- "The trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal."
- —Kenneth Turan
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is comprised of three live action fantasy epic films; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). For simplicity, the titles are sometimes abbreviated to 'LOTR', with 'FotR', 'TTT', and 'RotK' for each of the respective films.
Set in Middle-earth, the three films follow the young Hobbit Frodo Baggins as he and the Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, to ensure the destruction of the Dark Lord Sauron. But the Fellowship breaks, and Frodo continues the quest together with his loyal companion Sam and the treacherous Gollum. Meanwhile the Wizard Gandalf and Aragorn, heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, unite and rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth in several battles culminating in the War of the Ring.
The movies were directed by Peter Jackson and released by New Line Cinema. The trilogy is based on the book The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien and follows its general storyline, despite some deviations. Considered to be one of the biggest movie projects ever undertaken with an overall budget of $280 million, the entire project took eight years, with the filming for all three films done simultaneously and entirely in Jackson's native New Zealand.
The trilogy was among the highest-grossing films of all time, unadjusted for inflation. They are critically acclaimed, winning 17 Academy Awards in total, as well as wide praise for the cast and innovative practical and digital special effects. Each film in the trilogy also had Special Extended Editions, released a year after the theatrical release on DVD.
Conception & development
Director Peter Jackson first came into contact with The Lord of the Rings when he saw Ralph Bakshi's 1978 film, which he found confusing. Afterwards, he read a tie-in edition of the book during a twelve-hour train journey from Wellington to Auckland when he was seventeen. Jackson's reaction was, "I can't wait until somebody makes a movie of this book because I'd like to see it!"
In 1995, Jackson was finishing The Frighteners and considered The Lord of the Rings as a new project, wondering "why nobody else seemed to be doing anything about it". With the new developments in computer generated imagery following Jurassic Park, Jackson set about planning a fantasy film that would be relatively serious and feel "real". By October, he and his partner Fran Walsh teamed up with Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein to negotiate with Saul Zaentz who had held the rights to the book since the early 1970s, pitching an adaptation of The Hobbit and two films based on The Lord of the Rings. Negotiations then stalled when Universal Studios offered Jackson a remake of King Kong. Weinstein was furious, and further problems arose when it turned out Zaentz did not have distribution rights to The Hobbit; United Artists, which was in the market, did. By April 1996 the rights question was still not resolved. Jackson decided to move ahead with King Kong before filming The Lord of the Rings, prompting Universal to enter a deal with Miramax to receive foreign earnings from The Lord of the Rings whilst Miramax received foreign earnings from King Kong.
When Universal cancelled King Kong in 1997, Jackson and Walsh immediately received support from Weinstein and began a six-week process of sorting out the rights. Jackson and Walsh asked Costa Botes to write a synopsis of the book and they began to re-read the book. Two to three months later, they had written their treatment. The first film would have dealt with what would become The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and the beginning of The Return of the King, ending with the death of Saruman, and Gandalf and Pippin going to Minas Tirith. In this treatment Gwaihir and Gandalf visit Edoras after escaping Saruman, Gollum attacks Frodo when the Fellowship is still united, and Farmer Maggot, Glorfindel, Radagast, Elladan and Elrohir are present. Bilbo attends the Council of Elrond, Sam looks into Galadriel's mirror, Saruman is redeemed before he dies and the Nazgûl just make it into Mount Doom before they fall. They presented their treatment to Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the latter of whom they focused on impressing with their screenwriting as he had not read the book. They agreed upon two films and a total budget of $75 million.
