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The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The poster for the trilogy is a montage that features a range of characters and scenes from all three movies.
Directed by Peter Jackson
Produced by Peter Jackson
Barrie M. Osborne
Fran Walsh
Mark Ordesky
Tim Sanders (1st film)
Written by Novel:
J. R. R. Tolkien
Screenplay:
Fran Walsh
Philippa Boyens
Peter Jackson
Stephen Sinclair (2nd film only)
Music by Howard Shore
Studio WingNut Films
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) 2001 - 2003
Running time Theatrical:
558 minutes
Extended Edition:
683 minutes
Country New Zealand
Language English
Budget US$ 285 million
Gross revenue $ 2,915,155,189

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy consists of three live action fantasy epic films: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). The trilogy is based on the three-volume book The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. While they follow the book's general storyline, the films also feature some additions to and deviations from the source material.

Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the three films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins as he and a Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, and thus ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. The Fellowship becomes divided 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, who are ultimately victorious in the War of the Ring.

The films were directed by Peter Jackson and distributed by New Line Cinema. Considered to be one of the biggest and most ambitious movie projects ever undertaken, with an overall budget of $285 million, the entire project took eight years, with the filming for all three films done simultaneously and entirely in Jackson's native New Zealand. Each film in the trilogy also had Special Extended Editions, released on DVD a year after the theatrical releases.

The trilogy was a great financial success, with the films being among the highest-grossing films of all time. The films were critically acclaimed, winning 17 out of 30 Academy Awards nominated in total, and received wide praise for the cast and for the innovative practical and digital special effects.[1][2][3]

Jackson is collaborating with Guillermo del Toro on a two-part The Hobbit film adaptation, for release in 2011 and 2012. In 2009, TIME magazine listed the trilogy as the second best movie of 2000's decade, just behind 2008 animated film WALL-E.

Contents

Development

Director Peter Jackson first came into contact with The Lord of the Rings when he saw Ralph Bakshi's 1978 film. Jackson "enjoyed [the film] and wanted to know more."[4] Afterwards, he read a tie-in edition of the book[5] during a twelve-hour train journey from Wellington to Auckland when he was seventeen.[6]

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".[6] 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 Films 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.[7] 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.[7] 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.[7]

When Universal cancelled King Kong in 1997,[8] 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.[9] The first film would have dealt with what would become The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: 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.[9] 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.[9]

During mid-1997,[10] Jackson and Walsh began writing with Stephen Sinclair.[9] Sinclair's partner, Philippa Boyens, was a major fan of the book and joined the writing team after reading their treatment.[10] It took 13–14 months to write the two film scripts,[10] which were 147 and 144 pages respectively. Sinclair left the project due to theatrical obligations. Amongst their revisions, Sam is caught eavesdropping and forced to go along with Frodo, instead of Sam, Merry, and Pippin figuring out about the One Ring themselves and voluntarily going along after confronting Frodo about it, as occurs in the original novel. Gandalf's account of his time at Orthanc was pulled out of flashback and Lothlórien was cut, with Galadriel doing what she does in the story at Rivendell. Denethor attends the Council with his son. Other changes included having Arwen rescue Frodo, and the action sequence involving the cave troll. Arwen was even going to kill the Witch-king.[9]

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 17 June 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.[9] Upset by the idea of "cutting out half the good stuff"[10] Jackson walked, and Miramax declared that any script or work completed by Weta Workshop was theirs.[9] Jackson went around Hollywood for four weeks,[10] showing a thirty-five minute video of their work, before meeting with Mark Ordesky of New Line Cinema.[11] 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. Now Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens had to write three new scripts.[10]

The expansion to three films allowed much more creative freedom, although Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens had to restructure their script accordingly. The three films do not correspond exactly to the three volumes of the trilogy, but rather represent a three-part adaptation. Jackson takes a more chronological approach to the story than did Tolkien. Frodo's quest is the main focus, and Aragorn is the main sub-plot,[12] 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 have been altered for extra drama: Aragorn, Théoden, and Treebeard have added or modified elements of self-doubt, whilst the personalities of 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, have been combined with lesser book characters such as Glorfindel and Erkenbrand, and as a general matter lines of dialog have sometimes been switched around between locations or characters depending on suitability of the scenes. New scenes were also added to expand on characterization. During shooting, the screenplays continued to evolve, in part due to contributions from cast looking to further explore their characters.[10] Most notable amongst these rewrites was the character Arwen, who was originally planned as a warrior princess, but reverted back to her book counterpart, who remains physically inactive in the story (though she sends moral and military support).[13]

