Sky Movies Showcase: Monday 24 August, 5.00pm
Young Frodo Baggins, a good-hearted hobbit with hairy bare feet, is charged with returning a mystical ring to Mordor’s Mount Doom from whence it came. He’ll need help from aged wizard Gandalf and an alliance of elves, dwarves and humans, because Sauron’s dark forces and the ring itself – crave dominion over Middle Earth. In bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy to the screen, New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson created something truly extraordinary. Jackson’s triumph is to infuse vigour and purpose to fanciful material which should, by all rights, be hackneyed. There’s a real sense of magic to proceedings that have long since been parodied and imitated countless times over. Intense emotion and excitement, too, in the vast vistas of tragedy and terror in these worlds of unimaginable beauty and cruelty. Except that Tolkien did indeed imagine them, and now Jackson gives Tolkien’s vision an indelible new life on screen. And not for a moment does this muscular movie descend to anything resembling the kind of airy-fairyness usually associated with Hollywood fantasies. Jackson’s film is entrancing and frightening by turn, but always consistent with Tolkien’s world-view. Brilliantly photographed by Australian Oscar-winner Andrew Lesnie (who died suddenly at the age of 59 in April), Tolkien’s Middle Earth resembles the world we know without making any reference to it, making it simultaneously strange and familiar. The notion that evil’s true power lies in suggestion is made plain from the start at Bilbo’s birthday celebrations, and the ensuing war against Sauron is fought principally in the heart, by characters forced to overcome fear. Written at the time of the Third Reich’s rise in Europe, partly in response to Wagner’s operatic interpretation of the ancient Ring stories, Tolkien’s trilogy is an imaginative response to the tumult of the 20th century. Under Jackson’s obsessive and sympathetic gaze, its figures of folklore assume the grandeur of myth.