I have recently found myself with 7 glorious weeks off work and whilst I could have spent that time crafting home made furniture or learning a foreign language, I have instead decided to sit on my sofa watching endless television, surrounded by empty ice cream containers. It was during one of these ice cream induced stupors that I hit on an idea. Imagine a world where I could watch all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back. So I promptly went ahead and did just that. Here is what I learnt:
- If you watch the Rings movies with an avid book reader as I did, they will grumble about Tom Bombadil’s absence roughly every 30 minutes or so. The best thing to do is to just let them repeat themselves until they tire themselves out. Also, Frodo is a bit of a dickhead. His constant state of being a liability means that he has to be saved from the jaws of death every 5 minutes. Pull yourself together son.
- Whereas some film franchise’s would reveal their flaws, inaccuracies and things that don’t fit when watching them back to back, the Lord of the Rings trilogy is actually immeasurably improved when watched as a whole. The films run perfectly together, the pacing makes more sense when watched as one 12 hour project and each film compliments the others rather than just being a stepping stone between two stories.
- Watching Peter Jackson’s first Tolkien trilogy reveals just how poor a job he did with The Hobbit movies. Even in the extended versions of the Rings films, only the convoluted ending feels like a misstep, rather than the hours of unnecessary footage that exists in The Hobbit adaptation. I have previously moaned about the first hour of Fellowship feeling too twee and gay (in the old fashioned sense of the word) but compare that to the never ending scene in The Hobbit in which a bunch of creatures are cleaning a house and singing and it makes Fellowship look like Reservoir Dogs in comparison.
- That being said, Fellowship in general is better than I remembered it. I have always seen it as necessary evil to get to the good stuff later on but it really is an excellent film in it’s own right. As a scene setter, it is pretty much flawless as lots of characters and ideas are presented in a way that is still compelling and interesting. The other positive thing about Fellowship is that even 13 years later, the special effects don’t just hold up, they still look jaw droppingly good.
- The extended versions add an extra couple of hours on to the overall viewing time of the trilogy but unlike most other extended versions or directors cuts, the extended versions of Lord of the Rings feel very much like the definitive experience. The extra scenes range from vital, to funny curiosities to the downright weird but mostly they add a lot of personality and character to a trilogy that can occasionally feel a little po faced. The extended versions are worth watching for Faramir’s story line alone. I can’t see me ever bothering with the theatrical versions again.
- As much as I love Fellowship and Return of the King, The Two Towers is the best of the 3 for me. It contains what still remains the best battle sequence ever filmed and also very little of Frodo and Samwise which, to be frank, makes for a much better film. The beginning and the end of Return of the King are stunning but there is a lot of Frodo, Samwise and Smeagol wandering around Middle Earth that does little to improve the story.
- That is not to say that Return of the King doesn’t contain some of the series’ best moments though because it definitely does. Someone commented to me Lord of the Rings now looks a little quaint and childish compared with Game of Thrones but the battle sequences in The Two Towers and in particular Return of the King are brutal and violent. No matter where the fantasy genre goes from here, Tolkien’s masterpiece will always have pride of place as the cream of the crop.
- The ending really does go on far too long though. I understand that Jackson is trying to convey how epic the journey has been from the Shire to Mordor but does every single character arc and storyline need to be concluded so meticulously? In reality, every scene tacked on at the end takes away from what should be a show stopping climax. Another reason why The Two Towers is the more accomplished film.
- It might sound difficult to sit and watch one thing for 12 hours and to be honest it is. I had ebbs and flows during the day when I felt I simply wouldn’t be able to finish the films without taking a nap at some point. In a group though, there will normally be one person enjoying a peak and they should rally the rest of those in attendance out of their troughs. This cheerleading system managed to get all of those present through to the very end. Also make sure you have snacks. Loads of snacks.
- The cast is obviously amazing for the entire trilogy and what struck me is how this film series is the pinnacle of performances for much of them. Aside from experienced faces like Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee, the rest of the cast can point to Lord of the Rings as the highlight of their career. Not just because of it’s success but also because of their own individual performances.
Lastly, I have often said in the past that I believe 2001: A Space Odyssey to be cinema’s finest achievement. After watching all these films back to back I am going to go back on that statement. Whilst Star Wars has more sentimental value and Indiana Jones is more fun, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is truly the best cinematic story ever told. If you ever get chance to watch all of them together like I did, then I urge you to go for it.