Twenty years after the release of Peter Jackson’s first installment in the trilogy, game developers are continuing to adapt the director’s vision of The Lord of the Rings universe for PC, console, and mobile, with the latter platform recently receiving arguably its most impressive title to date: The Lord Of The Rings: Rise To War.
To celebrate the upcoming anniversary of the The Fellowship of the Ring’s cinema release, we’ve taken a deep dive into finding out why Tolkien’s classic trilogy remains the ultimate fantasy epic.
It’s inspired generations of storytellers
Although JRR Tolkien’s novels had long since established themselves as the most imitated, most genre-defining fantasy saga in history, Peter Jackson had his work cut out turning the series into a blockbusting movie trilogy. The trilogy’s size, complexity and vast mythology had led many to assume that The Lord Of The Rings was unfilmable, but the New Zealand-based director – a long-time fan of Tolkien’s work – had such reverence for the source material that his adaptations soon became as beloved as the novels. In fact, the films have gone on to be nearly as influential as the books that inspired them.
As well as capturing the impressive scale of the novels, Jackson (and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) tapped into Tolkien’s themes about good triumphing over evil despite impossible odds – understanding that The Lord Of The Rings is as much a story of hope as an action blockbuster.
The battles are epic
Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy was perfectly timed to take advantage of advances in visual effects at the dawn of the 21st century. Using state-of-the-art CG, he made the epic battles of Middle-earth feel incredibly visceral and realistic – even five years earlier, these impressive sequences, featuring thousands of warriors, would have been impossible.
While Jackson’s movies never lose sight of the fact Frodo and Sam’s mission behind enemy lines to destroy the One Ring is crucial, it’s the vast skirmishes at Helm’s Deep and the Pelennor Fields that give the movies their massive, Middle-earth-encompassing scope. Indeed, when Orcs, Oliphaunts and Fellbeast-riding Ringwraiths enter the battlefield against Tolkien’s heroes, it’s impossible to look away – this is fantasy action of a scale you won’t find anywhere else.
The characters are iconic
The epic quest to save Middle-earth from Sauron and his dark forces would count for nothing if you didn’t care about the characters who call it home. Luckily, Tolkien’s world is jam-packed with memorable figures who’ve become icons in their own right, as synonymous with the saga as the One Ring.
From the four Hobbits plucked the Shire to more obviously powerful members of the Fellowship Of The Ring – Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir and Gandalf – these humans, Elves, Dwarves and Wizards each have something unique to bring to the party – as well as their own demons to conquer. And in The Lord Of The Rings, even the supporting players – such as Éowyn and Faramir – can have a pivotal part to play in the fate of Middle-earth.
The locations are stunning
When New Line Cinema greenlit Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, they took the unprecedented step of filming all three instalments back-to-back. They also allowed him to shoot in his native New Zealand – a decision that proved inspired when the country’s unique, untouched landscapes proved the perfect substitute for Middle-earth.
In Jackson’s hands, Tolkien’s fantasy universe is a living, breathing world. Whether the heroes are riding across the plains of Rohan, traversing the Misty Mountains, or braving the volcanic wastes of Mordor, these key locations feel like tangible places you can touch or feel.
You can experience Middle-earth for yourself
This December marks the 20th anniversary of The Fellowship Of The Ring’s arrival in cinemas – The Two Towers and The Return Of The King were released in 2002 and 2003, respectively – but even now, Middle-earth remains the ultimate fantasy destination.
In the franchise’s most recent officially licensed release for mobile, The Lord Of The Rings: Rise To War, you get to experience Tolkien’s universe for yourself, as you strive to build your army into one of the most powerful forces in the land. Encountering Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Hobbits and more, you can expand your territory across Tolkien’s famous world, recruiting big-name commanders from the movies to guide your forces. But how will you use your resources or develop allegiances with other players? And will you side with the forces of good or evil? In Rise To War, it’s entirely up to you.