The most comprehensive study of the making of the films is The Frodo Franchise (2007) by film historian Kristin Thompson.[14]

To develop fight and sword choreography for the trilogy, the filmmakers employed Hollywood sword-master, Bob Anderson. Anderson worked directly with the talent including Viggo Mortensen and Karl Urban to develop the many sword fights and stunts within the film.[15] Bob Anderson's role in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was highlighted in the film Reclaiming The Blade. This documentary on sword martial arts also featured Weta Workshop and Richard Taylor, Lord of the Rings illustrator John Howe and actors Viggo Mortensen and Karl Urban. All discussed their roles and work on the trilogy as related to the sword.[16]

Production design

Alan Lee at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, August 2005.

Jackson began storyboarding the trilogy with Christian Rivers in August 1997 and assigned his crew to begin designing Middle-earth at the same time.[17] Jackson hired long-time collaborator Richard Taylor to lead Weta Workshop on five major design elements: armour, weapons, prosthetics/make-up, creatures, and miniatures. In November 1997,[10] famed Tolkien illustrators Alan Lee and John Howe joined the project. Most of the imagery in the films is based on their various illustrations.[18] Grant Major, production designer 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.[19] 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.[20] Creatures were designed to be biologically believable, such as the enormous wings of the fell beast to help it fly.[21] In total, 48,000 pieces of armour, 500 bows, and 10,000 arrows were created by Weta Workshop.[22] They also created many prosthetics, such as 1,800 pairs of Hobbit feet for the lead actors,[10] as well as many ears, noses, and heads for the cast, and around 19,000 costumes were woven and aged.[10] Every prop was specially designed by the Art Department, taking the different scales into account.[10]

Filming

Principal photography for all three films was conducted concurrently in many locations within New Zealand's conservation areas and national parks between 11 October 1999, and 22 December 2000, a period of 438 days. Pick-up shoots were conducted annually from 2001 to 2004. The trilogy was shot at over 150 different locations[22], with seven different units shooting, as well as soundstages around Wellington and Queenstown. As well as Jackson directing the whole production, other unit directors included John Mahaffie, Geoff Murphy, Fran Walsh, Barrie Osbourne, 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.[13] Due to the remoteness of some of the locations, the crew would also bring survival kits in case helicopters could not reach the location to bring them home in time.[10] The New Zealand Department of Conservation was criticised for approving the filming within national parks without adequate consideration of the adverse environmental effects and without public notification.[23] The adverse effects of filming battle scenes in Tongariro National Park later required restoration work.[24]

