Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies is best seen as a single-albeit long-work. These 3 films flows together almost seamlessly, from the spectacular monologue to the suitably final epic closing credits. Everything in these movies are record-setting, from how it was made, to the extent of its eventual, incredible success. If you’ve seen any of these 3, it will come as no surprise that all won Oscars for visual effects. They are filled with impressive beasts and battles, the scale of each escalating from movie to movie. It is the tragic figure of Gollum that most captured audience imagination. Destroyed in mind and body by his addiction to the powerful, ring, he veers through vicious hatred, self-loathing and even something approaching glee. Yet his character is CGI, it’s still believable as a real character. It’s perhaps this that encapsulates Jackson’s greatest achievement, to remember that spectacle and technical wizardry aren’t enough to make a great film. The hobbits, elves, and wizards are all very human. Gollum has regrets, tries to be good, and teases Sam. Gandalf, is avuncular, even mischievous, yet retains his power and authority. Frodo and Sam grow from brave but naïve adventurers to true heroes as the awful truth of their task becomes apparent. The scenery is stunning, beautiful landscapes, soaring music, as the camera simply tracks from mountaintop to mountaintop as signal fires flare up against the sky. The screenplay manages to wrestle a dense and unwieldy mass of source material into a swift and engaging narrative. Despite the vast canvas upon which Jackson was painting, at its heart, his film is about people, their relationships, and the decisions they make. Friendship and self-sacrifice figure strongly, as does a pervading sense of mortality. The final scenes make it clear that victory can be noble, and yet still come at too deep a personal cost. It is moments like this that elevate Jackson’s film from movie blockbuster to genuine masterpiece.