We generally think of epics as being set in a certain era of our world’s history. We are drawn to them, in part, because we like to believe we would act in the same manner as the protagonists under such afflicting conditions. We all like to believe that we have it in us to be a William Wallace, or a Maximus.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is certainly an epic in every sense of the definition, except it takes place in a different world, and the protagonist does not stand strong in the end – in fact, he falls and fails at his mission. And honestly, I think, story-wise, that’s just as beautiful as the epics where the heroes withstand the torture or sacrifice themselves in the name of love.
Why? Because Frodo shows us that there’s a big chance we’re going to fail in the end, and we need to constantly be reminded of that haunting possibility. But despite our efforts, evil will be conquered in the end, and in the end we have to to look inside ourselves and face the ugly truth that we all have a little Frodo in us (pun intended). King Solomon, the writer of many of the Proverbs, would have identified with Frodo.
It’s hard to identify with anyone in Star Wars. Worse yet, it’s hard to get past the terrible acting. But Lord of the Rings is something anyone from any walk of life can relate to.
I’ll be honest. I don’t have much patience or respect for people who complain that the movies are too long or that they just don’t like them for some reason or another. To me, that reflects shallowness and a sense of immaturity. That sounds rash, I know. And yes, they’re just movies. But there is a depth in Peter Jackson’s adaptations and in Tolkein’s stories that dive much, much deeper than just mere entertainment and frilly thrills.
In Lord of the Rings there is good – solid, pure, sacrificial, selfless good – and evil – sadistic, monstrous, dark, sinister. There is the love of power, the depravity of man, the weakness of mortals, and the purity of friendship and sacrificial love.
In those last several minutes of The Return of the King, I’m usually a sobby mess, because it’s taken so long to get to this redemption, and the sun is finally out, and there are finally smiles and hugs and happiness all around. And redemption.
Sarabeth and I own the extended versions of the movies, and we’ve sat through the several-hour-long commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries (we don’t do that for many movies outside of Pixar films, so you know that’s true dedication). But let me tell you, those extra features and behind-the-scenes documentaries are every bit as interesting and exciting as the movies themselves. They’re funny, they’re educational, they’re emotional… the documentaries themselves deserve a multitude of awards and honors.
And you know, I’ll even have to throw Jackson’s latest, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the same tier as the original trilogy as far as greatness and near-movie-perfection goes. And I expect the next two Hobbit movies will fit just fine right next to them.
So that’s number 3 in my list of top ten favorite movies of all time. To list the Lord of the Rings movies in order from least favorite to favorite is difficult because they’re all a part of the same story. But if forced, I would say, The Two Towers, Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, and Return of the King (comparable only to Toy Story 3).
What about you? Share your thoughts on these movies. What makes you return to them over and over again?