Monday, January 05, 2004

Voices in my head

So I saw this little film the other day. Maybe you've heard of it. Actually, I've seen it twice now. Here's what everyone else seems to think...

Stephen Hunter, Washington Post:
What we have is called civilization, and to defend it we will fight a war to end all wars, except for the war after that, and the next one, too. But anyway: "Return of the King," like many epic fantasies, decodes into straight combat stuff. We fight a big fight over here to keep from being overrun; meanwhile, our commandos try and sneak in and deliver a death blow over there. Okay, so instead of wearing camouflage tunics and carrying M-4s, our special forces ops have big hairy bare feet and dress like extras in "H.M.S. Pinafore."
The big fact is that "The Return of the King" puts you there at Waterloo, or Thermopylae or the Bulge, any desperate place where men ran low on blood and iron and ammo, but not on courage.

MaryAnn Johanson, The Flick Filosopher:
The words I keep coming back to, the ones that seem to fit this most astonishing of films best, are "terrible" and "awful." The old-fashioned senses of the words are what I'm talking about: Peter Jackson has given us a grandly eloquent film that inspires more terror and more awe than anything I've seen in a long time. I can compare my reaction to it only with the moviegoing experiences of my childhood, when the hugeness, the all-encompassing-ness of movies in all ways -- emotionally, viscerally, visually, aurally -- first astounded me, when "Night on Bald Mountain" and Darth Vader's stormtroopers horrified me to such a degree that I can still feel it.

Steven Greydanus, Catholic Educator's Resource Center, "Faith and Fantasy":
The priestly role belongs to Frodo, who bears a burden of terrible evil on behalf of the whole world, like Christ carrying his cross. Frodo's via dolorosa or way of sorrows is at the very heart of Tolkien's story, just as the crucifixion narratives are at the heart of the gospels accounts. As Christ descended into the grave, Frodo journeys into Mordor, the Land of Death, and there suffers a deathlike state in the lair of the giant spider Shelob before awakening to complete his task. And, as Christ ascended into heaven, Frodo's life in Middle-earth comes to an end when he departs over the sea into the mythical West with the Elves, which is as much to say, into paradise.

Gandalf is the prophet, revealing hidden knowledge, working wonders, teaching others the way. Evoking the saving death and resurrection of Christ, Gandalf does battle with the powers of hell to save his friends, sacrificing himself and descending into the nether regions before being triumphantly reborn in greater power and glory as Gandalf the White. As with Frodo, Gandalf's sojourn in Middle-earth ends with his final voyage over the sea into the West.

Finally, there is Aragorn, the crownless destined to be king. Besides being a messianic king of prophecy, Aragorn also dimly reflects the saving work of Christ by walking the Paths of the Dead and offering peace to the spirits there imprisoned, anticipating in a way the Harrowing of Hell.
While not equalling the religious vision of the books, the films honor that vision in a way that Christian viewers can appreciate, and that for non-Christian postmoderns may represent a rare encounter with an unironic vision of good and evil, a moral vision of evil as derivative of good and of the ever-present human susceptibility to temptation.

Anthony Lane, The New Yorker:
Then, we have men, a solemn race. Tolkien may be charting the victory, familiar from a hundred fairy tales, of good over evil, but such mastery comes at a melancholy price, for it marks the end of one age—that of wizardry, elvishness, and free trips on the backs of giant eagles—and the dawning of another. From now on, men will rule Middle-earth, and one senses, both in Tolkien and in Peter Jackson’s adaptation, a wistful belief that life, though fair and wisely governed, will be much less of a blast. Just inspect the face of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) at the close of this picture. Over many hours, his startling career path has gone from a quiet drink at the Prancing Pony to the sacred throne of Gondor (he is the King of the title), but does the guy look happy about it? To me he looks taut and burdened, not least by the terrible awareness that, this being Tolkien, he will have to sing a ballad at his own coronation.

Dr. Albert Oxford, "50 Reasons Why LOTR Sucks":
3. Quality Control at New Line.

Millions of copies of the LOTR DVDs have thick black bars at the bottom and top of the screen throughout the film. Didn't anyone catch this? You know what happens at the end, in the extreme foreground and extreme upper sky? Neither do I. Bush league, guys.
14. The Battle Droid Syndrome.

The mutated muscular soldiers of Mordor turned out to be hilariously ineffective fighters, a dozen of them held off by a single dying human. Apparently they made the beasts by crossing Orcs, Goblins and the French.
45. Casting.

Why couldn't Frodo have been played by Christopher Walken?

Lord of the Rings Drinking Game:
Every time you can tell the camera was mounted on a helicopter, take a shot.
If it's one of those really fast bits where the helicopter-camera swings around some dizzying remote mountain location, yell, "Wheeeee!"
Every time Frodo says "Oh, Sam...," take a shot.
If it looks like Frodo's about to kiss Sam, smack the first person who suggests they might be gay.

And finally, Agent Smith versus the Fellowship:
Smith: And you Wizards are the worst! Ack! Men and Elves and Dwarves and Hobbits... you were a cancer on the face of Middle-earth, and that's why we herded you into this massive multiplayer game.

posted by Peter at 10:22 PM
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