If you asked 100 Star Wars fans what the best of the movies is, I suspect 90 would probably say The Empire Strikes Back. That’s a hell of a lot closer to a consensus than you would get for Lord Of The Rings, but to actor Viggo Mortensen, it’s not even really close. For him, The Fellowship Of The Ring is the clear choice. Why? Because he thinks the second and third movies were overwhelmed by special effects and lost all subtlety because of it.
Speaking in a frank and honest interview with The Telegraph, Mortensen outlines exactly how he feels the second and third movies became overwhelmed by technology. All three movies were shot back-to-back with the assumption being that the second and third flicks would require some reshoots. According to Mortensen, however, Return Of The King and The Two Towers were way more of a mess than people thought following the initial shoot. Had the first one not been a huge hit, the actor thinks Lionsgate would have burned them both off straight-to-DVD rather than give director Peter Jackson the money he needed to finish them. Since it was a gigantic hit, however, he was given way more money than he needed. So, he started using it on new equipment and visual effects, some of which were unnecessary and took away from the award-winning finished product.
"Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back. In the first movie, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it, actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier. The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects. It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10.
In addition, Viggo Mortensen apparently thinks the script for The Fellowship Of The Ring was "better organized" and clearer, which led to a superior finished product. He’s not wrong on that count. The later movies meander a little bit more, but like the necessity for increased CGI, a lot of that is directly related to the material he was given. If you watch the extended additions, you can tell how much great material that is story relevant wound up getting cut.
Of course, these comments shouldn’t come as a shock to those who have followed Mortensen’s career closely. Apart from Hidalgo, which we’ll give him a Get Out Of Jail Free card on, he’s mostly chosen low-key movies that are gritty and down to Earth. He’s a brilliant actor, and he clearly prefers the standard method of working through scenes with other heavyweights you can play off of, as opposed to acting opposite CGI-ed monsters.
As for Jackson, he’s mostly chosen projects have allowed him to rely heavily on technology. As such, something tells me he has no qualms with how much CGI he used for Lord Of The Rings’ latter two films.