First off, a very very very big thanks to Jim Dietz, Jen Gualdoni, Scott Mendelson, Aaron Neuwirth, Victoria Irwin, Maxwell Haddad and Philip Vandy Price for subbing in here and guesting to give this retrospective many different flavors. Believe me, it gave me a nice little break to catch up on some other things as well ;) I hope you enjoyed their voice on this journey back to the Middle-Earths of Peter Jackson, Rankin/Bass and Ralph Bakshi.
Do I think this is the end of Lord Of The Rings? No way. I believe we'll see a brand new adventure within the next 6-8 years. Franchises, shared universes, ongoing serial storytelling and all that is way too big, popular and most importantly MAKING $$$$ right now to close the book on a franchise that brings in close to or at a billion dollars with each entry. And I'm down with it too. If they want to make up stories, so be it, I'll give it a shot. Lord Of The Rings is the ultimate fantasy franchise, and I really don't think any sword and sorcerer films have even come close to holding a candle to it in terms of scope, execution and prestige. While I fancy myself a space opera/galactic fantasy guy, I would like to see a wizards and warriors fantasy film or series that challenges Lord Of The Rings. Lord knows there aren't a shortage of books they could adapt. But, til then, this is really the best of the best.
Now lets rank em
10. The Return Of The King (1980)
One journey through Rankin/Bass Minstrel-ville was ok, but an encore journey just was a bit more than I wanted. This isn't horrible, its just last in the rankings.
9. The Russian Hobbit Movie (1985)
If someone could put together like a greatest hits video of this, it'd be terrific. Its a bit amusing to see this, but I'm not sure I'm recommending anyone sit through the whole thing like I did.
8. The Lord Of The Rings (1978)
I always want this movie to be better than it actually is. And when you see the art from it or a scene or something, it has that sweeping sense of nostalgia for something that really isn't near as good as any sort of fondness you might be feeling. I feel like this could have been great, but instead is just an interesting piece of history, but a long, taxing adventure to watch.
7. The Hobbit (1977)
Its short, and captures the wonder of this kind of story. They tried to put this type of vibe on to Return Of The King and that books not really like that. Here, it works and the film is quite a decent little family/kids affair.
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
This film works much better for me in the comfort of my own home, where I have the ability to take breaks, maybe look at my phone and sit in a more comfortable seat. My biggest issue with the film was that it takes what seems like forever to take off an do something. It was also a bit polarizing the first time to take in and get used to a CGI dominated universe as opposed to a wonderful marriage of practical and CG that presented a natural look in the original trilogy. And I'll say it again...CGI Orcs suck.
5. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies (2014)
It was slightly a bit of a "flip a coin" situation for this an #4 on the list. But from here out are LOTR I feel I could pick up and watch without feeling like I "have to". The film creates a nice grand finish, with plenty of battles and payoffs. If any of the LOTR movies were a sort of "pure popcorn flick", this might be the best candidate.
4. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)
This film ranks higher than Battle for me, because it still has that sense of traveling adventure and there are a nice variation of action sequences in the movie. Battle is just basically battle/sword fighting scenes over and over. Here we get plenty of different kinds of sequences plus fights. I did really like the look of this movie as well. The Laketown is really cool in appearance. Plus, I enjoyed the Smaug/Frodo interactions as well. And yeah, Tauriel is awesome.
3. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings (2001)
Had I gone blindly for this retrospective, this would have been my #1. Its the ultimate fantasy movie I'd ever thought of in my head come to life. I love its sense of adventure. But (and Aaron mentioned this in his piece), after Gandalf's sacrifice, this movie comes to skreeching halt and then keeps trying to move forward. Its almost the equivalent of a brick wall. There's another action sequence before everybody parts for the credits, but its too late and you're already worn. A fantastic FANTASTIC film, but if you're asking me why its 3rd, this is why.
2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Its really hard for me to rank these movies, because each one makes a great case for #1. This is one whole story being told in parts. Its not like Star Wars or others, this really is (and was when Tolkien wrote it) just one big story that got three chunks taken out. This film move quite well and has a finish worthy of a series finale rather than just the second chapter.
1. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)
I'm gonna go with the only LOTR movie I saw twice in the theaters this time around. Its an incredibly satisfying movie, encompassing emotional closure with some great scale fantasy action. The ghost ship stuff is super cool too. Yes, we all know the movie ends a ton of times, but this series has earned it at this point. I guess its easy to pick this one, because like the academy, this one kind of sees you as giving props to the series as a whole.
And that's it for retrospectives in 2014. It was big big year. We did 14 retrospectives (I did 12 last year between Naptown Nerd & Mendelson's Memos). From Robocop to Lord Of The Rings. Next up, I'll be doing a bunch of MY 2014 posts until my Top 10 Films Of 2014 posts at Why So Blu and 2015 hits. And 2015 will kick off with something I think you all will like.