fantasy,  geek

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, Eight Years On

two-towersI can’t express how excited I was when I heard they were making The Lord of the Rings into a bona fide film. I had suffered (and enjoyed) through the Rankin-Bass and Bakshi versions in my childhood, and had always hoped something great might come of Tolkien’s trilogy beyond cooky songs and scary vibrato.

In 2001 I saw The Fellowship of the Ring in theatres in Washington, DC. Of course I loved it. Frankly, I’d never seen anything so remarkable on film.

Anyway, I saw all the films, and loved them. Cried, laughed, etc. Tolkien has a very special place in my life, for many reasons. (My husband and I first told each other “I love you” on Tolkien’s eleventy-first birthday.)

For the last week, Michael and I have been re-watching the series, back to back. The extended versions. And I’ve got to say it’s quite the experience this time around. I’m eight years older than I was when I first saw the films, I’m married, I have a child. I’ve written four books in that time, earned two degrees. Sure, there are things that I critique (some of the fight scenes are laughable, and most of what Gimli does could have been left out. Falling of a horse? Really?).

But what occurred to me the other evening as we watched the Fellowship descend into Moria was how amazing it really was and how, I think, I likely took it for advantage earlier. Because Jackson did such a bang-on job of combining the art of Alan Lee and John Howe with Tolkien’s language and vision, it’s almost as if I couldn’t detangle what was on screen from the images in my head. I saw it, and internally said, “Yep, that’s it.”

Except that it’s a film, and not my imagination, and that makes a huge difference. Looking at it now I can see just how spectacular the production, direction, and performances were. It’s not without lacking in some spots, but hey, the sheer scale of the thing is enough for me to forgive cheesy extra dialogue and overuse of slow-motion.

With The Hobbit film coming up, I can’t help but be a little giddy, too. Though it’s not Jackson, I know that del Toro will treat the book with the same imaginative reverence. And now that much of the cast is confirmed for the film, well… I’m starting to feel like I did when I first heard the rumors of Fellowship and felt like it’d never actually happen.

Ah, nothing like waiting.


  • Erik Stell

    As a fantasy artist, I’ll admit that I was a bigger fan of Lee and Howe’s work than I was of Tolkien’s actual writings (I find him almost unreadable). As a result, I didn’t know the ring trilogy the way others did when the first movie released. I went to see it because, well, everyone was just so damn excited about it. All through the movie I spotted various scenes, that when taken as a still, could be almost a picture perfect representation of one of Lee & Howe’s works.

    When the credits rolled on the first movie, my first thought was “what? already?”… I’d spent all two plus hours in my seat, and hadn’t moved or even thought too. For someone who had bought a really big coke & was a smoker, that was saying something.

    The ring trilogy films was something that, in my opinion, hadn’t happened since the original Star Wars movies were in theaters. Despite any glaring flaws, eps 4, 5, & 6 are practically timeless, in that they can be watched and enjoyed over and over again. I think in a lot of ways, you & I both consider the ring trilogy to be the same way…

  • Mari Adkins

    I can’t believe it’s been that long already! Woah …

    We bought the extended versions of the movies as they were released on dvd and have them in a box on our rack … I have these “fits” ever so often when I will sit and watch them back to back – yes, all 666 minutes … Saturdays are good for that for me.

    • Natania

      @Mari Awesome! We’re thinking of having a party and doing the whole shebang, extended edition. Was pondering doing it on September 22, too… Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday. I is huge dork.

  • Andrew

    I’m still waiting for a movie version of The Silmarillion, by far a superior work than Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately I doubt I’d ever see it.

    I was blown away seeing it on the big screen – finally a decent fantasy movie done well. That it was LOTR was even better. Of course there were changes, some fairly significant, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

    Well, apart from the treatment of the Dwarves. Give me Dwarves over pretty boy Elves any day of the week. Though Tolkien gets a pass for the Elves seeing he was the first to portray them in that manner.

    Most of the characters were brilliant in their portrayal, especially Viggo as Aragorn and Sean as Sam. The music was superb. And I still get a shiver at teh appearance of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields.

    • Natania

      @Andrew Yes, I have issue with the dwarves, too. I’m actually most looking forward to them in the Hobbit film, and really hoping that del Toro treats them with the respect they deserve. Thorin Oakenshield is one of those remarkably enduring characters. The end is so tragic, too… ah, we shall see!

  • Liam

    I join the chorus of “Wow, eight years, really?” Pretty amazingly well-done films. I loved the architecture (also pretty much the only thing I liked about the more recent Star Wars films). I’m sure everybody has their complaints — I have to admit Frodo looking wan and Sam looking concerned began to get on my nerves — but still, a great epic set of films.

    • Natania

      @Liam Yes, I know what you mean. I actually skipped over a Frodo/Sam part to get to more Merry/Pippin stuff because, honestly, they’re always where my allegiances lie. I read TTT first, and so have an affinity for the two of them and their stories. Plus, as I said to my husband, “I want to see more kickass battle scenes!” Which, of course, doesn’t mean I’m hard-hearted. No, I cried through most of the third film. Pretty much about every five minutes.

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