This article focuses on the movie trilogy by Peter Jackson and his fantastic team.
I can barely remember the first time I watched those movies in the cinema back in 2001. One thing I remember, though, is a discussion I had with a friend of mine. We were young back then and had a stupid argument, whether or not I had seen the movie. It had something to do with being the cooler one or with jealousy – you know, what kids do. It is a memory I distinctively associate with Lord of the Rings. However, I can use it as a trigger for more memories about school, friends, and everything else. Isn’t it fascinating how the mind works?
The next two installments were family things. Cousins, uncles, aunts, and parents – I think we were at least 12 people – watched those movies together in the cinema. It was awesome. Since then I was not able to forget those films and the emotional roller coaster they provide.
I think Lord of the Rings did for me (and others, of course), what Star Wars did for kids in the 70s and 80s. They are deeply connected with me. And since the Extended Editions were available on DVD and later on BluRay, I made it a personal tradition to watch them at least once a year – usually between Christmas and new year. Three nights, three movies. I love it.
I used to watch them back to back, but I think it is way better to stretch the experience a bit. This way your mind stays in this incredible world for three whole days. You are excited to return to it. The anticipation builds up, day after day until you reach the climax on the last one. And you know what: they get to me every damn time. I laugh, I cry, I hope, I scream at the TV – many emotions accompany the experience. No matter how often I have seen them.
As I said in my last letter, I want to focus on one aspect of the topic at hand. Regarding Lord of the Rings, it was a bit difficult to find the one thing I want to point out because there are many great things. Those movies are perfect on a variety of different levels. Be it the music, the actors, the models they built, the make-up artists, the way CGI and practical effects mesh seamlessly, the cinematography, and so much more. All those things come together flawlessly in every second of all three movies. Especially during the big moments.
For instance, when Theoden rides in front of thousands of riders crashing into orc hordes in front of Minas Tirith. Or when everyone that is left is standing in front of Mordor’s gates and Aragorn whispers: “For Frodo.” Followed by Marry and Pippin, they start a fight they cannot hope to win. Every time I have tears in my eyes because everything we experienced so far leads us to this point. Even as I am writing this, I get goosebumps.
Those scenes are outstanding and cool, and they just work. But those scenes would be nothing without the little moments beforehand. The moments where only two characters talk to each other, overcoming their fears; regaining hope. And that is what I want to point out: relationships.
The most prominent relationship might be the one between Frodo and Sam. It starts in the Shire and ends in the heart of Mount Doom. The way Sam calls him Master or Mr. Frodo shows the respect he has for his friend. He wants to help him all the way but knows, sometimes all he can do is be there and be the one who remembers him of their home. Of trees or the feeling of grass under their bare feet.
And Frodo knows even in moments he is not aware of it, that he could not find a better companion than Sam. Gollum might try to split their friendship apart – but in the end, their bond is too strong. One thing I might never get used to watching without getting goosebumps or sighing most positively, is the way Frodo looks at Sam when he starts sentences with: “Oh Sam, my dear Sam…”
Other relationships that go as deep as this one might be Gimli and Legolas’ friendship. They are a perfect example of how we are shown how their dynamic works and not told by themselves or others. They fight side by side, work together, rely on each other. This is a friendship which builds through the whole three movies. Of course, the same goes for Frodo & Sam or Merry & Pippin. Very different of these are Gandalf and Pippin. Those two have one of the best moments of The Return of the King – and there are many. As they sit behind the gate in Minas Tirith, the enemy literally knocking on the door and Gandalf tell him that death is not the end; this is not the end.
I could give you countless more examples, but I think you get my point. In those moments we see the true nature of the characters. They are scared, afraid, or in grave danger and the only person they can turn to at this very moment is the person next to them. A person who has made a similar journey, a person who as part of the fellowship, understands their situation. Those moments elevate the epic battles and give them meaning. We know why they fight. For whom. They are the pieces which complete the puzzle, and we see the picture as a whole.
Thanks to everyone who worked on this massive project. You created something special.
PS: Dear Lord of the Rings is the last letter of the year and the last letter for quite some time. I have another series of articles planned, which will start in January. Maybe once in a while, I will write another letter. But for now – this is it. I wish you happy holidays!
PPS: Just in case you were wondering: I don’t want a TV show based on The Lord of the Rings. Apparently, there is a TV show planned, but I think Lord of the Rings should not have a remake. Yes, you could tell the story in more detail and such. However, when I think about the characters, I have the great actresses and actors in mind who portrayed them in those movies. Who should take over the mantle? The only thing I want regarding those films are updated visual effects. Here and there they look a bit outdated – still great, but they could use a little update. Other than that, I don’t want anyone to touch this property. They are like Back to the future or Citizen Kane – movies for a lifetime.