In which Gerry Hayes stares down the flaming maw of the fanboys and bellows “You shall not pass!”
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, 2001-2003.
Time to incur the wrath of the Tolkienites. I’ll have hordes of them sending death-threats in beautifully penned but barely decipherable variants of Elvish. They’ll swarm, costumed as Middle-Earth heroes and hobgoblins, around my house and set up sophisticated facsimiles of the Shire in which to camp. The hippy fans will get stoned and play guitar while the geek fans will politely ask if they can plug in an extension cable through my window so they can run their Wiis before calling me a loser, throwing an egg at me and missing. Then they’ll continue work on their Sindarin/Quenya/l33t dictionary. Whenever I leave the house, the ones dressed as Orcs will rage at me in cockney accents and I’ll be able to make out a few badly-adapted Klingon costumes in their number.
I care not though, for it must be stated: Lord Of The Rings is pants.
There. I’ve said it. Do your worst.
Now, while I may have been kidding a little on the geek thing (for I am something of a geek myself, only cooler and I’ve kissed an actual girl), I’m not kidding about Lord Of The Rings.
Before we start, it’s time for a full disclosure. I was taken in. I actually own all three films on DVD. The special editions, too. I am deeply ashamed of this and, to atone, I flagellate myself nightly while watching Lawrence of Arabia. Or porn. Mostly porn. But I digress. I went to the cinema to see all three and I watched the first two, extra-long, on DVD. By the time the third DVD arrived, the scales had been lifted and it sits, unwatched in its massive gatefold case.
They were beautifully filmed, you see. The cinematography was astonishing. The direction was good. The acting was ok in most places. Technically, and visually, the special effects were amazing.
So what’s the problem?
The story. It’s just tedious, turgid, tosh.
Hobbits and elves and dwarves and orcs and uruk-hai and humans and dragon-things and rock-things and humans and a big eye on a tower and wizards and oh, Christ, my will to live is draining, draining, inexorably draining away.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What gives, Hayes? You’re supposed to be slagging off films, not the immense, dreary novels on which they’re based.”
However, the books are the source material. Even though they seem well adapted (I say ‘seem’ as I stopped reading the first book when the willow tree bored the Hobbits to sleep and Tom ‘Jar Jar’ Bombadil had to sing to the tree to save them), they still tell the same interminable story. I feel justified in bad-mouthing the films because they stuck so well to the source.
Can Peter Jackson be blamed for this? Sort of. It was his bloody idea. Ok, so he makes it all look nice but, you know, lipstick on a pig and all that. Apparently, Jackson originally planned to make two movies (one of the things I learned from the mountain of DVD extras) but, bizarrely, some guy in the studio thought that a movie per book would be the way to go. On the face of it, this is a fantastic idea; a studio actually wanting to do something right, to be faithful to the books. Brilliant. Except they decided to do it with these books and we’ve ended up with ten-odd hours of beautiful dishwater.
And I bought them. I’m as guilty as anyone.
You all know the story. Short blokes with big feet have evil ring. Have to throw it in a volcano that’s miles away. They get in scrapes along the way and meet many fantastical creatures and whatnot. Blah, blah, swords, arrows, horses, hairy-feet, Smeagol, nasty hobbitses, grumpy trees, Christopher Lee, big bird, big spider. Repeat for ten hours. The end.
I’d hazard that Peter Jackson owes me (hang on… first two twice and last one once, plus extended bits, plus extras, carry the one…) at least twenty hours of my life back. That’s nearly a day! I know a number of people like me too – disillusioned people who bought into this white-elephantine trilogy – who also want those hours back. What about it, Jackson?
Predictably, however, I also know people – more than a few – who count these among their favourite films. You could argue that it’s not a matter of right and wrong; that these things are subjective and those people who think these films are better than any others are just as right as I.
You could argue that, but you’d be just as wrong as they are.
Incidentally, does anyone want to buy all three in special, extended, DVD editions? The third one’s never been played?
Read more I Sat Through That? right here.
Gerry Hayes is a garret-dwelling writer subsisting on tea, beer and Flame-Grilled Steak flavour McCoy’s crisps. You can read about other stuff he doesn’t like on his blog at http://stareintospace.com or you can have easy, bite-sized bits of him at http://twitter.com/gerryhayes