New Line Pictures and Peter Jackson took a gamble that fans would come to their peculiar and strange phenomenon of viewing all three Lord of the Rings movies made to date, all in a single day, with only about an hour in between the three movies, and live to talk about it.
The gamble paid off.
I cannot begin to tell you how exciting, how thrilling it was to see all of these movies back to back.
After years of viewing and analyzing Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies I have learned this: the breadth of these movies matches that of Tolkien’s books.
Back in October, I bought the last two tickets to this event, five hours after they became available.
On Tuesday, December 16th, 2003 I stood in line with my old Dad, outside the theatre in Sacramento, California. I noticed the theatre manager walking by doing PR and chatting with various people in the line, I asked her how many the screen we were viewing this event on could seat as I looked wonderingly at the line in front and behind me.
She told me with a twinkle in her eye that it seated 550.
I noticed the fan line from TheOneRing.net a ways up front of me, there were 25 or 30 of them. Many were dressed in costume, in fact there were some pretty good ones mixed in the cheesy costume here and there.
For an hour and 15 minutes, I waited patiently as we moved slowly forward. 550 fans, happy, knowing that we would soon take our seats and be a part of cinematic history.
It was a packed house for The Fellowship of the Ring.
Not one empty seat.
I knew I was in for something special after the crowd started clapping as the New Line logo came onscreen, and then literally went nuts when the golden lettering of The Lord of the Rings title was shown to start the movie off.
The crowd, wow, what can I say about the fans?
The crowd laughed at all the right moments, like when Frodo said “half the Shire has been invited, and the rest are showing up as well”.
What’s more they cheered all the heroic moments. This strange but oddly cool phenomenon happened in The Fellowship of the Ring, and continued in The Two Towers as well. They even hissed whenever Grima Wormtongue came onscreen! The crowd cheered the each of the principal characters when they made their initial appearances, and they cheered the names in the credits! It was a very fun experience to watch these movies with such anabashed fans of them!
After The Two Towers Extended Edition ended, there was an audible buzz in the air, we could all feel it.
We had just seen two awesome movies back to back, we were two thirds of the way there!
We were now on the brink of the best of the three. We all knew it.
An hour later, it was time for The Return of the King.
When, after what seemed like twenty trailers tortured us, (we booed everyone but the SpiderMan 2 trailer!) the movie finally started. We all started to cheer when the New Line Logo came up (yes, that is not a typo, I said we! I found myself cheering and clapping about halfway through Fellowship, and continued doing so into The Two Towers) and the shushers started in. There was some more loud whooping and cheering when The Lord of the Rings title came on and the shushers really started in, not wanting the virgin experience of The Return of the King to be ruined. I didn’t blame them, after all this was a new experience for all of us, we didn’t know the beat of this movie yet, so we couldn’t very well start in with the drums of our cheers.
For the first half hour we sat stunned, entranced with the opening of The Return of the King. Gone was the affection for the pet-like Gollum of The Two Towers, the truth of who Gollum once was stunned the crowd. Even those who knew it was coming like myself were surprised with this beginning I think. It was perfectly executed, for the affection for Gollum had been misplaced by many fans of The Two Towers, and now the truth was shown so very viscerally, as well as a great way to showcase the pure evil of the Ring. Beautifully done.
Then the truly heroic moments started to wash over us, like Pippin lighting the Beacons, or Aragorn telling King Theoden of the beacons…will the Rohirrim answer the call of aid from Gondor?
The Rohirrim will ride!
We couldn’t contain ourselves. The cheering began again, and I must say it was simply amazing to be a part of. Highlights of the movie were Eowyn and Merry taking down the Witch King of Angmar; Sam ‘saving the day’ for Frodo from Shelob; the charge of the Rohirrim; Theoden’s awe inspiring speech before the charge; Merry and Pippin greeting Gandalf and Company smoking pipeweed; “The Eagles are coming!”; Aragorn yelling “For Frodo!” as he ran at the horde in front of the Black Gate; followed by Merry and Pippin and then the rest of the remnants of the Army of the West… oh hell the whole movie was a highlight!!!!
Needless to say, I love The Return of the King, there are some shortcomings:
Denethor as a mindless, mad poor buffoon of a leader?!
Somehow, this didn’t faze me though, I was able to easily overcome this transgression.
I missed the Voice of Saruman, but knowing it will be in the Special Extended Edition next year makes it alright somehow.
I missed the Scouring of the Shire, but what an ending Peter Jackson made of it!!!
The tears of sadness and bittersweet happiness welled up in my eyes many, many times during this movie. For my Dad as well, a Tolkien virgin. Afterwards he declared it was the best of the three.
What a sublime work of art Peter Jackson and Company have created.
I love so many things about this movie it almost hurts.
As Elrond says at one point in The Return of the King, “the end has come”.
For me, this is the end of something really, really special.
Seeing Bilbo and Frodo get on that ship with Galadriel, Celeborn and Gandalf after saying goodbye to Sam, Merry and Pippin at the Grey Havens was heartbreaking. The ending of this movie does not include The Scouring of the Shire, but in its own way, Peter Jackson’s coda was just as effective.
So very beautiful.
Thank you Peter Jackson and all of your wonderful cohorts and partners who created these awesome, heartbreakingly beautiful movies.
Thanks also to Jonathan, Ted and all the wonderful admins and Mods here at Tolkienonline, as well as my fellow posters. For this amazing site has, over these past few years, provided me with insights into Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s movies alike, and above all else, fellowship.