It doesn’t seem so long ago when I first stepped into the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as envisioned by director Peter Jackson. Sure, I had thoroughly enjoyed reading the epic trilogy years before, as a precocious kid who liked playing Dungeons & Dragons, but seeing Middle Earth come to life on the big screen counts as a major highlight of my love affair with tentpole movies. Almost fifteen years have passed since the first part, The Fellowship of the Ring, hit cinemas to great acclaim but that movie and its two succeeding chapters still deliver the magic even when you watch them today. That’s great news considering you’ve now got a new audience who may have been too young to appreciate The Lord of the Rings when it first came out on the big screen.
The entire trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King recently debuted on video-on-demand streaming platform HOOQ and is a great opportunity to watch it on HD, whether you haven’t ever seen the movies or just want to revisit them. First-timer or returning fan, it’s fun to enter an experience with a bit of trivia in your head. Here are five things you might not have known about The Lord of the Rings.
A Long Awaited Sequel
Peter Jackson’s adaptation was an epic work of film-making history, a trilogy that was shot simultaneously over a period of eight years in various locations around New Zealand. The movies were released in the Decembers of 2001, 2002 and 2003. The original novel, on the other hand, took some 12 years to write, a sequel to his massively successful adventure, The Hobbit, published in 1937. The Lord of the Rings was completed in 1949 and only fully published in 1955.
Fantasy as Serious Business
Together with the Harry Potter franchise, whose first movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, came out in the same year as Fellowship, The Lord of the Rings made Hollywood realize that fantasy could be serious business, both on the production and creative side and on the financial. The three movies were nominated for a whopping 30 Oscars, winning 17 of them. Return of the King swept the 76th Academy Awards, winning all 11 of its nominations, including Best Picture. They would earn a combined worldwide box office take of US$ 2.9 billion, not even counting DVD, Blu-ray and merchandise sales. Not a bad return for an aggregate production budget of US$281 million. No doubt, properties such as Game of Thrones owe their existence to the groundbreaking work of LOTR.
Crazy for Cameos
While the movies focused on the Fellowship of the Ring, comprised of Frodo and Samwise, Pippin and Merry, Aragorn, Gandalf, Boromir, Gimli and Legolas, making their actors household names, the trilogy is full of cameos from the crew and their relatives. Jackson cameos as Albert Dreary, the carrot-munching man outside the Prancing Pony and again as a corsair in the extended cut of Return of the King. His kids make numerous appearances in all three movies. Legendary Tolkien artists and the films’ conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, appear as two of the kings of men, to whom rings are given. Even Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords makes an appearance as Figwit (Frodo Is Great, Who Is That?), a previously anonymous character in the Council of Elrond scene that fans brought to attention.
Saruman was a Fan
Among the trilogy’s cast, only Sir Christopher Lee, who plays the wizard Saruman, had ever actually met J.R.R. Tolkien (at a pub, of all places!). Lee was a tremendous fan who would re-read the books every year. When he caught wind that Jackson was making the films, Lee ensured he would be cast in them by, first, getting cast as a wizard in a crappy TV show just to get that role on his CV. He then sent a photo of him wearing his wizard robes to Jackson, with a note saying, “This is what I look like as a wizard, don’t forget this when you cast the movie.”
My Precious Limited Edition Set
The trouble with being a fan is that you’ll invariably lust after any special release. I, myself, own both theatrical and extended special editions of the trilogy. This October, though, a new “Limited Collector’s Edition” of both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy was unleashed on the world. In the set are THIRTY discs! Most of these will be in Blu-ray save for the bonus content and featurettes from The Lord of the Rings, which will be on DVD. The discs come cased in six faux-leather “books” and come with its own Hobbit-style wooden shelf. You’ve also got a 100-page art book plus prints of watercolor paintings by legendary fantasy painters Alan Lee and John Howe. The price for My Precious? A whopping 600 US dollars!
While a US$600 collector’s edition is out of reach except for the most devoted fan, seeing the epic trilogy in Full HD is definitely a must. HOOQ is your best bet if you don’t have a Blu-ray player or the Blu-ray discs.. The service is bundled with most Globe Broadband DSL and LTE packages, and it’s best to get a plan that delivers at least 3Mbps speed. That way, you get a smooth, seamless streaming experience as you journey to Mordor with Frodo, Sam, Aragorn and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring.