The Lord of the Rings vs. who?

Tyler Gilcrest

When asked to compare the Lord of the Rings to another fantasy movie, the first thing I have to do is simply think of another fantasy movie.  The trouble is, that’s the trouble.  It’s hard to think of another movie in the fantasy genre the readily comes to mind other than the Lord of the Rings, let alone find one that is comparable.  After a bit of thought, I come up with a couple satisfactory choices, namely the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if those were the two that most people picked to write about.  But I think to myself, I want to be unique.  I search the archives for a little longer and Eragon (not a memorable movie experience by any means), the Golden Compass (which may not score high on the fantasy scale) and Reign of Fire (of which I can only remember that it contained dragons).  None that jump out at me for sure. 

Which makes me think, why is the Lord of the Rings such a prominent fantasy movie? Why did the Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King win all 11 academy awards (including best picture, which no other fantasy movie has done) for which it was nominated?  And why does the Lord of the Rings have such sincere, what can best be called, “replayability”?  I think most of this comes from the world that the movie immerses you in.  And it truly is immersion.  Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and the world of Narnia are simply places in which you watch people interact.  In the Lord of the Rings, you  feel like Middle-Earth is a world that could actually exist.  Part of the reason for this could definitely be the amount of time that you spend in such cinematic experiences.   The Lord of the Rings extended edition reminds me of  Lawrence of Arabia and the era of movie intermissions.  The amount of time that the movie has to acclimate you to the world gives the director that much more time to immerse you in the story and the characters. 

Another advantage the Lord of the Rings has is its origin.  J.R.R. Tolkien did a wonderful job imagining Middle-Earth and then describing it in his books. Compared to his Tolkien’s works, the Harry Potter books are juvenile stories of teen angst written on a napkin in a coffee shop.  C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, was a very accomplished writer and his books do compare to those of Tolkien’s, considering they were friends who imagined fantasy worlds together and pledged to bring them to the mainstream public.  But I think the Lord of the Rings movie outdoes the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe through better characters, and better use of both development and interiority, and battles that can only be described as much more badass and epic.  So asking me to compare the Lord of the Rings to another fantasy movie is a tall order indeed, since in my opinion the Lord of the Rings stands alone on top.

One Does Not Simply Walk into Narnia

Jake Karlsruher AKA Kar-el

Each time I watch Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, I am reminded of the work of one of Tolkien’s contemporaries, C.S. Lewis.  Andrew Adamson’s 2005 adaptation of Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe shares enough pivotal plot details with Fellowship that I often wonder if Lewis and Tolkien, old friends and drinking buddies, ever bounced ideas off one another while sipping elixir.

In both movies and their respective novels, the authors make the assumption that their viewers do not possess any magical abilities themselves.  They present the viewer with seemingly feeble protagonists: Lucy Pevensie, an eight year-old girl from London, and Frodo Baggins, the three-foot tall Hobbit.  The authors allow the viewer to relate to the character and become comfortable in a fictional world.  The characters themselves aren’t so lucky.  They are thrust into their quests and enormous responsibility falls in their laps.  While Lucy and Frodo might feel alone at times, they are not without help.  After stepping through the passageway into Narnia, Lucy is welcomed by the warm hospitality of Mr. Tumnus, who sets the stage for her quest.  Similarly, Frodo Baggins is offered Strider’s sword (and Legolas’ bow, and Gimli’s axe-shhh) for his quest.

While comparisons remain true in plot details between the two works, they vary in terms of interpretation.  It is widely accepted among literary critics that Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is a biblical allegory.  This is most vivid in Aslan’s self-sacrifice.  Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia, offers himself to die in place of Edmund, Lucy’s brother who had lost his way.  The biblical imagery is shoved down your throat when Aslan is later resurrected.  Conversely, while many critics often attempt to find profound meaning in Tolkien’s Fellowship, I prefer to see it as pure fantasy.  To me, it is disenchanting to look further into the topic.

Finally, the films diverge in a directorial decision.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson paints a bleak picture of Middle Earth with desolate lands, ugly Orcs, and a black, fiery eye set as the embodiment of pure evil.  In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Adamson sets the forests of Narnia in beautiful, glistening, white snow, cute and cuddly creatures, and a gorgeous ice witch.  Oddly enough, both settings generate the same effect of disturbing uneasiness.