Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson; based on The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
Producer: Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Tim Sanders
by Jon Cvack
Reading The Lord of the Rings (1954) is one the most immediate and vivid memories I have when thinking back to high school winters. I hadn’t known about the books before the first film came out, and my earliest memory of the series being at the bargain theater near my house, located in an old and small mall with only a handful of stores remaining open, and a theater where your feet ripped like velcro from the sticky floors.
My best friend Tim had completed the books before my other best friend Kevin and I even started. We were all in a band and Tim suggested the band name “Nine Fingered Frodo”, then laughing uncontrollably; something I didn’t fully understand but came close enough to figuring out the further I got into the last book. The race for second was between Kevin and I, and in an effort to avoid finishing before the other we made a pact to stay on the same pace, which he then lied to me somewhere during Return of the King.
It wasn’t all so traumatic, as what I remember most are the days of Tim, Kevin, Kevin’s girlfriend, and I all heading to the local Barnes & Noble, where with Thanksgiving around the corner and just as the The Two Towers were coming out, it contained a gigantic displays of what seemed like countless versions of the books - complete volumes, soft covers, hard covers, spin offs and extensions tales, along with puzzles, games, and toys. We’d grab some of the items, order a hot chocolate, and take them back to some of the desks where we’d sit around and talk, mostly about Lord of the Rings. Nearly fifteen years later, I can’t remember many of the specifics that made that year’s Christmas so great, other than it was a mixture of those Barnes and Noble nights and that I received The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD box set that contained the Argonath book ends amongst some other cool gifts.
It was at work about a month ago that out of nowhere I had a random desire to return to the series. Admittedly, I rarely return to books, revisiting maybe one or two per year, if that. Lord of the Rings was an especially big commitment, as given the memory of how long it felt to read them, I figured it’d take over a month. I found a flawless paperback at a used book store and began the journey, immediately getting hooked and realizing the books transcended effort. The Lord of the Rings is the most vivid story I’ve ever read, as it’s only when you finish you realize that everything you had consumed was made up. At times it drags with details, and yet like any fascinating historical account, it all combines into a holistic and believable picture. To read about the separate groups and how their society’s operated and evolved and all of the characters’ genealogies and histories and how it all connects is unlike anything ever created, except for maybe A Song of Ice and Fire - which I’m sorry, but I just didn’t dig the first book, finding it way too complex and confusing (though knowing, if explained or after I got further into the series, that I’d very likely find it incredibly awesome and rich). I don’t read too much fantasy or sci-fi, but I’ve yet to read anything even remotely close to how perfect of a story Lord of the Rings is.
I had also failed to see the entire trilogy since the craze had concluded back in 2003; nearly fifteen years ago. I’ve seen The Fellowship of the Ring more times than I can remember, The Two Towers maybe two or three times total, and The Return of the King only once. By the last film, although arguably the greatest, the obsession had faded. We stopped going to Barnes & Noble during Christmas as we started to discover girls and drinking.
While rediscovering the novels and how incredible they are is a beautiful experience in itself, I was even more excited to return to the films with both my 65” UHD television, which as douchey as it sounds, is basically as close to a theatrical experience as I could afford and it has completely changed how I view and experience cinema. Getting a decent gig before winter break, I found an open box 4k UHD player at Best Buy, and with Cyber Monday occurring just weeks after I finished the first two books, I found the Blu Ray boxset for $26.00. I was going to return to the The Fellow of the Ring in its fully realized, four hour version with the best viewing experience possible (a UHD version of the trilogy was not yet available).
Watching the supplements from the beginning, I learned that Tolkien in no way intended for the story to be an allegory, even declaring his resentment of allegories altogether. The issue is that, for a man who didn’t really write anything else, and having lived through the deadliest war ever fought, it’s tough to not see the connection to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and their totalitarian regimes. Saruman is Hitler, the Orcs are the Nazis, and the Ring is that which can grant power over the whole world. As time has settled, and have a greater understanding of Hitler’s place in history, you start to appreciate the story even more for what it embodied. What severed it from allegory was its extraordinary detail, allowing the reader/viewer just enough room to find personal meaning in the ring and where each character fit. It was also fairly obvious this time around that the Dwarfs and Elves are the French and British.
Continue onto Part 2...
BELOW: One of the all time greatest intros to a film
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