves. Frodo meets with Gandalf, who escaped Isengard with help from a Great Eagle. That night, Strider reunites with Arwen, and they affirm their love for each other.
Facing the threat of both Sauron and Saruman, Arwen's father, Lord Elrond, decides against keeping the Ring in Rivendell for long. He holds a council of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, also attended by Frodo and Gandalf, that decides the Ring must be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Elf Legolas, Dwarf Gimli, Boromir of Gondor, and Strider—-who is in fact Aragorn, Isildur's heir and the rightful King of Gondor. Bilbo, now living in Rivendell, gives Frodo his sword, Sting, and a chainmail shirt made of mithril.
The Fellowship of the Ring sets off over the mountain Caradhras, but Saruman summons a storm that forces them to travel through the Mines of Moria. After finding the Dwarves of Moria dead, the Fellowship is attacked by Orcs and a cave troll. They hold them off but are confronted by Durin's Bane, a Balrog residing within the mines. Gandalf holds the Balrog at bay while the others escape. He casts it into a vast chasm, but the Balrog drags Gandalf down into the darkness with him. The devastated Fellowship reaches Lothlórien, ruled by the Elf-queen Galadriel. Galadriel privately informs Frodo that only he can complete the quest and that one of his friends in the Fellowship will try to take the Ring. Meanwhile, Saruman creates an army of Uruk-hai in Isengard to track down and kill the Fellowship.
The Fellowship travels by river to Parth Galen. Frodo wanders off and is confronted by Boromir, who tries to take the Ring as Lady Galadriel had predicted. The Fellowship is then ambushed by the Uruk-hai. Merry and Pippin are taken captive, and Boromir is mortally wounded by the Uruk, Lurtz. Aragorn arrives and duels Lurtz in an intense climactic battle. Finally, he overpowers the Uruk and slices off its head. He then goes and comforts Boromir as he dies, promising to help the people of Gondor in the coming conflict. Fearing the Ring's corruption will consume his friends, Frodo decides to travel to Mordor alone. However, Frodo reconsiders by allowing Sam to come along after hearing of the promise he had made to Gandalf to look after him. As Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli decide to rescue Merry and Pippin, Frodo and Sam make their way down the mountain pass of Emyn Muil. As they journey on to Mordor, Frodo tells Sam that he's glad to be with him.
The Two Towers
Awakening from a dream of Gandalf fighting the Balrog in Moria, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee find themselves lost in the Emyn Muil near Mordor and discover they are being tracked by Gollum, a former bearer of the One Ring. Capturing Gollum, Frodo takes pity and allows him to guide them, reminding Sam that they will need Gollum's help to infiltrate Mordor.
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli pursue a band of Uruk-hai to save their companions Merry and Pippin, entering the kingdom of Rohan. The Uruk-hai are ambushed by a group of Rohirrim, allowing the Hobbits to escape into Fangorn Forest. Meeting Aragorn's group, the Rohirrim's leader Éomer explains that he and his men have been exiled by Rohan's king, Théoden, who is under the control of Saruman and his servant Gríma Wormtongue. Éomer believes Merry and Pippin were killed during the raid but leaves the group two horses. Searching for the Hobbits in Fangorn, Aragorn's group encounters Gandalf, who reveals that after his fight against the Balrog he was resurrected as Gandalf the White to help save Middle-earth.
Gandalf leads the trio to Rohan's capital, Edoras, where Gandalf frees Théoden from Saruman's control. Aragorn stops Théoden from executing Wormtongue, who flees. Learning of Saruman's plans to destroy Rohan with his Uruk-hai army, Théoden evacuates his citizens to the fortress of The Hornburg at Helm's Deep. Gandalf departs to find Éomer and his followers, hoping they will fight for their restored king. Aragorn befriends Théoden's niece, Éowyn, who becomes infatuated with him. When the refugees travelling to Helm's Deep are attacked by Saruman's Warg-riding Orcs, Aragorn falls from a cliff and is presumed dead. He is found by his horse Brego and rides to Helm's Deep, witnessing Saruman's army marching to the fortress.
In Rivendell, Arwen is told by her father Elrond that Aragorn will not return. He reminds her that if she remains in Middle-earth, she will outlive Aragorn by thousands of years, and she reluctantly departs for Valinor. Elrond is contacted by Galadriel of Lothlórien, who convinces him that the Elves should honour their alliance to men, and they dispatch an army of Elves to Helm's Deep.
In Fangorn, Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, an Ent. Convincing Treebeard that they are allies, they are brought to an Ent Council, where the Ents decide not to take part in the coming war. Pippin asks Treebeard to take them in the direction of Isengard, where they witness the deforestation caused by Saruman's war effort. Enraged, Treebeard and the Ents storm Isengard, trapping Saruman in his tower.