Cast

The following is a list of cast members who voiced or portrayed characters appearing in the extended version of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Character Film
The Fellowship of the Ring[25] The Two Towers[26] The Return of the King[27]
Fellowship
Aragorn Viggo Mortensen
Frodo Baggins Elijah Wood
Boromir Sean Bean
Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck Dominic Monaghan
Samwise Gamgee Sean Astin
Gandalf Ian McKellen
Gimli John Rhys-Davies
Legolas Orlando Bloom
Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took Billy Boyd
The Shire and Bree
Bilbo Baggins Ian Holm   Ian Holm
Mrs. Bracegirdle Lori Dungey    
Barliman Butterbur David Weatherley    
Rosie Cotton Sarah McLeod   Sarah McLeod
Gaffer Gamgee Norman Forsey    
Elanor Gamgee     Alexandra Astin
Bree Gate Keeper Martyn Sanderson    
Farmer Maggot Cameron Rhodes    
Old Noakes Bill Johnson    
Everard Proudfoot Noel Appleby   Noel Appleby
Mrs. Proudfoot Megan Edwards    
Otho Sackville Peter Corrigan    
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins Elizabeth Moody    
Ted Sandyman Brian Sergent    
Rivendell and Lothlorien
Arwen Liv Tyler
Lord Celeborn Marton Csokas   Marton Csokas
Lord Elrond Hugo Weaving
Lady Galadriel Cate Blanchett
Haldir Craig Parker  
Rúmil Jørn Benzon    
Rohan and Gondor
Damrod     Alistair Browning
Denethor   John Noble
Éomer   Karl Urban
Éothain   Sam Comery  
Éowyn   Miranda Otto
Faramir   David Wenham
Freda   Olivia Tennet  
Gamling   Bruce Hopkins
Grimbold     Bruce Phillips
Háma   John Leigh  
Haleth   Calum Gittins  
Iorlas     Ian Hughes
King of the Dead     Paul Norell
Madril   John Bach
Morwen   Robyn Malcolm  
King Théoden   Bernard Hill
Théodred   Paris Howe Strewe  
Treebeard   John Rhys-Davies (voice)
Isengard and Mordor
Sméagol/Gollum Andy Serkis
Gorbag     Stephen Ure
Gothmog     Lawrence Makoare
Gríma Wormtongue   Brad Dourif
Grishnákh   Stephen Ure  
Lurtz Lawrence Makoare    
Mauhur   Robbie Magasiva  
Mouth of Sauron     Bruce Spence
The One Ring Alan Howard (voice)   Alan Howard (voice)
Saruman Christopher Lee
Sauron Sala Baker   Sala Baker
Shagrat     Peter Tait
Sharku   Jed Brophy  
Snaga   Jed Brophy  
Uglúk   Nathaniel Lees  
Witch-king of Angmar Shane Rangi
Brent McIntyre
Andy Serkis (voice)
  Lawrence Makoare
Andy Serkis (voice)
Historical figures
Déagol     Thomas Robins
Elendil Peter McKenzie    
Gil-galad Mark Ferguson    
Isildur Harry Sinclair   Harry Sinclair

Special effects

The first film has around 540 effect shots, the second 799, and the third 1,488 (2,730 in total). The total increases to 3,420 with the extended editions. 260 visual effect 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 hours, often overnight, to produce special effects within a short space of time. Jackson's active 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


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. In the later part of this period, Jackson would move to London to supervise the scoring and continue 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.

Editing

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 collaborator 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 (4½ hours) assemblies of the films.[10] In total, six million feet of film (over 1,100 miles)[22] 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.[28] 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.

Deleted scenes

Many filmed scenes remain unused, even in the Extended Editions. Deletions include:

The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Additional footage from the Battle of the Last Alliance during the prologue.
  • An obscure shot from the trailers of two Elven girls playing about in Rivendell.
  • Scene mentioned in the commentary, about an animal disrupting Frodo and Sam while they sleep, after seeing the Wood Elves. Many animals were used, including rabbits and deer.[10]
  • Dialogue from the Council of Elrond, such as Gandalf explaining how Sauron forged the One Ring.[10]
  • An attack by Orcs from Moria on Lothlórien after the Fellowship leaves Moria. Jackson replaced this with a more suspenseful entrance for the Fellowship. Much of the lost footage can be seen as promotional material on The Fellowship of the Ring theatrical DVD and tie-in books, documentary footage on the Extended Editions, and Trading Cards.
  • Longer scene of Boromir trying to take the Ring.[10]
  • Frodo seeing more parts of Middle Earth when he put the Ring on.[10]
  • More battle footage from Parth Galen.[10]
  • An attack on Frodo and Sam at the river Anduin by an Uruk-hai.[10]
The Two Towers
  • More Arwen footage, including a flashback scene of her first meeting with a beardless Aragorn (seen in The Two Towers trailer).
  • Faramir having a vision of Frodo becoming like Gollum.[13]
  • 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 trailer). The scene was edited down to a telepathic communication between Elrond and Galadriel.[13]
  • Théoden speaking to the troops in the armoury, prior to the Battle of Helm's Deep.
  • Éowyn defending the refugees in the Glittering Caves from Uruk-hai intruders.[29]
  • An unknown scene displayed in The Two Towers trailer of Éomer lowering a spear while riding his horse in a forest.
  • Frodo and Sam fighting on the ground in Osgiliath (after Sam tackles Frodo away from the Ringwraith). The scene's fighting was deleted, but Frodo drawing Sting and pointing it at Sam after he is tackled was left in.[30]
The Return of the King
  • 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.[31]
  • A conversation between Elrond and Arwen in a library in Rivendell, after Arwen decides to wait for Aragorn. Elrond leaves, saying, "You gave away your life's grace. I cannot protect you anymore."[32]
  • Sam using the Light of Eärendil to pass the Watchers at Cirith Ungol.
  • Aragorn having his armour fitted during the preparations for the Battle of the Black Gate. This was the final scene filmed during principal photography.[19]
  • 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.[19]
  • Also at the Black Gate sequence, Pippin was seen in the trailer holding a wounded Merry.
  • Further epilogue footage, including that of Legolas and Gimli, as well as Éowyn and Faramir's wedding and Aragorn's death and funeral.[33]

