Both The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit are prime material for film adaptations. The novels, by J.R.R. Tolkien, are much-loved fantasy stories set in the fictional world of Middle Earth. Although The Hobbit comes before The Lord Of The Rings, it was the later which was adapted for the big screen first.
The Lord of The Rings trilogy comprises three movies which were released yearly from 2001 to 2003 and went on to gain huge critical praise as well as mammoth box office success. They were also nominated for 30 Academy Awards and walked away with 17 of them.
It was this success that led to Peter Jackson, who directed the trilogy, being asked to adapt The Hobbit, which was also released yearly in three parts, from 2012 to 2014. For many Tolkien fans, it was at this point that the entire thing fell apart.
There are huge differences between the two trilogies. Firstly The Lord of The Rings is actually based on a trilogy of books, while The Hobbit is one book and some extra content from other Tolkien works, stretched over three movies. Secondly, the filming process was very different. A behind the scenes glimpse really highlights the differences in sets, costume design and use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology, which underwent huge advancements between the two trilogies.
While some may disagree I’m firmly in the camp of The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) being the far superior trilogy. Take a look at these behind the scenes photos from both movies and see if you agree.
30 LOTR: Sean Bean Befriends The Extras
I love this image of Sean Bean, who plays Boromir, looking like he’s having fun in his suit clowning around with the extras who are all in full makeup and armor. The contrast between the two makes for a quirky and amusing glimpse behind the scenes.
Many involved with The Lord Of The Rings trilogy said the filming process really bonded them and they felt like a family. This camaraderie is often reflected in behind the scenes images and this one is a great example.
29 The Hobbit: Barrel Escape Sequence
The wine barrel getaway is one of the most complex sequences in the movie trilogy. The seven-minute action sequence from The Desolation of Smaug combined footage from green screen sets and location shoots with aerial footage and computer-generated environments and effects.
They ended up with a whopping 98 hours of footage.
This still is taken from the river rapids they built in the studio. There’s no doubt the sequence is one of the standout moments from the movies but the level of CG technology used blows my mind.
28 LOTR: Elven Costumes Are Exquisite
Here we can see Peter Jackson talking to Liv Tyler, who plays elf Arwen. The thing which stands out to me most about this shot is that you can see the exquisite attention to detail on the Elven costumes.
The headpiece is phenomenal; delicate, sparkling and every bit as ethereal and dainty as you’d expect from Elven headgear.
The robes have the same level of attention to detail as you can pick out tiny individual beads in an intricate and delicate pattern. Combined with the long flowing hair and subtle prosthetic ears they combine perfectly to bring the elves to life.
27 The Hobbit: Directing The Way
This image feels like a proper behind the scenes glimpse. Here you can see Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo being given direction by Peter Jackson. In the background, it looks like a working studio. I see crew, cameras, parts of a set and the whole thing feels busy.
A busy set always brings joy to my filmmaker heart.
This feels like a tiny glimpse into the movie-making process and it’s a fantastic shot because of it. One of my favorites from The Hobbit.
26 LOTR: Orlando Practices Archery
Attention to detail is everything in The Lord Of The Rings and each actor plays their part. In this behind the scenes image, shared by Orlando himself, you can see him practicing his archery.
Legolas is a world-class archer and this has to be portrayed accurately. By ensuring he is comfortable and competent with a bow Orlando brings a realism to his character.
Also, I’m not sure what the plastic dog is for but it looks fantastic chilling in the background. A nice glimpse of some of the preparation involved in production.
25 The Hobbit: Bilbo Gets His Sword
This image is taken from the scene where Bilbo gets his sword. It is one of the few that evokes those epic feelings of awe and wonder that the original trilogy images do.
Although you can still see the seemingly ever-present green screen in the background this set feels more complete than most.
It is these intricate sets which evoke the excitement for me and in The Hobbit trilogy, they are sadly lacking. This shot brings back a few of those memories.
24 LOTR: Helm’s Deep Details
The Battle of Helm’s Deep remains a standout piece of cinematic action to this day. The 39-minute battle sequence is the central plot point of The Two Towers and ensures that the sometimes problematic middle movie stands alone as a fantastic piece of cinema.
This image is from one of the sets used during the four months of filming.
Just looking at the scale of this set really conjures up those images you see in the movie. This is just part of the picture as well. Many extra sets and models were also used to bring the epic battle to our screens.
23 The Hobbit: Battle Weary
In this image, taken on the set of The Battle Of The 5 Armies, you can see both Sir Ian McKellen and Peter Jackson looking pretty battle weary themselves. Although the family atmosphere and support you see in The Lord Of The Rings images is still evident here something just looks different.
Martin Freeman looks happy but the others have a slight air of holding each other up. It feels like this may have been taken at the end of a very long day.
22 LOTR: Acting With Gollum
In this shot, you get a glimpse of how some of Gollum’s scenes played out. Here Elijah Wood, who plays Frodo, is seen with Andy Serkis as Gollum in his motion capture suit.