During mid-1997, Jackson and Walsh began writing with Stephen Sinclair. Sinclair's partner, Philippa Boyens, was a major fan of the book and joined the writing team after reading their treatment. It took 13–14 months to write the two film scripts, which were 147 and 144 pages respectively. Sinclair left the project due to theatrical obligations. Amongst their revisions, Sam, Merry and Pippin are caught eavesdropping and forced to go along with Frodo. Gandalf's account of his time at Orthanc was pulled out of flashback and Lothlórien was cut with Galadriel attending the Council of Elrond. Denethor, Boromir's father, also attends the Council, and other changes included having Arwen rescue Frodo, and the action sequence involving the cave troll. Arwen was even going to kill the Witch-king. Most significantly, there was an all-new sequence. A Ringwraith kills Saruman and attacks Gandalf at Orthanc. Seeing this from the Seeing Seat, now at Emyn Muil rather than Amon Hen, Frodo puts on the Ring and draws him all the way to the Seat on his Fell beast. Frodo manages to save Sam and stabs the wraith in his heart.
Trouble struck when Marty Katz was sent to New Zealand. Spending four months there, he told Miramax that the films were more likely to cost $150 million, and with Miramax unable to finance this, and with $15 million already spent, they decided to merge the two films into one. On June 17, 1998, Bob Weinstein presented a treatment of a single two-hour film version of the book. He suggested cutting Bree and the Battle of Helm's Deep, "losing or using" Saruman, merging Rohan and Gondor with Éowyn as Boromir's sister, shortening Rivendell and Moria as well as having Ents prevent the Uruk-hai kidnapping Merry and Pippin. Upset by the idea of "cutting out half the good stuff" Jackson balked, and Miramax declared that any script or Weta Workshop's work was theirs. Jackson went around Hollywood for four weeks, showing a thirty-five minute video of their work, before meeting with Mark Ordesky of New Line Cinema. At New Line Cinema, Robert Shaye viewed the video, and then asked why they were making two films when the book was published as three volumes; he wanted to make a film trilogy. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens then had to write three new scripts.
The expansion to three films allowed a lot more creative freedom, and Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens had to restructure their script accordingly. Each film is not exactly based on each volume of the book, but rather they represent a three-part adaptation, as Jackson takes a more chronological approach to the story, whilst Tolkien retold chunks of his fictional history. Frodo's quest is the main focus, and Aragorn is the main subplot, and many sequences (such as Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire) that do not contribute directly to those two plots were left out. Much effort was put into creating satisfactory conclusions and making sure exposition did not bog down the pacing. Amongst new sequences, there are also expansions on elements Tolkien kept ambiguous, such as the battles and the creatures.
Above all, most characters were altered for extra drama. Aragorn, Théoden, and Treebeard have added or modified elements of self-doubt, whilst Galadriel, Elrond and Faramir have been darkened. Boromir and Gollum are (arguably) relatively more sympathetic, whilst some characters such as Legolas, Gimli, Saruman and Denethor have been simplified. Some characters, such as Arwen and Éomer, are given actions originally of minor characters such as Glorfindel and Erkenbrand, and generally lines of dialogue were somewhat preserved or switched around between locations or characters depending on suitability of the scenes. New scenes were also added to expand on characterization. In the meantime, during shooting, the screenplays would undergo many daily transformations, due to contributions from cast looking to further explore their characters. Most notable amongst these rewrites was the character Arwen.
Jackson began storyboarding the trilogy with Christian Rivers in August 1997 and assigned his crew to begin designing Middle-earth at the same time. Jackson hired longtime collaborator Richard Taylor to lead Weta Workshop on five major design elements: armour, weapons, prosthetics/make-up, creatures and miniatures. 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. Grant Major was charged with the task of converting Lee and Howe's designs into architecture, creating models of the sets, whilst Dan Hennah worked as art director, scouting locations and organizing the building of sets.
Jackson's vision of Middle-earth was described as being "Ray Harryhausen meets David Lean" by Randy Cook. Jackson wanted a gritty realism and historical regard for the fantasy, and attempted to make the world rational and believable. For example, the New Zealand army helped build Hobbiton months before filming began so the plants could really grow. Creatures were designed to be biologically believable, such as the enormous wings of the Fell beast to help it fly. In total, Weta Workshop created 48,000 pieces of armour, 500 bows and 10,000 arrows. They also created many prosthetics, such as 1800 pairs of Hobbit feet for the lead actors, as well as many ears, noses and heads for the cast, and around 19,000 costumes were woven and aged. Every prop was specially designed by the Art Department, taking the different scales into account.
