on December 7, 2004
Like all Tolkien fans, I had once been afraid of this. I had been afraid that our beloved books would be taken by a talentless, indifferent hand and thrown into the horrendous money-making machine. I had been afraid they'd be ground mercilessly and without any consideration for J.R.R. Tolkien's work or for its fans, ground into pieces of overbudgeted FX with not much else left to the eye and to the mind.
What we got instead was nothing short of a masterpiece. Hype? Sure, there's been some hype. But The Lord Of The Rings has rendered the word hype obsolete. It takes that hype and smashes it against a wall of pure brilliance. The final installment is a glorious ending to a trilogy that decades down the road, I have no doubt, will be hailed as one of the greatest achievements in modern cinema. Had I written the review right after seeing it, it would've probably consisted of one word. WHOA. But I'm OK now. I'm fine. I've taken my Advil, drank my three cups of coffee, got good five hours of sleep. I'm OK now. I can finally sit down and write a coherent review.
On the other hand, do I dare? What can you say about a movie which is, for the lack of a better word, perfect? I know, I know. Of course, no movie is perfect. But this one is as damn well close to perfect as it gets. I've been literally put under a spell, very similar to the one that had seized my mind 18 years ago when I first read the books. Flaws and lowdowns? Sure, there are some, but only if you choose to be a grumpy purist who refuses to get it through his head that literature and cinema are two very different media and therefore cannot be the same, will never be the same. This is as great an adaptation as there will ever be. Call me when you make a movie one-tenth this good.
In my eyes, the films are in some ways better than the books. I find it extremely annoying that Tolkien's work is being idealized by his fans. He was but a man and he, too, made mistakes. His books, as detailed and amazing as they are, still aren't perfect. There are characters who do nothing but sit around, scenes the very presence of which is meaningless or at the very least questionable. Think Arwen, think Tom Bombadil... who, while making a part of the story cool and magical, bears next to no impact on the story as a whole (of course, "true Tolkien fans" will probably have my head if they read this, but oh well). But above all, it makes my blood boil when I hear things like "a true visualization of Tolkien's Middle-earth it is not" (sic. Rogert Ebert). With all due respect, who in the world do you think you are to decide what a "true visualization of Tolkien's world" is? No one but Tolkien himself can give us the true visualization of his world, and he's been dead for decades.
Peter Jackson & Co had a task in front of them akin to dragging a cross to the top of Golgotha, in metaphorical terms. And, by all that's sacred, I cannot see how a filmmaker could succeed more in such a task. It is no small feat to accomplish what they have accomplished. Not only have they succeeded, they have exceeded all my expectations. You can see and feel with every shot that this is a labor of love. That goes for everything and everyone in the movie. Cinematographically, it's amazing. The FX were just enough and never cheesy or unnecessary. The score moves you deeply - even the normally annoying Enya did not bother me this time. The acting was splendid, and the cast was simply perfect. I grew up with the characters in my heart, and now they finally have faces. I mean, how many times do you actually read a book, imagine the characters, and then see the movie and realize that the characters look eerily close to what you've imagined them to look like?
I could go further into details about this particular installment, but I don't think Amazon supports reviews that long. I will simply say that I have never been one of those never-happy purists who nitpick even on the quantity of leaves on trees in Rivendell. I believe these movies should be seen for what they are, not for what they are not. Don't sit there and compare it to the book, or complain how something was added or taken away. Know this: if you want to see Tolkien's Middle Earth, you never will. Only Tolkien himself could give you his Middle Earth, and he's long gone. Look at these films from an overall point of view and try to see that it is simply impossible to film such a leviathan in a way that will make everyone happy. And for what it is, this trilogy is a rare gem. It combines end-of-your-seat action with heartbreaking drama, and brings intensity on both visual and emotional levels, which few films have accomplished so far. For me personally, it was also a memorable experience because I got to share it with a hundreds of moviegoers who sat in the theater with me for three years in a row. We watched in silence, lest we miss anything. We wowed at the sight of the dark, vast Moria, the surreal beauty of Rivendell, the fiery grandeur of Mt. Doom. We laughed at the hobbits' painfully sweet naiveté. We clapped at the grand finale. We couldn't hold back tears in the last few minutes before the credits rolled. We were there, with them, sharing this timeless tale of friendship, destiny, love, the loss of innocence and the reign of good vs. evil. Sounds trite, I know. But this is probably one story where it's not.
Your mileage may vary.