Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

It’s been a crazy week, which is why I haven’t been able to post this until now despite rewatching Return of the King over a week ago.

Anyway, Return of the King’s accomplishments cannot be overstated. Upon its release, it was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Time magazine called it the best film of the year. Roger Ebert praised it highly, stating “Return of the King is such a crowning achievement, such a visionary use of all the tools of special effects, such a pure spectacle, that it can be enjoyed even by those who have not seen the first two films.” Empire voted it eighth on their 100 Greatest Movies of All Time in 2004 – they even abandoned their historic policy of only allowing movies at least 1 year old in order to do this.

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Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers takes almost much everything that worked in Fellowship of the Ring and kicks it up a notch. If the first Lord of the Rings movie is a masterclass in worldbuilding (which it is), then The Two Towers is a masterclass of build-up to the ultimate climax of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. And like Fellowship, The Two Towers is often regarded as among the greatest and most influential fantasy films of all-time.

Although not nominated for as many Academy Awards as the other two LOTR movies, it still received nominations for Best Picture, multiple technical awards, and it won the awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. What’s equally impressive is that the CGI in this movie still looks good today. That’s especially true of what Weta Digital accomplished with Gollum. In order to handle all of this movie’s CGI, Weta Digital doubled their staff.

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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings

Orc body suits to go along with over 10,000 Orc heads. They built 10,000 real arrows and 500 bows. They even created a new kind of crossbow for the Uruk-hai that could fire faster. Principal filming took place between October 1999 and December 2000 in New Zealand, with the bulk of the footage for the trilogy shot back to back. There were even a couple scenes from Return of the King shot before the majority of Fellowship of the Ring. There’s one particular moment in Return of the King where when you’re looking at Sam, you see footage filmed on November 24, 1999, yet when you see Frodo, it was filmed on November 30th, 2000. Somehow the footage blends seamlessly.

Part of the reason they filmed this way was as a weather safety measure, as a flood interrupted a number of their outdoor shots. The Fellowship was originally supposed to have a river chase that they needed to cancel filming for because winter came too soon. That’s at least part of the reason why The Desolation of Smaug has a river chase. Pickup shooting took place between 2001 and 2004 (yes, there were several shots for the extended cut filmed after Return of the King won its 11 Academy Awards). That’s the kind of passion, dedication and care that went into this trilogy.

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The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy went through a number of production difficulties, which I wrote about in my previous Hobbit movie post. To sum it up, it involved late director changes, shooting with an incomplete script, and spreading the original plan for 2 movies into 3 movies. Despite that, the first two movies turned out relatively well. An Unexpected Journey is mostly good; it just dragged at times, and some of the added scenes felt pointless. Desolation of Smaug is almost a great film. The Battle of the Five Armies on the other hand is where all the production troubles add up.

Battle of the Five Armies was mostly comprised of footage filmed for the first two Hobbit movies, yet to make a third, it needed a bunch of extra filming. The original plan was also to only show material from the Hobbit book for the two movies, and that likely would have worked. That was the plan of original director Guillermo del Toro, at least after he considered showing the full story in the first movie, and the second movie would some events not seen in the first movie. The second film was supposed to bridge material to connect The Hobbit to Lord of the Rings as well. However he also talked about if they couldn’t figure out a coherent story for that film, they’d just split The Hobbit into two parts.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

In my previous Hobbit movie post, I teased that the production behind the Hobbit movie trilogy was a mess. It’s time to discuss exactly how much of a mess that was.

Because of the massive success that was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, pretty much everyone wanted something based on The Hobbit. After all, the Lord of the Rings trilogy collected a total of 17 Academy Awards (out of 30 nominations), over $3 billion at a time when only one previous movie in history had ever passed the $1 billion mark (Titanic), and it kick started a surge of big budget fantasy films. It’s often considered by both critics and audiences as up there with the greatest movie trilogies of all-time, and for good reason. Director Peter Jackson, as well as his screenwriting team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, showed great interest in continuing the story.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

My introduction to Lord of the Rings was a multi-step process. I remember reading The Hobbit in school way back in grade 5, and we also watched the animated movie from 1977. I remembered nothing of the book for years, and only remembered that the animated movie had a couple of songs, a scene with giant rock monsters, some sort of special arrow that killed a dragon and a big battle at the end that killed some of the dwarves.

When the Lord of the Rings movies were releasing back in the early 2000’s, I ignored them at first. At the time, I was still big into Star Wars, and watched few movies besides that, James Bond, and dumb comedies. I wrongfully thought they’d be boring. Needless to say, my tastes have broadened so much since then.

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Dragon Movies 4/DreamWorks movies 29: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Like with my first How To Train Your Dragon post, this doubles as an entry in my Dragon Movies theme month and jumping forward in my long delayed DreamWorks blog series. How To Train Your Dragon 2 released in July of 2014, about 4 years after the original movie, and nine animated DreamWorks movies released between the two.

Loosely based on the children’s book series of the same name by Cressida Cowell, How To Train Your Dragon 2 takes what the first movie accomplished and builds on it in multiple ways. The scale is much bigger. The visuals are more developed. The cast is expanded. Best of all, most people tend to agree that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is the better story, and better overall movie. Normally I save my opinion for later in these blog posts, but I’ll just say it straight up right now. This movie is awesome.

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