Why I Still Love “The Lord of the Rings”

(Here be spoilers.  You know, just in case you somehow made it 10 years without seeing the movie and still care about being spoiled.  I’m trying to be courteous here.)

This past Tuesday, movie theaters all over the country showed the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  Anyone who knows me at all should know that I absolutely adore both the books and the movies, so when I found out this was happening, I rearranged my schedule and spent $12.50 to go watch a movie that I already own.  And it was totally worth it.

It amazes me that in December it will be 10 years since this movie was originally released.  The version that was shown was the remastered version that they did for the Blu-Ray release, but one thing that struck me was how well the special effects have held up.  Now, I’m not an expert and I’m sure many people who are much smarter/more observant than me can see the flaws, but for me the effects never jarred me out of the story as they sometimes do in older films (with the exception of some very brief moments in the Mines of Moria and at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm).

While I was watching, I began to wonder what it was about this story that is so profound to me.  Why is it that I can go into a theater and watch a movie that I have seen in theaters, on DVD, and even on television multiple times, and yet I am still amazed and enthralled?  Special effects cannot create that feeling, no matter how great they are.

I believe the biggest reason this story stands the test of time, at least for me, is because it speaks to the part of my heart that craves the Gospel.  People have obviously dissected both Gandalf and Frodo as Christ figures numerous times, but I think what really resonates with me is that nearly every character in the book reaches a point where they have to choose between self and the good of others, and almost all of them choose others.  But it’s not just a vague “greater good.”  These characters are on mission.

Frodo leaves his comfortable life in the Shire to take the Ring to Rivendell because he trusts Gandalf.  Sam also leaves comfort behind, not because he necessarily understands all the political and social ramifications of the Ring, but because he is loyal to Frodo.  After they complete that task, it is clear that both Sam and Frodo would be perfectly content to return to the Shire and continue on with life as normal.  When Frodo sees the dissension caused by the Ring, he gives up his own desires for comfort and safety, and Sam joins him without hesitation.

Merry and Pippin join in accidently (at least in the movie), but once they reach Rivendell they fully commit, even though they have no idea what they are getting into.  Legolas and Gimli put aside their own prejudices and bigotry for the sake of the mission.  Aragorn is put on a collision course with the destiny he has spent his whole life avoiding because of his involvement with the Fellowship.  And yes, Gandalf falls in Moria so that the others can escape and continue on in their quest.

Even Boromir, who initially chooses self over others when he attempts to take the Ring from Frodo ends up giving his life trying to protect Merry and Pippin, two creatures he initially viewed as unimportant, at best.

Is “The Fellowship of the Ring” a beautiful movie?  Yes.  Is it well-made, well-written, and well-acted?  Of course.  But ultimately, it is the strength of the story, these characters that appeal to that God-shaped hole in all of us that Pascal talks about, that I believe makes it persist in the hearts and minds of those who see it.

Say what you will about fantasy literature and media, but I see more of Jesus in those things than I do in more “realistic” fare.  That, however, is a blog post for another day.

Some other random thoughts I had while watching the movie:

  • Aragorn is a badass.  I mean, really, the man is just awesome.  He even sings in the extended edition!  I kind of want my husband to remind of Aragorn at least a little bit.
  • Sean Bean is awesome.  Yes, he has made some questionable career decisions (just scan his IMDb filmography, it’s a little ridiculous), but he has also played some really awesome characters.  If you don’t believe me, go watch Equilibrium (side note: You really should watch Equilibrium anyway.  It also has Christian Bale.  And is awesome.)
  • I still don’t like Liv Tyler as Arwen.  It’s really the only casting decision I have issues with in the whole trilogy.  I realized this time around that the biggest thing that bugs me is her voice; it’s so breathy, but none of the other elves speak that way.  Or it could just be that she has no facial expressions.
  • I hope that the trilogy gets re-released in theaters sometime when I have kids.  I want them to see it on the big screen, the way it was meant to be screen.
  • Theaters across the country are showing the extended editions of The Two Towers and The Return of the King the next 2 Tuesdays.  I will be attending.  If you’re in Austin and want to go with me, let me know.
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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

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