Among many things, Peter Jackson has been declared a genius by his peers and movie critics in no small part because of his landmark work on the Lord of the Rings series. The series achieved critical acclaim, garnering widespread success at the box office and taking home an impressive 11 academy awards, reinvigorating the fantasy genre and bringing back into the spotlight much in the way the source material did from which the trilogy originates.
What Peter Jackson accomplished is nothing short of magical. Filming the three movies back to back and releasing them three years straight made for a holiday tradition for movie goers hoping to return to Middle Earth to catch the next installment of Frodo’s journey. After the credits rolled for the first of the series, anticipation for the next two installments spread like wild fire, allowing a more than healthy box office return.
With the advent of Blu-ray, the Lord of the Rings finds itself a new home on high definition with the simultaneous release of the theatrical versions. While some may protest the fact that these are not the extended cuts that contained slews of bonus features, extended scenes, and even scenes that never made it in due to time constraints, those wishing to relive the experience of seeing Jackson’s films as they were first introduced should be more than satisfied.
The Lord of the Rings tells the story of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit living a comfortable life in the Shire before he is approached by Gandalf much in the same way his uncle was with a mission of grave importance. With the forces of the dark lord Sauron rising once more, Frodo is instructed to take his uncle’s legendary ring and cast it into the pits of Mordor. Aiding him is a rough and tough cast of characters including an elf by the name of Legolas, the outspoken drawf named Gimli, the prophesied king of man Aragorn, and Gandalf.
For many of the cast, Lord of the Rings was their big break into superstardom. Both Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen were especially praised for their portrayals of Legolas and Aragorn respectively, with Bloom going onto star in yet another trilogy while Mortensen stuck to smaller projects, though earning no less acclaim.
Bringing Middle Earth to life was no easy feat though Jackson was more than up to the challenge, with much of the world building carried out by WETA Workshop, whose costume and make-up work was simply stellar. The alluring construction of the world is simply beyond anything that has been done and likely never to be achieved again. New Zealand was chosen as the home of Middle Earth for its forests and mountainous landscapes.
While the Lord of the Rings will always hold a place among fantasy enthusiasts, the three films also work as a character piece, focusing on the individual motivations of the characters as their world is consumed with war. Because the original novels were written at a time of war, the series can easily be viewed as a study of the effects war has and what it means to maintain hope in even the bleakest of situations. None of the characters are easily defined, with some succumbing to the expanding darkness choking Middle Earth and their own hearts.
Through it all, the group perseveres, with Frodo and his companion Sam treading across the many perils of their quest, struggling against the influence the ring holds while Aragorn is forced to accept his destiny and take up the sword of his forefathers against the evil that had long since haunted him. Interweaved between these main arcs are secondary plots concerning the kingdoms of man having to come together to force back their seemingly unstoppable fore as well as the inner struggle of Smeagol, otherwise best remembered as Gollum, whose own vendetta against the hobbits plays a huge role in deciding the fate of Middle Earth.
The Blu-ray editions are best summed up as exquisite. The Lord of the Rings is a series deserving of the high definition treatment. From its epic scope to the masterful cinematography, this is a series that should be viewed in the best possible resolution. The mountainous terrains and rich palette of colors and costumes make this a feast for the eyes.
The bonus features are on par with past releases, and pretty much the original DVD’s. While each film has a bountiful selection of extras to cull from, detailing the pains going into making the films along with the standard TV spots, those who have the original DVD’s won’t find anything new here. Considering the anticipation of this release, one would have thought there would be something more but sadly, what we got was a retread. Further detrimental is the fact that these are presented on standard DVD’s rather than actually converted.
The Lord of the Rings is an achievement in cinema that is likely to remain unparalleled for years to come. What stands as Peter Jackson’s crowing success is quite simply a benchmark in movie making. While the Blu-ray could have been given a little extra care, this release should more than satiate those looking to relive their fondest memories of the trilogy with the best possible transfer to date.