Today was an excellent day.
This was the day that the guys at Flying Lab rented an entire movie theater so they and their friends could watch The Lord of the Rings in comfort.
The film is fantastic. I’m refusing to engage in the geeky nitpick practice so common in my circle of hashing out just what was wrong with a good film. Here’s what was right:
* The music was very intelligent. I couldn’t hum a single bar of the theme, but it doesn’t matter. What’s so damn smart about the music is how much it underplays the drama. Sure, it gets excited during action scenes. But just listen to the main theme, the music that opened the main titles and established the tone of the film. It wasn’t a big crashing Conan work of bombast–as much as I enjoy Conan‘s bombast. It was somber, even melancholy, and perfectly set the stage for the very deliberate, very nuanced storytelling that followed. Kudos to Howard Shore for another excellent score, much superior to John Williams’ Harry Potter pablum.
* The actors are terrific. Special points to Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and Elijah Wood as Frodo.
* The film takes itself seriously. Not portentously or overblown. Just seriously, respectfully. It treats the events that unfold not as those of an epic adventure in the grand style, but as a series of very personal, even intimate, challenges. The style is not that of Conan. It’s closer to that of Michael Mann’s Heat, or Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. It feels like a sober work of historical fiction rather than a crowd-thrilling blockbuster.
* The sense of scale is tremendous. Small people, enormous settings, and massive events.
* The moments of horror are sublime. Perhaps my favorite part in the film is when the elven woman of the woods, played by Cate Blanchette, is tempted to take the ring. Frodo, owing to a magical wound, walks in two worlds: the living and the mystical. As a result, when Galadriel (or however you spell her name) is tempted, what we see is what Frodo sees: her mystic self, her aura perhaps, corrupting and raging in the ego-blast that the ring offers. It’s a powerful, terrible moment as we see what even this wondrous creature is opened to when the ring is near.
* The action is terrific. The battles are fast and furious, full of peril and excitement.
* The production design is superb.
* And on and on.
It’s an amazing achievement. I’m eager for the next installment. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen the like on screen.
But there was another amazing achievement today. I invited thirteen people to see the film with me, and of them eleven also agreed to join me for dinner afterwards. And it all went off without a hitch. I was amazed. I’ve been stressing over the arrangements, worrying that people would show up late or whatever. But there were no problems at all. Even organizing a handful of people for an event can be a trial, let alone a dozen of them. Yet everything went smoothly and it was a grand social occasion for a sizable group of friends.
All told, a glorious day. Compensation for the fact that I only had time for four hours of sleep last night and am exhausted now.