Aragorn arrives at Helm's Deep and reveals that Saruman's army is close and Théoden must prepare for battle despite being vastly outnumbered. The army of Elves from Lothlórien arrives, as does Saruman's army, and a battle ensues. The Uruk-hai breach the outer wall with explosives and kill the Elves' commander, Haldir. The defenders retreat into the keep, where Aragorn convinces Théoden to meet the Uruk-hai in one last charge. At dawn, as the defenders are overwhelmed, Gandalf and Éomer arrive with the Rohirrim, turning the tide of the battle. The surviving Uruk-hai flee into Fangorn Forest and are killed by the Ents. Gandalf warns that Sauron will retaliate.
Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes to the Black Gate, but recommends they enter Mordor by another route. Frodo and Sam are captured by Rangers of Ithilien led by Faramir, brother of the late Boromir. Frodo helps Faramir catch Gollum to save him from being killed by the Rangers. Learning of the One Ring, Faramir takes his captives to Gondor to bring the ring to his father Denethor. Passing through the besieged city of Osgiliath, Frodo tries to explain to Faramir the true nature of the ring, and Sam explains that Boromir was driven mad by its power. A Nazgûl nearly captures Frodo, who falls under the ring's power, fortunately Sam saves him and reminds him that they are fighting for the good still left in Middle-earth. Impressed by Frodo's resolve, Faramir releases them. Gollum decides to betray Frodo and reclaim the Ring by leading the group to "Her" upon arriving at Cirith Ungol.
The Return of the King
Two Hobbits, Sméagol and his cousin, Déagol, are fishing when Déagol discovers the One Ring in the river. Sméagol's mind is ensnared by the Ring, and he kills his cousin for it. He retreats into the Misty Mountains as the Ring twists his body and mind until he becomes the creature Gollum.
Centuries later, during the War of the Ring, Gandalf leads Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and King Théoden to Isengard, where they reunite with Merry and Pippin. Gandalf retrieves Saruman's palantír, and the group returns to Edoras to celebrate their victory at Helm's Deep. That night, Pippin looks into the palantír and is seen by Sauron. From Pippin's description of his visions, Gandalf surmises that Sauron will attack Gondor's capital Minas Tirith. He rides there to warn Gondor's steward Denethor, taking Pippin with him.
Gollum leads Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee to Minas Morgul, where they watch the Witch-king of Angmar, leader of the nine Nazgûl, lead an army of Orcs towards Gondor. The hobbits begin climbing a stair carved in the cliff face that leads to a secret tunnel into Mordor, unaware that Gollum plans to kill them and take the Ring. The Witch-king and his forces strike and overwhelm Osgiliath, forcing Denethor's son Faramir and his garrison to retreat to Minas Tirith.
Gollum disposes of the Hobbits' food, blaming Sam. Believing that Sam desires the Ring, Frodo selfishly tells him to go home before he and Gollum continue to the tunnel leading to Mordor. Gollum tricks him into venturing into the lair of the giant spider Shelob. Frodo narrowly escapes and confronts Gollum, telling him that he must destroy the Ring for both their sakes. Enraged, Gollum attacks Frodo but falls down a chasm. Frodo continues on, but Shelob discovers, paralyses, and binds him. Sam returns and wounds Shelob, driving her away, but then hides as Orcs appear and take Frodo with them. The Orcs prepare to execute Frodo, but they end up fighting each other over ownership of Frodo's mithril vest; the distraction allows Sam to rescue Frodo, and they escape before going on to continue their journey.
As King Théoden gathers the Rohirrim army, Aragorn learns from Elrond that Arwen is dying, having refused to leave Middle-earth to be with Aragorn after seeing a vision of their future son. Elrond gives Aragorn Andúril, reforged from the shards of King Elendil's sword Narsil, so that Aragorn can reclaim his birthright and gain reinforcements from the ghostly Dead Men of Dunharrow. Joined by Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn travels to the Dead Men's lair, pledging to release them from Isildur's undead curse should they come to Gondor's aid.
Faramir is wounded and knocked unconscious after a futile effort to recapture Osgiliath; believing his son to be dead, Denethor falls into madness. Gandalf is left to defend the city against the Orc army, led by Gothmog. As Gothmog's army forces its way into the city, Denethor attempts to kill himself and Faramir on a pyre. Pippin alerts Gandalf and they save Faramir, but a burning Denethor leaps to his death from the top of Minas Tirith just before Théoden and his nephew, Éomer, arrive with the Rohirrim. During the ensuing battle, they are overwhelmed by the Oliphaunt-riding Haradrim and the Witch-king mortally wounds Théoden. Just as the Witch-king prepares to finish Théoden off, his niece Éowyn battles and manages to kill the Witch-king with Merry's help; Éowyn subsequently tends to Théoden afterwards and they bid each farewell before Théoden dies in his niece's arms. Aragorn then arrives with the Army of the Dead, who overcome Sauron's forces and win the battle. Aragorn frees the Dead Men from their curse.
