By John Hanlon
It’s been nearly nineteen years ago since director Peter Jackson released the incredible first installment of his The Lord of the Rings cinematic series. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) began the epic journey that was continued in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and concluded in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Eleven years after the release of the original, Jackson returned to Middle-Earth with his three-part Hobbit cinematic series.
Now, for the first time, both trilogies have been released— with their original and extended versions—on breathtaking 4K.
Adapted from the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, both series tell epic adventures about underestimated heroes who take on great quests. In the Lord of the Rings series, an underestimated hobbit named Frodo (Elijah Wood) is tasked with destroying a ring of great evil. In the Hobbit series, which takes place before the events from Lord of the Rings, Frodo’s uncle Bilbo (Martin Freeman) joins a quest to take back a mountain that was seized by a dragon.
In both stories, the lead characters are underdogs surrounded and supported by distinguished warriors. The heroes of these stories are not the obvious choices for epic adventures and that makes their accomplishments even more fantastical. Both stories show that any one driven individual — despite physical limitations, personal shortcomings and low expectations – can help better the world.
In addition to telling great stories, these films speak to larger truths about finding one’s own purpose in life and dealing with difficult times (like the ones we're living in now). In one of the most moving scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring, for instance, Frodo says that he wishes the ring never came to him. Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), the wise wizard who accompanies Frodo on his quest, responds by saying, “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Throughout the films, there are great messages about honor, integrity and decency. Many of the main characters in the stories seek to do good, despite temptations to do otherwise. The plot never shies away from the ultimate battle between good and evil but they also show how good people can stray from their values.
These films were always rich in character and in story and the new versions of these films only elevate the magnificent effects on display. Capturing vivid details of the actors and the effects, the 4K versions of these films bring these stories to the viewers in a way that will likely remind fans of the first time they saw these stories on the big screen.
With the coronavirus keeping many people from going outside, now seems like the perfect time to revisit these wonderful stories and the lessons from them. It’s true that these films are lengthy. The extended versions of the original trilogy clock in at nearly four hours each and the extended versions of the Hobbit films are approximately three hours in length.
However, now feels like the right time to return to Middle Earth and remember that heroes can come from anywhere and accomplish great feats even in the most trying of times.