If you told me as I left the theater from the first entry in The Lord of the Rings trilogy that I’d eventually be writing up an explanation of it as one of the best films of the decade, I’d have said you were crazy. Yes, I initially was not on board with the first of this now beloved set of films. Several revisits of the extended edition have turned me into a believer, even as I continue to make lame jokes about Sam and Frodo’s relationship, walking, and why they should have taken the stupid eagles to Mordor instead. Although it is still the second and third films that I personally prefer, it is The Fellowship of the Ring that sets the table, and thus represents the trilogy on our top 20 list.
Without the passion and dedication of Peter Jackson, I don’t see how this “impossible to film” project could have pulled through. Thanks to the ridiculously detailed extended edition DVDs, we see his fingers helping shape everything from the casting, location scouting and effects, to the restructuring of the book for film. Jackson works as if his entire life depended on it (it probably did), but also with the humor and giddiness of the ultimate fanboy.
The casting spurred the careers of several on board, particularly Viggo Mortensen, while perhaps stunting the careers of several others the way only a Star Wars-level iconic franchise can do. What is more impressive as the series begins is how some of the most important characters are not human at all – and I don’t mean the CGI creations. The One Ring itself takes hold with a diabolical strength beyond any of the orcs hunting the fellowship down, and the sweeping scenery of New Zealand brings Middle Earth to life.
Approaching ten years later, The Lord of the Rings’ achievements seem taken for granted, as if pulling off an adaptation of this magnitude was easy, inevitable and thus owed to us. As we near that anniversary it seems we’ve almost come full circle, as we now sit, wait and worry about what big bad Hollywood will do to The Hobbit.
Check out previous entries from our Top 20 Films of the ’00s.