Chapter 3

Jackson’s movie ‘Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)

3.01Outlines of the movie, various aspects

For years the only practicable way to shoot a LOTR movie had been animation. The resulting films by Bass & Rankin and Bakshi are by no means bad, but they certainly do not do Tolkien’s writings justice. As computer generated images became more and more common in cinema throughout the past few years the boundaries of what could and could not be done were pushed further and further up. Suddenly it became easily possible to produce a huge cave troll or major characters in various sizes in a believable and convincing way.

When Peter Jackson, a New Zealand filmmaker of low budget Horror movies like ‘Bad Taste’ (1987) or ‘Braindead’ (1992), decided to make a live action movie out of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’-books, nobody at Miramax, his first choice of a production company, took him seriously. The material was regarded to be far too much and too complicated to be turned into a single movie, which is why Jackson’s first intention was to split the movie into two parts. The financial risk of producing two expensive movies with loads of special effects before the audience’s acceptance of the first one was known was simply too high. Jackson left Miramax and turned to New Line Cinema, where he was accepted with open arms.

The back to back filming of three consecutive LOTR movies with a total budget of roughly 300,000,000 US$ began in New Zealand in October 1999. Chief photography ended roughly in December 2000, but a lot of post production work as well as additional pick up filming with major and minor characters was needed until the opening of ‘Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring’ on December 23rd 2001. The second and the third movie opened each exactly one year apart around Christmas in 2002 and 2003. All three movies were huge financial successes with the first one alone covering the costs for all three many times over with cinema admissions, rentals and merchandising.

Jackson used both well known actors like Elijah Wood, Ian MacKellen or Hugo Weaving and newcomers like Orlando Bloom. Ian Holm, who plays Bilbo Baggins had earlier played the role of Frodo Baggins in the 1981 BBC radio drama. Christopher Lee, who plays Saruman, had actually known Tolkien himself.

The version of the first movie I chose to analyse is the one published as the extended DVD version in late 2002. Some 30 minutes more of film material complete the story and create more connections to the book than were possible in the shorter cinematic version. As the extended DVD version was published on four DVDs, two of which cover the movie and two the extras, I am going to mark quotations from Jackson movie with a ‘J’ followed by the number of the DVD and the DVD chapter.

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