'Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power': Why is Peter Jackson's 'LOTR' trilogy considered a masterpiece?

The 'LOTR' franchise consists of three movie that made more than $2.9 billion at the box office and won numrous laurels

'Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power': Why is Peter Jackson's 'LOTR' trilogy considered a masterpiece?
Official poster for 'Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' (New Line Cinema)
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The genre of fantasy films has always been one of the most intriguing ones and fans love to watch them. They forget all their worries and enter a world that is able to turn their dreams into reality. That’s why a lot of filmmakers try to make fantasy movies to garner a lot of support from the viewers. From ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, there is no dearth of amazing fantasy movies, but there’s one trilogy that has taken everyone by storm and is still considered to be one of the most epic movie franchises of all time. Yes, we are talking about Peter Jackson’s magnum opus ‘Lord of the Rings’.

Based on the writings of JRR Tolkien, ‘LOTR’ explores the Middle-Earth and its complexities. It is mainly set in the third age of Middle Earth and sees the entire region on the brink of a war that could change everything. Sauron, the Dark Lord, has risen again and wants to end the world. Meanwhile, a ‘Fellowship’ is created to defeat the darkness. In a way, it is an extraordinary story of good vs. evil, but includes some of the finest examples of storytelling and that’s why all three movies – ‘Fellowship of the Ring’, ‘The Two Towers’, and ‘The Return of the King’ – are so popular even now.

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A still of 'One Ring' from 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy (MGM)
A still of 'One Ring' from 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy (MGM)

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So, what makes ‘Lord of the Rings’ a classic franchise? Let’s take a look.

Great source material

This is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the franchise’s success. JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth saga is one of the finest examples of how fantasy fiction should be written and delivered to the readers. Peter Jackson had the responsibility of giving the same to his viewers. Yes, he added some of his signature styles, but he remained true to the source material and garnered a lot of success.

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Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Sean Bean (Boromir), Gimli (John-Rhys Davies), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Dominic Monaghan (Merry) and Billy Boyd (Pippin) in 'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring' (New Line Cinema)
Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Sean Bean (Boromir), Gimli (John-Rhys Davies), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee), Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Dominic Monaghan (Merry) and Billy Boyd (Pippin) in 'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring' (New Line Cinema)

In fantasy fiction, a lot of things depend on world-building and the backstories of their complex characters. This is one area where ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was a force to be reckoned with. Tolkien’s middle-earth is one of the most triumphant world-building experiences for the readers and gives them an idea of how Tolkien always believed in quality and not quantity. So, Jackson had the advantage of having such amazing source material in his hands when they started making movies. He made such great movies out of that material that some even started saying that movies are better than books.

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Impeccable Casting

Even when you have great source material and a visionary filmmaker behind a project, you still need actors to portray characters as they are meant to be. If they are not able to do justice, fans will quickly point that out and start bashing the makers for ruining a possibly great character. Jackson knew this and that’s why every actor that was included in the movie was perfect. A lot of Hollywood A-list actors were approached for ‘LOTR’. Actors such as Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery and more were in talks to star in the fantasy epic, but they all refused to be a part of it.

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Viggo Mortensen as Aragon and Liv Tyler as Arwen in 'Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' (New Line Cinema)
Viggo Mortensen as Aragon and Liv Tyler as Arwen in 'Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' (New Line Cinema)

Even though Jackson went on to have biggies like Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Cate Blanchett (Lady Galadriel), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Sean Bean (Boromir), and Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), the rest of the cast was made up of actors that were still waiting for one movie that would change their lives and ‘LOTR’ turned out to be that movie. Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, and Liv Tyler became household names after the ‘LOTR’ movie and gave stupendous performances.

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The minimal use of CGI

In the early 2000s, having CGI in a movie was a big deal because it cost a lot of money and that would eventually take the production level to a whole new level. But a filmmaker should know when to stop because if there’s too much CGI, fans won’t be pleased. That’s why ‘Lord of the Rings’ is the perfect example of using technology to an extent where it looks believable. CGI was still in its infancy and the expectations were low, but the way they turned Andy Serkis into Gollum was breathtaking. That is not all, they also created a lot of computer-generated geographies to show gigantic castles, glorious visuals, and the countless number of warriors.

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Andy Serkis as Gollum in 'Lord of the Rings' (New Line Cinema)
Andy Serkis as Gollum in 'Lord of the Rings' (New Line Cinema)

But they didn’t use CGI on the other characters and that’s where ‘LOTR’ gets miles ahead of other fantasy films. When you see an Orc in the movie, it’s not made of CGI, it is a human actor literally covered in prosthetics and makeup trying to perform a scene. This gave ‘LOTR’ the realistic feeling that most of the recently made fantasy movies completely lack.  The balanced work used of CGI is what makes these movies so exceptional.

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Exceptional music

Howard Shore is one of the greatest music composers of all time and when he came on board ‘Lord of the Rings’, people knew something magical is going to come out. They were not wrong and when the movies came out, everyone applauded Shore for giving such inspirational compositions. Whether it’s Frodo and Sam moving through the Shire or Gandalf fighting Balrog or even Aragorn leading the group to storm Black Gate, every scene had such brilliant compositions running in the background that it alone gave you goosebumps.

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(HOLLYWOOD REPORTER AND US TABS OUT) Composer Howard Shore poses with his Oscar for Best Song Writing in a Motion Picture during the 76th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California.
(HOLLYWOOD REPORTER AND US TABS OUT) Composer Howard Shore poses with his Oscar for Best Song Writing in a Motion Picture during the 76th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Who can forget the epic moment when Pippin sings the song, “Home Is Behind, The World Ahead”, to Denethor while we are shown that his son Faramir is going to battle an army of Orcs. The background music in that particular scene will give you all the goosebumps.

All in all, the music compositions enhanced the viewing experience for the viewers.

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Amazing extended editions

The theatrical editions of the movies were spectacular and won many laurels. ‘The Return of the King’ went on to win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture in 2004. However, Peter Jackson treated fans with extended versions of the movies when they were out to come out on DVDs or Digital. When they came out and viewers saw it, they realized how epic these extended versions were. The extended version of ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ was 3 hours and 28 minutes long while ‘The Two Towers’ had a runtime of 3 hours and 43 minutes. However, the last movie in the franchise, ‘The Return of the Kings’, turned out to be the biggest of them all with a runtime of 4 hours and 11 minutes.

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A still from 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (New Line Cinema)
A still from 'Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' (New Line Cinema)

Even when they are so long, there’s not a minute of the movie that you’ll feel is boring. Everything is so well-crafted that they are a treat to watch.

Apart from these reasons, there were other factors like humongous sets, the Oscar count, and the director’s ambition that elevated the movie’s popularity. We are hoping the same from Amazon’s ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’.

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