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The Return of the King

December 27th, 2003 · No Comments

Yesterday Ted and I got to get out to the movies for most of the day. Leaving the kids for almost five hours, just to see a film, well, it makes me wonder…makes me think about the list of things I’d rather do in five hours alone with my husband…like go to the sushi restaurant in Seattle we’ve had on our date “to-do” list for three years…

Ah but we did indeed make it to the cinema yesterday at noon, thanks to Grandma, and saw The Return of the King. And I have to say that trying to watch the DVD on Ted’s monitor while sitting on his office futon wouldn’t have been the same experience. Even though Ted does have some nice speakers on his computer, those Nazgul noises just wouldn’t have been the same….

It is a long film at nearly 3.5 hours. I have to say I am glad I am not pregnant! I was pregnant, barely, with Elisabeth when we saw the first one (I joked with Ted afterwards that if we had a son, we should call him Elijah!). I think it would be hard to sit still for so long when pregnant, without needing a bathroom or snack break. Since our showing was at noon, we both skipped lunch (no outside food allowed at our cinema and the popcorn and sweet stuff didn’t appeal to us!), although I found myself starving for dinner hours later, taking a blood sugar roller coaster. But when we were watching the film I didn’t notice how hungry I was…

That said, I did find the time flowed fast. Although the film had some kind of interruption at 30 minutes (a break?!), so I had a chance to glance at my watch then, next thing I knew two hours had passed, and soon the story was reaching the end.

I read the Tolkien trilogy for the first time last year, around the time I gave birth to my baby. So I have to say that my memory of the books is pretty vague. Considering all the things that my mind needs to remember, I suppose that the plot of The Lord of the Rings is low on the priority list for neurons. But I am a bit embarrassed at how much I have forgotten. Blame it on those hormones or the fact that I was reading it as a diversion, while waiting to go into labor or waiting for Baby to fall asleep while nursing in the night…..

But I did remember about three sentences worth or so summary of the last book. I knew where the plot was going. To me, when I was reading the books, what interested me most was not what was going to happen to the Ring – that seemed clear – but how it was going to happen. And I remember marveling for a while afterwards about how Tolkien chose to do that. When we got home, Ted and I looked up in the book that scene again, and it seems that the film does an accurate depiction of that crucial moment. I still liked it a lot.

Like Ted I also felt that the scene where the king returns was more triumphant and majestic in the book. That part I did remember. I thought it was interesting how Arwen’s role was creatively altered – a lot of what she does in the film is not in the book, her role seems significantly expanded and deepened, and yet it seems that what she does do in the book – such as creating the jeweled stars in the standard of Gondor for Aragorn (see Ted’s blog for quote ) – is not shown in the movie.

It also bothered me how long it took Sam, Frodo and Gollum to get out of the end of the second book; they spent hours, it seemed, getting through the conflict that ends the novel The Two Towers. But I did like how the three of them play off of each other and against each other, the Ring affecting them all. I also did like Eowyn – her role also seemed expanded from the book but fitting. And I still enjoyed Gandalf and Gollum as I had in the first films….

The Return of the King made me think about the time where I find myself living. Not a time where evil is as clear as an ugly orc or shrieking Nazgul. Not a time where we hear the battle cry to “fulfill your vows to lord and land”! It’s not even a time when many people keep vows. To use Gandalf’s words, what is “the Great Battle of our time”? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? What is evil? Life seems pretty gray. I like how evil often self-destructs in Tolkien. It’s true, but not a truth we see often any more. Tolkien wrote the stories during World War II, during a time when it was clear what was worth dying for. I feel strange watching such an intense action and battle film then returning to my mellow life as housewife. I’m an Eowyn-wanna-be – but better yet, I actually am a warrior, I realize, fighting in much quieter ways for what I believe is right, for what I believe is worth giving my life.

As someone who was not intensely familiar with the novels, I felt that the film worked well for me. I’m not a Tolkien fan, so I wasn’t continually wondering or comparing what had changed in the film. I could enjoy the difference in medium and the flexibility the filmmakers required. It’s fun too to see how someone else envisioned the cities, the enormous battles, the creatures, the vivid landscapes (New Zealand looks awesome, although I have to say that many of the scenes reminded me of the northwest!) The movie also can even stand alone by itself, I think, a rich story on its own, with little ties back to events in the previous films. For 3.5 hours, it’s a fantastic film, certainly getting your money’s worth (especially at matinee prices) and a good way to spend a day of Ted’s vacation this week….of course, we’re looking forward to the DVD too, planning to buy the set of 3 when they are released next year ….
…and as Ted writes, maybe now with these film trilogies finished, we can try to make it to the sushi restaurant someday…

Tags: culture