January 01, 2004

ROTK at midnight

Happy Manhattan and Las Vegas are Still Standing Day

Return of the King

Faramir is still pretty. Pip's voice is still sweet. Aragorn is still hairy. I am almost content.

Eomer, on the other hand, needs to frelling loosen up. His eyebrows are pretty much stitched together for 201 minutes.

I went to a late showing of Return of the King last night (my New Year's tradition) and yet still somehow made it back to the house before midnight (around 11:57). The roads were empty. I drove fast, and mused on whether I might become the last road accident of the old year, or the first of the new.

Thinking more on the structure of the movie (and this paragraph is all SPOILERY for those who do not know the book and have not seen the movie), I am impressed by the rhythm of how the climactic scenes interlace. Frodo makes the last steps into the mountain (an upswelling of hope even as the scene beyond the black gates is filled with passionate bravery but little hope, lifting the weight of the long struggle, an upward crescendo that begins when Sam raises his friend from the ground and declares, simply but as heroically as any of the elaborate nobility shown in all the battle scenes, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you"); Frodo chooses the Ring, fights Gollum, the Ring falls, the Ring struggles and fades, Sam helps Frodo choose to reach for life and friendship over despair. All this happens in a precise counterpoint with the bravado before the gates, Aragorn's easy (and cheer-worthy) refusal of temptation (the climactic moment of all moments in this film for me may be the small smile with which he rejects the call to a corrupt version of power when his name is whispered from the dark tower), and the ensuing battle outside. It's such a precise balance and interweaving, I'd be afraid to see it altered by any additions in an extended version. I'll have to trust to the director and editors. And acquire a copy of the theatrical release.

In the end, of course, it's not about a magical macguffin, which is why the small moment of Aragorn's refusing smile is so important. It's about power and greed and the difficulty of giving up power once acquired, whatever form it takes—military might, high political office, general privilege of race and sex. That makes this book, this foundation of modern fantasy, one of those stories on that human condition one hears so much about. Too many fantasy novels that have followed are, instead, merely stories about a magical Thing.

The Flick Filosopher's version of a LOTR-movie drinking game amuses me.

Posted by OutsideFood at January 1, 2004 12:00 PM

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