When J.R.R Tolkien completed work on his The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-55), the series was destined to become a classic of modern literature. With its epic imagery, fascinating characters, and compelling plot, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has certainly withstood the test of time, being still very much popular today, largely due to the success of the film series of the same name, directed by Peter Jackson. Jackson brought the series back to the mainstream, where it has remained to this day.

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The three films, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, released from 2001 to 2003, were a huge financial success for Jackson and his film crew, and the films have subsequently spawned prequels to the series, namely the 2012-2014 feature series beginning with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Overall, Jackson’s original film trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, is an amazing effort in cinematography and has remained culturally relevant due to its epic narrative scope and incredible cast of characters.

Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy succeeds largely due to its epic narrative scope, which, of course, can be credited to Tolkien, who developed the plot. One of the major reasons why the film series has remained relevant is because of its epic storyline, which follows Frodo Baggins (nephew of the original Hobbit, Bilbo) on his quest to bring destroy the evil ring of Sauron (the epic’s demonic villain) by bringing it to the heart of Mordor and casting it into the fires from whence it was created. Along the way, Frodo gains a “fellowship” of unique individuals who aid Frodo on his journey, fighting through goblin and orc armies, and the evil clutches of Gollum, who seeks to reclaim the ring for his own. This quest has resonated with filmgoers ever since its release back in 2001, predominately because it mirrors what literary critic Joseph Campbell would term the “hero’s quest,” i.e., where the protagonist ventures out against all odds to surmount a seemingly impossible task. Along the way, the hero (Frodo) meets larger-than-life characters who would become equally as memorable as the protagonist, if not more so.

Another reason why the films series The Lord of the Rings has been such a success is because of its remarkable cast of characters. From the sword-wielding Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), to the elven Legolas (Orlando Bloom), to the dwarven Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen), the cast truly stands out and makes the films come alive for the viewer. When Gandalf slips into the pit in the Mines of Moria, fighting the demon Balrog, the viewer absolutely feels an incredible sense of loss and trepidation at the foreshadowing of the breakup of the Fellowship. The acting of this troupe is top notch, with standouts being Mortensen, who expertly portrays the sometimes-brooding Aragorn, an exiled human from Gondor destined to one day be king, and his romantic interest, the elven Arwen (Liv Tyler), whose beauty lights up the screen every time she is on.

Overall, Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is an amazing success that has expertly stood the test of time, in large part due to its epic narrative structure, following the classic “hero’s journey” structure as outlined by literary critic Joseph Campbell, and its well-acted and unique characters that allow viewers to truly invest themselves in the storyline. The fact that Jackson is able to maintain J.R.R. Tolkien’s original epic vision for the work, while at the same time providing an essential update to the series, stands as a testament to Jackson’s superior skill in directing and filmmaking, as well as the quality of his cast.