Matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
Review below, but please take a second to check out a YouTube vid or 2 first. If you want more Pretty Much It-type banter, watch the vids we did together, and if you want more info, watch Dan’s solo vids (not that kind) 😊
Okay, it’s been a little while since my last review, and it felt only natural that The Lord of the Rings be my next.
Truth be told, it’s hard to separate these films for me. It isn’t like other trilogies where each film is a self-contained story with character arcs and a villain that is defeated by the end of each film. It’s one gigantic, epic tale that just had to be split into 3 parts because you can’t release a 12-hour movie.
I mean all of this in the best way, though. I love that it’s one all-consuming adventure that you can completely get lost in for a day. About once a year I’ll bust out the extended editions of these films and watch all 3 back to back, and it’s always such an incredible and emotional journey.
I can completely understand why LOTR might not be everybody’s cup of tea from a subjective standpoint, after all, fantasy isn’t the most accessible genre to everyone, but surely nobody could watch these films and not be completely and utterly blown away from a filmmaking perspective, right?
For starters, this material is based off of legendary literature, features arguably most cogent directing you’ll ever see, has one of the most iconic soundtracks out there, breathtaking cinematography to the point where half of the shots from this trilogy could make an excellent poster, painting, or be your desktop background, has the most in-depth world-building I personally have ever seen (seriously, watch the behind the scenes. They even had different fictional places within Middle-Earth have different styles of architecture based on the personality types of the main race/species who lived there).
The performances are something I feel get overshadowed with these, likely because of just how insanely good every other department is. But take a look at the performances of Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, and really everyone else from Sir Ian McKellen to Christopher Lee. If you didn’t buy into these characters everything else would fall by the wayside, but everyone does such a good job of making their character feel believable and nuanced, especially considering that by the end of this incredible journey, most of the characters have experienced so much that they are almost entirely different people now. Yet we see that slow progression happen very thoroughly.
I also hate this common idea that the ending is too long. We’re talking about a trilogy that takes nearly an entire day to finish, quite frankly I want a long ending. I need to say goodbye to these characters and I want to spend every last second of time with them that I can. I think the endings all need to happen and it’d feel weird to me if the ending was much shorter.
The battle sequences and uses of miniatures in this trilogy are also unmatched in my experience. Game of Thrones claimed they had a battle that was even bigger than Helm’s Deep, but I watched it and I have to disagree. I think the grand scale of this trilogy combined with - not just great, not even amazing - next level, well, everything, makes this trilogy the best trilogy ever made in my opinion, and as hyperbolic as it may sound, the pinnacle of cinema as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never been more blown away by a movie, and it hasn’t lost an ounce impact since I first saw it 15-20 years ago.
There are a few scenes that make me cry, there are lots that make me cheer, and the entire thing just puts me in this fantasy world and encompasses everything I’ve ever loved about films.
I honestly think this trilogy is worth more than 5 stars, even if that doesn’t technically make sense. But if this is 5 stars, I feel like everything else I’ve rated 5 stars should be moved to 4.5, because they’re not on the level of LOTR. That’s how amazing this trilogy is.