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My DVD arrived in the mail yesterday, and my wife and I watched it all the way through.
This film was made with an *incredible* amount of love, affection, art and highly skilled craft. Before I'd seen it I assumed that there was going to be a lot of grungy "home movies" type documentary footage full of graininess, out-of-focus camerawork, cameras aiming into the sky, etc. - but absolutely not! Every scene was well shot, the color pallet always beautifully balanced, the scenes well lit, in perfect focus, with rock-steady cameras!
The first thing that hit me consciously was the absolutely wonderful Monty Pythonlike animations: first rate, and gorgeous color. In fact the color quality was wonderful throughout.
The "Tolkien Effect" of today reminds me of the 60s: then as now, people of all ages and backgrounds were caught up in Tolkien. They had the the Vietnam war; we have (unfortunately) the Iraq war. Both acted and act as stimuli for many people wanting to escape real life. Middle-earth was and is definitely the place to go!
Then as now, Tolkien would probably be whirling in his grave at all the things Ringers project onto his works (as he intimated in some of his letters), as well as being very appreciative of the fact that so many frustrated people want to escape the horrors of reality, and crave good in the world, crave that good will triumph, along with all the values that come in a society peopled by the basically goodhearted and cheerful.
When I was first getting into Tolkien 40 years ago, the term "Ringers" was of course nonexistent. As the film shows, many people rejoice in being a Ringer, but my experience on The Tolkien Forum tells me that there are others (who term themselves Purists) who would throw up their hands in horror and run the other way at being included (which they most definitely are!) as a part this boisterous funloving crowd - more's the pity for them!
The main thrust of Tolkien on the world of the 60s came initially through publication of the books - through Allen & Unwin, then through Ace (the pirated version), then Ballentine - at least in America, and of course Houghton Mifflin. And that wave went around the world several times. The difference between the Ringers of the 60s and the Ringers of today seems to be that the 60s Ringers first came to Tolkien directly via the books, and the current generation at one remove, through Peter Jackson's movies. Hence the creation of the (possibly unbridgeable) divide between the "Filmies" and the "Purists."
However it is evident to me now that the Filmies outnumber the Purists by far, the Purists being made up largely of the older fans, but contains a surprising number of younger people. But there is another group which I call the Tweenies: those who like book *and* films, each for what they are, which I think makes the most sense. "Ringers: Lord of the Fans" celebrates the entire phenomenon.
A great deal of the fun of this movie is in the interviews with the Ringers themselves - a bunch of cheerful, funloving mischievous hobbits if ever there were! Some of the interviews are a bit salty, some are serious and moving, some are lighthearted discussions speculating on the sexual proclivities of some of the characters in PJ's films and only add to the hilarity. The costumes many of them wear are at times astonishing in the care that has gone into their making, and their creativity, imagination and beauty.
All our favorites from the movies are there: the main actors, and some of the producers; all their interviews are totally enjoyable, and it's so nice to see them once again! They all have good things to say, from the cheeky to the profound. Dominic Monaghan was the perfect narrator, and gave the film great continuity.
I was particularly struck by the sudden segue of being taken to Tolkien's gravesite - a serious poignant moment . It was only then that I realized by looking at the dates on the tombstone that Tolkien died the year after Edith - which upon reflection doesn't surprise me a bit.
Now that I've seen the film and become a member of the Ringers chatboard, I wish that they would have supplied its URL right on the DVD, which would have facilitated an internet gathering for discussion. Perhaps they'll do that in re-releases. I had anticipated a flood of responses on the board by now - perhaps it's too soon.
This film is an education for those of us who never realized the breadth and depth of Tolkien fandom or Tolkien's effect in so many other areas of life.
In the 60s, we had songwriters like Donald Swann, who set some of Tolkien's verse to music with his permission; now we have Howard Shore, whose music is absolutely indispensable to the movies, to say nothing of the rock musicians who took up the cause over all the years from then till now. I would call their music more of a reaction *to* Tolkien than a product of it.
I think today's Ringer is much less stuffy about Tolkien: so many of them (bringing along their friends) came to the Professor via the movies, and their first impressions of Middle-earth were therefore a blend of both Tolkien and of Peter Jackson's "gratuitous jacksonisms" which offended so many of the Purists, and delighted the rest. Then many of the new Ringers went to the books and got the real deal, and were therefore able to make up their own minds about the movies. I think that's so much better than wasting vast amounts of time and energy hating the movies for their deviations and extra-Tolkien additions.
I thought it was great to see that so many 60s parents now had children who either had been turned on to Middle-earth by their parents, or who had discovered Tolkien on their own, and had re-ignited their parents' interest in Tolkien once again, thus coming full circle!
I myself look forward now to reading Tolkien to my grandson and sitting with him watching the DVDs: giving him a lifetime injection of Tolkien, as I did my own three children!
It's been a few years now since the last PJ movie was released, and the DVD sales have dwindled - all very much expected. The discussions of them at The Tolkien Forum which were so hot and heavy have long died down, except for a few flameups now and then. Strangely enough, RLOTF has not yet made that much of an impression there; I hope it will. But the difference is that RLOTF was never able to find wide distribution in theaters. It appears that most of its impact will come through DVD purchases, and that's a different thing than line events at movie houses. And it's not about Tolkien so much as the effect that Tolkien has made on the world over the past 50 years - the ripple effect as it were.
And there will come a time when even that phenomenon will have for the most part run its course, and will quiet down. I predict another upsurge should Peter Jackson ever do "The Hobbit" (which I hope he does). Then the Tolkien madness will begin again for another cycle, and we will once again hear the cry: Frodo Lives!