Aragorn decides to march upon the Black Gate as a distraction so Frodo and Sam can reach Mount Doom. Aragorn's army draws out Sauron's remaining forces and empties Mordor, allowing Frodo and Sam to reach the volcano, but Gollum attacks them just as they reach Mount Doom. Sam manages to fend him off, and Frodo enters the volcano. As he stands on the ledge over the volcanic lava, he succumbs to the Ring in front of Sam and claims it as his own, putting it on his finger. Gollum finds the invisible Frodo and attacks him, biting his finger off to reclaim the Ring. Frodo attacks Gollum in an attempt to reclaim the Ring, and in the ensuing struggle they both fall off the ledge. Gollum falls into the lava with the Ring and dies. Frodo clings to the ledge and is rescued by Sam as the Ring disintegrates in the lava. As Frodo and Sam escape, the Eye of Sauron explodes, Mount Doom erupts and Mordor crumbles.
Gandalf flies in with eagles to rescue the Hobbits, who awaken in Minas Tirith and are reunited with the surviving Fellowship. Aragorn is crowned King of Gondor and takes Arwen as his queen. The Hobbits return home to the Shire, where Sam marries Rosie Cotton. A few years later, Frodo departs Middle-earth for the Undying Lands with his uncle Bilbo, Gandalf, and the Elves. He leaves Sam the Red Book of Westmarch, which details their adventures. Sam returns to the Shire, where he embraces Rosie and their children.
Cast and crew
Jackson began abstract discussions on casting during the development of the scripts with Miramax. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens compiled a casting wishlist, which included Cate Blanchett for Galadriel and Ian Holm for Bilbo. Wondering whether Patrick Stewart would be right for the part of Gandalf, Philippa Boyens drew a tape of him performing opposite Ian McKellen, only to suggest the latter to Jackson. McKellen became Jackson's first choice for Gandalf. Christopher Lee sent Jackson a photograph of him in a wizard's costume, wanting to play Gandalf, but Jackson decided he would be a perfect Saruman, instead.
Miramax wanted a recognisable name for Gandalf, and suggested Max von Sydow or Paul Scofield and, wanting an American star, even mentioned Morgan Freeman. When New Line took over, they suggested Christopher Plummer or Sean Connery for the part (both declined), and put a veto against Richard Harris when his name came up. When von Sydow inquired for the part later, his agent told him they were looking for an English actor.
While casting, Jackson looked for backup options for the various parts, including Lucy Lawless and Nicole Kidman for Galadriel; Anthony Hopkins or Sylvester McCoy (eventually recast as Radagast) for Bilbo; Paul Scofield, Jeremy Irons, Malcolm McDowell or Tim Curry for Saruman. For Gandalf, they looked into Tom Baker, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Neil, Bernard Hill (who was instead cast as Theoden) and Peter O'Toole, and into several older actors who auditioned for other parts, such as Patrick McGoohan and Anthony Hopkins.
Miramax and Jackson discussed Sir Daniel Day-Lewis for Aragorn, starting "fanciful internet speculation" that Day-Lewis was approached for the part numerous times, although Jackson eventually inquired about him. Jackson cast Stuart Townsend, whom the studio deemed too young. After shooting began, Jackson agreed and decided to recast the role. They approached Viggo Mortensen, but also spoke to Russell Crowe (who auditioned for Boromir previously), as a backup choice.
Patrick McGoohan, their first choice for Denethor, proved "quite grumpy" when they met, and they instead looked into Donald Sutherland and John Rhys-Davies, and ultimately cast John Noble. Davies was recast as Gimli, instead of Billy Connolly (later cast as Dain), Robert Trebor and Timothy Spall. In conversations with Miramax, Liam Neeson's name came up for Boromir, but he declined. Daniel Craig auditioned. New Line suggested Nicolas Cage, but the filmmakers declined and cast Sean Bean.
|The Fellowship of the Ring||The Two Towers||The Return of the King|
|Producers||Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Tim SandersFOTR|
|Screenwriters||Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Stephen SinclairTT|
|Editors||John GilbertFOTR||Michael HortonTT||Jamie SelkirkROTK|
|Production designers||Dan Hennah and Grant Major|
|Conceptual designers||Alan Lee and John Howe|
|Costume designers||Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor|
|Visual effects supervisor||Jim Rygiel|
|Production companies||New Line Cinema and WingNut Films|
|Distributing company||New Line Cinema|
Previous attempts to film Tolkien's works were made by William Snyder, Peter Shaffer and John Boorman. These attempts resulted in a couple of unproduced scripts, concept art and an animated short. Other filmmakers and producers to have had an interest in adapting Tolkien are said to include Walt Disney, Al Brodax, Forrest Ackerman, Denis O'Dell (who considered Richard Lester to direct, but instead approached David Lean, Stanley Kubrick and Michelangelo Antonioni) and George Lucas. The rights to adapt Tolkien's works passed through the hands of several studios, having been briefly leased to Rembrandt Films before being sold perpetually to United Artists. In 1976, UA passed the rights to The Lord of the Rings (and a part of the rights to The Hobbit) to Fantasy Films.
