"'Lord of the Rings' as War" (cont.)
Jackson’s recklessly irresponsible treatment of “war-as-video game” would be excusable if he were making juvenile escapism, like “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones.”  While the completely reformed city would be an acceptable and even admirable stunt to pull at the end of “Star Wars,” with its tone of whimsy, it is harder to tolerate in a supposedly serious, “meaningful” film like “
Lord of the Rings.”  The trilogy certainly wants us to believe it is genuinely meaningful, with its freakish length, pompous music, and dour, humorless dialogue.  Whether “LOTR” means anything or is infuriating adolescent escapism trying to pass itself off as something grander is up for debate.  James O’Ehley writes:

“Like the books, the film is really largely a humourless affair; its own sense of seriousness and inflated worth drags it down. How many times can one listen to actors in tights and pointy ear make-up spout pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue without wanting to chuckle?  Leave all notions of irony at the cinema entrance . . .”

Concealing the silly as serious is an accusation which could not easily be levied at the works of George Lucas, who is an avid student of pulp, who knows to be wary of running past the two-hour mark, and who has cheerfully marketed “Star Wars” cookbooks.  Perhaps the pendulum has swung and the winking self-deprecation that sneaks into the “Star Wars” films is going out of fashion, and we want our pulp to be humorless in its seriousness (how much money did “
Spider-man” make?).  It’s worth mentioning that for all the pro-war attitudes that can be found in both Middle-Earth and a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker’s crowning moment in “Star Wars” is when he throws down his weapon in the face of evil, a sentiment never mirrored in “Lord of the Rings.”

There are, of course, exceptions.  The coda in “Return of the King”—whose length and continual fake-outs did not bother me, but whose soppiness did—shows Frodo, Sam, and the Other Two as having been distinctly jarred by bloodshed from their previous place in society.  But these instances are few and far between.


Next: "That the movies’ uninteresting and unambiguous treatment of absolute good vs. absolute evil is being hailed as 'the greatest showdown of good vs. evil in all of English literary fiction' is irritating."




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