Looking Back at the LOTR Trilogy’s Legendary Legacy

It’s been roughly two decades since The Lord of the Rings trilogy first hit movie screens across the world. Shocking, right?

The trilogy itself seems in many ways timeless and ageless to both old and new audiences alike. In honor of the twentieth anniversary of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, here are the reasons why we believe the LOTR trilogy has such staying power.

It’s an inspiring and relatable story.

The story at the heart of The Lord of the Rings captured the love of its fans from the moment it was put to text in the 1950s. Later, it won the hearts of a brand new generation of fans when it hit the silver screen in the early aughts. The Lord of the Rings is an inspiring tale of good triumphing over evil.

More importantly, it’s a story about one normal person stepping up with the support of his friends to save the world. Answering the call of the hero’s journey is by no means a novel concept but J.R.R. Tolkien in his writing, and later Peter Jackson in film, make Frodo Baggins highly relatable. Unlike many heroes that boldly dive into danger, Frodo’s journey starts with quiet, reluctant courage. He is often terrified and overwhelmed on his journey but continues going forward anyway. The hero’s tale becomes all the more inspiring thanks to Frodo’s relatability.

It’s visually stunning.

When the rolling hills of the Shire, the sweeping plains of Rohan, and the desolate lands of Mordor fill the screen, it is clear New Zealand served as a perfect backdrop for Middle-earth. As many fans that watched behind the scenes features know, great care went into choosing and cultivating each of the lands of Middle-earth.

These do not feel like hastily prepared movie sets intended for several scenes; instead, it feels like watching the people of Middle-earth truly inhabit their homes as their ancestors did before them. Middle-earth feels lived in.

The craftsmanship is unparalleled.

Anyone that is familiar with film or is familiar with the behind-the-scenes efforts that went into The Lord of the Rings know that it was truly a labor of love. The time and effort spent on making sure every detail is right can be noted in every scene. Many of the costumes, armor, prosthetics, and weapons of the main characters have since become iconic. Even background characters and items have a great deal of thought and time put into them, enriching the filmgoing experience. Lifelong fans will say that they notice something new every time they revisit the trilogy.

Beyond the practical effects, The Lord of the Rings is responsible for many breakthroughs in visual effects. The hordes of goblins and Uruk-hai, the fearsome Balrog, and especially Gollum withstand the test of time even as technology has advanced further.

It has an exemplary score.

With two of the three scores by Howard Shore winning Oscars, it is no surprise that the love for the music of Middle-earth has endured as well. The music of The Lord of the Rings is filled with recognizable themes in various tempos and keys with a variety of instruments. The characters, lands, and different groups of Middle-earth each have their own theme.

The Shire theme, when first introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring, is jubilant and warm. That same theme is played by a single penny whistle in The Return of the King as Frodo and Sam remember the Shire and muster the last of their strength on the slopes of Mount Doom. What makes the music so remarkable beyond its profound beauty is that it tells the story of The Lord of the Rings on its own.

Its script honors its source material.

Writing in a tone that both honored Tolkien’s voice and lent itself to more casual moviegoers was likely not an easy task. Peter Jackson, Philipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh struck this delicate balance when they wrote the screenplay for The Lord of the Rings. The three books together are over a thousand pages, so inevitably Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh cut portions out to maintain reasonable pacing. On the other hand, they kept many direct quotes from Tolkien’s writing, albeit at times tweaking them a little and assigning them to different characters.

When they were not quoting Tolkien directly, they successfully honored his writing style and voice with ease. Ardent fans of the book will often lament the scenes that were cut as well as some narrative changes but simultaneously acknowledge that the three screenwriters stayed loyal to the heart of Tolkien’s story. Beloved quotes, Tolkien’s style, and the vital thematic elements of the trilogy remain.

The characters are easy to love.

Peter Jackson and the cast of The Lord of the Rings both honor the characters that Tolkien created and add complexities not found in the texts to great effect. Elijah Wood expertly depicts the way the Ring wears away at Frodo and its increasing cost with every step. Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of Aragorn brings a sense of nobility, duty, and wisdom to what could have easily been a clichéd portrayal of a reluctant leader.

As Galadriel, Cate Blanchett is somehow distant and wise, but also playful and warm. Sean Astin’s portrayal of Samwise Gamgee as the bravest, most loyal friend anyone could ask for certainly contributes to his regular placement at the top of any fictional best friend list. Every character’s story arc is treated with incredible thought and care by both the writers and the actors who portray them.

The cinematography, the story itself, and everything in between come together to make The Lord of the Rings movies beloved classics to this day. Few adaptations have so deftly struck the balance between staying true to its source material while also translating so seamlessly to the film medium.

Why do you think the LOTR films have withstood the test of time? Share your thoughts with other fans at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!