Peter Jackson does great with the broad canvas--the digitally enhanced shots of the camera swooping down on the various battlefields--but his hand-held footage of the hand-to-hand combat is atrocious; you can barely see what's going on.
That said, he shows more variety and visual flair than Lucas. Looks like a win for LOTR.
On the other hand, the battle between Vader and Skywalker in Empire has more emotional resonance than anything in any of the movies, LOTR, Star Wars, whatever.
Win for Kershner.
Star Wars is a hodgepodge of influences, from Kurosawa to Campbell to Flash Gordon. Tolkien--well, I wouldn't go so far as to say he knew how to write, but he did know how to plot. And much as I like Empire, it's essentially a second act.
Win LOTR (unless we can argue that life is like a second act--all struggle and pain, and nothing is ever really concluded. In which case, win Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett, etc.).
Jackson gets wonderful performances from Christopher Lee, Sean Bean, Miranda Otto and above all Andy Serkis, a consistently high level of performance all around, whereas the Star Wars movies have all these great actors who basically mouth bad dialogue and stare at what presumably was a very bright green screen. Plus it seems to me Jackson actually talks to his cast.
Win LOTR. Unless you factor in Kershner, who gets wonderful acting from a Jim Henson puppet. In which case, win Kershner.
Well--John Williams' score is more memorable, is what makes Star Wars. I have to give him that much. I can't remember LOTR's music.
Star Wars you forgive the lapses because of the casually grungy, relatively low-budget look of the spaceships and sets. George Lucas in the succeeding movies builds bigger and bigger sets out of more and more insubstantial material, ultimately making entire worlds out of nothing at all. It shows.
Jackson is a filmmaker.
Win LOTR. Except Jackson doesn't achieve the kind of emotional intensity that Kershner did. In which case, win Kershner.
Star Wars's later pictures are almost exclusively digital, and while much of the stuff looks beautiful or at least very professional, it has no emotional pull. LOTR has Gollum.
Win LOTR--unless you include Empire, in which the effects had plenty of emotional pull (Luke swinging his sabre despairingly, for example, while objects assault him from all directions). In which case, win Empire.
Andy Serkis does a great job--is actually quite moving--as Gollum. Frank Oz is terrific as Yoda in Empire.
Close call. LOTR.
Star Wars' characters could barely muster a dimension between them while Tolkien's characters, if too polite and conventional, are genuine characters.
Win: LOTR, only Kershner's handling of the cast in Empire is superb, so Empire.
A big ball of methane at the end of a sewer pipe (Sauron) vs. a bad guy who kills chocolate candy (Vader).
Win: neither. Except Vader was impressive in Empire, so Empire.