The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Review
“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it…”
Fantasy is finally coming of age. With The Hobbit juggernaut gathering speed – Facebook and Twitter going into overdrive with background titbits into Jackson’s work on expanding the source material which will come to life in his forthcoming stomping double-bill (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2012 and The Hobbit: There and Back Again in 2013) – we are reminded of the original trilogy which spawned these eagerly-anticipated prequels.
The Lord of the Rings is arguably the most critically and commercially successful single film-project of all time (i.e. an all-in-one shoot, so the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises don’t count here): it harvested several billion dollars from ticket sales (let alone merchandise and related products) and won 17 Oscars (Return of the King alone matching both Titanic and Ben-Hur with 11 awards) and over 250 other awards around the globe. It was a breakthrough, helping fantasy take a significant step towards being recognised as a legitimate form of adult drama – appealing to both discerning critics and adult audiences – a journey that’s currently being taken even further by HBO’s Game of Thrones on our TV screens. But there was also something uniquely special about it, too, though: no other fantasy film has ever come even remotely near winning a Best Picture Oscar (Jackson famously thanked the Academy in his Best Film speech, saying “I’m so honoured, touched and relieved…the Academy…has seen past the trolls and the wizards and the hobbits…”) and some of those franchises that have tried to emulate Rings’ success have, arguably, failed. Pullman’s His Dark Materials was abandoned after only one film (The Golden Compass) and The Chronicles of Narnia have been grossing less and less with each successive film. Hopefully, however, the upcoming Hobbit films will finally match the scope, ambition and tone of this modern classic trilogy, and carry us back to Middle-Earth for some equally breathtaking adventures.
But in the meantime we finally have what fans have been waiting far too long for – the Lord of the Rings movies, on Blu-ray, and in their Extended Editions. This is the sort of release that will sell AV systems – persuading people to adopt or even upgrade their home cinema equipment. But it’s been an extremely arduous – albeit commercially lucrative – journey to get this far. Perhaps moreso than any other franchise (even Lucas’ oft-tweaked Star Wars films), the ‘Rings movies have had, in just ten years, a multitude of digital media releases – far too many than could be possibly justifiable. Fans of the movies could easily, by June 2011, have at least two different sets of the movies on SD-DVD (maybe three), and one now-redundant Blu-ray set, sitting and gathering dust on the shelf. Worth 25% of their original purchase price on Ebay. If you’re lucky. I’m not sure any other film franchise has ever raked in as much wasted cash in such a short period of time. But finally we’re here – with the extended editions on Blu-ray – and it’s (hopefully) the end of an era. Well, until we get the Hobbit theatrical, and limited edition packages, both separately, then as box-sets, then as extended edition box sets, strategically released just far enough apart to make it difficult to avoid double-dipping.
But that’s another story. For now, the wait is over.
“This task was appointed to you and if you do not find a way, no-one will…”
For me, Peter Jackson’s Magnum Opus was an exercise in how to do true justice to a fan-worshipped series of books. Providing us (eventually) with a trio of near-four-hour long movies, this was more than anybody could have ever really expected – or hoped for. It was far from quantity over quality as well, each epic entry masterfully crafted to veritably transport you to the fantastical world of Middle Earth, with a multitude of diverse, and fully-realised, characters to guide you on your magical journey; bolstered by the unquestionably rich source material; with breathtaking scope, relentless tension, heartfelt warmth, and tangible loss; and packed with truly epic battle sequences. Wizards and warriors, armies of orcs, 15ft Cave Trolls; for its time – and even a decade on – Lord of the Rings remains one of the most expansive, engulfing fantasy universes ever created for audiences.
Honestly, I can’t see the likelihood of your getting through the last ten years of ‘Rings furore without knowing anything about the franchise. But for those clever chaps, who have waited patiently, and bided their time for a comprehensive, extravagant and unbeatable package to finally do justice to these groundbreaking movies, here’s a warm look back at the three epic instalments in their aggrandised, extended format...
“Come on, Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.’”
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: these Extended Versions, two hours longer, in total, than the original theatrical trilogy, are the definitive cuts of these movies and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Yes, the studios may have made a few million extra dollars out of the entire double-dipping concept but it was Jackson himself who realised that this was how he wanted, or even needed, to approach the filming of this trilogy from day one: three leaner, meaner cuts for the casual movie-goers on their cramped seats; three richer, fuller cuts for the fans at home on their couches. With a Pause button.
And the results are more than worthwhile: they’re amongst the very best examples of Extended / Director’s Cuts in the history of cinema. In fact, The Lord of the Rings, arguably, remains the benchmark for “Special Editions”.
After the theatrical run of each movie, and unconstrained by running-time considerations, Jackson and his team went back to the original footage and reassembled the movies with the extra material he had filmed for these releases (roughly 30, 40 and 50 minutes, respectively). However, it’s not only the wholesale insertion of substantial “deleted” scenes that makes up this extra two hours of material, though there are plenty of instances of this. Instead, it’s just as importantly a series of innumerable tiny inclusions, many only a minute or so long, whose overall cumulative effect is not to drive the narrative forward but to enrich the world and the characters immeasurably, making Middle-earth’s cultures, histories and peoples come to life even more deeply and fascinatingly than they already had done in the cinema.
And let’s not forget that. After all, Middle-earth had already come to life wonderfully in the previous versions. In many ways, the strengths of these Extended Versions are shared by their predecessors. It’s just that, now, with more time and space to evolve, to stretch and to dwell, many of those strengths actually grow even stronger…
“It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing...”
One obvious strength of the trilogy is its visual effects. All three films won the Oscar in their respective years and it’s no exaggeration whatsoever to say that the work produced was ground-breaking and instrumental in placing Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor’s New Zealand-based Weta effects company at the forefront of the industry (Cameron would later turn to them to bring his 3D Pandora to life in the landmark Avatar), eventually over-taking Lucas’s ILM as the world-leader in the field. The examples of stunning CG work are legion: the Balrog, the flying Nazgul, the oliphaunts rampaging at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but it’s the legendary Gollum that really made a mark, revolutionised motion-capture and gave Andy Serkis the most bizarre career trajectory in movie history. And here, in the Extended Versions, we’re treated to more of this visual wizardry: more Gollum, more of the Witch King of Angmar, and the re-insertion of the vile Mouth of Sauron outside the Black Gate.
Another, often overlooked, strength of the trilogy is the near-uniform power of the performances. Out of 30 Oscar nominations in total, only one was for acting (McKellen for Best Supporting Actor in Fellowship). In a way, this is understandable: after all, who exactly is the lead actor in such a resolutely ensemble piece? And exactly how many Supporting Actors can one trilogy be allowed? But, it’s also a bit of an injustice as there are some impressive, subtle, powerful performances here without which we simply wouldn’t have been transported as effectively as we were or been moved quite as strongly. Perhaps understandably, the characters (and therefore actors) that benefit least from these Extended Versions are Frodo and Sam – as the emotional core of the saga, much of their material was already in the original versions. Instead, it’s the vast array of supporting characters (and therefore actors) who are fleshed out more and given a chance to shine – Aragorn, Boromir, Saruman, Eowyn, Theoden, Faramir, Denethor and more are all drawn (and played) much more fully in these versions and therefore become more convincing, three-dimensional players in the tale. Aging thesps John Noble and Christopher Lee, in particular, benefit from the re-insertion of key, substantial scenes.
And then there are the Screenplays. It seems obvious, but as well as commending Jackson, Walsh and Boyens here in bringing together an unwieldy 1000-page epic into three dynamic films, we have to commend the original author, too – Tolkien. So much of what sounds so great in these three films (especially here in these more culturally-rich, character-focussed Extended Versions) sounds great because it’s based almost exactly on his words. Think of any of your favourite quotable lines from the films and there’s a very high likelihood you’ll find it on the page somewhere in some form. Due to his academic background, Tolkien had an incredible ear for the kind of archaic vocabulary and grammar which works so beautifully on our screens here and which was totally out-of-place in twentieth century literature – in fact, he was routinely ridiculed and universally despised by the literary establishment for it. Still, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens do indeed deserve considerable congratulations on whittling down the sometimes cumbersome tome, distilling the very best from it and providing us with a perfect example of how to adapt a well-loved classic faithfully whilst making it lean, mean and appealing to a whole new audience. Writing The Lord of the Rings for the screen could have gone so, so wrong – Jackson and his team got it so, so right.
