Tolkien on Screen

When Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings were released in theatre, I attended each installation multiple times. I knew I wouldn’t regret seeing the retelling of Tolkien’s magnificent myth of redemption, loss, heroism, immortality, reclamation and friendship on the big screen as many times as I could. When The Return of the King was released, Amber and I called in subs for the afternoon and watched the entire trilogy (extended editions for parts 1 and 2) in the theatre. Every attendee, hardcore fans each one, received a figurine complete with one film frame of each movie in it.

When The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was released last month, I attended the IMAX 3D trilogy of The Hobbit realizing about halfway through how fit one must be to endure a 9 hour film. No souvenir this time though.

The battles, dialogues, locations, and myriad of characters draw me in without fail. I become a child again each time I see the circle door at Bag End. I am smitten by the elven architecture at Rivendell. I’m terrified along with the hobbits at the Dark Riders and along with the Riders of Rohan as they face the oliphants. I’m heartbroken with Pippin as Denethor sends Faramir to sure death. I’m stirred by Theoden’s speech to the Rohirrim before sending them into battle and Aragorn’s final words at the Black Gate. I giggle at Gollum’s jabs at Sam and Gimli’s reaction to almost everything. I slow down in Lothlorien and Fangorn Forest. I get excited as the camera plunges into the mountain to find Gandalf facing off with the Balrog again in the opening scene of The Two Towers. I can barely hold it together when Sam laments on the side of Mount Doom “Rosie Cotton dancing. She had ribbons in her hair. If ever I were to marry someone, it would have been her. It would have been her.” I could go on and on.

I am watching The Hobbit again this week, this time with the extended scenes. I am thoroughly enjoying everything that is added. There is far more context with the dwarves and their quest and even with the necromancer. I particularly enjoyed seeing a child Bilbo at a party of Old Took’s meeting Gandalf for the first time and the added scenes with Beorn, the Goblin King, Bombur sleeping from the enchanted waters of Mirkwood, and the flashback of the burial of the witch king of Angmar are just gems! I found it fascinating how they completely left out the Dwarf rings in the theatrical version and included discussion of them in both extended editions.

I am still disappointed that they never included Gandalf tracking down Gollum and interviewing him. The absence of Old Man Willow and Tom Bombadil or the substitution of Arwen for Glorfindel didn’t bother me very much as it would have compromised the film narrative, but having rangers catching Gollum and Gandalf prying info out of him would have been dramatic delight.

The complaints I’ve heard and what I’ve read in the poor reviews of The Hobbit do not ring true for me. It’s an adaptation of a children’s book and it’s made for fans of The Lord of the Rings. I think of that lovely scene in Finding Neverland at the opening of the play Peter Pan and they have added children to the audience among all the adults. I think that you must have a child’s heart to enjoy Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. The one recommendation I would have made would have been to make the fighting a little more believable. Bilbo knocking over a 7 foot, fully armoured Gundabad orc by throwing a rock… That said, I did enjoy all of Legolas’s activities for the pure unbelievability of it.

And I have to say, I love these figurines from Weta Workshop. If I had lots of money… and lots of shelf space…

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