Aside from the obvious “it’s a masterpiece, the movie event of the last decade, a fitting tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien and the art of moviemaking”, there are a lot of reasons to re-visit The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Extended Editions, natch). As well as helping you get psyched up for the ridiculously generous portions of tasty Hobbit action that Peter Jackson has spooned onto our plates this Christmas and the following two, the hirsute director’s original, triumphant journey through Middle Earth will thrill and chill you in all sorts of ways.
It’s really impressive how Jackson and his team managed to distill Tolkien’s sweeping epic into something striking, coherent, and (relatively) fast-paced (a genuine page-by-page adaptation would have been about twenty hours long, after all), building to thunderous dramatic climaxes. However, what stay with you are the individual scenes and moments, the dazzling visual flourishes and character beats that make the trilogy timeless.
In rough order, a HIGHLY PERSONAL AND SUBJECTIVE list of those moments follows below.
20. Aragorn Recruits the Dead
A truly creepy sequence, especially in the Extended Edition, where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli have to wade through an immense waterfall of brittle human skulls to escape the collapsing lair of the Army of the Dead. Aragorn attempts to gain the service of these ghostly killers, who fled their responsibilities and were cursed with eternal living death for their cowardice, by promising them the peace of a final reward in exchange for honouring their oaths of service to the King of Gondor.
At first, it seems that the leering, sickly-green spectre of the King of the Dead has spurned Aragorn’s offer, and Isildur’s Heir sinks to his knees, weeping manly tears, as he sees the Corsairs of Umbar on their way to deal the deathblow to Minas Tirith. All hope for Gondor seems lost, when the Dead King emerges out of the mountainside and rasps, “We fight!” It’s a real boost to Aragorn’s standing; he’s been recognised as the rightful King of Gondor, foreshadowing his ultimate embrace of his destiny.
19. The Mouth of Sauron
A short scene, absent from the Theatrical Cut, noteworthy for heightening the desperation and near-despair of the Free People’s darkest hour. The Mouth of Sauron is portrayed as a memorably grotesque creation, an unsettling parody of humanity with a gruesomely malformed and befouled mouth. Mocking Frodo’s friends with apparent evidence of the brave young hobbit’s apparent capture and agonising death, the Mouth makes a sinister, skin-crawling impression in the moments before Aragorn (rather dubiously) hacks his head off. Of course, this makes Aragorn’s steel-willed insistence on shrugging off overwhelming despair and meeting Sauron’s hosts in battle anyway gives another boost to his heroic aura.
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