Whose Trilogy Is It, Anyway?

A previously unknown director, responsible for a few nice films but nothing earth-shattering, unleashed a blockbuster of a trilogy upon the cinematic world. This trilogy, in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, features a story that has become known and loved around the world. It could be accurately described as one of the most popular sword-and-sorcery epics ever created.

At the beginning of each film, the overall trilogy title is displayed in large yellow-gold words against a black background, followed by the specific title of the movie in question. But unlike all other movies in the world, no credits – even for the cast and the director – are ever shown until the end.

The Setting

The story is a grand epic, taking place over a vast area and involving different species of sentient beings from many nations. Also, many details strongly suggest to the viewer that there are thousands of years of history which have led to the current story. Everywhere in the story, there is evidence of buildings, tools and political alliances which are very old and crumbling away. Some of these things are nothing more than ruins.

Although the story is very deep in some ways, its tone is somewhat simplistic, very black and white. It is easy for anyone to tell the heroes from the villains.

The Characters

The main hero – who looks very boyish – is a simple, good man living a quiet life far away from any big cities, who has spent his childhood dreaming of what it would be like to go off and have adventures. Then, through no effort of his own, he comes to possess an object of incredible value, something stolen from utterly ruthless villains who will stop at nothing to regain it. Much death and destruction has followed this object. The hero is forced to leave his quiet home, aided by an elderly, wise and powerful man with a white beard and dressed in robes. He sets out on a journey to deliver this valuable thing to a place in which evil may be vanquished, dodging the villains' henchmen along the way.

The main villain himself is rarely seen or even mentioned, directing his evil minions from a far-off place. In fact, the villain's main henchman – a figure completely dressed in black from head to toe, in such a way that even his face is covered – has a much more visual presence. This figure – the #2 villain, if you will – is the one to whom the audience reacts most. He seeks the hero, and the thing he possesses, by using a mysterious ability to sense the world around him, for he cannot see the real world with his own two eyes, as we can. (In fact, he was once a great man, but was ensnared by the Number One villain many years ago by his own lust for power, and now serves him. Losing his ability to see clearly was the price he paid, even if indirectly, for falling into this trap.)

The hero goes to a seedy, rough-looking tavern where he joins up with an unexpected helper, a man who seems to be nothing more than a common ruffian (although with a quiet, manly charm), whom the hero does not trust at first. But this man actually has a great deal of practical experience and knowledge about how to survive and how to dodge the enemy, and he uses this knowledge to help the hero, who is much less experienced. Throughout the story, we discover that this new friend has an interesting background, and a burden of his own, as well.

There is also an important, powerful and beautiful princess, who shows a lot of spunk and isn't afraid of the enemy. As odd as it may seem, the one who gets to marry this princess is not the main hero, but the rugged man he meets in the tavern.

There is also some great comic relief from a pair of characters (one short and squat, one tall with a golden head). They seem to argue all the time, but they really like each other, and they get some of the best lines.

The Cast

The wise old man with the white beard is played by a knighted actor.

One of the villains is played by a man who is famous for being well-spoken, intelligent and nice, yet has a distinguished career playing other villainous characters in a number of horror films over the years.

The other actors are relatively unknown, but they shine.

The actor playing the friend whom the hero meets in the tavern is really outstanding, but he shuns Hollywood and the limelight, and wants nothing to do with stardom.

The Story

When the young man and his friends reach their destination and the hero delivers the thing he was carrying, he finds that his journey isn't over after all. He joins with the people he's just met to fight an evil so great he can't even comprehend it.

Although he himself is not proficient with weapons at the beginning of the story, the hero has a good friend who's a dead shot with a projectile weapon and another good friend who is an excellent swordsman. During the trilogy, we see the hero learn a few things about wielding weapons himself.

At one point during the first film, a creature pulls the hero into some water to eat him, but his friends come to his rescue and force the underwater creature to let him go.

There is a reasonably long sequence in the first film in which the hero and his friends find themselves trapped in a vast stronghold (with seemingly endless levels and corridors) populated solely by the enemy, and they must find an exit from this place in order to continue the journey. At one point, there is a battle in a confined space where they are trapped, and they must hold off the enemy, then they are chased relentlessly. The hero and at least one of his friends then have to cross a deep chasm to reach safety, even as agents of the enemy stand on a high balcony and shoot at them. (The villains don't hit anyone, of course, but the hero's friends are able to shoot some of them, causing them to fall screaming into the abyss.) In order to leave this labrynthine structure, the hero and his friends must get past a dark, fearsome, powerful creature. They manage to escape only through the sacrifice of the wise man with the white beard. The hero and all of his friends watch the wise man die, at which point the hero yells "NOOOOOO!!" But the wise man isn't really dead, he'll be back later, so there's nothing to worry about there.

At the end of the first film, the hero finds himself facing an incredible decision or task all alone, and the words of the wise man with the white beard (either remembered or heard for real) help him through the tough moment.

The second film of the trilogy is darker than the first, and ends on a note which is both depressing and full of hope at the same time. In the second film, the main characters from the first film are split into multiple storylines, whereupon they meet new, key characters. While the hero's friends confront the villains head on, the hero finds himself alone with a single friend, facing a dark, dangerous quest – spiritual and/or emotional – which is meant for him alone. Somewhere in this film, there is also a little creature with a raspy voice who feels perfectly at home in a huge swamp.

Throughout the story, the hero is increasingly tempted by the dark side of some powerful force which he wields. There is another character who has already succumbed to this dark power completely. The hero feels a deep bond with this person, even though they've never met, partially because of the shared ordeal of facing and wielding the same great dark power, which is sometimes a burden. Sometimes the hero has conversations with this character, sometimes the hero is fighting this character. The hero takes it upon his own shoulders to care about this character, and tries to save him from the dark force which clouds his mind and heart while not giving into it himself.

At one climactic moment in the trilogy, the hero comes face to face with the darkness within himself, and tosses away his sword as a result.

Also, some of the hero's friends get lost in a huge forest, where they meet some really sweet and unexpected natives. These forest denizens arise from their homes and go to war against the villain's forces, suprising them immensely and destroying them with large rocks and sticks.

The deep caring that the heroes have for one another and for life ultimately causes the downfall of the chief villain, despite all the power and the vast armies at his command.

Miscellaneous

In order to make the films, a team worked tirelessly to create advances in special effects which had never been seen before.

The first film was nominated for the Academy Award of Best Picture, but did not win.

The third film is titled Return of the something-or-other.

Pop Quiz!

This trilogy is called:
A. Star Wars (Episodes IV, V and VI)
B. The Lord of the Rings

This has been presented by someone who knows and loves both stories, so save the flames, it's all meant in fun. ☺

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