Principal photography for all three films was conducted concurrently in New Zealand from October 11, 1999 through to December 22, 2000 for 274 days. Pick-up shoots were conducted annually from 2001 to 2004. The trilogy was shot at over 150 different locations, with seven different units shooting, as well as sound-stages around Wellington and Queenstown. As well as Jackson directing the whole production, other unit directors included John Mahaffie, Geoff Murphy, Fran Walsh, Barrie Osborne, Rick Porras and any other assistant director, producer or writer available. Jackson monitored these units with live satellite feeds, and with the added pressure of constant script re-writes and the multiple units interpreting his envisioned result, he only got around four hours of sleep a night. Due to the remoteness of some of New Zealand's untamed landscapes, the crew would also bring survival kits in case helicopters couldn't reach the location to bring them home in time.
The first film has around 540 effects shots, the second 799, and the third 1488 (2730 in total). The total increases to 3420 with the extended editions. 260 visual effects artists began work on the trilogy, and the number doubled by The Two Towers. The crew, led by Jim Rygiel and Randy Cook, worked long and hard hours, often overnight, to produce special effects within a short space of time. Jackson's overactive imagination was a driving force. For example, several major shots of Helm's Deep were produced within the last six weeks of post-production of The Two Towers, and the same happened again within the last six weeks on The Return of the King.
Post-production would have the benefit for a full year on each film before their respective December releases, often finishing in October–November, with the crew immediately going to work on the next film. Later on, Jackson would move to London to advise the score and continued editing, whilst having a computer feed for discussions to The Dorchester Hotel, and a "fat pipe" of internet connections from Pinewood Studios to look at the special effects. He had a Polycom video link and 5.1 surround sound to organise meetings, and listen to new music and sound effects generally wherever he was. The extended editions also had a tight schedule at the start of each year to complete special effects and music.
To avoid pressure, Jackson hired a different editor for each film. John Gilbert worked on the first film, Mike Horton and Jabez Olssen on the second and longtime Jackson collaborators Jamie Selkirk and Annie Collins on the third. Daily rushes would often last up to four hours, with scenes being done throughout 1999–2002 for the rough (4 1/2 hours) assemblies of the films. In total, six million feet of film (over 1,800 km) was edited down to the 11 hours and 23 minutes (683 minutes) of Extended DVD running time. This was the final area of shaping of the films, when Jackson realised that sometimes the best scripting could be redundant on screen, as he picked apart scenes every day from multiple takes.
Editing on the first film was relatively easygoing, with Jackson coming up with the concept of an Extended Edition later on, although after a screening to New Line they had to re-edit the beginning for a prologue. The Two Towers was always acknowledged by the crew as the most difficult film to make, as "it had no beginning or end", and had the additional problem of inter-cutting storylines appropriately. Jackson even continued editing the film when that part of the schedule officially ended, resulting in some scenes, including the reforging of Andúril, Gollum's back-story, and Saruman's demise, being moved to The Return of the King. Later, Saruman's demise was controversially cut from the cinema edition (but included in the extended edition) when Jackson felt it was not starting the third film effectively enough. As with all parts of the third film's post-production, editing was very chaotic. The first time Jackson actually saw the completed film was at the Wellington premiere.
Many filmed scenes remain unused, not included even in the Extended Editions. The main reason they weren't included was because they tended to change the plot from Tolkien's original storyline, therefore being unfaithful to the books.
- Additional footage from the Battle of the Last Alliance in the FotR Prologue.