In 1977, an animated adaptation of The Hobbit was produced as a TV special by Rankin and Bass (followed in 1980 by a TV animated adaptation of The Return of the King), and in 1978 Ralph Bakshi made an animated feature of the first half of The Lord of the Rings. While profitable, the film didn't make enough money to automatically warrant the sequel which would close the story, and an argument with producer Saul Zaentz led Bakshi to abandon the project. Several other Tolkienesque fantasy films were produced at the time, including Jim Henson and Frank Oz's The Dark Crystal and Lucas's Willow.
At the time that Bakshi's film aired, a teenager Peter Jackson hadn't read the book, but "heard the name", and went to see the film: "I liked the early part – it had some quaint sequences in Hobbiton, a creepy encounter with the Black Rider on the road, and a few quite good battle scenes – but then, about half way through, the storytelling became very disjointed and disorientating and I really didn't understand what was going on. However, what it did do was to make me want to read the book – if only to find out what happened!" Jackson bought a tie-in paperback edition. He later read The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, and listened to the 1981 BBC radio adaptation. Assuming someone will one day adapt it to a live-action film, Jackson read on some previous attempts to bring the piece to the screen. He hadn't watched the Rankin and Bass TV Specials.
Pitch to Miramax
In 1995, while completing post-production on The Frighteners, Jackson and Fran Walsh discussed making an original fantasy film, but couldn't think of a scenario that wasn't Tolkien-esque, and eventually decided to look up the film rights. They went to Harvey Weinstein from Miramax, who got the rights from Saul Zaentz. Jackson knew it would take multiple films to do Tolkien justice, but initially pitched a single trilogy: one film based on The Hobbit and, if that would prove successful, two Lord of the Rings films shot back-to-back. Jackson began rereading The Hobbit, looking at illustrations and commissioning concept art from the book, but the rights eventually proved unattainable, having been split between Zaentz and United Artists. Weinstein tried to buy the studio's share of the rights, but was unsuccessful.
With The Hobbit postponed for a later prequel, Jackson proceeded with making two or more Lord of the Rings films: "We pitched the idea of three films and Miramax didn't really want to take that risk, but we agreed on two." He began writing the scripts with Walsh and Stephen Sinclair, storyboard with Christian Rivers and discussing casting ideas with the Weinsteins. Meanwhile, Weta Digital began software development for the digital effects required, and WETA Workshop were producing props and concept art. Sinclair later dropped from the project, but Jackson felt that some of his contributions survived into the finished scripts, particularly the middle film, The Two Towers, for which he is credited.
Move to New Line
However, as the scripts took shape, it became clear that the budget required would exceed Miramax's capabilities. The Weinsteins suggested cutting the project to one film. Jackson inquired whether it could be around four-hours in duration, but Miramax insisted on two hours, suggesting major cuts to the story, which Jackson refused. Harvey Weinstein threatened to replace Jackson with screenwriter Hossein Amini and directors John Madden or Quentin Tarantino. Jackson believes this was an empty threat to get him to concede to making a one-film version himself.
Harvey eventually relented to putting the project on a turnaround, but the onerous conditions were meant to prevent the project from being taken up by another studio. Jackson got an audience with New Line CEO Robert Shaye, who accepted the project, but requested that it be expanded into a trilogy. Final Cut rights were shared contractually between Jackson and Bob Shaye, but there was never any interference in Jackson's cut.
Jackson began storyboarding and screenwriting the series with Christian Rivers, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens in 1997 and assigned his crew to begin designing Middle-earth at the same time. Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens did not write each film to correspond exactly to its respective book, opting instead to write a three-part adaptation with some sequences missing, some sequences created from scratch, and some sequences moved from one area to another regardless of its placement in the books. To allow the story to be clearer for viewers, Jackson takes a more chronological approach to the story than Tolkien's complex interlacing of storylines. During shooting, the screenplays continued to evolve, in part due to contributions from cast members looking to further explore their characters.
Earlier versions of the script included additional characters like Fatty Bolger, Glorfindel, Elladan, Elrohir, Erkenbrand, Imrahil and Forlong. At one point, Jackson even considered reintroducing Tom Bombadil in a cameo. Gimli was going to swear throughout the films, and Arwen would join the Fellowship in Rohan and share a nude scene with Aragorn in the pools of the Glittering Caves.
Jackson hired long-time collaborator Richard Taylor to lead Weta Workshop on five major design elements: armour, weapons, prosthetic makeup, creatures, and miniatures. At New Line's request, animation supervisor Jim Rygiel replaced Weta Digital's Mark Stetson. In November 1997, famed Tolkien illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe joined the project; most of the imagery in the films is based on their various illustrations, but Jackson also relied on the work of Ted Nasmith, who later had to turn down an offer to join Alan and John. Jackson wanted realistic designs in the style of historical epics rather than fantasy films, citing Braveheart as an inspiration:
"It might be clearer if I described it as an historical film. Something very different to Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. Imagine something like Braveheart, but with a little of the visual magic of Legend. [...]It should have the historical authority of Braveheart, rather than the meaningless fantasy mumbo-jumbo of Willow.
