Our critics debate Lord of the Rings’ legacy

By Thomas Barbieri

Sylvain, I pity you. Yours must have been a bland and sad upbringing if you cannot appreciate the magic and spectacle that is The Lord of the Rings (LOTR).

Enjoying Peter Jackson’s trilogy is not dependant on loving sci-fi or playing Dungeons and Dragons twice a week (not that there’s anything wrong with that). All three installments of LOTR are so well made that the sense of wonderment they invoke is virtually inescapable.

You must throw away any preconceived notions of “fantasy” films before watching the LOTR. I’ve heard some people complain that sequences or ideas in these films “just aren’t believable.” You’ve got to be kidding me, right? Of course they’re not believable; the whole trilogy is based around the fact that some tiny ring has the power to control the world.

If you can’t get past that tidbit, chances are you won’t back up the rest of these films. It is a sad, sad fact that nitpicking critics can’t let their pretensions down and enter Jackson’s meticulously crafted version of Tolkien’s world.

This unfortunately is evident with my good friend Mr. Versti- Mr. Vertrihc- my good friend Sylvain. Yet even hardcore cynics cannot deny LOTR’s cinematic achievements. One is the use of landscape to showcase the impressive surroundings and integrate them into the storyline. Complimenting the scenery is LOTR’s sweeping soundtrack.

Every orchestral beat is on target in this trilogy, another reason these films must be seen as a complete cinematic package and more than mere fantasy fare with swords and horses.

The latest installment, The Return of the King (ROTK), is just as successfully executed as the first two. The Two Towers was the most well paced, well balanced, and I thought, best offering of the entire trilogy. Yet Jackson does not disappoint in Return of the King, continuing the action while allowing us time to breathe and experience the plight of the characters.

There are several high points, but the stand-out scene is the Battle of Pelennor Fields, where everything imaginable is thrown at Aragorn and the Gondor gang.

Jackson’s strength throughout the trilogy has been his battle scenes, the scale of which cannot be rivaled on film. Just as in the first two installments, ROTK’s battle sequences include wonderful choreography, adrenaline pumping speed and all those quick, close up shots that make them complete.

There are a few problems with ROTK. You must be ready for a lot of slow motion screaming and frequently hearing the words “Frodo, no!!!” “No…Frodo!!!” or, “No, Frodo, no!!!”

Yet the problems with ROTK and with the entire trilogy, are few and far between. Overall, these films have made a major impact on the boundaries of filmmaking, bringing to life the mystical creations of a writer whose work embodies the epic adventure.

A testament to LOTR’s power is the fact that many people who would normally consider dungeons and dragons the height of geekdom suddenly wanted to become elves after watching the films.

Forget about the cheesy lines and appreciate the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the fantastic spectacle it is.


Ten hours of my life gone forever

By Sylvain Verstricht

If the greatness of a work of art is based on its ability to pass the test of time, I guess we will have to wait a decade or two until we forcibly make our children watch The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), so they can look us in the eye and ask us “What the hell were you guys on?”

Already today, the series is dreadfully mediocre. Its much-vaunted special effects are average, at best. There is such an obvious difference between the live-action shots and the computer-generated ones that every time we go from one to the other, we are shaken out of Tolkien’s world. I never believed in the Middle Earth that was shown on screen because it was so obviously fictitious.

To me, it was never Frodo, but just Elijah Wood being replaced by a child whenever there was a shot of him amongst regular-sized people.

Really, could they have not hired child actors to play the Hobbits?

Not only would it have looked more realistic, viewers would have also been spared Wood’s hollow delivery. Though, in all fairness, who can speak such ridiculous lines with their dignity intact?

Speaking of being corny, let’s go back to the special effects. Ever since the first Jurassic Park, there has been a great decrease in the quality of special effects. Why? Because computers have become the easiest way to create them.

Easier, yes; better, no. Before, filmmakers had to rely on their own creativity to come up with ways in which to create those imaginary worlds they sought to represent. As a result, they would often make a lot out of very little. Only think of how impressive 2001: A Space Odyssey or the initial Star Wars series still look today.

But those days are over. Now, filmmakers just go to their computer, and the audience ends up witnessing Elijah Wood being pursued by Bugs Bunny dressed up in a giant spider costume. Yes, quite frightening. If I wanted that kind of excitement, I’d watch Trading Spaces.

Of course, there are many other elements in LOTR that I could have come down on: the laughable melodramatic dialogues, the lame love-at-first-sight stories and the fact that all this simplistic good vs. evil crap is being very slowly shoved down my throat over half a day… But ultimately, I just couldn’t care less about Wood being attacked by a big computer blob.

The irony in all of this is that Tommy Barbieri, a handsome Italian boy from the suburbs, loves this kind of crap, while it leaves me, the weird-looking gay farm boy, cold. You would imagine that I would have been the one to be beaten up enough in high school to turn into such a fantasy-loving loser. Guess someone must have been a bit more annoying than I was.

Now that LOTR is finally over, we can only hope that Peter Jackson will go back to making films like the excellent Heavenly Creatures, his true masterpiece


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