PO-TA-TOES. Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew

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imageHere it is, the penultimate film(s) in my Top Seven!

I hope the title gave you a good idea of what I’m going to be talking about in this article, and it definitely should ring a bell with anyone who’s seen these incredible films.

Yep, you got it.

‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy.

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The films of the classic, epic, fantastical creation by J. R. R. Tolkien that follow the quests of Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf and a host of other incredible characters as they attempt to destroy the One Ring and the Dark Lord Sauron.

First of all, before I dive in, you might be wondering why I used that particular quote as the title.

I honestly don’t know for certain, but if I had to think about it (and I guess I do), I’d say that it’s just a great piece of dialogue. It’s funny, it’s not a dramatic speech or an ominous warning of things to come, it’s just Sam being Sam. A clueless Hobbit explaining one of the simple passions he has in life (food) to someone who has literally been living in a cave for most of his own. I think that’s one of the great things about these films and the story of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The characters never let the melodrama ruin their personalities; they keep making jokes, keep caring about each other, and they never give up hope, even when it looks like there’s no way out. And, to be honest, there is an awful lot of drama and pain in these films. Sometimes it looks so bleak for the characters that you’re not certain how they can possibly win the day. But win the day they do, and they succeed over and over again, despite losing friends and family.

It’s a story that has stood the test of time, from the original novels to the animated films in the seventies, from multiple radio plays to being mentioned in numerous Led Zeppelin songs. It’s a classic tale that’s inspired epic fiction and the genre of fantasy ever since its conception. So much so, that Peter Jackson was able to make it into three hugely successful films almost 50 years after the novels were published. This is a testament to the timeless nature of the story and its themes.

These are long films, there’s no denying that. And for a lot of people, long run-times can be a big turn-off when thinking about seeing a film. The thing is though, I’ve never heard anyone say that they don’t like the epic length of these films. It’s barely mentioned in a negative way if you’re talking about them, and if it is, it’s usually just a joke about the epic length, it’s never a point they use to discredit them. I think the reason for this is that A, they need to be that length in order to construct the whole story, and B, the writing, the pace, the story and the characters are never dull, and never tedious. In fact, I’d even argue that the theatrical releases should be longer, especially after watching the deleted scenes in the extended editions.

Enough gushing about the story and its epic length though, because that alone doesn’t make a great film(s).

I’m not exaggerating when I say that these films are spectacular visions, with CGI and real landscapes that are almost unparalleled in their scope and beauty. You really can believe that the characters are on a journey through a strange, but still familiar world, and there are no landscapes that appear ordinary or plain. I think majestic is the right word to describe the world of Middle-Earth, even the ash-grey and charred wastelands of Mordor.

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It’s not all about the spectacular views or the hugely impressive CGI battles and creatures (although their quality and quantity does help), at the very core of the films is characterisation and personality. You can really believe that these characters, whether they be Hobbits, Men, Elves, Dwarves or even Ents, are real, and that the pains and joys they feel are real too. This level of interaction with the characters is helped along by both the writing and the great performances of the actors. There isn’t a single person on the cast that lets the films down. They all stay true to the personality of the character they play (Although Faramir is slightly more of a dick in the films than the books), and this, combined with great dialogue, makes the story all the more accessible to the viewer.

My final point on these films, is about the direction and the respect I have for Peter Jackson (despite what he has done since with ‘The Hobbit’). Some of my favourite camera shots are from this trilogy, and the pacing of the fights and films as a whole is just as impeccable as the performances by the actors. The camera work really gives you a great impression of the scope and fantasy of Middle-Earth, something which hasn’t been matched since. Peter Jackson took a bit of a gamble by making these films. There were no guarantees that the public would connect with the story in the same way as they did with the novels all those years ago, and it was possible that something would be lost in the difficult transition from text to motion picture. But, despite the risks and the problem-filled production, he managed to create a fitting adaption of those brilliant novels, and made the world of Middle-Earth more accessible than it has ever been before.

I think this trilogy will be just as timeless as the novels it came from.

-Lewis

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