Cult film: 20 years ago, the movie "The Lord of the Rings" was released in cinemas |  Movies |  DW

Cult film: 20 years ago, the movie “The Lord of the Rings” was released in cinemas | Movies | DW

Throughout 2001, Lord of the Rings fans waited for the theatrical release of the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1,300-page novel. The first trailer came out in January and promised an extravagant fantasy landscape with dragons, monsters, and battles. A 26-minute preview premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in June, and it promises more than that: the epic story of a tiny humanoid creature tasked with destroying an impossibly powerful ring and thus saving the fantasy world of Middle-earth, almost brakes. Because he not only has to fight the overpowering evil Sauron, but also against the temptation to use the power of the ring for himself. For half a year, the image of the little hobbit Frodo Baggins with a golden ring was advertised – it made more of an impression than the breath of demons.

A few superlatives

On December 10, 2001, the wait is finally over, the first film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (“The Fellowship of the Ring”) premiered in London, blasting into cinemas all over the world in the following days and grossing $897 million to date. a.

The hobbits Frodo and Sam

The sequel (“The Two Towers”) followed a year later and grossed another $947 million at the box office. The last and third sequels (The Return of the King, 2003) grossed $1.15 billion.

With 30 Oscar nominations and a total of 17 awards, the trilogy is the most successful in the history of cinema and has inspired other no less famous fantasy productions, such as “The Hunger Games” – the film series also consisted of three parts – or as well as the long series “Game of Thrones”.

failed attempts

The story’s creator, J.R.R. Tolkien, never expected anyone to be able to film this epic. However, he sold the rights to an independent production studio – allegedly because they could not go to the powerful Disney corporation, because Tolkien did not like Disney versions of fairy tales and epics at all.

Successful producer Saul Zaentz (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Amadeus”) supported the first attempt at filming The Lord of the Rings. Animated film directed by Ralph Bakshi. But the story stopped almost in the middle and did not continue due to lack of interest. Two years later, a TV version of the sequel was produced as an anime, the Japanese version of the anime, for the Japanese and American markets.

A man puts a golden ring on his finger

The Hobbit Finds the Ring – Soviet adaptation of the story

A truly frivolous live-action film was shown on Soviet television in 1991. In the Leningrad studio, the film “Chraniteli” was shot, based on the part “The Companions”. The film was lost for a long time until it was rediscovered in 2021 It was put on YouTube.

Shaggy guy from New Zealand

Finally, Peter Jackson from New Zealand has shown interest in the story. A man with tousled hair and a tousled beard, he’s an eccentric who’s experimented with Super 8 cameras since he was a kid and was a special effects enthusiast. who dragged friends and family in front of the camera to make short films. His first “full” production was horror film Bad Taste, featuring saw aliens and cannibals – a work that won multiple fantasy and science fiction awards.

The world of cinema became acquainted with this strange man after his genre films were shown at such famous festivals as Cannes and Venice.

Jackson had already penned a script with his wife in the early 1990s and managed to impress the production company, New Line Cinema, of his idea and capabilities. They gave him a budget of about $150 million. Jackson began filming in his home country. Because in New Zealand, the landscapes that Middle-earth was destined to bring to life were right on its doorstep: from beautiful hill ranges and fertile valleys to icy cold mountain ranges to rugged rock formations, volcanoes and forests.

An aerial view of the Dart River Valley with the Dart River and surrounding Forbes Mountains in the background

The River Dart valley is the gateway to the charming castle of Isengard

“Harry Potter” as a direct competition

All three films were filmed between October 11, 1999 and December 22, 2000, with additional scenes shot later. A very brave undertaking – because filming a trilogy in one piece with such financial outlay has never been done before. All previously filmed sequels in Hollywood materialized only when they were promised success, this was the case with “Terminator” with “Indiana Jones”, even with George Lucas’ Star Wars.

In addition, the first “Lord of the Rings” movie had to rival the first “Harry Potter” movie, which was released three weeks earlier and celebrated with overwhelming success.

Money printing machine “Lord of the Rings”

It’s all history. Because the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which ultimately gobbled up about $270 million in production costs, made back expenses faster than you could see.

Scene from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Gandalf the Wizard in a Hat and a Magic Walking Wand

Good Wizard: Gandalf in the Shire

The next Tolkien film adaptation of Peter Jackson was no less successful: in the years 2012-2014 the “Hobbit” trilogy was created, the action of which takes place about 60 years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings”, in which, among other things, the story is told how he took possession of The young hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Frodo’s uncle) gets the Powerful Ring in the first place. These three films also grossed nearly three billion dollars. Amazon now also wants a piece of the pie, and starting in September 2022 is showing a series that goes way back in time – with some recognizable characters and a villain even more sinister than the terrible Sauron from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

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With mobile home to mount destiny

Another source of money that has become an integral part of filmmaking is still merchandising, from fancy Gollum to travel guides.

Snow-covered Mount Ngauruhoe, lit up red at sunrise

Mount Ngauruhoe in the early morning light

With the success of the films, a real tourism boom took place in New Zealand – ardent fans still book tours to the hot spots to this day. The Hobbiton Village near Matamata in the North Island has been preserved, cherished and cared for since it was built for filming.

The so-called Mount Doom is also a tourist attraction: Mount Ngaurohoe rises in the middle of Tongariro National Park – also on the North Island. The magic of the story, the movie adaptation, and the movie locations haven’t evaporated even 20 years after the premiere. “The Lord of the Rings” is and remains immortal.

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