The man who was responsible for creating one of the most elaborate fantasy realms in literature was born on January 3, 1892. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are beloved classics for a multitude of reasons.
I, personally, have not read these literary masterpieces (I know, I need to get on that). However, I have seen and am a great admirer of all six films helmed by Peter Jackson. On Tolkien’s birthday let us venture back down memory lane and reminisce on the film series that was the biggest fan love letter in cinema history.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
First off, I can’t believe this film came out in 2001! Where has the time gone? This was my first introduction to Tolkien’s work, and I’m so grateful that Peter Jackson was the main driving force behind this movie. His commitment to the source material made all of the difference in terms of sucking me into this fascinating and magical world. The comradery of the Fellowship was beautiful to watch unfold on screen, especially after purchasing the Extended Edition DVD and viewing the hours of behind the scenes footage of the cast and their journey of making this film.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The middle film in a series is usually known for being the best, and The Two Towers didn’t disappoint. We’re able to jump right into the action from the previous installment without wasting any time. The Fellowship that we’ve come to know and love has split apart and we follow the members on their different quests. One huge highlight of this film is the introduction of Rohan and the Rohirrim. Specifically, Lady Eowyn, who is a welcome addition to the overabundance of male characters. Of course, it goes without saying that the battle of Helm’s Deep is one of the greatest battles ever captured on film. Again, after watching the Extended Edition DVD and seeing all of the effort that went into that sequence, it truly is an incredible labor of love.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
All great things must come to an end, even beloved movie trilogies. Thankfully, The Return of the King went out with a bang and might just hold the title of my favorite in the franchise. There are so many things to love about this movie. One thing I’ve neglected to mention so far is the music. All three soundtracks are phenomenal and I remember listening to them on repeat when they first came out. Billy Boyd’s rendition of “The Edge of Night” gives me chills, as do the majority of the instrumental pieces. This film also features the greatest climax. I know that some people were annoyed with the “multiple endings,” but I thought they were all beautiful. That kiss between Arwen and Aragorn! All four hobbits being honored! Not to mention Frodo and Bilbo finally finding peace by traveling to the West, and Samwise starting his life with Rosie Cotton. I’m basically a blubbering mess for the last half hour of the film, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I’ll be the first to admit that The Hobbit films are sadly not as good as The Lord of the Rings series. This is for many reasons, many of which had to do with pressure from the studio and behind the scenes difficulties. Which is a shame, because just traveling back to Middle-Earth (AKA New Zealand) filled me with so much joy. That being said, there are some great aspects to this movie. First off, Martin Freeman is perfectly cast in the role of Bilbo Baggins. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, and it was wonderful to see numerous actors from the previous films reprise their roles in this installment.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Fans of Tolkien have wanted to see Smaug on the big screen for years, and Jackson and crew didn’t disappoint. They created an absolutely stunning dragon phenomenally portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. Another fabulous addition was Lee Pace as Elf King Thranduil (those eyebrows! Those cheekbones!) On the other end of the spectrum we were also given Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel. Now, I’m all for more female characters being added to this bro heavy universe. Unfortunately, her character just wasn’t very good (not to mention the forced love triangle that was added in by the studio). We also have Luke Evans as Bard somehow looking more like Orlando Bloom than Orlando Bloom does in the same movie. Overall, a very enjoyable romp, but not as good of a middle installment as The Two Towers.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Sadly, out of all three films, this is the one that I remember the least about. The finale of a series should take your breath away, but this one simply left me bored and disappointed. I think this movie illustrated exactly why such a small book should not have been split into three feature length films. The story felt extremely stretched and consisted of an unnecessary overabundance of CGI. Overall all, it simply reminded me of how incredible The Lord of the Rings series was, and how this series sadly failed on so many different fronts. I don’t want to end on a sour note, so I will say that I am grateful to the cast and crew for attempting to bring The Hobbit to life, even if it didn’t always succeed.
All in all the world of Tolkien holds a special place in my heart. I discovered Middle-Earth in high school and I will always hold a deep nostalgic love for it. It helped solidify friendships in real life, as well as those online. In fact, The Lord of the Rings series was one of my first real introductions to internet fandom (I’m looking at you, LiveJournal!) I don’t know if I would be the same geek that I am today without it, which is why I’ll always remember that even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
Are you a fan of Middle-Earth? What’s your favorite adaptation of Tolkien’s work? Let us know in the comments!