Return of the Awesome.

Warning: Some spoilers.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy - awesome, even better, and truly epic and spectacular. I saw all three movies up on the big screen one last time yesterday, an event that started at 9:30 AM and went until 1:18 AM the next day. There is nothing available for one’s home that can match a theatre in terms of quality of screen size, though Sound can be matched to the thundering, seat-vibrating bass pumped out by some of these movies.

This three movie showing used the extended footage editions of Fellowship and Two Towers, I have the FOTR extended version on DVD, but the TTT extended scenes I’d only read about. Both movies were wondrous on the big screen again, every time I watch them I sense increasingly more subtleties in the sound and scenes, and still wonder where I was when some of those scenes flashed by me. Paying adult price to see them both again was well worth it, for the TTT extended footage, and seeing both in a theatre in what might be the last time ever.

Then came Return of the King, and all of a sudden Peter Jackson revealed an entirely different nuance to his movies - a slightly depraved side of life in Middle Earth. We see the story of Deagol and Smeagol when Deagol finds the ring, and it drives Smeagol to strangle him. Fortunately, Andy Serkis played Smeagol and finally gets his face on screen, but a short while later I realized - Smeagol’s face is modeled after Serkis’ own, only the eyes and perhaps the upper skull don’t precisely match. A nice but disturbing piece, it looked horribly out of place and was perhaps over-done in terms of the introductory scene set decor. But Serkis had to be put on screen, his contribution and committment to the role of Gollum was extreme, and the drain of having to do “the voice” to thousands of different reporters and PR shows can drive an actor to fear about getting future roles in anything other than that typecast.

Over the rest of the Return of the King show, I got a deep chill after some of the epic scenes. The battle of the Pelennor fields and defense of Minas Tirith was unbelievably well done, with scenes of the Rohirrim wading deep into the enemy, fey as they were. The challenge of Dernhelm (Eowyn) and Merry Brandybuck versus the Witch King of Angband was also something unbelievably good. The tense scenes when the Captains of the West go out to challenge the Black Gates and when Sam and Frodo are making their way across the plains of Mordor was also extremely well done - the Eye of Sauron actually pauses on Sam and Frodo for a few moments just as the Captains are waiting outside the gates.

The heroism of both Pippin and Merry, and their use as comedy relief is very refreshing, as is a spectacularly funny exchange between Eowyn and Eomer. Eomer notices Merry suited in the gear of the Rohirrim and overhears Eowyn telling Merry to go to the grinding tent to get his sword sharpened.

Eomer: You shouldn’t lead him on like that. Eowyn: Do you doubt his courage? Eomer: I doubt not his courage. Only the length of his arm.

The audience roared on several occasions in ROTK, on many occasions in FOTR and TTT. The ending scenes were heartfelt and wondrous, with reunions, but there was a moment when the scene went dark just as the battle in front of the Black Gates and I burst out laughing - PJ sending the audience into plunging fear, thinking there may be nothing afterwards but end credits. The movie went on for another 20 minutes after that, at least. The Grey Havens scene was beautiful, with a short glimpse of the sea. I think the four hobbit actors were told then that they would never be together again, because they were all bawling their eyes out in the scene as Frodo left for the ship.

There was another very interesting moment - an exchange between Gandalf and Pippin. They were trapped in an area of Minas Tirith, with soldiers barring the gates while a troll thundered away at it with a massive metal hammer. Pippin begins to contemplate his mortality, thinking he is very close to his end, but Gandalf in a completely utter departure from Tolkien begins to describe what lies after death, describing the journey to the undying lands over the seas, and then the first sight of the wondrous lands where all races live together…

There is probably one day in your life worth spending in a theatre watching good movies - this was it for me. But like Tolkien points out throughout his books, all things end and wain, life is very short-lived, and all that matters is what you do in every “today” in your life. The Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies will now live on only as DVDs, console and computer games. It should produce sufficient interest for the remaining Tolkien family to give rights to PJ to shoot The Hobbit, which I would dearly like to see, but ten years from now all this will be forgotten. And there are a good many lessons in Lord of the Rings worth remembering throughout all the ages of this world, lessons on the value and necessity of massive expanses of forest and field and rich earth, lessons on the appreciation of wildlife, lessons on why the “Wonders of the world” are worthwhile and that we should continue building them as appropriate, with perhaps a focus more on worldly issues and not an Egyptian King’s ego, though beyond questioning that might be.

I only got into Tolkien two or three years ago but it has latched on to me, I love the fiction, love how groundbreaking Tolkien’s ideas were in his day, and love his zest for life evidenced in the books. It is far more than a story for nerds, or science fiction not worth taking more seriously than other sci-fi. The Trilogy day was worth it, ROTK is a 10 out of 10 recommendation.

What do you think?