- Famous footage of Arwen at Helm's Deep, cut by Jackson during a revision to the film's plot. Foreshadowing this sequence were scenes where Arwen and Elrond visit Galadriel at Lothlórien (seen in The Two Towers teaser trailer). The scene was edited down to a telepathic communication between Elrond and Galadriel.
- A line of dialogue during the death of Saruman, in which he reveals that Wormtongue poisoned Théodred, giving further context as to why Wormtongue kills Saruman and Legolas in turn kills Wormtongue.
- Further epilogue footage, including that of Legolas and Gimli, as well as Éowyn and Faramir's wedding and Aragorn's death and funeral.
- Faramir having a vision of Frodo becoming like Gollum.
- Dialogue from the Council of Elrond, such as Gandalf explaining how Sauron forged the One Ring.
- An unknown scene displayed in The Two Towers preview of Éomer lowering a spear while riding his horse.
- Éowyn defending the refugees in the Glittering Caves from Uruk-hai intruders.
- An obscure shot from the trailers of two Elven girls playing about in Rivendell.
- A conversation between Elrond and Arwen on a bridge in Rivendell, after Arwen decides to wait for Aragorn. Elrond leaves saying "I cannot protect you anymore."
- Sauron fighting Aragorn at the Black Gate. A computer-generated Troll was placed over Sauron due to Jackson feeling the scene was inappropriate. Sauron is also seen in a beautiful form as Annatar, giver of gifts.
- Also at the Black Gate sequence, Pippin was seen in the trailer holding a wounded Merry, a scene which takes place after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields upon Pippin discovering Merry under the Oliphaunt.
- More Arwen footage, including a flashback scene of her first meeting with a beardless Aragorn (seen in the Two Towers teaser).
- Aragorn having his armour fitted during the preparations for the Battle of the Black Gate. This was the final scene filmed during principal photography.
- An attack by Moria Orcs on Lothlórien. Jackson replaced this with a more suspenseful entrance for the Fellowship.
Peter Jackson has stated that he would like to include some of these unused scenes in a future 'Ultimate Edition' home video release (probably High Definition) of the film trilogy. They will not be re-inserted into the movies but available for viewing separately. This edition will also include outtakes.
Howard Shore composed the trilogy's soundtrack. He was hired in August 2000 and visited the set, and watched the assembly cuts of films 1 and 3. Although the first film had some of its score done in Wellington, the trilogy's score was mostly recorded in Watford Town Hall and mixed at Abbey Road Studios. Jackson planned to advise the score for six weeks each year in London, although for The Two Towers he stayed for twelve.
The soundtrack is primarily played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and many soloists such as Ben Del Maestro, Enya, Elizabeth Fraser, Renee Fleming, Sir James Galway and Annie Lennox 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 also wrote the 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 trilogy. 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.
Sound technicians spent the early part of the year trying to find the right sounds: animal sounds like tigers and walruses were bought. Sometimes human voices were used, such as Fran Walsh as the Nazgûl scream and David Farmer as some Warg howls. Some sounds were unexpected: a donkey screech is the Fell Beast, and the mûmakil roar comes from the beginning and end of a lion. In addition, there was ADR for most of the dialogue.
The technicians worked with New Zealand locals to get many of the sounds. They re-recorded sounds in abandoned tunnels for an echo-like effect in the Moria sequence. 10,000 New Zealand cricket fans provided the sound of the Uruk-hai army in The Two Towers, with Jackson acting as conductor during a single cricket break. They spent time recording sounds in a graveyard at night, and also had construction workers drop stone blocks for the sounds of boulders firing and landing in The Return of the King. Mixing generally took place between August and November at "The Film Mix", before Jackson commissioned building a new studio in 2003. Annoyingly, the building wasn't fully completed as they started mixing for The Return of the King.
- Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
- Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
- Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey/White
- Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee
- Orlando Bloom as Legolas
- John Rhys-Davies as Gimli & voices Treebeard
- Dominic Monaghan as Merry
- Billy Boyd as Pippin
- Sean Bean as Boromir
- David Wenham as Faramir
- Liv Tyler as Arwen
- Andy Serkis as Sméagol and voice and motion-capture movements of Gollum
- Christopher Lee as Saruman
- Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
- Bernard Hill as Théoden
- Miranda Otto as Éowyn
- Karl Urban as Éomer
- Hugo Weaving as Elrond
- John Noble as Denethor
- Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
- Marton Csokas as Celeborn
- Craig Parker as Haldir
- Brad Dourif as Wormtongue
- Nathaniel Lees as Uglúk
- Lawrence Makoare as Lurtz/Witch-king of Angmar/Gothmog (Lieutenant of Morgul)
- Paul Norell as the King of the Dead
- Bruce Spence as the Mouth of Sauron
- Joel Tobeck as Guritz
- Sala Baker as Sauron
- Jed Brophy as Sharku/Snaga
- Harry Sinclair as Isildur
- Sarah McLeod as Rosie Cotton
- Bruce Allpress as Aldor
- Bruce Hopkins as Gamling
- John Bach as Madril
- Alexandra Astin as Elanor Gamgee
- Alistair Browning as Damrod
- Thomas Robins as Deagol
- Ian Hughes as Irolas
- Sadwyn Brophy as Eldarion
- Bret McKenzie as Figwit
- Peter McKenzie as Elendil
- Mark Ferguson as Gil-galad
The online promotional trailer for the trilogy was first released on April 27, 2000 and shattered records 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 trilogy, primarily the Moria sequence, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and were very well received. The showing also included an area designed to look like Middle-earth.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released December 19, 2001. It grossed $47 million in its U.S. opening weekend and made around $871 million worldwide. A preview of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was attached at the end of the cinema release for the film.
A promotional trailer was later released. The trailer contained some music re-scored from the film Requiem for a Dream. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was released December 18, 2002. It grossed $62 million in its first U.S. weekend and out-grossed its predecessor, grossing $926 million worldwide.
The promotional trailer for The Return of the King was debuted exclusively before the New Line Cinema film Secondhand Lions on September 23, 2003. Released December 17 2003, its first U.S. weekend gross was $72 million, and became the second film (after Titanic) to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
Each film was at first released as standard two-disc editions containing previews of the next film. The success of these theatrical cuts brought about four-disc Special Extended Editions, with new editing, added special effects, scenes, and music. The two additional discs accompanying each movie contain an exhaustive documentary series about the making of the films; the six parts total are organized as "From Book to Vision", "From Vision to Reality", "The Journey Continues", "The Battle for Middle-earth Begins", "The War of the Ring", and "The Passing of an Age". The documentaries within were directed by Michael Pellerin.
The extended editions were issued as follows:
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, November 12, 2002 - Containing 30 minutes more footage, in a green sleeve. It contains an Alan Lee painting of the Fellowship entering Moria, and the Moria Gate on the back of the sleeve. An Argonath-styled bookend was issued within a Collector's Edition.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, November 18, 2003 - It contains 42 minutes more footage. A Rohirrim sun symbol decorates the back of its red sleeve and a Lee painting of Gandalf the White's entrance. The Collector's Edition contained a Sméagol statue, with a crueler looking statue of his Gollum persona available for order during a limited time.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, December 14, 2004 - It has 50 minutes more footage, and a blue sleeve with the White Tree of Gondor. The painting by Alan Lee is of the Grey Havens. The Collector's Edition included a model of Minas Tirith, with Minas Morgul available for order during a limited time.
- A "Trilogy Supertrailer" appears in many places, such as the Special Features of The Return of the King and Movieweb.
The Special Extended DVD Editions also has in-sleeve maps of the Fellowship's travels. They have also played at movie theaters, most notably for a December 16 2003 marathon screening culminating in a midnight screening of the third film.
