I’m watching The Return of the King right now, and I thought I’d blog about it. (Excuse me while I do a 20-second plank because I just saw the Eye of Sauron; I’m doing a LOTR workout I found on Pinterest.) I just heard the line that I blogged about a few months ago–“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you”–so I’m nearly at the end. Here are just a few observations.
First, zombies. A little while ago, I saw an orc who looked like a zombie. I think he’s only in the extended edition, in that scene where Sam and Frodo dress up like little orcs to blend in and then start a (rather unconvincing) fight to cause a distraction and get away. The orc in question had a missing nose (but not Voldemort-style; it looked like it had been burned off) and a generally ravaged face, his one working eye was a milky pale blue, and the first time he opened his mouth, he roared rather than spoke. He looked like he could have blended in just fine on The Walking Dead. But this was not the first time I had thought about zombies while watching the movie this afternoon. When Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli take the Paths of the Dead and meet those glowing, ectoplasmic ghosts, I was thinking of what an unfortunate special effects choice this was and how the army of the dead would be much cooler–and more threatening–if they looked like zombies. And it occurred to me that if this film had been made ten years later, this scene probably would have taken more inspiration from The Walking Dead and less from Pirates of the Caribbean; The Curse of the Black Pearl. (Not that the ghosts in Pirates were badly done at all. They fit better in that movie than in Return of the King.)
And now, a more serious observation. I’m far from being the first person to have noted this, but it really struck me this time. Okay, so in the tower on the edge of Mordor where Sam is reunited with Frodo (you know, the one with an orange light at the top but that isn’t the Tower of Barad-Dur–I wonder how many people thought it was and were totally disappointed when they found out that Frodo and Sam still had many more miles of stumbling dirty-faced through Mordor)–anyway, in the upper room of that tower, Frodo is in a panic because he thinks the orcs have taken the Ring. When Sam hands it back to him (with a slightly cocky little flourish that he totally earned by being absolutely kickass for the past fifteen minutes of the movie), you can see the instant relief in Frodo’s eyes and his whole demeanor. But when he puts the chain back around his neck, you can almost see a physical weight descending on his shoulders. The Ring is keeping him alive, and it’s killing him at the same time. That’s why, of all the symbolic meanings that have been suggested for the Ring (and I know, I know–die-hard Tolkien fans say it’s not a symbol at all), I think the most appropriate is that it represents the object of addiction, or perhaps addiction itself. Frodo needs the Ring at that moment, but in the long term, it’s the last thing he needs. Just like drugs, or lies, or whatever we keep going back to even though we hate it. Elijah Wood portrays this descent into psychological prison extremely well throughout the trilogy. And of course, Andy Serkis as Gollum masterfully shows what it looks like when you’re so deep in that prison you forget who you are.
Okay, now the hobbits are all cleaned up and looking adorable and giving bittersweet toasts in the Green Dragon. I’m going to go enjoy the last few (30?) minutes of this movie. Let me know your thoughts on The Return of the King.