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.[34]

Music

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Howard Shore composed, orchestrated, conducted, and produced the trilogy's music. He was hired in August 2000[35] and visited the set, and watched the assembly cuts of films 1 and 3. In the music, Shore included many leitmotifs to represent various characters, cultures, and places. For example, there are leitmotifs for the hobbits as well as the Shire. Although the first film had some of its score recorded in Wellington,[10] 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. As a Beatles fan, Jackson had a photo tribute done there on the zebra crossing.[13]

The score is primarily played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and many artists such as Ben Del Maestro, Enya, Renée Fleming, James Galway, Annie Lennox and Emiliana 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 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.[19]

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.[19]

Sound

Sound technicians spent the early part of the year trying to find the right sounds. Some, such as animal sounds like tigers' and walruses', were bought. Human voices were also used. Fran Walsh contributed to the Nazgûl scream and David Farmer the Warg howls. Other sounds were unexpected: The Fell Beast's screech is taken from that of a donkey, and the mûmakil's bellow comes from the beginning and end of a lion's roar. In addition, ADR was used 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. 20,000 New Zealand cricket fans provided the sound of the Uruk-hai army in The Two Towers, with Jackson acting as conductor during the innings break of a one day International cricket match between England and New Zealand at Westpac Stadium.[13] 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 took place between August and November at "The Film Mix", before Jackson commissioned the building of a new studio in 2003. The building, however, had not yet been fully completed when they started mixing for The Return of the King.[19]

Releases

The online promotional trailer for the trilogy was first released on 27 April 2000, and shattered records for download hits, registering 1.7 million hits in the first 24 hours of its release.[36] 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 was very well received.[37] The showing also included an area designed to look like Middle-earth.[22] A full description of the footage can be found here: [4]

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released 19 December 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 inserted just before the end credits near the end of the film's theatrical run.[38]

A promotional trailer was later released. The trailer contained some music re-scored from the film Requiem for a Dream.[39] The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was released 18 December 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 Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was debuted exclusively before the New Line Cinema film Secondhand Lions on 23 September 2003.[40] Released 17 December 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 released on standard two-disc edition DVDs containing previews of the next film. The success of the theatrical cuts brought about four-disc Extended Editions, with new editing, added special effects and music. These are not Director's Cuts, however, as Jackson has said he prefers the theatrical versions.[41]

With the extended cuts of the films and their respective special features spread over two discs apiece, the Special Extended Edition DVD sets were issued as follows:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 12 November 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, 18 November 2003. It contains 44 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 14 December 2004. It has 52 minutes more footage, and a blue sleeve with the White Tree of Gondor. The Lee painting 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.

The Special Extended DVD Editions also had in-sleeve maps of the Fellowship's travels. They have also played at movie theaters, most notably for a 16 December 2003, marathon screening (dubbed "Trilogy Tuesday") culminating in a midnight screening of the third film.

On 28 August 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 six Disc set on 14 November 2006.

In May 2008, Jackson stated that he was working with Warner Bros. on releasing the trilogy in high-definition Blu-ray format, although no release date has been confirmed.[42]

On April 16, 2009, Warner Bros. announced that it would be releasing the theatrical versions of the trilogy on Blu-ray in a boxed set later in 2009. Jackson also said that the Extended Editions were in development for Blu-ray and would be released in conjunction with the theatrical release of The Hobbit in 2011.[43]

In July 2009, Jackson announced in an interview that the Extended Editions will be released sometime in 2010 on Blu-ray with possibly new special features to be made.[44]

On December 14, 2009, it was announced that the three films will be released on Blu-Ray on April 6, 2010.[45] The press release stated that the extended editions will be released "at a later date"[45]. Alongside the Blu-Ray announcement, it was announced that the three films would become available for digital purchase for the first time on all major digital service providers.

