Mr. M and I have divergent tastes in movies. He, being a guy, is drawn to films that feature explosions, combat, and plenty of vehicles - which may or may not metamorphose into something larger and more menacing - racing down streets and around corners and generally contributing to the overall mayhem. He is also drawn to almost anything based on a computer game, or an inspiring sports story of the underdog-triumphant variety.
I like quiet, character-driven movies, with witty dialogue and (if possible) careful costuming and production design. Romance is optional; good writing is not. Parodies and unabashedly silly movies also have their appeal. While Mr. M usually likes the videos I choose, I don't always like the ones he picks out - which is fine. Variety is after all the spice of life.
Luckily there are plenty of movies we both enjoy. Pride and Prejudice, for instance (the BBC version featuring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), is one of our favourites. (Yes, she says proudly, my husband loves that film. It kills him that the first disk ends with Mr. Darcy's spurned proposal. Even though he knows a happy ending will ensue, he can't rest until he puts in the second disk and watches it through to the end.)
Another of our very favourite films is The Lord of the Rings, which we fell head over heels in love with from our first viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring back in December 2001. I can still remember walking out of the theatre thinking despairingly of the yearlong wait for the next installment. (Of course that year flew by and before we knew it we were in the theatre again on the opening day of The Two Towers, and again a year later for the spectacular final segment The Return of the King. And I had recourse to the books.)
Now, each December, in honour of the original release dates, we hold a mini-marathon viewing of the entire set (extended versions, of course). It takes us a week, sometimes two, of evenings to get through Peter Jackson's epic production - and we both enjoy every minute of it.
Of course no movie based on a book can be completely satisfying to one who reads and re-reads the book (which in this case would be me), but the film version of LOTR comes close. Yes, the plot has been tweaked and massaged in spots to make it more Hollywood-palatable. The makers left out huge chunks of story, and interpolated others from the appendices. (Where are Tom Bombadil and Glorfindel? Why not leave Arwen in Appendix A where she belongs and include more of the central if less romantic characters?) But I still feel that they captured the spirit of the original and brought it to stunning visual life. The sets, the costumes, the miniatures, the breathtaking natural scenery of New Zealand, all combine to create an easy suspension of disbelief and a total immersion in what C.S. Lewis called "Story". The book itself is even more absorbing, of course - and how nice, after seeing the visually excellent films, to be able to "see" in my mind Minas Tirith and Hobbiton and Helm's Deep and Barad Dur, as faithfully represented via the illustrations of Alan Lee according to Tolkien's descriptions.
A scriptwriter adapting a book to film, who does not make full use of the author's own voice wherever possible, is presumptuous to say the least. One of the things I enjoy most about the LOTR films is their use of plenty of authentic dialogue and poetry from the book (although words are sometimes put into the wrong character's mouth). There are some manufactured lines ("Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!") but they're usually appropriate to the story and characters involved.
It occurs to me that LOTR offers Mr. M and me plenty of what we both like in a movie: battle, murder and sudden death for Mr. M, and the satisfaction of watching the (literally) little guy triumph over seemingly overwhelming odds ("Even the smallest person can change the course of the future") - with enough good dialogue and outstanding costuming to satisfy me. I will say nothing of the theology which quietly underpins the whole, save that its presence (faint yet discernable) deepens our enjoyment.
Tonight we embark on The Two Towers, in which Frodo and Sam are wandering lost in the rocky impasse of the Emyn Muil, tracked by the devious Gollum; Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are hard on the trail of Merry and Pippin who have been kidnapped by the exceedingly nasty Uruk-Hai at the behest of evil Saruman; and Gandalf, seemingly lost to the Fellowship after his deathly encounter with the Balrog of Morgoth, has yet a role to play in their quest.
This is my favourite of the three segments, with its lovely depictions of Rohan's court, the stunning battle sequence at Helm's Deep (which in the book is a rather minor battle but becomes a major set-piece of the film with bonus elves joining the fray), the beautiful bits of Tolkien's poetry worked in by the scriptwriters ("Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? ... They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow; the days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow...."), the wholly engaging voice-over of Treebeard by the talented John Rhys-Davies (who also played Gimli the Dwarf), and the simply outstanding performance of Andy Serkis as Gollum (whose computer-generated character completely steals the show).
As I see this post threatening to become as long as the book and movie it concerns, I will close with this:
The other night I asked Mr. M what he liked best about the LOTR films, and his answer was so surprising and delightful I had to pass it on. This is what he said: "Everyone has a place, and they know their place. There's order. And within the order, there's courtesy and bravery."
A very good review of a very good set of films.
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