Lord of the Rings is a trilogy of books written by J.R. Tolkien. Equipped with its own author constructed language, nearly a small novel’s worth of appendices, and roughly 561792 words of story, it is considered to be one of the stories that defined high fantasy as a genre, and sets the bar in terms of world building.
And then Peter Jackson decided to try and adapt it for the big screen. No pressure or anything.
Romeo and Juliet can be summed up as That Play Where Two People Fall in Love and it’s Really Intense, and Les Mis can be described as The Musical Where Everyone Is Both Sad and Strangely Inspirational. Technically, both are true, but they are perhaps lacking as far as conveying quality goes. In the same vein, Lord of the Rings is Where A Bunch of Heroes Do Some Really Hard Stuff And Then They Save The World.
By itself, that’s not bad. It’s even one of the reasons why this trilogy is appealing to me, I think: When we live in a world that’s all shades of incredibly similar grey, it’s nice to be told about another world, where good people do good things, and it’s all really hard but they know it’s the right thing to do. And then, in the end, because they were just so gosh darn good, they get rewarded.
As lovely as that premise is, though, I need to really see and hear this world if I’m going to be invested in it. Fortunately, they had some music and visuals to make that work.
[On Howard Shore’s decision to take a year to compose the score for each of the movies, as compared the more usual period of a month.]…Shore realized that he was dealing with a tale that required voices for countless different cultures and concepts, voices that often intermingled or outright merged over the course of the story. From this wealth of diversity in The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond, Shore created major themes and minor motifs for no less than 80 different concepts, none of which clearly stepping forward as the dominant identity of Tolkien’s world as a whole.
Everything about this movie is made to be epic. The storyline takes place over multiple years, features a heroic journey from multiple characters, and involves the fate of basically everything. To match that, there are sweeping visuals to show the scale of the journey and a soundtrack with a complexity that showcases the intricate nature of the world. Because of these, when I watch the One Ring dissolve into the lava of Mount Doom, I feel like I’ve earned it. When everything is light and glowy and happy afterwards, and the entire fellowship (except Boromir, it sucks to be Boromir) is having a party in Rivendale and everyone is laughing, I appreciate it. At the end of the movies, I’m really, honestly, happy. For some people, that could be because they have reached the end of over nine hours of film. Perhaps they appreciated the technically excellent cinematography, or the wonderful performance of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the soundtrack. For me, however, it is because these technically beautiful elements have allowed me to travel through an entire world filled with people who choose to give everything they can possibly give, so that in the end the good guys can win.
And that is awesome.