Production designer Grant Major was charged with the task of converting Lee and Howe's designs into architecture, creating models of the sets, while Dan Hennah worked as art director, scouting locations and organizing the building of sets. Ngila Dickson collaborated with Richard Taylor on producing costumes, while Peter King and Peter Owen designed makeup and hair. Most of these crew members (and others) returned to work on The Hobbit.
Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie considered shooting in large-format like 65 mm film and/or to master the films at 4K, but both were cost-prohibitive and couldn't be done on New Zealand soil. They decided to shoot on fine-grain Super-35mm film and subject the films to rigorous digital grading.
Principal photography for all three films was conducted concurrently in many locations within New Zealand's conservation areas and national parks. Filming took place between 11 October 1999 and 22 December 2000. Pick-up shoots were conducted annually from 2001 to 2004. The series was shot at over 150 different locations, with seven different units shooting, as well as soundstages around Wellington and Queenstown. Along with Jackson directing the whole production, other unit directors included John Mahaffie, Geoff Murphy, Fran Walsh, Barrie M. Osborne, Rick Porras, and any other assistant director, producer, or writer available. Miniature Photography took place throughout the entire period, amounting to over 1000 shooting days.
Weta Digital developed new technologies to allow for the groundbreaking digital effects required for the trilogy, including the development of the MASSIVE software to generate intelligent crowds for battle scenes, and advancing the art of motion capture, which was used on bipedal creatures like the Cave Troll or Gollum. With Jackson's future films, motion-capture technology came to be pushed so far that it became referred to as "digital makeup", although it was later clarified that during The Lord of the Rings period, it was still fairly reliant on the CG animators.
Each film had the benefit of a full year of post-production time before its respective December release, often finishing in October–November, with the crew immediately going to work on the next film. Jackson originally wanted to edit all three films with Jamie Selkirk, but this proved too much work. The next idea was to have John Gilbert, Michael Horton and Selkirk, respectively, editing the three films simultaneously, but after a month that proved too difficult for Jackson, and the films were edited in consecutive years, although Selkirk continued to act as "Supervising Editor" on the first two entries. Daily rushes would often last up to four hours, and by the time The Fellowship of the Ring had been released, assembly cuts of the other two films (4½ hours each) were already prepared. In total, 1828 km (six million feet) of film was edited down to the 11 hours and 26 minutes (686 minutes) of extended running time.
Howard Shore composed, orchestrated, conducted, and produced the trilogy's music. Shore visited the set in 1999, and composed a version of the Shire theme and Frodo's Theme before Jackson began shooting. In August 2000 he visited the set again, and watched the assembly cuts of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King. In the music, Shore included many (85 to 110) leitmotifs to represent various characters, cultures, and places – the largest catalogue of leitmotifs in the history of cinema, surpassing – for comparison – that of the entire Star Wars film series. For example, there are multiple leitmotifs just for the hobbits and the Shire. Although the first film had some of its score recorded in Wellington, virtually all of the trilogy's score was recorded in Watford Town Hall and mixed at Abbey Road Studios. Jackson planned to advise the score for six weeks each year in London, though for The Two Towers he stayed for twelve.
The score is primarily played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, ranging from 93 to 120 players throughout the recording. London Voices, the London Oratory School Schola boy choir, and many artists such as Ben Del Maestro, Sheila Chandra, Enya, Renée Fleming, James Galway, Annie Lennox and Emilíana Torrini contributed. Even actors Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto (extended cuts only for the latter two), and Peter Jackson (for a single gong sound in the second film) contributed to the score. Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens served as librettists, writing lyrics to various music and songs, which David Salo translated into Tolkien's languages. The third film's end song, "Into the West", was a tribute to a young filmmaker Jackson and Walsh befriended named Cameron Duncan, who died of cancer in 2003.
Shore composed a main theme for the Fellowship rather than many different character themes, and its strength and weaknesses in volume are depicted at different points in the series. On top of that, individual themes were composed to represent different cultures. Infamously, the amount of music Shore had to write every day for the third film increased dramatically to around seven minutes. The music for the series has been voted best movie soundtrack of all time for the six years running, passing Schindler's List (1993), Gladiator (2000), Star Wars (1977), and Out of Africa (1985) respectively.
|Title||U.S. release date||Length||Composer||Label|
|The Fellowship of the Ring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack||20 November 2001||71:29||Howard Shore||Reprise Records|
|The Two Towers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack||10 December 2002||72:46|
|The Return of the King: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack||25 November 2003||72:05|
The trilogy's online promotional trailer was first released on 27 April 2000, and set a new record for download hits, registering 1.7 million hits in the first 24 hours of its release. The trailer used a selection from the soundtrack for Braveheart and The Shawshank Redemption among other cuts. In 2001, 24 minutes of footage from the series, primarily the Moria sequence, was shown at the 54th Cannes Film Festival, and was very well received. The showing also included an area designed to look like Middle-earth.