On August 29, 2006 both versions were put together in a Limited Edition "branching" version, plus a new feature-length documentary by Costa Botes. The complete trilogy was released in a 6-disc set on November 14, 2006.
The six-year task of conceptualizing Middle-earth and producing the films led to a great number of published film guides, covering many facets:
- Guide to the film-making, by Brian Sibley: The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy
- General film-plot guides by Jude Fisher: The Fellowship of the Ring Visual Companion, The Two Towers Visual Companion, and The Return of the King Visual Companion
- Guide to weapons, artifacts, and cultures depicted, by Chris Smith: The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare
- Guides to all art direction and design (sketches, sculptures, etc.) by Gary Russell: The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Art of The Two Towers, and The Art of The Return of the King (2001 - 2003)
- "Location Guidebook" by Ian Brodie, a photo-book of the film sets
- Guide to the creation of Howard Shore's soundtrack, by Doug Adams: The Music of The Lord of the Rings Films (2010)
- Exhaustive guide to the film-making, post-Hobbit trilogy, by Daniel Falconer: Middle-earth - From Script to Screen (2017)
- Biography of Peter Jackson by Brian Sibley: Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey (2006)
- Biography of Peter Jackson, post-Hobbit trilogy, by Ian Nathan: Anything You Can Imagine (2017)
Public and critical response
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is verified to be the currently highest grossing motion picture trilogy worldwide of all time, besting such other film franchises as the two Star Wars Trilogies and The Godfather. The films also tied a record for the total number of Academy Awards won.
The majority of critics have also praised the trilogy, with Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times writing that "the trilogy will not soon, if ever, find its equal". In particular, performances from Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill, Viggo Mortensen and Miranda Otto stood out for many in audience polls, although the entire cast was well praised and won awards of Best Acting Ensemble. The special effects for the battles and Gollum were also praised. Overall, the films received a positive 93% critics rating on rottentomatoes.com, (91% for TFotR, 95% for TTT, 93% for TRotK) a consensus amongst film critics.
The trilogy appears in many "Top 10" film lists, such as the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association's Top 10 Films, Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Movies, James Berardinelli's Top 100, and The Screen Directory's "Top Ten Films of All Time" (considering the trilogy as "one epic film split into three parts"). In 2007, USA Today named the trilogy as the most important films of the past 25 years.
In 2006, all the three films were in the Top 10 of IMDb's famous Top 250 list. As of September 3, 2007, RotK stood in the 10th place, FotR in the 17th place and TTT in the 25th place, a consensus amongst voters. The trilogy is constantly increasing and decreasing its rating due to the many voters, and is the only movie trilogy in the site that has all its three movies in the Top 25 of the list (this feat has since been matched only by Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy), a firm display of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy's popularity and reputation as the best trilogy of all time. FotR is the third most voted movie on IMDb (only after The Shawshank Redemption and The Dark Knight ), with an average of 814,515 votes as of December 16, 2013. RotK and TTT, respectively, follow closely after.
Overall, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is well praised and considered by many the best trilogy of all time and the best movie (considering the trilogy as a whole unique epic) of the Twenty-First Century.
Comparison of worldwide box office figures
The following movies were all released with but a few years of each other:
- The Lord of the Rings film trilogy: $2.993 billion
- Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (as of July 17, 2007): $2.650 billion
- Spider-Man trilogy: $2.488 billion
- Star Wars: Episodes I, II, and III: $2.315 billion.
