Even now that some time has passed between my viewing of the third and final Lord of the Rings film and my sitting down to write this review, that word is still the foremost in my mind: Wow. More than anything, this movie really felt like a journey: a complete, captivating, thrilling and deeply moving journey from beginning to end (nearly four hours that could have been years yet also that lacked the sensation of dragging). The way that the film was visually conceptualized, scripted, and above all the incredibly detailed nature of Tolkien’s fantastical world create a truly immersive experience, one that allows the viewer to experience the emotional landscape of the characters in a very real way.
There is far too much going on in “The Return of the King” for me to attempt to dabble in every plotline, and so I will restrict myself to a few that loom the largest in my mind. The first has been a consistent thread running through my reviews of the first two movies: the journeys of Merry and Pippin. I find myself extraordinarily fond of these two hobbits, and for reasons quite different from those I would have predicted. Rather than being confined to roles as the “comic relief,” Merry and Pippin quickly become vital to the story and to the quest to save Middle Earth, and this is only more evident in the third instalment.
Throughout the whole of its rather lengthy running time, The Two Towers is utterly compelling. It has been said many times, I’m sure, but these films are truly masterpieces. They convey such a vast range of emotional depth and follow the many threads of the story deftly and with great compassion for the characters. And of course, the films are visual splendours, feats of cinematography and special effects that were, at the time, groundbreaking and extremely influential for the future course of film.
I left off my review of The Fellowship of the Ring by discussing Merry and Pippin and the value that is ascribed to their lives, despite their weaknesses and failings. In the second movie, after a close escape from those repulsively horrendous orcs, the two hobbits spend most of their time riding through the forest with Treebeard and providing some comic relief. And yet, unexpectedly, from this seemingly “insignificant” subplot comes an event with extremely significant ramifications for the battle for Middle Earth: the fall of Isengard. Merry and Pippin bring about this victory for their side, not by strength or strenuousness of intellectual argument in convincing the trees to join the fight, but through their cleverness and the innovative idea to lead Treebeard towards Saruman. The direct encounter with the death of his kinsmen which follows speaks louder than any rallying cry towards battle ever could.
Before this summer, I had never seen the Lord of the Rings. I hope I haven’t shocked you too much with this admission, and that you will keep reading, instead of closing the page with disgust. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to watch them, but perhaps it can be explained by my habitual lack of interest in fantasy and action. However, as time went on, I understood that Tolkien’s work is so much more than this, that it transcends these genre boundaries and certainly any prejudice against them. I understood this and found that I wanted to explore Middle Earth, but as with many things where one is so far “behind” the cultural pace, the opportunity never seemed to arise, or, more likely, I held onto the idea that it was just too late for me to “join the club.”
And yet I finally made the plunge, after reading The Hobbit in a Children’s Literature course, and then with the encouragement of my brother, whom I consider quite an expert in the area of Tolkien. I confess I haven’t yet read the books (and apologize for this blasphemy), but they are now placed firmly on my to-read list for the imminent future. The point of all these ramblings is that I have finally watched The Lord of the Rings, and what follows is my review of the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring.