The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings was originally a trilogy of books set in a fantasy world that is medieval in nature and heavily influenced by Viking mythology. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949 by J.R.R. Tolkein as a sequel to his 1937 children’s book The Hobbit. The books have proved so enduring that even 60 years after they were published, the series is still highly influential in the world of cinema and literature, giving rise to the literary genre of sword and sorcery and high fantasy, inspiring writers like Fritz Lieber, Roger Zalazny and George R.R. Martin to create their own fantastical fantasy universes, full of dragons, wizards and knights in shining armour.

Hollywood also jumped on the fantasy bandwagon, particularly in the ‘80s when they produced movies such as Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Red Sonya with Brigitte Nielsen, Legend starring Tom Cruise and Tim Curry, and Willow starring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer. Unfortunately, due to budgetary concerns and a lack of 21st Century technology, none of these films could be considered truly epic.

Fortunately, that is no longer the case, and Peter Jackson, the man who before this had made films such as Searching for Silverman and Heavenly Creatures, was finally able to bring his exquisite interpretation of The Lord of the Rings to the big screen. It should be mentioned that The Lord of the Rings was made into a movie once before. In 1978 Ralph Bakshi made a cartoon version of Tokein's saga. He planned to make two films but when he ran out of funds, he had to cut the project short, leaving the first film with an unsatisfactory ending. The good news is that if you watch Jackson's version of the trilogy, you will forget all about the Bakshi version.

For the uninitiated, the Lord of the Rings is mainly the story of Frodo Baggins and the war of the ring. The war is a conflict in which the forces of Good in Middle Earth – represented by Aragorn the Ranger, Gandalf the Wizard, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf and assorted Nordic warriors – square off against all that is Evil. That is, Saruman the White (another wizard), Sauron the Necromancer, an assortment of Orcs, Goblins and other shambling baddies.

While the war of the ring rages on, Frodo Baggins, accompanied by his loyal man-servant Samwise Gamge, and Gollum, a twisted loincloth-wearing sociopath whose job it is to guide them through the monster-infested wildness, travel to Mount Doom in order to cast a ring, the source of all evil, into the fires inside the mountain, thus thwarting Sauron and saving the world.

Tolkein's story has been lovingly transferred to film. Peter Jackson has paid extraordinary attention to every last detail of the saga. Costume and set design are gorgeous. Jackson's choice of actors to play the main roles is inspired. Viggo Mortenson is memorable as Aragorn, Sir Ian McKellen is perfectly cast as Gandalf, and it's hard to imagine another actor better suited to play Frodo than Elijah Wood. Other actors that deserve mention are Sean Astin as Sam, Billy Boyd as Pippin, Dominic Monaghan as Merry, and, of course, Andy Serkis as Gollum.

It's no wonder that fans of this trilogy can't wait for the first movie in The Hobbit trilogy, to be released on December 14.