The Lord of the Rings trilogy contains more than its fair share of perfect shots, some of which we’ve celebrated on this website in the past. However, when an expert on all things Middle-earth and J.R.R. Tolkien such as Dome Karukoski takes time out of his busy schedule to share his favorite images from Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy saga, we’re more than happy to revisit this franchise.
Of course, Karukoski is the director of Tolkien, a new biopic which chronicles the life of the man behind LOTR, The Hobbit, and other influential works of literature. As you’ll see, the filmmaker is well-versed in the life and work of the author, and he’s a big admirer of Jackson’s cinematic interpretation of his most popular story. He also understands good cinematography and its power to enhance stories, which is evident by his shot selection and accompanying commentary. Enjoy.
The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
“So much of Tolkien’s work is about the corruption of the mind. When we crave obsessively for beauty or riches, we destroy the good in us. In this simple and allegorical shot, the ring still shines its beauty while Gollum’s whole mind and body have been destroyed. It’s also a good example of how a shot can be very simple when the story behind it is epic. It gave me chills the first time I saw the shot.”
“For me, this is so much about what Tolkien is: History of people and their culture. For those who’ve read The Silmarillion, this represents something tragic. The firstborn, the elves, are leaving. Here we are watching the destruction of beauty and the belief in nature. The color palette in the shot reminds me of how I envisioned Middle-earth, the first time I read the books as a young boy. Before the films existed.”
The Two Towers (2002)
“I always wanted to make the LOTR movies myself, but Peter Jackson beat me to it. A bit envious…but seeing the epic and poetic shots he and his team were able to deliver made the fan in me very happy. This is my favorite shot of the whole trilogy. The whole battle between these two immortal spirits: A wizard and a Balrog is one of the best fights ever done visually. Long VFX tracking shots while being in full speed, an opera of fire, smoke, and devastation. One of the immortals must come to its end. My favorite shot is this one where we distance out from the intensity of the battle and you are allowed to inhale the beauty of the tragic battle. The fire in the darkness.”
“It’s one of those moments where I cry every time I watch the trilogy. Story-wise it doubles a bit when the Rohirrim come to aid at Minas Tirith. But this moment includes the ability of a Wizard in Tolkien’s legendarium. Gandalf is one of the Maiar and he can foresee time before others. The shot in all is astonishing. The ultimate battle between good and evil. Hope has arrived, and men are prepared to die for the king. For the ultimate good. I’m not sure if any film battle can beat the Battle of Helms’ Deep by Peter Jackson and his team.”
The Return of the King (2003)
“I can’t carry the ring, but I can carry you. In this shot, the filmmakers are delivering everything that is essential in Tolkien’s work. Friendships and trust in a fellow being. Believing in what is good in us. It’s very biblical and so humane. In here an impossible task can be achieved with the help of someone who believes in you. Knowing Tolkien’s personal life, many of these elements were taken out of his own experiences. The shot is so poetic. The fire surrounding these two small beings. About to destroy the ultimate evil.”