Reception

Box office

Film Release date Box office revenue Box office ranking Budget Reference
United States Foreign Worldwide All time domestic All time worldwide
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring December 19, 2001 $314,776,170 $555,985,574 $870,761,744 #25
#75(A)
#18 $93,000,000 [46]
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers December 18, 2002 $341,786,758 $583,495,746 $925,282,504 #15
#59(A)
#9 $94,000,000 [47]
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King December 17, 2003 $377,027,325 $742,083,616 $1,119,110,941 #11
#50(A)
#3 $94,000,000 [48]
Total $1,033,590,253 $1,881,564,936 $2,915,155,189 $281,000,000
List indicator(s)
  • (A) indicates the adjusted ranks based on current ticket prices (calculated by Box Office Mojo).

Public and critical response

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is the highest grossing motion picture trilogy worldwide of all time, besting such other film franchises as the original Star Wars trilogy and The Godfather. The film trilogy grossed a total of $2.91 billion. The film trilogy also tied a record for the total number of Academy Awards won.[49]

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".[50] In particular, performances from Ian McKellen,[51] Sean Astin,[52] Sean Bean, Andy Serkis, and Bernard Hill stood out for many in audience polls, and special effects for the battles and Gollum were praised. A few critics such as Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times did not rank the trilogy so highly, and while praising the special effects, Ebert was critical of the story,[53] and none of the films appeared in his "Top 10" lists for their respective years.[54] Some were also critical of the films' pacing and length: "It's a collection of spectacular set pieces without any sense of momentum driving them into one another" according to the Philadelphia Weekly.[55] Overall however, the films received a positive 94% critics rating on rottentomatoes.com, (92% for FotR, 96% for TTT and 94% for RotK) 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,[56] and The Screen Directory's "Top Ten Films of All Time" (considering the trilogy as "one epic film split into three parts").[57]. In 2007, USA Today named the trilogy as the most important films of the past 25 years.[58] 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."[59]

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has outsold other contemporary trilogies such as the Pirates of the Caribbean films, the Spider-Man film series and the Star Wars prequels.[60]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Yahoo! Movies
Overall Cream of the Crop
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 92% (200 reviews)[61] 92% (37 reviews)[62] 92% (34 reviews)[63] A (15 reviews)[64]
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 96% (215 reviews)[65] 100% (38 reviews)[66] 88% (39 reviews)[67] A- (16 reviews) [68]
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 94% (232 reviews)[69] 98% (42 reviews)[70] 94% (42 reviews)[71] A- (15 reviews) [72]

Academy Awards

The three films together were nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, of which they won 17, a record for any movie trilogy. The Return of the King won in every category in which it was nominated, an extremely rare feat; its Oscar for Best Picture was widely perceived as an award by proxy for the entire trilogy. The Return of the King also tied a record for the total number of Academy Awards won, 11, with Ben-Hur and Titanic (though both of those films had additional nominations that they lost out on). No actors in any of the three films won Oscars, although Ian McKellen was nominated for his work in The Fellowship of the Ring.

  • The Fellowship of the Ring — Nominations: 13, Wins: 4
  • The Two Towers — Nominations: 6, Wins: 2
  • The Return of the King — Nominations: 11, Wins: 11
Award Awards Won
The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King
Art Direction Nomination Nomination Win
Cinematography Win
Costume Design Nomination Win
Directing Nomination Win
Film Editing Nomination Nomination Win
Makeup Win Win
Music (Original Score) Win Win
Music (Original Song) Nomination
("May It Be")
Win
("Into the West")
Best Picture Nomination Nomination Win
Sound Editing Win
Sound Mixing Nomination Nomination Win
Supporting Actor Nomination
(Ian McKellen)
Visual Effects Win Win Win
Writing (Previously Produced or Published) Nomination Win

As well as Academy Awards, each film of the trilogy won 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. The soundtrack for The Two Towers did not receive a nomination because of a 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 have decried certain changes[73][74] made in the movie adaptation. Various changes to characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Arwen, Denethor, Faramir, Gimli, and even the main protagonist Frodo,[75] and changes made to events (such as the Elves participating at the Battle of Helm's Deep and Faramir taking the hobbits to Osgiliath),[76] when considered together, are seen to alter the tone and themes from those found in the book.

Many have also decried the wholesale deletion of the penultimate chapter of the novel, "The Scouring of the Shire",[77] a part Tolkien felt thematically necessary.