“Arise! Arise, Riders of Theoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now! Ride now! Ride! Ride to ruin and the world's ending! Death! Death! Death! Forth, Eorlingas!”
Design is incredibly important to movies in this genre, too, and directors are always aiming to be unique, to bring something new to audiences that hasn’t been seen before. Whilst these Extended Versions boast no particular superiority over the originals as far as design is concerned (there are no new locations or characters of any great significance), it’s still worth noting their excellence in this field, too. Rather than flail about in the dark, or re-invent the wheel, Jackson decided early on to hire two of the world’s most famous and acclaimed Tolkien artists (Alan Lee and John Howe) to lay the groundwork for his team. These two had years’ worth of experience in drawing the cultures, the places, the creatures, the peoples and the characters of Middle-earth and were steeped in Tolkien’s own drawings and descriptions. The result? A beautifully cohesive and utterly believable fictional world that, again, was faithful to Tolkien’s vision. Think of the serene beauty of Rivendell, the imposing halls of Moria, Edoras with its great hall of Meduseld and perhaps the crowning glory of design in the trilogy – the white city of Minas Tirith. All awe-inspiring, all emblazoned on our movie-going memories. And then think of the costumes, the creatures, the weapons etc. etc. The artistry and the variety on display are easily the rival of any other cinematic franchise in history (yes, including Star Wars).
And let’s not forget Howard Shore’s enormous contribution, either, in bringing to us some of cinema’s most recognisable themes. For these Extended Versions, Shore had to compose and seamlessly insert nearly two hours’ worth of extra music, recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. And what iconic tunes they are – the lilting Shire theme, the romping-adventure of the Fellowship theme, the industrial grind of Isengard, the Nordic folk sound of Rohan. Shore justifiably won Best Original Score for both The Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King. Enya was nominated for Best Original Song for "May it Be" and Annie Lennox won it for "Into the West". Remarkably, the music for this trilogy is still being regularly performed today by many orchestras around the world, frequently live to screenings of the films. And it's ten years since they came out…
Finally, as a direct result of the worthwhile inclusions in these Extended Versions, the trilogy benefits thematically, too. All sorts of whacked-out theories have been put forward over the years about the meaning behind the tale; the One Ring represents nuclear power, the atom bomb, fascism etc. etc. but Tolkien repeatedly and completely rejected all these interpretations stating famously in his Foreword to his book that “I cordially dislike allegory…and always have done”. There are, however, fairly widely accepted parallels between events and themes in the books and Tolkien’s own life experience and interests and these are realised even more fully here in these Extended Versions. His romantic and self-confessed affection for the rural lifestyle is evident in the early re-inserted sequence where the impossibly idyllic Hobbiton is revealed to viewers. His dislike for the creeping industrialisation and urbanisation of the English countryside, and his concern for the woodlands in particular, are more fully explored in Saruman’s new scenes where he explicitly directs his minions to exploit the forest of Fangorn (“Burn it!”). His professional reputation as an expert in Anglo-Saxon language and mythology is acknowledged with the inclusion of Theodred’s funeral with accompanying dirge sung in Old English.
So, these are the considerable overall strengths of the entire trilogy. But, how does each individual film fare in its Extended Version? Do some benefit more than others?
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
“I will take it. I will take the ring to Mordor, though…I do not know the way.”
It all starts with The Fellowship of the Ring, which introduces you to a wide variety of characters – good and evil – who will, for the most part, stay with you on your journey right through until the end. The focus is on a collection of magical rings, that were given to the various peoples of Middle-earth (Elves, Dwarves and Men) by the Dark Lord Sauron to help them rule, and a master ring which he forged for himself which had influence over these rings, thus making him the titular 'Lord of the Rings'. Somehow, thousands of years after Sauron was defeated, the ring was discovered by a harmless wandering Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (the central character in the aforementioned upcoming The Hobbit movies) and passed onto his nephew Frodo. We follow Frodo's exploits as he initially tries to protect the One Ring from the dark forces that hear of its discovery and seek to recover it. Eventually, a Fellowship is formed with the express mission of taking the ring to Mount Doom in Mordor to destroy it instead, which includes the brave and mysterious man Aragorn, the archer elf Legolas and the feisty, axe-wielding dwarf Gimli. Along the way, the Fellowship faces many perilous adventures and, by the end, has been separated for the remainder of the trilogy.
Amidst the noteworthy highlights will always be the battle sequences, which were increasingly epic across the movies, with Fellowship of the Ring memorably showing us for the first time Aragorn's abilities as a warrior during a night-time hilltop ambush by five of the Black Riders, and Balin's Tomb giving us that towering Cave Troll and some serious Fellowship teamwork. Other highlights include Gandalf’s now-legendary confrontation with the Balrog and the final woodland skirmish with Saruman’s uruk-hai.
“I would have followed you, my brother…my captain…my king.”
The most immediately obvious and welcome addition to the Extended Version of Fellowship is the sedate and charming introduction to Hobbits and their rural ways that now precedes Gandalf’s arrival in Hobbiton at the beginning of the movie. Narrated by Bilbo (writing in his Red Book which he later passes to Frodo to record his own adventures in), it’s an endearing and humorous montage of pastoral bliss, hinting at Tolkien’s nostalgia for a dying way of life back in the 1950s when he wrote his book. This added scene, and a later one where the Hobbits are singing and dancing in The Green Dragon pub, create a much fuller impression of Hobbits and the limits of their world and their experience and thereby make the peril all the more great and immediate when it appears (in the form of the Black Riders looking for “Bagginsssss”).
Aragorn’s two main quandaries (whether to live in obscurity as a Ranger, doing good in an anonymous way, or to accept his position as heir to the throne of Gondor [and all the fame and pomp that entails] and confront evil on a grander scale, as well as whether to continue his relationship with the immortal Arwen) are expanded upon too. At Rivendell, he visits his mother Gilraen’s grave and discusses his persistent refusal to accept his fate with Elrond. In an earlier scene, whilst accompanying the hobbits through the re-inserted traversal of the Midgewater Marshes, he sings a lament in Elvish (“The Lay of Luthien”) which tells of the love between a mortal man, Beren, and an Elven princess, Luthien, that foreshadows beautifully his future scenes with Arwen through all three films.
Other minor additions include Galadriel giving gifts to each member of the Fellowship as they leave Lothlorien (thereby enhancing her role as benefactor to the mission), gifts which turn up in subsequent films and therefore enrich the narrative threads (eg elven rope for Sam which he later uses to leash Gollum in Two Towers and the green cloaks for all members which Frodo later uses as camouflage outside gates of Mordor in Return of the King). But we also have cracking action-based additions, too – a little more acrobatics when facing the cave troll in Balin’s Tomb in Moria and more gruesome combat with the uruk-hai at the end (including their leader, Lurtz, licking his own blood from his knife).
So, an improvement? Yes. In taking its time at the start to engage us with our protagonists, then expand upon their allies and intensify the peril at the end, the Extended Version of Fellowship is a much superior film to the theatrical cut.
THE TWO TOWERS
“It is an army bred for a single purpose: to destroy the world of men. They will be here by nightfall.”
The Two Towers sees Frodo and his best friend Sam, separated from the rest of the Fellowship, make their own way across various barren wastelands on their quest to destroy the One Ring. It’s not long, though, before they meet the Ring's previous owner, the mischievous, tortured Gollum and then fall into the hands of Gondor’s Faramir, who himself is then tempted by the Ring. Meanwhile, we follow Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas as they try to rescue Merry and Pippin from Saruman’s uruk-hai (who think they have the Ring, not Frodo) and then become embroiled in the woes of the kingdom of Rohan, woes which culminate in the monumental battle of Helm's Deep. Merry and Pippin eventually escape their captors and then become embroiled themselves in the struggle between the Ents of Fangorn forest and the corrupted Saruman the White.