Facts and figures about the trilogy
- Amount of film shot during production: Over 6 million feet (over 1,800 kilometers)
- Swords, axes, shields and makeup prosthetics created: 48,000
- Background actors cast: 20,602
- Costumes produced by the wardrobe department: 19,000
- New Zealand cricket fans enlisted to create the Orc army's grunts: 10,000
- Behind-the-scenes crew members: 2,400 at the height of production
- Pairs of prosthetic Hobbit feet created: 1,600
- Most real horses in one scene: 250
- Computer special-effects artists employed: 180
- Total speaking roles: 114
- Locations in New Zealand used as backdrops: 100
- Tailors, cobblers, designers, et al. in the wardrobe department: 50
- Actors trained to speak fictional dialects and languages: 30
- Total years of development for all three films: 7
- Combined running time of the series (extended DVD editions): 680 minutes (11 hours and 20 minutes)
- The Lord of the Rings movies were released on DVD a few months before the Boxing day release of the next film. There were special extended edition DVDs which were much longer with four commentaries, and many documentaries.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy was quite successful in the United States, making the top 10 most successful movies of all time (in the box office.) Many actors in the movies including Elijah Wood and Sean Astin were from this country.
The three films together were nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, of which they won 17, a record for any movie trilogy. On its own, The Return of the King tied the previous record of eleven Academy Awards and won in every category it was nominated in, an extremely rare feat. Return of the King also tied a record for the total number of Academy Awards won, 11, with Ben-Hur and Titanic. Although the three films failed to win any acting awards from the Academy, Ian McKellen earned the series its sole Academy acting nomination for the 2001 release of The Fellowship of the Ring.
- The Fellowship of the Ring — Nominations: 13, Wins: 4 in 2002.
- The Two Towers — Nominations: 6, Wins: 2
- The Return of the King — Nominations: 11, Wins: 11 in 2004, four of which were Golden Globes awards.
|The Fellowship of the Ring||The Two Towers||The Return of the King|
|Music (Original Score)||Win||Win|
|Music (Original Song)||Nomination "May It Be"||Win "Into the West"|
|Supporting Actor||Nomination Ian McKellen|
|Writing (Previously Produced or Published)||Nomination||Win|
As well as Academy Awards, each film of the trilogy scored MTV Movie Awards' Best Film, and the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation categories. The first and third films also won the Best Film BAFTAs. It must also be noted that the soundtrack for the Two Towers did not receive a nomination because of the rule prohibiting a soundtrack including music from a previous soundtrack to be eligible for nomination. This rule was overturned in time for The Return of the King to receive the Oscar for Best Music Score.
Reactions to changes in the movies from the book
While the films were generally well received, some readers of the book decried certain changes made in the adaptation, including changes in tone and themes; various changes made to characters such as Aragorn, Arwen, Denethor, Faramir and Gimli, as well as to the main protagonist Frodo himself; changes made to events (such as the Elves participating at the Battle of Helm's Deep, and Faramir taking the hobbits to Osgiliath); and the deletion of the penultimate chapter of Tolkien's work, "The Scouring of the Shire", a part he felt thematically necessary. For example, Wayne G. Hammond, a noted Tolkien scholar, has said of the first two films:
- ""I find both of the Jackson films to be travesties as adaptations... faithful only on a basic level of plot... Cut and compress as necessary, yes, but don't change or add new material without very good reason... In the moments in which the films succeed, they do so by staying close to what Tolkien so carefully wrote; where they fail, it tends to be where they diverge from him, most seriously in the area of characterization. Most of the characters in the films are mere shadows of those in the book, weak and diminished (notably Frodo) or insulting caricatures (Pippin, Merry, and Gimli)... [T]he filmmakers sacrifice the richness of Tolkien's story and characters, not to mention common sense, for violence, cheap humor, and cheaper thrills... [S]o many of its reviewers have praised it as faithful to the book, or even superior to it, all of which adds insult to injury and is demonstrably wrong...'"
