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The Iconic Movie Trilogy That Just Dropped On Hulu

Between Netflix, Disney+, Peacock, and all the rest, it can be hard to keep track of which movie is on which streaming service and where you can and can't watch your favorite television shows. With that in mind, as of December 2020, Hulu nabbed the rights to a classic movie trilogy that's sure to keep your eyes glued to the screen as the weather gets colder and COVID-19 shows no signs of slowing down. Based on one of the most successful book series of all time, it's a timeless story of good versus evil, of unforgettable characters on a harrowing journey to save the world, of intimate moments and grand set pieces both. Indeed, it's none other than Peter Jackson's adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's seminal fantasy The Lord of the Rings.

No one knew what to expect from a live-action version of such long, detailed fantasy books — especially since most movies clock in between 90 minutes and two hours. How much would be lost in translation? Jackson's solution: Make The Lord of the Rings movies way longer than the unspoken industry standard, each three hours or more. It's easy to imagine yourself getting bored during such lengthy films, but just as Tolkien spared no expense when writing the books, Jackson's films do everything they can to remain engaging — and based on their worldwide success and legacy, it's fair to say they succeeded.

What is The Lord of the Rings about?

The Fellowship of the Ring starts things out slow and steady. Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) lives a peaceful life in the Shire, but the arrival of the old wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) portends trouble in Middle-earth. Dark forces are after the One Ring, the most powerful object in the world, and only Frodo can carry it without losing himself to madness. So the young Hobbit takes it upon himself to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom. He is joined by the titular band of heroes who set out to guide and protect him.

Without spoiling too many details, the journey takes quite a toll on the Fellowship — a toll which carries over into film two: The Two Towers. The path ahead is strewn with more dangers than our heroes can count, but letting the ring fall into enemy hands would only make matters worse. They encounter new faces along the way — some friendly, like Faramir (David Wenham), others sketchy at best, like Gollum (Andy Serkis). No matter what, though, they must forge on for the good of all Middle-earth, and so they do.

Things come to a head in The Return of the King, which combines the more character development-oriented sensibilities of Fellowship and the thrilling action of Towers for a conclusion like no other. As our heroes draw closer and closer to Mount Doom, the road only gets harder and harder, the battles more brutal, the decisions more desperate. "Intense" is too understated a word for how events play out. Not all of it is true to Tolkien's original work, but Jackson does a stellar job of translating the overall story to the big screen.

Should you watch The Lord of the Rings on Hulu?

Fantasy can be a hard genre to get into if you don't jive with elves and magic and whatnot — a "you like it or you don't" sort of deal. While there's no doubt that The Lord of the Rings falls under the fantasy umbrella (some would say it is the fantasy umbrella, but that's an argument for another day), chock full of mountain trolls and giant spiders, it has a broader appeal than many of its genre cousins. Similar to how Game of Thrones garnered mass appeal (despite so many parts that make no sense) due to its almost historical feel and excellent writing, The Lord of the Rings has a little something for everyone.

The characters and performances are certainly a highlight. Ian McKellan was nominated for an Oscar for his turn as Gandalf in Fellowship, and Sean Astin is oh-so-lovable as the faithful Samwise Gamgee. Each and every character contributes to a story that's not only accessible to non-fantasy fans, but has a lot to say about the world we live in — even though the films take place in a different world. Indeed, it's hard to come out of the trilogy without questions and thoughts on human nature, environmentalism, and our sense of purpose. There's lots to ponder.

The production values of these films are also top notch. It shows in every aspect of the film, from the cinematography to the set design to Howard Shore's infinitely hummable musical score. Jackson's work is an absolute joy to look at and listen to — something film students will be studying for years to come. Not to oversimplify things, but if you like good movies, you're probably going to like The Lord of the Rings. Thanks to Hulu, you can make a weekend of it — or a day, for all you bingers out there.