Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My One Big Problem with LORD OF THE RINGS

So yesterday, I had the day off from work and spent it watching the Extended Edition of Return of the King, all four hours of it. The movies are an awesome achievement, just staggering in their scale and complexity and the way Jackson tries to balance personal drama against large-scale action. But once I get to the big climax, I remember the one thing that disappointed me about Lord of the Rings above all others.

I read The Hobbit as a young teen and loved it. Then while I was in high school, someone told me I must read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So I bought the books with some Christmas money (a pattern I've repeated over the past three years with the Extended Edition DVDs) and read them over Christmas vacation.

My reaction was mixed, to say the least. I got past my initial disappointment upon learning that the book did not feature Bilbo as the hero again, and I got past my befuddlement that the simple invisibility gimmick he discovered in The Hobbit is supposed to be some kind of Uberweapon. I got bogged down in the snows of Caradhras Peak, where my enthusiasm waned, but once the fighting began in the mines of Moria, my interest perked back up. As the momentum built, I locked myself in my room and read for hours on end, only coming out for meals. And then I reached the end, and felt short-changed.

Some of this may be my upbringing on comic books and cartoons. I was disappointed that we kept hearing references to the Ring's mighty powers, but never, ever saw a real demonstration of it as a weapon. We kept hearing about Sauron's might, as well, but we never saw him in action, either. I was disappointed by the Scouring of the Shire; Saruman's death was an amazingly touching moment, but it hurt me that these characters went through so much trial, so much hurt, fighting to save their homes, only to discover their homes in ruin when they returned.

But most of all, I was disappointed with the big climax, in which Frodo, alongside whom I'd endured so much pain and misery, especially that almost unbearable stretch across the wastes of Mordor, only to have him say, once he finally reaches his destination, "You know what? Changed my mind." I was disappointed that good only triumphed over evil by accident, because Gollum's a lousy dancer.

Now that I'm older, I understand more what Tolkien was after, I think, but it still disappoints me. I still want Frodo to do the right thing, to maintain his strength for that one extra second it would take to open his hand and let the ring fall of his own free will. I want to be able to sit back after following the story for so long and say, "Ah, now that's the way an adventure should end." I want Frodo to succeed, not simply fail to fail. I think I will want that for the rest of my life.

But how disappointed would I be, I wonder, if someone remade Lord of the Rings and played it out the way I wanted?

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