Although Gollum was generated with animation his movements are based on Serkis’s own and this is a great example of how that looks behind the scenes.
This method allows real interaction between the two actors, letting them create a scene together, which will later be used to produce what you see on screen.
21 The Hobbit: Mirkwood Is Amazing
I love this image of the Mirkwood set. It feels mystical, despite the green screen background. The colors and the detail are stunning and it looks like Middle Earth should.
A good set makes a movie for me and this is one of the strongest in The Hobbit.
The rocks, roots, and trees are incredibly well made and it brings back the same feelings the images of The Lord Of The Rings sets do. Not only does it look awesome here but it also translates so well to screen.
20 LOTR: Down The River
One of Orlando Bloom’s behind the scenes images, this shows the complexity of filming the great river sequences, when you see the fellowship travel down the river Anduin.
The large rafts show the volume of crew members on hand to capture images of the actors rowing down the river. I love the fact that the rafts even have chairs on them, suggesting this is a lengthy process.
The complexity of the movie is captured in this moment, what amounts to a tiny proportion of the storyline and a just a small proportion of the shots.
19 The Hobbit: Green Screen Madness
This image is one which always makes me sad. It is explained comments made by Sir Ian McKellen in the commentary for An Unexpected Journey.
Many of his scenes had to be filmed separately on entirely green screen sets. He spent huge chunks of the movie acting alone on sets which looked like this. It was enough to almost make him quit acting.
The crew stepped in to help out but it makes me grieve for the epic-scaled sets and forced perspective used in The Lord Of The Rings.
18 LOTR: Behind The Battle
This image was shared by Orlando Bloom and was taken during the filming of The Fellowship Of The Ring. In it, you can see Orlando standing beside Peter Jackson, the movie’s director who looks like he’s about to try and defend himself.
My favorite part of this image is how everyone looks so happy to be part of this movie.
Peter Jackson being right in the middle of what looks like a battle just sums up the trilogy. Everyone involved really wanted to be part of this and put their all into it and it shows in the final product.
17 The Hobbit: Elven Village
Here we see Cate Blanchett, who plays elf Galadriel, listening to direction. She’s one of the few female characters we see in the movies who actually appears in the book.
Although a number of female extras were cast the book itself makes mention of very very few, unsurprising really considering it’s release in 1937.
It’s good to see the Elven costumes still look as stunning but the distinct lack of fully fleshed out sets still makes this feel less than epic.
16 LOTR: Rivendell Is A Model City
During The Lord Of The Rings, New Zealand based props and special effects company Weta Workshop were responsible for many of the props and models you see on screen. Armor, costumes, makeup, prosthetics, props, weapons, and models were all made by the talented team.
This image, shared by Weta Workshop, is of one of the models of the Elven city of Rivendell.
I love how realistic it all looks, especially the trees and grass surrounding the delicate Elven architecture. This is one of the smaller models used during filming. Some of them, nicknamed “Bigatures” by the team, were up to 9 meters high.
15 The Hobbit: Hobbit Set Highlights
This feels like a glimpse into how I expected The Hobbit to look behind the scenes. It contains everything I want in a backstage glimpse. We have actors, extras, crew and the director himself.
The smile on Peter Jackson's face here is reminiscent of The Lord Of The Rings.
I can’t help but wonder if filming more traditionally with sets, extras, and actors all coming together evokes a much more genuine feeling of joy than sitting on green screen sets for hours on end.
14 LOTR: Relaxing Between Takes
The filming of The Lord Of The Rings was at times an incredibly grueling process. The majority of filming took place over 438 days from October 1999 through to December 2000, with pick up shots being done annually as each movie was finalized.
Filming the three movies simultaneously and out of sequence was no mean feat so both cast and crew would catch any time for rest they could.
In this image, we can see Orlando Bloom taking some time out on the rocks between takes, a no doubt well-earned break.
13 The Hobbit: Green Screen Faces
This is one of the images that shows the differences in these two movie trilogies. I never saw a green screen mask in all the images I searched for The Lord Of The Rings. The closest was Andy Serkis in his Gollum outfit.
Everything else from the orcs to the elves appeared to be entirely incredible prosthetics and makeup.
Here we see a green screen mask, with the facial effects being added later. Don’t get me wrong, computer-generated technology is amazing but I much prefer the stunning hand created effects used previously.
12 LOTR: Return Of The Epic Sets
In this image from Return Of The King, you can once again see the amazing scale of the set design. Not only is there incredible attention to detail on the fire pit at the forefront of the image but this continues into the houses behind.
A closer look also reveals some of the many extras involved in the movie.
There were over 20,000 extras involved with the trilogy, ensuring that everything from the battles to the villages looked realistic and immersive.
