Run time: 63 minutes
The back cover blurb:
Circles & Rings...I wasted an hour of my life yesterday on this dvd. That's honestly how I feel about it, which is a pity because it was a gift from someone who knows how much I love Tolkien's books. I'd had my doubts about the dvd from the start, mostly because I don't remember thinking too much of Michael Coren's biography of J.R.R. Tokien. I much prefer the Humphrey Carpenter biography.
Dragons & Kings...
An unauthorized tribute
Perhaps the greatest book of the 20th century, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is the epic of epics. This timeless story of good vs. evil. complete with Wizards, warlocks, elves armies of terror and heroes has inspired authors, filmmakers and fans alike.
Join Michael Coren Author of "J.R.R. Tolkien: The man who created The Lord Of The Rings" on an epic journey - take a brief walk through the novels, speckled with biographical info on Tolkien and explore fantasy fiction as a topic in itself.
Lord of the Rings. The story behind the Myth. If you've ever wondered about life in a fantastical place, we beckon you to take a stroll into the magical and wondrous world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Leave your spell books at the door and join the epic adventure behind the myth.
My fears were borne out. The basic biographical information about Tolkien was there - in very brief form, although the filmmakers dwelled on a spider bite that JRRT received as a young child far more than was needed, at least in my opinion. However, they left a lot out from his life too, leaving a completely different impression than does the collected volume of Tolkien's own writings.
For example, there is no mention of any of Tolkien's writings pre-dating the Hobbit. It's suggested that all of the detailed back-story and language creation was part of the process of writing the Lord of the Rings. However, the world of Middle-Earth had been evolving well before that point, as had the languages, with the first stages appearing much earlier - the stories we know of as the Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2, thanks to Christopher Tolkien's editing and publishing them as part of the History of Middle-Earth series.
Strike two against the DVD was their "summary" of the Lord of the Rings - it bore no resemblance to the books as I know them. If my memory serves, it suggested that the Ring itself was the cause of all the wars and fighting.
Strike three, and by no means is this the last, is their panel of experts. There's a professor of English Literature from the U of T, the author of the Bone graphic novel series, a children's book author and a few other miscellaneous people. None of whom have any reputation as Tolkien specialists.
The next thing that bugged me about the J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Ring dvd was that they talked about Tolkien inspired artwork while showing pictures that weren't by the artists being discussed at all, in this case the Brothers Hildebrandt - not my favorites by a long shot, but still... Going in the same vein, was the whole chunk of time they wasted on the DVD discussing the costuming of the actors they used to set the mood for some of the scenes.
Overall, the whole DVD had a very cheap feeling to it - some of which may be accounted for by the fact it was made in 2000/2001, but I don't think so. I think the makers just didn't have much of a budget to work with - but some of that could have been compensated for by better research and being more on topic.
I really can't find anything positive to say about this program, and that honestly disappoints me a lot.