The three finest fantasy films of all time (yes, I'm including "Star Wars") have finally arrived in brilliant extended edition Trilogy boxform. Join Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn and friends on an epic quest to destroy the ultimate evil in the big screen adaptation of Tolkien's momentous novel.
The Fellowship of The Ring
Peter Jackson's incredible adaptation of J.R.R.Tolkien's epic novel starts here with The Fellowship Of The Ring. Beginning the story in the peaceful and bountiful hobbit land known as "The Shire" events soon take a dark turn when Frodo Baggins, an innocuous halfling comes into possession of a ring left by his departing Uncle Bilbo. The ring turns out to be the one Ring, the only artefact that can restore the evil lord Sauron to his full powers. And to put it in blunt terms, the race is on for Frodo to destroy the Ring before it falls into the enemy's hands and brings about the destruction of Middle-Earth.
Peter Jackson's fantasy epic succeeds where so many others have failed because it doesn't concentrate solely on special effects to impress the viewer, but instead puts as much effort into characterisation, script, atmosphere and tone. Middle-Earth itself is a delight to look at - the spectacular New Zealand scenery perfectly suited to the shifting and stunning landscape described in the novels. It really is a magical land.
The acting too is of the highest calibre. Ian McKellen in particular shines as Gandalf the Grey, as does his opposite number Christopher Lee as Sauraman, but there are also good performances from Elijah Wood as Frodo (who goes from happy-go-lucky hobbit to tortured soul in a very convincing manner), Viggo Mortenson as Aaragon, and Liv Tyler as the beautiful Arwen. In fact, it seems churlish to single out people when everybody does such a superb job of bringing their characters to life.
And yes the special effects are breathtaking and used when necessary, with the attention to detail amazing. I know I'm gushing but I can't help but get excited about this film. It is pure quality from beginning to end. What can beat it - except perhaps for the sequels?
The Two Towers
We've all been waiting for it, and at last the most anticipated DVD of 2003 has finally arrived in Collectors Edition! We're talking Hobbits, we're talking Wizards, we're talking Warriors, Orcs, Ents and Elves. We're talking the bloodiest and most intense battles committed to celluloid. We're talking over 600 CGI shots and the first fully formed computer-generated character played entirely by a real actor. We're talking the magnificence of a New Zealand landscape that is Middle Earth. We're talking a deeper storyline and a darker direction for our travelling companions. Quite simply we're talking the greatest film of 2002. Peter Jackson's second instalment of Tolkien's epic novel hasn't just raise the benchmark for fantasy films but dispensed with it altogether.
Following on from the events of the first film our adventurers are now separated; Frodo and Sam on their mission to destroy the ring, Aragon, Gimli and Legolas "hunting Orc", Merry and Pippin prisoners of the Uruk Hai, and Gandalf the grey wizard battling with a Balrog in the deep bowels of the earth. As the film continues it becomes clear that Aragon must re-unite the tribes of men or see them fall, while Frodo has his work cut out with his treacherous but essential new travelling companion, Gollum. Without the need to introduce the characters LOTR2 breaks into non-stop action from the word go and doesn't let up, a rollercoaster ride of fights, sorcery and amazing special effects. (The battle of Helms Deep, a massive 40-minute set piece is a particular highlight).
Brilliantly done this is a superb second film that never lets up on action or spectacle.
The Return Of The King
It's the end of the line for the greatest trilogy ever devised as Frodo and his friends bring their magnificent quest to an epic conclusion. Traditionally the weakest instalment of any trilogy (see "Star Wars", "The Matrix Revolutions", "The Godfather") Part Three of Peter Jackson's incredible adventure smashes all the rules once more – it's the biggest, most dramatic, most staggering, most awe inspiring, most dazzling, and most emotional chapter of the lot. And if you think about the extraordinary scope and brilliance of the first two films for just a second you'll realize that that is one astonishing feat. Eleven Oscars say it all.
Picking up where we left off following Samwise's rousing speech against despair at the end of "The Two Towers", the path turns yet darker still as the three companions enter the land of Mordor via a secret route. As Smeagol's presence continues to drive a stake between Frodo and his best friend, the burden of the Ring grows increasingly heavier as it exerts its evil and addictive power to horrible effect. Plotting to take the ring for himself Gollum leads them into the lair of Shelob (Arachnophobia sufferers look away now), a giant spider with a taste for hobbit blood.
Meanwhile our other companions come together at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, a conflict that makes the Battle of Helmsdeep look like a stroll in the park. The clash of the armies in this spectacle is just immense. As Mumakil (giant elephants) crush horse and riders underfoot and huge screeching Fellbeasts swirl overhead manned by the terrifying Dark Riders it's hard to take in all the action at once – it's quite simply the best battle ever put to celluloid. (And once the hordes of the Undead show up things really turn nasty.)
As the film reaches its climatic ending the writing's on the wall as to whether Frodo can actually destroy the Ring he depends on so much. Will Sam be able to save the day, his beloved companion, and Middle Earth or will all end in death and despair? One thing's for sure – if you're not blubbing like a baby come the end credits you're not really human. (Or even Elf, dwarf or hobbit)
Peter Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's momentous novel is the greatest cinematic achievement since the original Star Wars in 1977 (a franchise that has sadly lost its way of late), and is the best use of the DVD format I've yet come across. If somehow these films have passed you by purchase them now and invest the best 12 hours of your movie going life – EVER. One word to rule them all – AWESOME.