The Lord of the Rings films are a triumph on many levels. Not only were they critically acclaimed, but the films also presented Tolkien’s Middle Earth in such a way that fans and newcomers could both enjoy, all the while proving that the fantasy genre was still viable. The films also launched the career of Orlando Bloom and catapulted director Peter Jackson into the echelon reserved for cinematic gods. With all of this to consider, it’s amazing to think that The Lord of the Rings films were almost fated not to exist in the forms we now know and love. More importantly, these films exist beyond what we saw in the theater. There’s the history, the production, the actors and crew and all of the little bits that fill the gaps in between that the average viewer may have missed. Keeping track of every detail is difficult. Thankfully, you don’t have to. Author J.W. Braun has written The Lord of the Films: The Unofficial Guide to Tolkien’s Middle earth on the Big Screen.
In just a little over 200 pages Braun has somehow managed to capture every little additional detail you could ask for from The Lord of the Rings films every step of the way. The book is a wonderful read as either light reading for fans of the films, looking for more LotR content and deeper appreciation or as a companion guide while the movies play on the television. The Lord of the Films is wisely written in chronological order, with quick scene descriptions to help orient the reader as to which part of the film is being illuminated.
Additionally, just like the best do-it-yourself guides, The Lord of the Films is also broken down into sub-sections to prevent readers from being overwhelmed. For example, the sections called “What the Wizards Know” feature behind-the-scenes information that Braun has compiled from several sources over the years. In these sections readers will find tidbits like the odd places Jackson slept in between shoots and where to look to find Arwen at the battle of Helm’s Deep – even though her character had been cut from that battle altogether. For fun, Braun also includes sections called “What the Big Folk Were Saying” which is a collection of outbursts by audience members watching the films that typically consist of all the things average moviegoers hate overhearing while trying to be immersed in a story.
Black and white photographs also help to flesh out the context of the films. Readers will be treated to artistic scratchboard illustrations of iconic scenes, images of cast and crew as well as a few random miscellaneous pictures, such as a scale model of Minas Tirith constructed completely out of toothpicks. Interviews also help to break things up, though Braun’s exchanges are limited to more peripheral production members, like extras and makeup artists. Nevertheless, these typically unsung heroes of cinema give unique insight that will no doubt pique the interest of fans and film buffs.
To round things off, Braun includes an activity section that younger readers will enjoy, which includes search-word and crossword puzzles as well as a FAQ and trivia section. Finally, Braun whets Tolkien fans’ appetites with information on the planned prequels to The Lord of the Rings, which will be based on Tolkien’s book The Hobbit. With any luck, Braun will have the opportunity to write another guide.