11 The Hobbit: Checking The Map
This image is another which gives me some hope for The Hobbit. The dagger, the map, the beautiful background. It brings back memories of the epic Elven sets from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Everyone looks much more relaxed here compared to many of the green screen shots. The beautiful costumes, detailed set design, and perfect props are all in place.
How much more does this shot make you want to see the movie than all those comprising almost entirely of green screen backgrounds?
10 LOTR: The Hobbit Hole
This image shows director Peter Jackson relaxing in one of the Hobbit houses. The tiny Hobbit Holes are made and designed to reflect the Hobbits smaller than average size.
To enable the Hobbits to appear smaller some sets, including the entirety of Bag End the Hobbits home, were built in two different scales. This enabled the actors playing the Hobbits to fit the scale while other characters appeared enormous. This technique plus the use of scale doubles and forced perspective had never been attempted in this magnitude before.
9 The Hobbit: Half A Set
This photo feels like it was taken around the time of the map reading image but in this one the whole illusion is stripped away. As Sir Ian McKellen and Hugo Weaving move locations you can see that a vast majority of the set is, in fact, green screen.
Seeing cameras on set is amazing, seeing image after image filled with green screen really takes away the magic for me.
I’m a huge fan of traditional sets, prosthetics and limited use of CGI. This movie seems to be a green screen bonanza and it shows.
8 LOTR: Stunt Doubles
In this behind the scenes shot we see a number of Fellowship doubles. Using stunt doubles is key for movies which use a lot of action sequences, especially if they are filmed with sets, props, and weapons as many were in this movie.
Stunt double photos always bring a smile to my face and this one is no exception.
It’s made all the more awesome by Orlando himself randomly being in the photo, presumably since he did many of his own stunts. At least I think it’s Orlando. If it isn’t they did a really great job on the likeness.
7 The Hobbit: Tauriel Steps Forward
Here we see another of the elves, Tauriel played by Evangeline Lily. Her addition is controversial to the movie trilogy as her character does not appear in The Hobbit novel.
Tauriel was created by screenwriters Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh.
She’s said to be an expansion of other material adapted from the book and is the head of the Mirkwood Elven guard.
Although Evangeline Lily was nominated for several awards for her performance the characters inclusion strays from the path of the novel, which not all fans were on board with.
6 LOTR: Even Wizards Learn Lines
In this image, we can see Peter Jackson discussing the script with Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf. This image gives us a couple of great insights into the movie. Firstly you can see how dirty the Gandalf costume is. Filming definitely takes its toll on the wardrobe but you don’t often see it this clearly.
The other stand out thing to me is the sheer scale of scaffolding needed to keep the set safe. It looks like its extending into the distance as it spreads out behind the sets hefty wall and door., gives a small indication of the scale of production.
5 The Hobbit: Laughing Orlando
This clip of Orlando Bloom laughing is both amusing and disturbing at the same time. He appears happy enough but what makes me sad is that what is being filmed is completely unidentifiable.
Part of me is scared that the excessive green screen has sent him cackling away.
There is no way to even identify which movie this image was taken on. I like to think there’s a stunning set just out of shot but given some of the other ph,otos it’s equally likely to be just a big green expanse.
4 LOTR: Conducting An Orchestra
The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced by Howard Shore. There are literally hours and hours of music and a majority was performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra along with three different choirs.
This image is just a tiny glimpse into the scale of the music’s performance.
Here you can see Peter Jackson and Howard Shore conferring while surrounded by just some of the talented musicians who performed the Academy Award winning soundtracks.
3 The Hobbit: Rock ‘N’ Roll Dwarves
This image is taken from a clip of Dean O’Gorman who plays Fili and Aidan Turner who plays Kili. They are stood in full costume in the rain with umbrellas proclaiming to be “rock ‘n’ roll dwarves.
This is one of my favorite clips as it gives a tiny insight into the supporting cast. However, the number of extras was vastly reduced in The Hobbit. They were said to have a supporting cast and around twelve hundred extras. It sounds like a lot but The Lord Of The Rings had a whopping twenty thousand.
2 LOTR: Gollum’s Real Life Look
Capturing Gollum perfectly on screen is one of the highlights of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy for me. At the time CGI was still quite limited but it was used to amazing effect when combined with other animation techniques.
Andy Serkis is seen here in the suit they used to motion capture his facial features and his movements.
These motion capture shots were combined with a digital puppet, keyframe animation and something called roto-animation to create a fully fleshed out character based on Serkis’ acting. The results are astonishing.
1 The Hobbit: Scripts And Green Screen
Another image another epic expanse of green screen. As appears to be the norm for The Hobbit on set images this one is another unidentifiable due to the excessive green screen.
The Hobbit trilogy is almost a textbook example of the dangers of excessive CGI.
Here we see Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Peter Jackson seemingly discussing the script. Maybe this scene needs more direction because the set is almost completely blank.
The Hobbit may have had the bigger budget but it really can’t compare. The Lord of The Rings reigns supreme.