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So, I Watched “Lord Of The Rings”

Yes, all three of them in the span of a month

© New Line Cinema

There’s always been a stain in my resume as a nerd-enthusiast and as a Dungeons and Dragons player: until last month, I had never watched any of the Lord of The Rings movies, nor ever read any of the books, if we exclude a failed attempt at reading The Hobbit back in my first year of high school. I gave up after the twentieth page full of strange names and apparently devoid of any bit of interesting action.

I’ve always felt that it wasn’t a genre for me, as elves and such creatures have always made me feel unease, but a few weeks ago I decided it was time to see with my own eyes. For the following three Friday nights, I devoted myself to 3+ hours of movie watching on my own. Which, as an introvert, is not as bad as it seems. Plus, after 2 hours of climbing it feels so good to chill a little bit in front of a tv.

Now, almost a month later this decision of mine, I can finally give my verdict. I’m still convinced that it’s not my kind of movie, but I’m glad I watched the entire trilogy.

Weta Digital (RIP, my friend)

For starters, the visuals are stunning, both in the characters and in the environments. This is especially true if we consider that the most recent movie of the trilogy came out 20 years ago.

A lot of credit (hell, almost all of it) is due to a New Zealand’s VFX company founded back in 1993 by Peter Jackson himself, Richard Traylor and Jamie Selkirk: Weta Digital. If you’re a Computer Graphics enthusiast like myself, you surely know it and a bit of history, at least the most recent one.

If you’ve never heard of it, think again: it’s the animation studio that worked not only on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but also on Avatar and Rise of the Planet of Apes. All this before being acquired and then dumped by Unity in a matter of two years, but that’s material for another story, one I’m not sure I’m willing to get into. Also, I don’t want to risk transforming my post about Lord of the Rings in a rant against Unity.

Also, if you’re interested in how they managed what they didn’t manage with 3D, I think this video is quite a nice one:

The cast

I have to admit that I spent great part of the movie pointing my finger at the screen and recognising actors I’ve seen in many other movies and tv shows. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Sean Beam (of course he dies badly here too), John Noble, Hugo Weaving, Karl Urban, etc.

Maybe it’s how they all inevitably meshed together with their role after 20+ years since the movies, but they all look perfect in their own role. But to be honest, it’s more likely that they were carefully cast in their role and contributed to make the movies memorable as they are.

The absolutes

As I said, despite all the good things I’ve said about the visual and the actors’ performance, I didn’t appreciate the movies as much as pretty much all my friends did. To put it better, I wasn’t taken away by them, no matter how hard I tried to approach them with an open mind.

To try and put it bluntly, it’s a movie with too many absolutes. A clear distinction between good and a terrible evil “just for the sake of it”, and very little in between. A bit more sloth and “this war is not my business” than I expected, to be honest, but still a very sharp distinction between good and bad characters.

We all grow up with stories about a good underdog growing up and defeating a much bigger evil, and I have to admit I grew a bit tired of it. The stories that caught me the most are the ones where the line between protagonist and antagonist is not so clear. Where you can see and understand where the evil comes from, even if you recognise it for what it is.

Allegiances are set quite early in the first movie, and very seldom challenged. As an example of it, Legolas and Gimli become friends pretty easily even though their races aren’t meant to get along. And no matter how many times they remind us that they’re an elf and a dwarf, it never generates conflict between them. The only aspect in which they challenge each other is in the body count in battle, but I have to admit that it was fun to watch and provided relief in a few very tense moments.

There are those who admit shipping them, and those who lie. © New Line Cinema

I can see that this feeling of friendship and companionship between the good guys is exactly what made the series great as it is, it just doesn’t feel so interesting to watch in a movie.

The ring

There is an exception to what I’ve just said about the movies’ lack of shades of grey: the storyline about Frodo and his quest to destroy the ring. I knew in advance that the ring was a metaphor for a strong and corrupting power, and one of the reason that encouraged me to watch the Trilogy was exactly to see how it was going to play out.

Frodo and “The precious”, © New Line Cinema

The way Frodo and Sam’s relationship is put to test by the dark power of the ring and by the scheming and manipulations of Gollum was one of the most interesting part of the movies. It really showed how hard and how dangerous it is to remain good in a world filled with ill-meaning people. How hard it is, even for someone inherently good as an hobbit, to resist temptations and stay on the correct path. How it’s the other people that really care about you that usually save you when your resolution is faltering.

To sum it up: I spent the last three Friday nights watching a timeless tale about friendship and the eternal battle between good and evil. Was it worth it? For sure, I’m convinced that all classics are meant to be watched. Do I regret not doing it earlier? Not at all, I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much.

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