SPOILERS A Perspective on the LOTR Trailer–Now That I’ve Seen It! – Will it meet your vision of Middle-earth? Can it?

by Jan 12, 2001Lord of the Rings (Movies)

You’ll see a shot just like this in the trailer… except much much bigger!
No, the future of cinema is not the Dungeons & Dragons sequel. It is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings–bringing Middle-earth into a beautiful reality we will all have the privilege of witnessing–that ushers in the future. As I entered the theater, the tempering thought entered my head that even the worst movies usually have exciting and intense trailers… And I know a trailer is not the touchstone for the quality of a movie, but I tell ya, this one got me good…

My foremost concern, the itch I needed to scratch, was whether or not the trailer would be able to capture that intangible spark of the grand and powerful life within Middle-earth I feel when I read the books. I should not have been concerned… My itching thought was appeased via two scales of measure: 1) an epic scale that means to capture the scope of Tolkiens vision, and 2) the more precise, and more important, scale of characters.

You see, the difference between your vision and my vision of Middle-earth is in it’s broad scope; we may be on peaks of the same height, but we’re looking down into different valleys. Our different visions are not in the characters we witness or the words they say. The crux of our differing visions is in the wider scope of Middle-earth as a whole as it is painted on the huge canvas of our mind by the descriptions we read, defined by each one of our individually unique mind’s eye. Everyone who has ever read The Lord of the Rings has read the same words I’ve read, but the setting those words are set in can vary dramatically according to our own literary perception of Tolkien’s description. So, it is ultimately the characters which unite my reading with your reading; it is the pain and weight of the ring made clear in Frodo when he says, “It’s heavy on me, Sam lad, very heavy”; it is the “grave and beautiful” Galadriel we see through Frodo’s eyes; it is Gandalf’s urgent desperate words of “Fly, you fools!” Of course there will be slight variances, but at the core, the characters are the parallel line of contact between all of our visions.

However, your vision of Middle-earth’s pinnacled mountains and gulled valleys between rolling plains and deep forests will be as different as your life-experience from my life-experience. Peter Jackson crafted a broad vision of Middle-earth from his own mind’s eye that would fit no one elses imagination (except for those few moments when you’ll think “That’s it! That is MY Middle-earth); so the touchstone of the trailer, I knew, would be the characters. Could Peter Jackson portray them as Tolkien did? Could their nuance, their depth be captured on screen as completely as Tolkien did in his books?

As the lights dimmed, I knew I would have my answer soon…

After the trailer began with a pull-away of the Ring (similar to the Internet Preview), it primarily turned to a stream of quick shots featuring massive armies of Orcs (near and far), a vista of the fellowship on the Misty Mountains, Merry swearing allegiance to Théoden at Helm’s Deep, Isildur cutting the Ring from Sauron’s hand (I think–we only see Isildur), Gandalf confronting the Balrog, and a few more. It was a cacophany of visions crafted into a final complete melody that somehow was Middle-earth for me…

The second half of the trailer focused on the important part… the characters. It was simple yet compelling. Galadriel smiles kindly down to Frodo saying, “Even the smallest person”–fade to Frodo looking wondrously upwards–“can change the course of the future.” It’s not in the books, but Galadriel’s face, her voice, the depth of her words, was Galadriel. And Frodo’s wonder was just right; he wasn’t frightened or hypnotized, just caught by the depth of her being. Lastly, the screen fades to an extended shot of the fellowship crossing a small snowy mountain ridge. Gandalf comes first, then Legolas, Gimli, the Hobbits, Boromir and Aragorn. The shot is slow, deliberate, drawing us into their journey even in those short 10 seconds. There is already determined pain in each of their faces (except Legolas–I’d say he was ready to “fetch the sun”). It is within these two extended shots that I see the characters Tolkien gave us when The Lord of the Rings was first published.

I truly loved the trailer–but it wasn’t perfect… I’m still a little confused about the top-down shot of Arwen laying on what looks to be a cot with brown leaves blowing about beneath and around her (reminded me quite a bit of a similar shot in American Beauty)–is it part of Aragorn’s recollection of her when he stands on Cerin Amroth in Lórien? I’m also not completely sure of whether that was Isildur I saw or not–I’m really just guessing here.

Go see the trailer now!

Oh, and Thirteen Days is an intensely good flick too. 🙂

The trailer will be released on the internet 1 week from today…


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