The Fellowship of the Ring was released on 19 December 2001. It grossed $47.2 million in its U.S. opening weekend and made over $897 million worldwide. A preview of The Two Towers was inserted just before the end credits near the end of the film's theatrical run. A promotional trailer was later released, containing music re-scored from the film Requiem for a Dream. The Two Towers was released 18 December 2002. It grossed $62 million in its first U.S. weekend and out-grossed its predecessor with over $947 million worldwide. The promotional trailer for The Return of the King was debuted exclusively before the New Line Cinema film Secondhand Lions on 23 September 2003. Released 17 December 2003, its first U.S. weekend gross was $72.6 million, and became the second film, after Titanic (1997), to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
|Film||U.S. release date||Box office gross||All-time ranking||Budget||Ref(s)|
|U.S. and Canada||Other territories||Worldwide||U.S. and Canada||Worldwide|
|The Fellowship of the Ring||19 December 2001||$315,710,750||$581,979,322||$897,690,072||78||9||64||5||$93 million|
|The Two Towers||18 December 2002||$342,551,365||$604,943,730||$947,495,095||57||7||56||4||$94 million|
|The Return of the King||17 December 2003||$377,845,905||$768,185,007||$1,146,030,912||45||6||24||2||$94 million|
Critical and public response
The Lord of the Rings trilogy received widespread acclaim and is ranked among the greatest film trilogies ever made. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "the trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal", while Todd McCarthy of Variety described the films as "one of the most ambitious and phenomenally successful dream projects of all time". The Fellowship of the Ring was voted the greatest fantasy movie of all time in a reader's poll conducted by American magazine Wired in 2012, while The Two Towers and The Return of the King placed fourth and third respectively.
The series appears in the Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association: Top 10 Films, Time's All-Time 100 Movies, and James Berardinelli's Top 100. In 2007, USA Today named the series as the most important films of the past 25 years. Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Bringing a cherished book to the big screen? No sweat. Peter Jackson's trilogy — or, as we like to call it, our preciousssss — exerted its irresistible pull, on advanced Elvish speakers and neophytes alike." Paste named it one of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000–2009), ranking it at No. 4. In another Time magazine list, the series ranks second in "Best Movies of the Decade". In addition, six characters and their respective actors made the list of 'The 100 Greatest Movie Characters', also compiled by Empire, with Viggo Mortensen's portrayal of Aragorn ranking No. 15, Ian McKellen's portrayal of Gandalf ranking No. 30, Ian Holm's portrayal of Bilbo Baggins (shared with Martin Freeman for his portrayal of the same character in The Hobbit films) ranking No. 61, Andy Serkis' portrayal of Gollum ranking No. 66, Sean Astin's portrayal of Samwise Gamgee ranking No. 77, and Orlando Bloom's portrayal of Legolas ranking No. 94.
|The Fellowship of the Ring||91% (8.20/10 average rating) (235 reviews)||92/100 (34 reviews)||A−|
|The Two Towers||95% (8.50/10 average rating) (255 reviews)||87/100 (39 reviews)||A|
|The Return of the King||93% (8.70/10 average rating) (275 reviews)||94/100 (41 reviews)||A+|
The series drew acclaim from within the industry, including from the film directors Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and George Lucas. John Boorman, who once wrote a script for a Lord of the Rings film, said he was happy his own version was unmade as Jackson's films was "of such scope and magnitude that it can only be compared to the building of the great Gothic cathedrals." Forrest J. Ackerman, who once presented a film treatment to Tolkien, and appeared on Jackson's Bad Taste said his pitch "could never have been given the grand treatment that Peter Jackson afforded it." Arthur Rankin said Jackson was making "marvellous films."
However, some filmmakers were more critical. Heinz Edelmann, who pitched the idea of an animated feature when United Artists considered shooting the films with the Beatles, thought it was "badly directed." Ralph Bakshi, who made an animated film based on the first half of the trilogy, didn't watch the films, but was told that Jackson's film was derivative of his. Ahead of the films' release, he said he did not "understand it" but that he does "wish it to be a good movie." Later, he begruged Saul Zaentz for not notifying him of the live-action film, and said that Jackson had his film to study and therefore had "a little easier time than I did." Afterwards, he grumbled that Jackson "didn't understand" Tolkien and created "special effects garbage" to sell toys, as well as being derivative of his own film. Bakshi further blamed Jackson for not acknowledging the influence that the animated film had on him, saying (falsely) that he denied having seen Bakshi's film at all until being forced to mention him, at which point (according to Bakshi) he mentioned Bakshi's influence "only once" as "PR bolony." However, he did praise Jackson's special effects and, in 2015, even apologized for some of his remarks. Bakshi's animator Mike Ploog and writer Peter Beagle both praised the live-action film.
The three films together were nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, of which they won 17, both records for any movie trilogy. The Fellowship of the Ring earned 13 nominations, the most of any film at the 74th Academy Awards, winning four; The Two Towers won two awards from six nominations at the 75th Academy Awards; The Return of the King won in every category in which it was nominated at the 76th Academy Awards, setting the current Oscar record for the highest clean sweep, and its 11 Academy Awards wins ties the record held by Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997). The Return of the King also became only the second sequel to win the Oscar for Best Picture after The Godfather Part II (1974).