- —Wayne Hammond
Some fans of the book who disagreed with such changes have released their fan edits of the films, which removed many of the changes to bring them closer to the original. The theatrical version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has received this treatment, and a combined 8-hour version of the trilogy exists, called "The Lord of the Rings: The Purist Edition". Supporters of the film trilogy assert that it is a worthy interpretation of the book, most changes stemming from the filmmakers putting the book into a modern context; connected to this is their perceived need for developing characters further. It is important to note that many who worked on the trilogy are fans of the book, including Christopher Lee, who alone among the cast had actually met Tolkien in person, and Boyens once noted that no matter what, it is simply their interpretation of the book. Jackson once said that to simply summarise the story on screen would be a mess, and in his own words, "Sure, it's not really The Lord of the Rings... but it could still be a pretty damn cool movie." Other fans also claim that despite any changes, they do not matter within the context of stand-alone films, and nonetheless they serve as a tribute to the book and yet appeal to those who have not read it, and even lead some to. The Encyclopedia of Arda's Movie Guide states:
- ""It seems appropriate to end with a word of acknowledgement of Peter Jackson and everyone else associated with the movie version of The Lord of the Rings. However, of course, they haven't come close to the scope and intricacy of the original story that would be quite impossible; what they have produced is still nothing less than a masterpiece. The film-makers, and of course Peter Jackson in particular, have to be admired merely for having the courage to take on such an immense challenge, let alone to produce such an exceptional result. The complete story of The Lord of the Rings is probably unfilmable, but Peter Jackson has come closer than anyone could have imagined possible.""
- —Encyclopedia of Arda's Movie Guide
Three films or one?
Because the films were shot together and then edited into three separate films released theatrically over a span of three successive years, a significant number of fans and critics have come to regard the trilogy as a single film. They argue that as with the book, which was meant to be a single novel but was first released in three parts for marketing and budget reasons (leading to the common but erroneous label of "trilogy"); Jackson's trilogy is one long 10-hour film. When Time magazine placed the trilogy in its top 100 list it was done under a single heading.
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. For example, in 2003, the BBC conducted a poll to find the U.K.'s favourite book, and The Lord of the Rings won, at the height of anticipation for the third film. Despite higher sales, it was rumoured that the Tolkien family became split on the trilogy, with Christopher Tolkien and Simon Tolkien feuding over whether or not it was a good idea to adapt. Christopher Tolkien has since denied these claims saying, "My own position is that The Lord of the Rings is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form. The suggestions that have been made that I 'disapprove' of the films, vent to the extent of thinking ill of those with whom I may differ, are wholly without foundation." He added that he had never "expressed any such feeling". Capitalizing on the trilogy's success, a musical adaptation of the book was launched in Toronto in 2006, but it closed after mostly poor reviews. The success of the films has also spawned the production of video games and many other kinds of merchandise.
Jackson has become his own mogul like Steven Spielberg, and has befriended some industry heavyweights like Bryan Singer, Frank Darabont and James Cameron. He founded his own film production company Wingnut Films, and Wingnut Interactive, a video game company. He was also finally given a chance to remake King Kong in 2005; although it was not as successful, it nevertheless still received critical acclaim. On a personal level, he found it hard to leave the trilogy and still keeps the Bag End set (as a guesthouse) and Rivendell miniatures. He has also become a "favourite son" of New Zealand. Howard Shore also found leaving difficult, and in 2004 toured with The Lord of the Rings Symphony, consisting of two hours of the score.
The trilogy has also renewed interest in the fantasy film genre. Around the same time, fellow New Zealand director Andrew Adamson began The Chronicles of Narnia film series, credited by many to be stylistically influenced by The Lord of the Rings, being also shot in New Zealand and having art direction from Weta Workshop, as well as its own extended edition. MGM wishes to make an adaptation of The Hobbit in co-operation with New Line Cinema, although Jackson is not signed on due to a dispute with the studio.
Motion capture was used for characters in King Kong, I, Robot and Pirates of the Caribbean. Kingdom of Heaven is one of many epics to use the MASSIVE technology. In non-filmic terms, tourism for New Zealand is up, possibly due to its exposure in the trilogy, with the tourism industry in the country waking up to an audience's familiarity.
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