Again, highlights include (even though it kicked off at the end of Fellowship) the tremendous confrontation between Gandalf and the demon Balrog, which really hits its stride in here; the schizophrenic Gollum debating his actions with himself and the aforementioned Battle of Helm's Deep (remember those insane ladders that were propped up as the siege progressed?) providing the epic confrontation at the end.
“I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy?”So, what of the additions? Well, again, Aragorn is fleshed out further – the ancient history of the Numenorean race (barely hinted at in the Theatrical Cuts) is explored a little more when Eowyn remarks upon his youthfulness for his age and draws the correct conclusion that he must therefore be one of the Dunedain, a descendent of the Numenoreans. His ring, the Ring of Barahir (given to him by Elrond years previously when his true lineage was first established), is specifically mentioned and commented upon by an unsettled Saruman. Tiny touches, yes, but rewarding.
The kingdom of Rohan is enriched, too. Their long-running conflict with Saruman is suggested in a newly added scene, the aftermath of a clash with his uruk-hai at the Ford of Isen. Another notable addition is Theodred’s funeral at which Eowyn sings the dirge. As mentioned above, in a nod to Tolkien’s area of expertise in his professional life, the language she sings in is actually Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons upon which the kingdom of Rohan is so obviously based. In a further treat for the hardcore fans, Aragorn even goes as far as to name his new horse Brego after the second king of Rohan who founded Edoras and built the Golden Hall of Meduseld.
The Ents, too, benefit and therefore so do we, the audience. Spending more time in their company makes them more magical and less irritating. Now, we hear of their troubles reproducing (another environmentalism reference), witness Treebeard save Merry and Pippin from a malignant tree (in a scene which is a nod to the character Tom Bombadil who was excised [quite justifiably] from Fellowship for being too dated and twee) and chuckle as Merry and Pippin grow a few inches taller after drinking the magical Ent draught.
One of the most welcome and expansive additions, however, is the background to Boromir’s arrival at the Council of Elrond in Fellowship. In this substantial and significant scene, which also provides further insight into Gondor’s troubles which will come to the fore in Return of the King, Denethor, father of Boromir and Faramir, and acting Steward of Gondor, is shown as the self-interested, manipulative bully he was before he descended into the morose madness of the third film. Once more, a supporting character is drawn more fully, enriching the tapestry.
A better film? Absolutely. In fleshing out one of the film’s main heroic leads and unashamedly acknowledging the depth of Tolkien’s creation and the inspiration for it, the film shows a commendable reverence for its source material and offers fans (old and new) more “culture” to get their teeth into.
THE RETURN OF THE KING
“The board is set; the pieces are moving… We come to it at last, the great battle of our time.”
The Return of the King brings all these threads to a close in momentous style. Frodo and Sam, against all the odds, make it to the slopes of Mount Doom; Merry and Pippin play their role in fighting the forces of evil with the warriors of Rohan and Gondor respectively; and Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas finally muster the Army of the Dead to fight on their side in the mind-blowing climactic Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
The Return of the King took things to another level yet again, with the epic riding of the Rohan cavalry to the rescue of Gondor just one highlight in the many 'against all odds' moments that this monumental conclusion gave us. Best Director and Best Picture-winning, it was a thoroughly fitting conclusion to the trilogy.
Of course, amongst all this spectacle and chaos and scale, Jackson could have lost touch with the soul of the narrative and with his audience. Thankfully, deftly-directed, intimate scenes grounded the entire fantastical struggle and gave us something to hold on to: highlights include Pippin and Gandalf discussing the meaning of death as Sauron’s hordes close in about them and the emotional wallop of Sam’s “I can’t carry it for you… but I can carry you!” on the slopes of Mount Doom when it seemed all was lost. Any viewer not affected by such scenes after 10 hours in the company of these wonderful characters was surely a withered husk of a human being.