Additionally, members of the production crew won the Academy Award for Technical Achievement for the rendering of skin textures on creatures on The Return of the King, and Stephen Regelous won the Academy Award for Scientific and Engineering Award for the design and development of MASSIVE, "the autonomous agent animation system used for the battle sequences in The Lord of the Rings trilogy."
|74th Academy Awards||75th Academy Awards||76th Academy Awards|
|The Fellowship of the Ring||The Two Towers||The Return of the King|
Each film in the series won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the MTV Movie Award for Movie of the Year, and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film. The first and third films also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film. The New York Film Critics Circle awarded The Return of the King its Best Picture Award at the 2003 Awards Ceremony, hosted by Andrew Johnston, chair of the organization at that time, who called it "a masterful piece of filmmaking."
Comparisons with the written work
Commentators have compared Jackson's film trilogy with Tolkien's written work, remarking that while both have been extremely successful commercially, they differ in many respects. Critics have admired Jackson's ability to film the long and complex work at all; the beauty of the cinematography, sets, and costumes; and the epic scale of his version of Tolkien's story. They have however found the characters and the story greatly weakened by Jackson's emphasis on action and violence at the expense of psychological depth; the loss of Tolkien's emphasis on free will and individual responsibility; and the replacement of Frodo's inner journey by an American monomyth with Aragorn as the hero.
As for whether the film trilogy is faithful to the novel, opinions range from Verlyn Flieger's feeling that a film adaptation is not even worth attempting, Wayne G. Hammond's opinion that the film sacrifices the book's richness of characterization and narrative for violence, thrills, and cheap humour, or Christopher Tolkien's view that Jackson's interpretation is unacceptable, to granting, with Jackson and Boyens, that the film version is inevitably different. From that standpoint, critics such as Brian Rosebury and Tom Shippey have described the films as a partial success, giving some of the feeling and capturing some of the key themes of the novel. Yvette Kisor considers that Jackson was unfaithful to many of Tolkien's details, but succeeded in achieving something of the same impact and feelings of providence, eucatastrophe, and interconnectedness. Dimitra Fimi suggests that Jackson was continuing Tolkien's tradition of adapting folklore, incorporating both the fans' views on that folklore and cinematic traditions such as the zombie in the film trilogy to produce its own modern folklore.
The first two films were released on two-disc standard edition DVDs containing previews of the following film. The success of the theatrical cuts brought about four-disc extended editions, with new editing, added special effects and music. Jackson came up with the idea of an extended cut for LaserDisc and DVD formats while in preproduction. He could insert some of the violence that he thought he would have to trim to get a PG-13 rating for the theatre, and he could tailor the pacing to the demands of the small-screen, which he said were "completely different". He observed that the extended cuts will be "ultimately seen as the more definitive versions of the films".
The extended cuts of the films and the supplemental special features (labelled "Appendices" as an homage to the books) were spread over two discs each, and a limited collector's edition was also released. The Fellowship of the Ring was released on 12 November 2002, containing 30 minutes more footage, an Alan Lee painting of the Fellowship entering Moria, and the Moria Gate on the back of the sleeve; an Argonath-styled bookend was included with the Collector's Edition. The Two Towers, released on 18 November 2003, contained 46 minutes extra footage and a Lee painting of Gandalf the White's entrance; the Collector's Edition contained a Sméagol statue, with a crueller-looking statue of his Gollum persona available to order for a limited time. The Return of the King was released on 14 December 2004, having 52 minutes more footage, a Lee painting of the Grey Havens and a model of Minas Tirith for the Collector's Edition, with Minas Morgul available by order for a limited time. The Special Extended DVD Editions also had in-sleeve maps of the Fellowship's travels. They have also played at cinemas, most notably for a 16 December 2003 marathon screening (dubbed "Trilogy Tuesday") culminating in a late afternoon screening of the third film. Attendees of "Trilogy Tuesday" were given a limited edition keepsake from Sideshow Collectibles containing a random frame of film from each of the three movies. Both versions were put together in a Limited Edition "branching" version, plus a new feature-length documentary by Costa Botes. The complete series was released in a six-disc set on 14 November 2006.
Warner Bros. released the trilogy's theatrical versions on Blu-ray in a boxed set on 6 April 2010. An extended edition Blu-ray box set was released on 28 June 2011. Each film's extended Blu-ray version is identical to the extended DVD version. In 2014, Blu-ray steelbook editions of the five-disc Extended Editions were released. The first, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released on 24 March 2014. The discs are identical to those found in the previous five-disc Blu-ray set. The Blu-ray releases were criticized for colour timing issues which degraded the look of the films.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released in Ultra HD Blu-ray in 2020, featuring both the theatrical and extended editions of the films. The films, along with those of The Hobbit trilogy, were remastered to give all six films a more consistent colour treatment. Jackson explained that visual effects shots were improved for this release by "[removing] and [painting] out any imperfections," but that they had not been "[upgraded] or [enhanced]". An audio remastering was made as well.
