Eight years in the making, and almost as long to watch, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is essentially two films without endings and one with 27. As an exercise in re-enacting battles that never were, it’s technically phenomenal; as a drama it’s repetitive and dry, like watching someone else playing chess for nine-and-a-half hours (or 11-and-a-half hours if you’re really keen). No wonder Bernard Hill looks so knackered.
Make no mistake; aside from the scenes exploring the narcotic power of the ring itself (around 40 of 558 minutes), this is a film about fighting (roughly 120 minutes). Nothing wrong with that – most blockbusters are – but then they don’t go on forever. 300 was over in 111 minutes (and much less afraid of its own homoeroticism); boxing matches are sometimes finished in three.
The only conflict here is conflict itself, so why must we spend aeons watching secondary characters preparing for action like substitutes warming up for the big match? “I don’t want to be in the battle, but waiting on the edges of one I can’t escape is even worse,” whines Pippin. Welcome to the party, pal.
In no particular order, the remaining 400-or-so minutes are filled with: people walking to the edge of cliffs and pointing at stuff, doors being thrown open into chambers, straight-to-camera laughing, New Zealand vista-porn, and seasoned British actors gazing off into the misty distance, talking politics while their American counterparts talk food. Dull, dull, dull.
Excellent at scale but dreadful at depth or detail, the films have no texture, humanity or intrigue. Perhaps that’s why the Orcs’ smelting sessions are more interesting than the interplay between the leads, and the most compelling character is the CG Gollum.
Ian McKellen’s sonorous tones could bring the phonebook to life (sometimes it feels like they are), Viggo Mortensen’s passable if a bit priggish, Sean Bean’s around much too briefly and everyone else is a Skywalker rather than a Solo, falling back on sniff-the-fart theatrics as the script suffocates on its own self-importance.
Handsome but bland (much like Orlando Bloom), the films pay undue reverence to a source that isn’t actually very good, the atrophied, endlessly appendiced witterings of a scholar desperate to escape the real world for the safety of a sexless, deathless neverwhere.
No doubt it’s meant to be nourishing, but there’s no meat – or, for that matter, “po-ta-toes” (as Sean Astin puts it) – to this convoluted, rather than complex story. Strip away the awesome FX, unpronounceable names and give-a-shit history lessons and what are you left with? A half-day-long film about two dim short-arses and a junkie trying to chuck some stolen jewellery off a cliff... or is it just me?
Each month our sister publication Total Film magazine argues a polarising movie opinion and gives you the opportunity to agree or disagree. Let us know what you think about this one in the comments below and read on for more.