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship…but it is not this day! An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the Age of Men comes crashing down…but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”So, what about the Extended Cut? With 350 new effects shots and 50 minutes of extra material to insert, polish and score, extending Return of the King was the biggest task of all and in this third film, there are more examples of completely new scenes (rather than extended ones), some of them now iconic.
Perhaps the most welcome addition is the demise of Saruman. Lee’s villain had previously just disappeared inside his tower of Orthanc at the end of TwoTowers and not been seen again. Now, however, he makes a thoroughly deserved grandstanding return. Lee, in fact, had been upset by being cut from theatrical release and, from his performance in this scene, you can see why. He exudes an intimidating authority. This scene is one of a few deviations from the original text but one that makes cinematic sense – allowing Saruman to take over the Shire, thereby forcing the hobbits to confront him when they got home (as happens in the book) would have made the ending too long and proved to be an anti-climax after the Mount Doom / Black Gate scenes. Although, arguably, the re-inserted scene actually slows the start of this film, this is still one of the most welcome additions in the entire trilogy.
Two oft-overlooked characters benefit, too, in this Extended Version. Pippin and Merry’s story arcs reach fuller fruition this time. Yes, in the Theatrical Cut, we saw Merry chanting “Death!” with the rest of the Rohirrim as he charged towards the massed hordes of orcs besieging Minas Tirith, but now we also see him, beforehand, bravely pledge to serve Theoden despite his limited experience and diminutive stature. Yes, we saw Pippin light the beacon of Gondor and save Gandalf’s life during the same siege, but now we also see him presented with his uniform and equipment as a member of the Tower Guard, anxious and uncertain as to what will be expected of him. In both cases, the incredible journey these two characters have undergone (from stealing fireworks at the start of Fellowship to committing to lay down their lives for distant lords they’d never heard of in a battle they could barely have conceived of) is so much more poignant.
As Rohan bloomed in Two Towers, so it’s Gondor’s turn this time. The White Tree of Gondor is explained more fully as Gandalf and Pippin discuss its role as a symbol of hope to the people of Gondor that one day the line of kings will be restored; Denethor’s sense of loss over Boromir and contempt for Faramir are drawn more strikingly; and after the victory over Sauron’s forces, the romance between Faramir and Eowyn is explored as they both recuperate in the Minas Tirith’s Houses of Healing, something totally absent in the Theatrical Cut.
And again, the smallest additions have a magical, cumulative impact; the fallen statue of an ancient king, the disturbed dream of an anxious Eowyn.
Yet, there are striking additions, too, which make you wonder why they were left out of the Theatrical Cut in the first place. Gandalf’s confrontation with the Witch King of Angmar is pure movie magic and the repulsive dark servant who teases the fellowship with Frodo and Sam’s belongings outside the Black Gate is another baddie in a long list you-love-to-hate.
So, a vast improvement? Certainly. In providing us with a satisfying demise for one of the trilogy’s main villains, in drawing its supporting characters more fully and providing us with yet more genuinely iconic moments, the Extended Version of The Return of the King is, once again, a superior version of the film.
“Farewell, my brave Hobbits. My work is now finished. Here at last, on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our Fellowship… I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
Are there flaws in the trilogy? Hell, yes, of course there are. How on Earth could there not be in a canvas this broad and this long? It would be entirely unreasonable and unrealistic for us to expect there not to be. When I reviewed the Theatrical Cuts here last year, I raised a number of points that were particularly relevant for those ‘unfinished’ edits. But it’s clear now, particularly with the Extended Cuts, that the failings are few and far between, and they pale into utter insignificance when compared to the towering achievement on display; to dwell on them now would simply be churlish. When all is said and done, the odd piece of dodgy green-screen here and questionable narrative decision there (are we really expected to believe Treebeard was unaware that a quarter of Fangorn had been levelled until he stumbled across it?) do not even remotely detract from the simple, irrefutable fact that Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, especially here in its Extended Version, is a truly staggering landmark in the history of cinema and a strong contender for the title of greatest trilogy ever.
It’s really very simple. You need to own this trilogy. Now.