LOTR, Chapter One: Right, Buckleberry Ferry

(LOTR is now an ongoing series.)

On the heels of my Pottered series, I thought to myself, “Why not try and explore other nerdoms?” It seemed fitting. This year has been spent trying to explore subjects and genres I have never been attracted to: neuroscience, philosophy, sociology, history, activism and, yes, even Harry Potter. Nerdom has been the most fun, so I decided that once I finished re-watching the Star Wars trilogy I would tackle Tolkien’s legendary books.

Well, I failed. I began the audiobook for The Hobbit and had a rather terrifying experience where I kept falling asleep and hitting my head on things while listening to it. This happened six times before I threw in the towel. I decided I would start The Fellowship Of The Ring instead. Perhaps The Hobbit would be more interesting if I read it last.

I made it as far as chapter seven. I stopped reading because the hobbits wouldn’t stop singing about everything. But you know what’s hobbit-song free (well, almost)? Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the Ring series.

So I decided to re-watch them.

Now, in my defense it has been a while since I’ve seen these films and my memories of them are- well- sketchy. For example, watching The Fellowship Of The Ring in theaters was a rather unpleasant and stressful experience. I was supposed to meet up with two friends at a local theater and watch it with them. They never showed up so I sat through the whole film really distracted, wondering if they had ditched me or gotten into a terrible car accident. The next time I saw them they told me they had simply decided to see The Majestic instead.

My extended family and friends have loved, loved, loved the Ring series so I accompanied them to the midnight showings of The Two Towers and The Return Of The King. To say the least both films are over three hours long and hard to digest at 1 to 3 in the morning. And that’s the only time I have watched them. After watching The Fellowship Of The Ring last night I’d say it benefits from a viewing before dark.

So, am I a bigger fan of LOTR after watching Fellowship again? Mmmm… maybe? What’s different this time is that my understanding of the plot and characterizations are crystal clear. Although it’s easy to make fun of Elijah Wood for staring wide-eyed a lot and getting stabbed at inconvenient moments, he really is Frodo. I also thought that Viggo Mortensen couldn’t have been cast better. Aragorn might have been a parade of cliches without him. Mortensen keeps the character surprisingly subtle and real.

In fact, for the most part every single character is expertly cast: Sean Astin, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd and (of course) Ian McKellan. My sister and I were still scratching our heads about Liv Tyler, though. Orlando Bloom made more sense this time around, despite his blinding prettiness. Besides he fired arrows into, like, sixty orcs at the end. Not a single one got within ten feet of him. That’s pretty boss.

Of course, LOTR carries some of the same themes and details as the Potter and Star Wars series. I have to say that as a mentor/father figure Gandalf fares better than Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda or Dumbledore. Unlike the aforementioned, Gandalf doesn’t keep secrets from the young hero at the center of the series. He holds back on his theories until he knows they’re true, and his actions aren’t damaging or of the “Oops, forgot to tell you you’re a Horcrux/the son of Darth Vader” variety. He also doesn’t decide to die at a really inconvenient time (yes, I’m talking about you, Yoda). Overall, Gandalf might be the most useful and least frustrating of these characters.

There are other parallels as well, particularly with the Potter books. I was still on the prologue of Fellowship when I thought, “I know what J.K. Rowling has been reading.” The names of the characters and places are similar (Tooks, Tonks) or the same (Longbottom). I mean, come on, the guy who runs The Prancing Pony has the surname of Butterbur. Sounds a lot like butter beer if you ask me. Also, I’m pretty sure that Dementors and Ringwraiths have kickass family reunions.

Either way, it was an enjoyable- albeit long- experience. I watched the extended version of Fellowship and will probably follow suit with its sequels.

For the record, my favorite line in the film remains the same: (super intense) “Right… Buckleberry Ferry.”

Gets me every time.

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