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The Lord of the Rings takes on Harry Potter

"The Lord of the Rings" premiered in London this week. Movie critics and the audience already call the three-hour fantasy film one of the most spectacular movies of the year.


Scene from "The Lord of the Rings" with Sean Astin (left) and Elijah Wood.

Movie-buffs in Europe will have a tough time deciding which fantasy film they'd rather see: "The Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".

In most European countries, "Harry Potter" is still the biggest hit at the box office. But once the movie-version of "The Lord of the Rings" comes to silver screens all over the continent, it could become just as big a smash.

Cliff hanger

Director Peter Jackson divided J.R.R. Tolkien's book "The Lord of the Rings" up into three parts. The movie which is out now just shows the first part of the book. It breaks off at a decisive moment, just when tension and suspense are at their maximum. Movie-goers will have to wait until next year to see how the story continues.

The second part of the trilogy isn't due out until December of 2002. And film fans will have to wait yet another year to know how the story ends. The final part of "The Lord of the rings" will be out in December of 2003.

The only option the fans have if they don't want to wait that long is to read Tolkien's 1000-page book.

Film director Peter Jackson says three movies were necessary because "you needed that time to tell the story of the book."

Jackson has already completed shooting all three parts of the story. Filming the trilogy in New Zealand took him one and a half years and cost $ 270 million (€ 303 million). Some 2,400 actors and extras made up the cast of the epic production.

"I love the film"

Film critics were full of praise for the first part of "The Lord of the Rings" and called the film a masterpiece.

American actor Elijah Wood, who plays the Hobbit, said "I love the film. I think it's wonderful." 20-year-old Wood said he hoped the movie would inspire a whole new generation to read the book, which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote half a century ago.

Sir Ian McKellen, who plays the wise man Gandalf in the film, said "It's like an epic work of Fritz Lang - almost biblical".

British horror film veteran Christopher Lee also praised Peter Jackson's work. "What Peter has done is miraculous. No director in history has made three films at the same time," Lee told Reuters news agency.

Now the 79-year-old actor only hopes he will live long enough to see the next two films in the trilogy when they come out in 2002 and 2003.

"Tolkien wouldn't have approved"

J.R.R. Tolkien is seen as the father of modern fantasy literature. With "The Lord of the Rings", he aimed to create a mythological world of his own. Michael White, who wrote a Tolkien biography, says the author would not have liked the movie version of his book: "He hated everything that's connected to Hollywood."

J.R.R. Tolkien's son Christopher isn't that sure his father would have disapproved of Peter Jackson's movie-version of "The Lord of the Rings". But he's not sure whether it's at all possible to transform his father's fantasy-world into a movie in a convincing way.

Hotter than Potter?

Audiences in Germany will have to wait until December 19th to see the first part of "The Lord of the Rings" because the film still has to be dubbed into German. Once it starts playing in German theaters, it'll be interesting to see whether "The Lord of the Rings" can beat "Harry Potter" at the box office.

The company that made the films, Warner Bros., is promoting both with huge advertising and merchandising campaigns in Germany. Both movies will be playing in more than a thousand German cinemas. Normally, new movies only play at 400 to 500 theaters across the country simultaneously.

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