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...[73][78]

Some fans of the book who disagreed with such changes have released fan edits of the films, which removed many of the changes to bring them closer to the original. A combined 8-hour version of the trilogy exists, called The Lord of the Rings: The Purist Edition.[79][80]

Supporters of the trilogy assert that it is a worthy interpretation of the book and that most of the changes were necessary.[18] 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,[81] 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."[82][83] Other fans also claim that, despite any changes, the films serve as a tribute to the book, appealing to those who have not yet read it, and even leading some to do so. The Movie Guide for The Encyclopedia of Arda (an online Tolkien encyclopedia) 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. Though 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.[84]

In 2005, the Mythopoeic Society published a volume of critical essays about the trilogy and its effects on popular culture called Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.[85] The book has been praised as balanced and its authors as "truly critical" since they seek to "discern how the films both succeed and fail, and why their massive popularity is both to be praised and lamented."[85] Among other topics, the essays include evaluations of the films' treatment of women as compared to Tolkien's themes, criticism of arguments used to defend the films, and assessments of the films' treatment of heroes and heroism compared to the novel and its sources.[86] Cathy Akers-Jordan,[87] Jane Chance,[88] Victoria Gaydosik,[89] and Maureen Thum[90] contend that the portrayal of women, especially Arwen, in the films is overall thematically faithful to (or compatible with) Tolkien's writings despite some differences. David Bratman[91] criticizes several arguments defending the films as adaptations, such as "It’s Jackson’s vision, not Tolkien’s", "But they worked so hard on it!", "It brings new readers to the book", "The perfect film would have been 40 hours long", and "The book is still on the shelf". He also writes that "Peter Jackson has a nine-year-old's understanding of Tolkien"[92] and gives the films "an A on visuals and props, a B ... as independent pieces of work divorced from the book, a C on faithfulness to Tolkien's story and detail, and a D ... on faithfulness to Tolkien's spirit and tone."[92] Dan Timmons[93] writes that the themes and internal logic of the films are undermined by the portrayal of Frodo, whom he considers a weakening of Tolkien's original. Kayla McKinney Wiggins[94] opines that the films misread and misinterpret the nature of heroes as understood in Tolkien’s writings and in his source material due to a shift in focus from character evolution to action adventure. Janet Brennan Croft[95] criticizes the films using Tolkien's own terms “anticipation” and “flattening”, which he used in critiquing a proposed film script. She contrasts Tolkien's subtlety with Jackson's tendency to show "too much too soon".[95]

Legacy

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.[96] 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.[97] 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, 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".[98] A musical adaptation of the book was launched in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 2006, but it closed after mostly poor reviews. A shortened version opened in London, UK, in the summer of 2007. The success of the films has also spawned the production of video games and many other kinds of merchandise.

As a result of the success of the trilogy, Peter Jackson has become a player in the movie business (sometimes called a mogul) in the mold of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, in the process befriending some industry heavyweights like Bryan Singer, Frank Darabont and James Cameron. 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 became a critical and box office success, although not as successful as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson has been called a "favourite son" of New Zealand.[99] In 2004, Howard Shore toured with The Lord of the Rings Symphony, consisting of two hours of the score. Along with the Harry Potter films, the trilogy has renewed interest in the fantasy film genre. Tourism for New Zealand is up, possibly due to its exposure in the trilogy,[100] with the tourism industry in the country waking up to an audience's familiarity.[101]

In December 2002, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: The Exhibition opened at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand. As of 2007, the exhibition has travelled to seven other cities around the world.

The legacy of The Lord of the Rings is also that 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 Stephan 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.[102] 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 prequels until late 2007.[103] 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.[104] A judge denied them this option, but allowed them to win compensation from the act of the studio ignoring the contract itself.[105] On September 8, 2009, a settlement of this dispute between the Trust and New Line was announced (clearing a potential obstacle to the making of a new movie based on "The Hobbit").[106]

See also

References

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  106. ^ Alex Dobuzinskis. "Legal settlement clears way for "Hobbit" movie". http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSTRE5875BK20090908. Retrieved 2009-09-08. "The Hollywood studio behind a film based on 'The Hobbit' and trustees for author J.R.R. Tolkien's estate said on Tuesday they had settled a lawsuit that clears the way for what is expected to be a blockbuster movie based on the book." 

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