Back to Middle Earth

I did my Lord of the Rings movie marathon over the weekend, watching the films for the first time in nearly 10 years. The last time I recall watching them was when I was gearing up to write No Quest for the Wicked and I watched them to make a list of quest story tropes to play with for when I put a quest in modern Manhattan (that book was so much fun to write). I thought I was checking the extended editions out of the library, since the illustration with the listing was the extended edition box set, but they just turned out to be the Blu Ray versions of the edition I already had. I would like to see the extended editions at some point, since I suspect a lot of what got added was the character stuff, and that’s the part I like. I have a feeling some of my friends have a set I can borrow, so maybe next winter I’ll do another viewing.

I also need to re-read the books. I first read them when I was in sixth grade and was utterly captivated. I tore through them. I re-read them in college and found them to be a bit of a slog. I wonder what I’d think of them now. As I rewatched the movies, I was trying to remember what it was that captivated me so much when I first read the books. I think a lot of it was the characters. The hobbits were really relatable to a kid, perhaps less so to an adult, and maybe that was the difference in reading between the ages of 11 and 21. I liked the relationships among the characters. I loved the Shire and Rivendell. I recall that my favorite part of the series was the first book, before things got really awful and dire. I think a lot of the stuff I liked in that book got cut from the movie.

I kind of feel like the movies went overkill on “epic.” It got almost too big to care too much. I was really involved in the character moments and found myself tuning out when it was massive CGI army of good guys vs. massive CGI army of bad guys. Even in smaller fights, they went to overkill in a way that I felt undermined the situation, like in a case when a swarm of at least 50 orcs attacks Aragorn while he’s on his own, and he manages to hold them off until backup arrives. Really, he’s just fighting about six of them, probably the ones who were stuntmen in costume, while the rest are CGI that don’t interact with him at all. If they’d only shown the six stuntmen, it would have actually been a more engaging fight, one I could imagine him winning with great effort. When he’s outnumbered at least fifty to one and they can’t easily beat him by just swarming over him, I figure he has plot armor and am not too worried about the outcome.

I do think that, in general, they did a good job of translating the books to film. The imagery is just about perfect (though I think the Ringwraiths in the 70s animated version were scarier). I just wish it hadn’t been so focused on massive battles. That was also the flaw in the Hobbit movies.

But I’m kind of a weirdo in that I’d have been okay with a story that was just hobbits living happily in the shire and maybe having some minor adventures, like traveling to Rivendell and hanging out with elves, then going home.

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