FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING : I remember walking into a matinee of this opening day, not knowing what to expect. I had never read the books (sacrilege!), but my best buddy had. However, having been burned by the old Rankin-Bass cartons, he figured this would be goofy as hell, and on the drive over, we were making LABRYNTH jokes, saying this would be like that film, minus the kick-ass David Bowie soundtrack.
Suffice to say, we were wrong.
From the second I heard the first strings of Howard Shore’s incredible score, I was hooked. Everything about this blew me away, from the pitch perfect cast (favorites include Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, and Viggo!), to the FX- which were among the best I’d ever seen up to that point. I also loved the whole look of Middle Earth, and my buddy became so obsessed with the Shire that he spent the next three years trying to get a Grad School fellowship in New Zealand. Another friend of mine was so impressed that immediately after paying to see it once; he cut through the lobby to the ticket counter, and bought a ticket for the next show.
The film holds up perfectly, and I was totally engrossed in it from start-to-finish. There really hasn’t been any fantasy epics like it since, and even something like AVATAR pales in comparison.
THE TWO TOWERS : The favorite of many fans, I still prefer FELLOWSHIP, but this outdoes it in action and spectacle. Everything that was good about the first film continues here, and we also get Andy Serkis as Gollum, which remains one of the most convincing CGI creations of all time.
My favorite character from the first film, Aragorn, gets the lion's share of screen time, so there's no shortage of action. The climactic Battle of Helm’s Deep is one of the finest action sequences ever produced, with it going on for a full forty minutes. Incredible. Probably my only issue was the fact that Merry & Pippin' spend the whole film hanging around in a tree, which probably worked a lot better on the page than in did on the screen. Still, Jackson's a slave to the text, which- in this case anyways, is not a bad thing.
THE RETURN OF THE KING : In my opinion, this is where the series faltered somewhat, as RETURN is not, for me anyways, on the same level as the other two films. It just felt a little bloated and tiresome by this point, although this is far from a bad film (if the first was a 5/5, and TWO TOWERS was a 4.5, this would still be a 4/5). I just thought it should have been trimmed by a good thirty minutes or so, with there being a few too many endings for my liking, and they could have easily been left for the extended versions. Also- the battle scenes don’t hold a candle to TWO TOWERS, with too many goofy shots, like the one of Legolas sliding down the elephants' trunk with his bow & arrow. Still this is a fitting end to the series, and the climatic scenes with Sam, Frodo and Gollum on Mount Doom are classic.