Initial reactions included a strong desire for my own Hobbit hole, eye rolls at epic battle scenes, and a major creep factor for the wrinkly, hairless thing. However, by the time the hobbits met Strider in the Prancing Pony, I was completely hooked. Something about the story just clicked, as many before me and since have said about this classic tale. By the time Boromir took his final breath and Sam nearly drowned trying to follow Frodo, I was absolutely mesmerized, tears on my face, utterly distraught right alongside the characters. I saw the subsequent two installments in the theatre on opening day with all the crazy (read: fun), costumed mega-fans.
Peter Jackson's masterpieces have many strengths, from striking visuals to impressively researched understanding of the material. The fact that my husband loves these movies speaks volumes, as well, as the books are some of his absolute favourites, and he is one of the most particular, picky people I know when it comes to book-to-film adaptations. And yet, these have become some of his favourite movies. He still reserves occasional afternoons for 12-hour marathon viewings of the extended versions. Furthermore, these are some of the only films that still make me cry. Over a decade later, and crocodile tears well up in my eyes within seconds of hearing, "...but I can carry you!" These movies, just like their preceding novel, have become classics with mammoth staying power:
Perhaps my absolute favourite aspects of these films, however, are their scores. Howard Shore's compositions are incredible, argued to be some of the best film scores of all time. Symphonies still tour the world playing the entire orchestration live. I personally love them so much, I walked down my wedding aisle to "Samwise, the Brave". And you know what? People LOVED it:
B) The LOTR team once again demonstrates amazing attention to detail, even details Tolkien never actually published outside of his notes, including specified pronunciations that might surprise you. Jackson has said before he means to make film versions that Tolkien himself might actually be proud of, and he seems to be darn good at it, God bless him.
C) Once again, this film is visually stunning and instantly transporting to Tolkien's legendary world. I appreciated that this team never lets technology take over these movies. Just because we can manipulate something on a computer doesn't mean we should. And when they do, they make sure to do a smashing job at editing it properly. They clearly take the extra time and go the extra mile, and it pays off every time. Furthermore, I expect New Zealand tourism to boost once again, because HOT DANG that's some breathtaking countryside!
D) Howard Shore, I love you. No, seriously, I LOVE YOU. He did both things I was so very much hoping for. First, he paid homage to the original scores, because all the original themes are present and accounted for: the Shire, the Ring, the Orcs, Rivendell, Smeagol...he has pulled snippets from all of them into this one, tying them together beautifully. Another nod to continuity. Secondly, he's written a gorgeous new theme for these dwarves. Not only is it beautiful, it is Tolkien-appropriate, initially established with a dwarf-sung version in Bilbo's living room before the journey even begins. (Respect, also, that these are the actual actors singing. RESPECT.)
That simple melodic theme is pulled through the entire film, as they trudge over hill and dale, throughout Middle Earth. And if I may say so myself, the full orchestra version is breathtaking:
E) The casting is better than I thought it would be, and that is saying a lot, as these are already some of my all-time favourite actors. Martin Freeman is a perfect Bilbo. Perfect. I can't wait for his dialogue with Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. (Oh, the Sherlock/Hobbit fan videos that are going to grow out of that!) Despite loving Richard Armitage, I was skeptical after seeing his odd dwarf get-up last year. But guess what: it works. By the end of the film, he's yet another favourite character, despite the weird non-Armitage nose. And once again, Andy Serkis' Smeagol is right on the money, simultaneously playing antagonistic and heartbreaking.
Now that this post is Tolkienesquely excessively long and wordy, the point I attempt to make is: see it, especially if you loved the other three. Perhaps even die hard book-purists can find a place in their hearts for these particular adaptations, because, in my humble opinion, they truly are THAT good.