This isn’t actually going to be a review of The Lord of the Rings films, for a couple of reasons:
- It’s common knowledge that LotR is the Best. Movie. Trilogy. Ever.
- Everybody has already seen them anyway.*
*If by some misfortune you haven’t seen them and haven’t read the books, this post will contain major spoilers.
So, no, this is not a review. Instead, it’s an anecdote, which I hope you will find amusing, about what happened when I finally managed to get my wife to sit down and finish watching the films.
I originally dragged my wife to the theater to see the first film, Fellowship of the Ring, when it came out in 2001. She sort of squirmed through the entire thing, and after nearly three hours, pronounced it “just a series of obstacles” and was appalled to discover at the end that “they didn’t even destroy the ring yet!” After that, I couldn’t convince her to go see the other two films, or even to watch them at home on the extended edition DVDs. Nor was she much interested in reading the books.
Fast forward five years, to a rainy winter weekend. I had been catching bits and pieces of various LotR films on cable for the last several weeks and finally decided that I had to watch the trilogy again, so I popped in Fellowship. A multi-week LotR mini-film-festival ensued, with me watching the movies while my wife graded papers or surfed the Internet on her MacBook. She still showed no evident interest in paying attention to the movies … until, in The Two Towers, Gollum showed up:
Wife: “Who’s that?” Me: “That’s Gollum. He used to have the Ring and has been trying to get it back.” Wife: “What is he?” Me: “He used to be sort of a Hobbit. He’s played by a guy in a motion capture suit.”
And suddenly, my wife started paying attention, especially in scenes with Gollum in them. She felt sorry for him (especially the scene in Two Towers where he’s talking to himself), and she was fascinated by the motion capture thing. So now, in addition to watching Two Towers, we had to watch all the special features involving the making of the Gollum character. (Andy Serkis, my wife thinks you deserve an Academy Award, if that makes you feel any better.) We also watched Gollum’s legendary acceptance speech at the MTV Movie Awards, which is NOT to be missed.
So the film festival continued with Return of the King, and now my wife was actually paying attention to the entire thing — Elrond’s description (admittedly biased) of Arwen’s future with Aragorn, Eowyn’s wanting to fight, the dead men under the mountain (Aragorn and company emerge from the tunnels without the ghosts they were hoping to recruit; wife says, scandalized, “They aren’t going to help?!”), Frodo’s slowly being driven insane by the Ring. But still, she was most interested in the scenes with Gollum. (I can’t blame her; I would have to say that Gollum is one of the greatest characters in all of fiction.) By the end of Return of the King, she had abandoned all pretense of web-surfing or whatever and was definitely fully involved in the movie. How can I tell? Because of this: It’s the very end of Frodo’s quest. He stands at the cliff, holding the Ring out over the lava. But he hasn’t dropped it yet.
Wife: “What’s he doing?” Me: (SILENCE) Wife: “Why doesn’t he drop the Ring?” Me: (SILENCE) Wife: (WITH LOOK OF HORROR ON HER FACE) “He’s not going to put it on, is he?”
Which is of course exactly what Frodo does. Cue Gollum’s final appearance, and his struggle with Frodo, and his biting-off of Frodo’s ring finger. Gollum, joyous and triumphant, holds up the Ring, then falls into the lava with it, where both are destroyed. Middle-Earth is saved. My wife is very, very pleased.
Wife: “Well, at least he died happy. He got what he wanted.”
Yes. Yes he did. And he accidentally saved the world, too. I guess we could all do worse.