A movie directed by Peter Jackson
I thought that I hadn't seen Lord of the Rings, properly, but only in snippets on other peoples' TVs, playing in the background. So for the past few years I've had these DVDs sitting here, that I collected from my favorite second-hand stores. It's quite the time commitment to watch them so it hasn't really happened.
Since getting them on DVD, I've somehow figured out how to hook up my blu-ray player, and watched a movie on blu-ray (In The Mood For Love) and it really does look good. So the other day, at the second-hand store, I was browsing their blu-rays which are each about four dollars. "I wonder if they have Lord of the Rings?"
Tonight I really did watch it it: it's part of my "do something deliberately for a change". It turns out that I have seen it, in it's entirety, after all. But I think not in an ideal setting, which is alone, in the dark, with a glass of wine and some chocolate. What follows are some impressions, I'm writing them here for no particular reason:
First, I'd just like to say: Wow. There's really just a whole lot of different things in this movie.
Continuing on now from the obvious to the other obvious. The sets and scenery are very lovely, of course; I wish we'd see more of them. I wish the movie was less "action flick" and more of a slow-paced, thoughtful thing. Only because the slow-paced bits are so amazing. (And look: this is just what I want, I'm not saying what it should have been, and there's a big difference between the two.)
One thing I discovered at some point is that if you are taking a video with your phone of a place or something going on, make the video at least one minute long. Later on you'll appreciate it. In the moment, it feels like 5 or 10 seconds is plenty, but actually, that impression is only formed because you've been in the moment already for several minutes (or more.)
It's thrilling to see a good battle. I think everyone likes Legolas stabbing orcs with arrows and then shooting the arrow. But also: there's a whole lot of screaming in this movie.
The Nazgul look so cool when they hold their swords in front of their faces. Also when they stab into the beds and you think the beds have hobbits in them, but they don't, that is a very good part. Overall, the Nazgul are just excellent because they have a kind of symbolic scariness.
Sauron's ring looks so cool in the intro section, the short bit where the finger dissolves in Isuldur's hand is somehow just great, and they keep showing it over and over again. I love that the ring is just however big it needs to be, yet it never really seems to morph in any obvious way.
Many of the visual effects blend very, very well. I thought the balrog looked a bit bad, but who the fuck cares what I think about stuff like that? I'm sure it was murderously hard to get it working.
The music in this movie is tremendous. Iconic. It's just so good. It's nice to hear a movie soundtrack without the "Hans Zimmer Wagner Tuba" ¹ anywhere, though there are lots of actual normal tubas and maybe even a normal Wagner Tuba.
The overall trajectory of LoTR is one of Safety -> Peril -> Safety -> Peril. However in book form, the safety bits are given so much more space to breathe, and the peril bits sort of punctuate them. Although, as I recall, by the end it was really rather peril-centric.
I remember reading fantasy novels as a teen, and how many I found that sort of leaned on the "ordeal". I.e., the entire book is one long ordeal, from one difficult scenario to another somehow even more impossible and then oh! We're right next to the dragon and oh! We're running from it and oh! We're falling down a mountain and oh! The town is on fire and oh! The dragon can't be hurt and oh! There is just one weak point but there's only one chance to make it and oh! We did it the dragon is dead glory be!
I wonder if Tolkein is the sort of originator of this story form. I guess not, I guess the Odyssey is something like that. Thinking back, it stands out to me that certainly Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are like that, just one peril after another. But those books I remember enoying; Stephen R. Donaldson is unique in that his conception of things is genuinely weird ². I remember one point where some subterranean, eyeless elves gave Thomas Covenant a blood transfusion so he would be able to run across a plain nonstop in one day to make it... somewhere. (A castle?) Then there is the monster-slash-beast that would come to you anywhere in the world if you said it's name, but it would... kill you? (I'm not saying what it's name was, just in case. I remember very clearly but I'm not saying.) I've read quite a few books by him, they are all infused with... something.
Last year I started to read The Eye of the World series, by Robert Jordan. The opening of the first book is really good, maybe at least half of the first book, because the author seems to take pleasure in describing the present scene, no matter what it is. By the middle of the second book, though, I had quit, because it felt as if the author had decided there always had to be something pushing the story forward. Again: that's just why I stopped reading, but obviously a huge number of people love these books and I hate being critical of them. But I read a few other fantasy novels last year that were sort of like that. Everything had to be pushing the story forward. Somehow, perhaps paradoxically, they didn't really grab me even though I wanted to be grabbed.
I guess where I'm going with this is here: I realized while watching LoTR that man: Skyrim is really a better version of this. Nearly the same exact vibe, but more effective because you can just wander around at your own speed. Movies maybe have to lean on action or a certain regular pacing to keep us attuned. Games do not, it seems. People (well, me, at least) will happily churn away in a game where there is nothing in particular happening or no particular point. In that way they are more like novels. Well, I think that's something not to lose sight of as a game designer.
(¹) Christiaan and or Nova coined this term, if you think for a bit you'll know exactly what I mean. It's the super low "bwwwwaaaaaaaAAAAAAAA" that every movie has.
(²) I reccommend "Fantasy Bedtime Hour" on youtube or maybe... the internet archive? If you can find it. You'll know it by this: it's girls in bed misremembering White Gold Weilder.