Friday, December 3, 2021

Jackson's LOTR, after twenty years

From an evaluation of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, twenty years on:
.... Two decades provide enough remove to ask whether the critical and commercial success was merited and, more important, whether Jackson and his team captured the spirit of Tolkien’s work.

Does the trilogy hold up as cinema? Re-watching it recently, I found that the answer is obviously yes. The casting is, for the most part, impeccable. The scenery, much of it filmed on location in New Zealand and augmented as needed with sets, models, or CGI, feels simultaneously fantastic and lived in.

The special effects are good enough that this enchanted world requires little suspension of disbelief. Visually, the film has aged much better than many other works from that unfortunate early-2000s period, when film studios overused new technology and gave things a video-gamey sheen. Howard Shore’s score is one of the greatest ever; including over 100 themes, it is transportive, evocative, and lush, alternating, like the film itself, between intimate moments of quiet grace and dramatic cues appropriate for gigantic battles and titanic struggles. The entire production takes itself seriously without feeling leaden; it simply feels credible. Jackson wanted those involved “to think that Lord of the Rings was real” ....

It is widely acknowledged that there are many serious differences between Jackson’s adaptation and Tolkien’s novel. Answers vary, however, to the question whether Jackson’s work maintains Tolkien’s spirit or ruins it. Ian McKellen, who plays the noble wizard Gandalf, has remarked that “the enthusiasts who have read the novels over and over may notice every change but in doing so they will miss the point.” On the other hand, Christopher Tolkien, the author’s son and literary executor, complained that Jackson and his crew had “eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25.”

Who is right? Both — and neither. ....

...[S]o many of the big-budget spectacles that followed (and still follow) in the trilogy’s wake forget the human core that must be at a film’s center if viewers are not to sit numbly as waves of CGI wash over them. Jackson himself forgot it a decade after The Return of the King, with his much-inferior Hobbit prequel trilogy. But whatever complaints one may have about it, the deserved and enduring popularity of his original trilogy will continue to point new generations of readers to Tolkien’s work. And that will remain a virtue in itself. (more)
"Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, 20 Years On"

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