Christmas is a time for forgiveness and New Year is a time for a fresh start, so it seemed like an appropriate time to revisit an acclaimed film trilogy that I never really ‘got’ the first time around. So I watched The Lord Of The Rings: The Extended Editions on Blu Ray across three days last week and whether it was the ready availability of snacks or seeing the scenery porn in high definition, it certainly worked, because I loved it all.
Back when The Fellowship Of The Ring first came out in cinemas, it was a different story. I’d once tried to read The Hobbit, but hadn’t got very far, while I’ve always been more into robots and lasers than dungeons and dragons. And it was so very, very long, even the Theatrical Version. I left underwhelmed and a little baffled and irritated by the hysterical acclaim that was being poured upon it by critics everywhere.
Perhaps that says more about my contrary Mancunian nature than the quality of the film itself, but I wasn’t really impressed and only reluctantly went to see The Two Towers at the cinema. Again, it was very long and while the battle scenes were impressive, they didn’t blow me away in the same way that everyone else seemed to be. So when The Return Of The King came out, I didn’t even go to see it and had never even watched it until a few days ago.
But still something compelled me to check out the Blu Ray box of the Extended Editions. Like any man, I love a good box-set, and those lazy days between Christmas and the New Year seemed like a good time to lose myself in many hours of orcs and hobbits. A decade or so on, and things that annoyed me first time out seemed not to matter as much, even how much The Shire resembled the land of the Teletubbies, or how long it takes Sean Bean to die. Or even the endless shots of people walking on the tops of stunning mountain ranges…
Of course, it helps that those shots are stunning in HD, as the whole trilogy is, from the lush scenery to the scorched volcano to the enormous battle sequences. You’ll always find people on Amazon complaining about small details of Blu Ray transfers, but not many things I’ve watched have looked as good as The Lord Of The Rings does. And obviously a lot of that has to do with the quality of the films themselves.
There’s still definitely some weaknesses, of course, and I wouldn’t say I rate them quite as highly as a lot of people do. It’s hard to judge the length and pacing too harshly in films that have been extended to almost incredible extents, but there’s definitely things that I think all three films could have done without to avoid repetition, and if you look at Frodo and Sam’s journey across them all, it’s hard to believe how long it takes them to get from The Shire to Mordor and back again.
But when you compare these films to most other big budget blockbusters, it’s clear to see what a great job Peter Jackson did on turning an unwieldy story into a cohesive and impressive film trilogy without letting the size of the plot, the cast or production get in the way. I’d still pick the original Star Wars trilogy over it as a matter of personal taste, but it’s safe to say that these hobbits have finally won me over, even in the cold, hard light of January.
"Times are hard for dreamers," says a character in Amélie. And if times were hard for people in that fantasy version of Paris, how hard must they be for those of us in a real world torn apart by war, recession, greed and intolerance? That's why we need things to be made easier, nicer and more welcoming sometimes. Films like Amélie certainly help, as does the incredible Slava's Snowshow, and I've been lucky enough to watch both this week.