An Epic Tale of Obsession, Magic and Basic Silliness
Part 3: The Viewing
To recap: After a long trek to the theatre, my friends and I waited another three hours for the first film to begin. But before the movie could be shown, I had to watch the advertisements.
The reason I mention the following ads has less to do with the financial consideration they pay me and more to do with that the three ads below ran before each of the movies. Like an army movie about venerial disease. The first film has quite a lot in common with a militart training film because it was a public service announcement about the consequences of pot smoking and baby sitting, America's secret shame.
The ad opens by showing a ground-level pool and several childrens' toys conspicuously close to the water's edge. A voiceover says "Go ahead. What's the harm in smoking a little dope?" A toddler then lumbers toward to the pool in the inebriated way that they do. The voiceover continues, "you can just tell the parents that their baby daughter fell into the pool while you were smoking pot!" For a moment, this sounded like a suggestion. I asked zorknapp, "Dude, do you think that would really work?! Cool!" Zorknapp assured me that the announcer was being ironic and not giving advice.
The next ad was for some kind of Coca-Cola product that had something to do with computers and music. The spokesman was a suburban teenager that thought he was a "playa," despite the lack of any ghetto time or discernable street cred. What I do remember is the name of his dog, "Maxx." I also recall that other members of the audience remembered this pooch's name because we all loudly greeted Maxx when we saw his image for the last time before Return of the King.
The last ad I can recall with any distinction was clearly aimed at a demographic to which I did not belong. In it, a young lady orgasmically cavorts on CGI beach in a rain of CGI rose petals. Then she appears in the crest of a CGI wave. If you guessed that the ad was for a femine hygene product, you'd be off the mark a bit. The object of the advertisement was perfume.
With ads viewed and lunch consumed (I went for the hot dog and awful, awful curly fries for $8), it was time for The Fellowship of the Ring. This was the extended cut that included more Bilbo and Boromir scenes. The additional scenes improved the clarity of the plot significantly. Fellowship, I think, stands out as the best realized movie of the trilogy.
Four hours later, Frodo and Sam have broken the Fellowship to set out on their own for Mordor. I, similarily, set out for the men's room. Like the orc-infested Black Gate of Moria, the closest water closet is unassailablly congested. Luckly, I knew that more facilities were available further away from the HALL OF VIEWING. This incident just proves the old adage: fortune favors the bold.
As 6PM approached, we all found our way back to our seats and watched the same commercials again, after which the extended version of The Two Towers began. Again, a good time was had by all.
It was only after the second film ended at 9:30PM that I began to realize that I wasn't getting out of the theatre any time soon. However, after two meals at the concession stand, I needed more credible food. Excerising the right of return, I left the theatre to patronize a near by Subway. What bread! I returned in time for the 10:15PM premire of Return of the King. When the movie finished at 2:00AM on Wednesday (recall that I arrived at the theatre Tuesday Morning), I was emotionally and physically spent. Public transportation had long sinced closed for the night, so I wearily ambled home along the Gray Pavement, through hookers, nightclubbers and street freaks. At my journey's end, I slept the Sleep of the Just.
Some have complained that Return of the King is just a long battle scene. However, this claim is meritless when viewing the entire trilogy. If a good story has a beginning, middle and end, then surely one ought to have been expecting the long foreshadowed War for the Ring to be a major component of this concluding film. However, there is a lot more in this last episode that just imaginary monsters fighting make-believe heroes for pretend glory. Jackson's trilogy beautifully renders that all too common struggle of stepping out of the shadow of one's parents, a theme that, while present, isn't as strongly illuminated in Tolkien's work. The struggle of Frodo to master his own quite unhobbit-like fate is wonderfully cantalevered with Aragon's ambivalence about his own destiny. Although both succeed in their quests, Frodo is utlimately consumed by the consequences of his decisions while Aragon prospers (as has been noted, it's good to be the King). Frodo's sacrifice allows the last flowering of Numenor and the begining of the Age of Men. That is, the world of Faery departs for the world we know today. This is the stuff of Nordic legend. It's Thor and Odin fighting the giants at Ragnarok even though they know they will perish, although new gods will take their place. It's like reading the battle of Hector and Achilles in Homer's Ilyad or watching Macbeth's murderous climb to power come undone by fate. There is nothing so engaging to watch than a well-plotted doom.
Jackson's Ring movies take from Tolkien those themes that could be most readily adapted for a motion picture. He rightly avoided a literal translation of the books and in doing so created something new that even well-read Tolkien fans can enjoy. Tolkien would have approved of this "subcreation" for much the same reason that he himself reworked the Eddas, Sir Gawain, Beowulf and the Denham Tracts into Middle Earth. The movies do nothing to dimishes the books and perhaps will introduce Tolkien to an even broader audience. And for this, Peter Jackson's work should be embraced by all true fans of Lord of the Rings.