As of 2017[update], The Lord of the Rings films had a home media revenue of more than $2.4 billion.
|Film||Theatrical edition length||Extended edition length|
|The Fellowship of the Ring||178 minutes (2 hr, 58 min)||208 minutes (3 hr, 28 min)|
|The Two Towers||179 minutes (2 hr, 59 min)||226 minutes (3 hr, 46 min)|
|The Return of the King||201 minutes (3 hr, 21 min)||252 minutes (4 hr, 12 min)|
|Total runtime||558 minutes (9 hr, 18 min)||686 minutes (11 hr, 26 min)|
The release of the films saw a surge of interest in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other works, vastly increasing his impact on popular culture. The success of the films spawned numerous video games and many other kinds of merchandise.
On 31 May 2020, through his YouTube channel, actor Josh Gad aired a virtual cast reunion via Zoom as the fourth episode of the web series Reunited Apart, a charity fundraising effort during the COVID-19 pandemic, with The Lord of the Rings reunion supporting Share Our Strength's campaign called "No Kid Hungry". A large part of the original cast participated, including Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban, and Elijah Wood. In addition to the cast, director Peter Jackson, screenwriter Philippa Boyens and composer Howard Shore were also present. Furthermore, filmmaker Taika Waititi and castmate Bernard Hill also made an appearance. On 2 June 2020, Josh Gad announced that the charity had raised over $100,000.
Effects on the film industry and tourism
As a result of the series' success, Peter Jackson has become a major figure in the film industry in the mould of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, in the process befriending some industry heavyweights like Bryan Singer and Frank Darabont. Jackson has since founded his own film production company, Wingnut Films, as well as Wingnut Interactive, a video game company. He was also finally given a chance to remake King Kong in 2005. The film was a critical and box office success, although not as successful as the Lord of the Rings series. Jackson has been called a "favourite son" of New Zealand. In 2004, Howard Shore toured with The Lord of the Rings Symphony, playing two hours of the score. Along with the Harry Potter films, the series has renewed interest in the fantasy film genre. Tourism in New Zealand is up, possibly due to its exposure in the series, with the country's tourism industry waking up to an audience's familiarity.
In 2002 the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington created a travelling exhibition of the film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: The Exhibition. It visited cities around the world including Boston, London, Sydney, Singapore and Houston.
The Lord of the Rings left a legacy of court cases over profits from the trilogy. Sixteen cast members (Noel Appleby, Jed Brophy, Mark Ferguson, Ray Henwood, Bruce Hopkins, William Johnson, Nathaniel Lees, Sarah McLeod, Ian Mune, Paul Norell, Craig Parker, Robert Pollock, Martyn Sanderson, Peter Tait, and Stephen Ure) sued over the lack of revenue from merchandise bearing their appearance. The case was resolved out of court in 2008. The settlement came too late for Appleby, who died of cancer in 2007. Saul Zaentz also filed a lawsuit in 2004 claiming he had not been paid all of his royalties.
The next year, Jackson himself sued the studio over profits from the first film, slowing development of the Hobbit prequels until late 2007. The Tolkien Trust filed a lawsuit in February 2008, for violating Tolkien's original deal over the rights that they would earn 7.5% of the gross from any films based on his works. The Trust sought compensation of $150 million. A judge denied them this option, but allowed them to win compensation from the act of the studio ignoring the contract itself. On 8 September 2009, the dispute was settled.
Numerous video games were released to supplement the film series. They include: The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Third Age, The Third Age (GBA), Tactics, The Battle for Middle-earth, The Battle for Middle-earth II, The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king, The Lord of the Rings Online, Conquest, Aragorn's Quest, War in the North, Lego The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of Middle-earth, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and pinball.
The Hobbit prequel trilogy
The success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy led to Jackson directing a trilogy of prequels based on Tolkien's children's book The Hobbit. The films, which were released between 2012 and 2014, used much of the cast of The Lord of the Rings, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom who reprised their roles. Most of the crew returned, as well, with Jackson directing, him and Walsh producing and Boyens co-writing. Ngila Dickson, Grant Major, Jim Rygiel and Ethan Van der Ryn dropped out from costume design, production design, animation and sound editing respectively, but were succeeded by their Lord of the Rings colleagues, Richard Taylor, Dan Hennah, Joe Letteri and Brent Burge. The only complete changes in the staff involved the change of gaffer, after Brian Bansgrove died between the trilogies, and stunt coordinator Glen Boswall replaced George Marshall Ruge who worked on Rings.
Although the Hobbit trilogy was commercially successful, it received mixed reviews from critics. However, the films did manage to add another seven Academy Award nominations to the series' tally, to an overall 37, and another win for the Scientific and Engineering Award, resulting in the most nominations and wins for a six-part series.
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