In Australia, ROTK opened on Boxing Day. I was there, at my local cinema for the first screening. I had stayed up late watching TTT extended edition on Christmas night. I was up early – too excited to sleep. I didn’t have my morning coffee – too scared I’d need a toilet break through the movie! I couldn’t believe that the time had finally come. My mind was reeling. So maybe I was already in a strange sort of consciousness before I even got to the cinema. Whatever, the experience of seeing ROTK was pretty incredible.
I had downloaded the trailer and knew it word for word. It looked sensational but I still held reservations. I was excited AND nervous about seeing this film. Well, to say the least, I wasn’t disappointed.
To open the movie with Smeagal’s story was brilliant. FOTR and TTT had opened with huge, almost overwhelming scenes, which were excellent, but I think PJ was really clever to open this last film so quietly, subtley. I loved hearing the whispers around me as people realized this was Smeagal (I’d already read too many spoilers!).
Then, as the story began to move forward it completely took me with it. I trusted PJ. I knew he would tell the story as best he could. OK, to be honest, there were still a few surprises along the way (Frodo sending Sam home for one), but I felt they were justifiable in terms of the film as a stand alone work. And on the flipside, the advantages of a visual medium gave a telling of parts of the story that was nothing short of magic. Here in particular I am thinking of Gandalf and Pippin’s ride into Minas Tirith and then the lighting of the beacons. Both scenes were so beautiful I had tears running down my cheeks.
This brings me to another point – the emotion PJ was able to deliver with all his key actors. So much of this film made me weep. The joy and playfulness of Merry and Pippin at Edoras brought tears to my eyes. Moments later, more tears came as Pippin and Merry had to say goodbye. And on it continued!
I have read a few reviews and have had a few conversations about the “drawn out” ending. For me, I felt it was a fantastic ending. The book ends quietly, bittersweetly. PJ captured that. Finishing the book always leaves me feeling a little flat, a little sad. Nothing to do with Tolkien or any lack in his story, just a sort of melancholy. And that is exactly how I left the cinema after seeing the film the first time. In fact, when I got home I went to bed! I slept for three hours! It was too much for my poor brain! Too much anticipation going in, too much emotion in such a short time, too many mind-blowing images to take on board, too much dehydration by the end!
I have seen it four more times since then and I still weep and I still feel. . . disconnected from the “real” world for awhile afterwards, but I don’t need to go to sleep anymore!
I have carried the story of LOTR in my consciousness for nearly 15 years. Frodo and Sam have become as real to me as any other people I know. Some things just stay with you becoming part of the experience that is you. I am so thankful to PJ and now the films have become as significant to my experience as the books have. I love both forms of this wonderful story.