Last Saturday, 14 years after everyone else, I finally watched the Lord of the Rings films. It was a friend’s birthday, and because we don’t do things by halves, we watched all the extended editions back to back, for a total of 11 hours (someone suggested we start with the Hobbit trilogy too, but they were quickly vetoed). In short, I enjoyed it, it’s a cracking story, but blimey that’s a long time.
Why have I not seen them before? It’s not that I have been particularly anti-Tolkien. Well, maybe I have a bit but that’s because I tend to be put off things when they have fans that will literally shout abuse at you across a room because you haven’t seen/read/absorbed every fibre of a story. (It’s especially annoying if they’re telling you off while you’re actually trying to read/watch the story in question. But all that’s for another blog post.) Some things just don’t grab you, and genre-wise I’m not the hugest fan of big world-building fantasy or sci-fi, though I do like some. One thing that’s also always rankled is being a medievalist and everyone assuming that Lord of the Rings is how I got into studying the early middle ages. No. I like monks, and was actually crap at Old English, so thanks for reminding me of that.
Essentially, I don’t like being told what I should like. This tends to put me off.
Anyway, I have tried with Lord of the Rings before. I tried reading the book when I was younger, but I opened it, saw the word “eleventy-first”, snorted and used it as a doorstop instead. I also saw The Fellowship of the Ring extended edition in my first year at university after a party, and it was fine, until suddenly it was 2am, there were still another few hours to go, I’d lost track of who was what (like, why are the two main baddies named so similarly?), and, more importantly, I’d sobered up. A few months ago I saw it again at a Geekfest-thing my current uni organised, and came to the conclusion that I might as well see the whole lot, properly. So we did. And here are some musings we had (of varying quality from varying people):
- Merry and Pippin are eejits who should be taken outside and shot. I mean, seriously, who puts their mates in danger that many times?
- We should re-edit some scenes between Gandalf and the Hobbits with Malcom Tucker from The Thick of It shouting at them instead.
- If you look for it (which my friends do) there is so much innuendo. Especially all these long lingering glances between Frodo and Sam.
- Frodo’s face when he’s fighting the pull of the ring is something disturbing.
- YOU SHALL NOT PASS!
- “Do you reckon when Elijah Wood’s out with mates and they’re trying to pick something to do, they all turn to him and say ‘let the ring-bearer decide’?”
“No, because his friends wouldn’t be as cool as we would.”
- The special effects are still pretty good after so long. The only point I think it looks a bit naff is when Galadriel goes green and has a shout about the ring.
- For a film series with characters in such constant peril, no-one important dies except for Sean Bean. And that’s not exactly unexpected.
- You might be surprised to note that no-one is drinking, though we have plans to try out the trilogy drinking game some time – rules include drink for any length of time Sam and Frodo gaze at eachother, shot for every rousing speech and down it for every legendary quotable line. We may not play it with the extended versions, though.
We’re on to film two. Now I have to pay attention to keep track of what’s going on.
- One of my friends watching genuinely looks like Gollum:
- They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard!
- I presume the tiny side door next to the main entrance at Helm’s Deep is in case anyone orders a pizza mid-siege and they can’t deliver through the front door due to orcs.
- How often does Gollum change his loincloth?
- I actually hadn’t expected this much interesting character development from Gollum. I’d just assumed he was this weirdo that crops up for a short bit. The way they’ve depicted his split-personalities is pretty compelling, and it makes me think of the battles friends have had trying to silence negative and destructive voices during times of depression.
- It’s funny how the goodies always need rousing speeches to get them going, but the baddies’ superiors just insult them. They should form a union. The Orcs’ employer clearly offers them no dental cover to begin with.
- They say “fellowship of the ring” and “return of the king” in both appropriate films, but they don’t say “the two towers” in this one. This leads me to think they should have picked a better title that we could have screamed “ROLL CREDITS!” after. (EDIT: Just been told that Saruman does ask “Who now dares to stand against the union of the two towers?” but we must have missed it during pizza-ordering discussions.)
- At this point, I nip out to pick up pizzas with the birthday girl. We need exercise – everyone else has been coming and going, but we’re the only ones who’ve been watching for 7 hours straight. This means I miss a bit of the Helm’s Deep fight, but I can live with that. I’m enjoying the story, but the time is starting to take its toll.
Final film. I’m one pizza, two slices of cake, a Danish pastry and a load of crisps in.
- This Longbottom Leaf the Hobbits are on about, it’s not normal tobacco but weed, isn’t it? That would explain why they have so many meals – they’ve constantly got the munchies.
- Consequently, the next film should be called “Harold and Kumar: Escape from Isengard”.
- “Reckon Sauron’s eye is so red because he can’t blink? He’s had a really nasty bit of grit in there for 3,000 years and can’t get it out. No wonder he’s angry.”
- From above, Minas Tirith kind of looks like the Millennium Falcon.
- I’ve finally checked IMDB, and yes, Karl Urban is indeed Eomer (Eowyn’s brother). I’ve ruined it now, every scene he’s in, someone references his role as Bones in Star Trek by shouting “Dammit Aragorn, I’m a doctor not a soldier!”
- The suspense builds as the beacons of Gondor are lit and we’re silent as Aragorn runs to Theoden. Cue cheering as Theoden announces they will help Minas Tirith.
- Apparently one of our watching fellowship once accidentally told Bernard Hill (Theoden) that he wasn’t very good at football.
- WE’VE ONLY JUST PUT IN THE SECOND DVD, THERE’S STILL 2 HOURS TO GO. Madness starts to set in. Perhaps a sugar rush from all the cake.
- Apparently another watcher’s boyfriend refers to his, ah, man-meat as Grond. We all feel like this was perhaps more information than we wanted.
- Aragorn’s making a massive mistake picking Arwen over Eowyn. Arwen crops up just to make mystical statements while Eowyn, y’know, kills Sauron’s commander. Seems a shame she’s quietly matched off to Faramir for no reason instead.
- Eagle-ex-machina. They must be an analogy for the USA’s involvement in World Wars 1 and 2: they turn up late but prove useful.
- Half the watching group start singing the “Team America: World Police” theme song.
- It’s been 8 and a half hours, and finally the ring is destroyed. Everyone stands up, cheers, applauds, salutes, kisses – it’s like the ending of Independence Day in the living room.
- How could Frodo forget Legolas’s name when he wakes up? Yeah, they’ve barely spoken, but he says hi to everyone else. Rude.
- The birthday girl has been crying since Gandalf told the hobbits that they “bow to no-one”, and while this is touching I just can’t stop laughing, which is making other watchers laugh. Delirium clearly has taken hold.
- The morals of this trilogy: evil can be defeated if people of different groups come together…as long as they’re all white. And mostly male. (Seriously. None of the characters who speak are anything other than white.)
- Does anyone else fancy a trip to New Zealand?
So, in conclusion, I had a great day. The’re not life-changing, but the films are pretty cracking and I’d happily watch them again. But perhaps not all in one go. For a bit…