The best part this time around was that she had reached an age when seeing such a lengthy and intense epic in the movie theater was feasible. So while I was situated at the El Con here in Tucson, she and her mom were watching it at exactly the same time at the Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. Interestingly, my theater was 85% full by the end -- some folks came a little late -- while theirs was mostly empty. I guess that's further proof that Tucson is not only a better book town than the much larger San Diego, but a better movie town as well. Then again, we don't have an ocean.
After the screening, I talked with Skylar while her mom drove her back to the motel in Encinitas where they are staying on their mother-daughter vacation. Skylar was bursting with excitement and also very happy to talk with me in particular, which boosted my spirits. But I was already feeling much better after watching the film, which continues to inspire me. I love war movies that let me root for the underdog. Mind you, I recognize that my response is no more valid than that of the people who interpreted it as a post-9/11 call to arms for the West. Both the books and the films provide plenty of fodder for conservative viewpoints. Yet that doesn't stop me from perceiving the trilogy as a repudiation of imperialism, whether German, Russian, Chinese or American.
What struck me most in this viewing was how much care Peter Jackson and his crew put into depicting the ruins of a failed empire, whether in the north -- Amon Sul -- or south -- the area near the falls of Rauros, I love the way these settings work visually, but they also provide a consistent reminder that control is fleeting. Even the elves in Middle Earth, though they have the potential for immortality, had to learn to scale back their ambitions in the service of the good. I realize that Aragorn must learn to accept his role as Isildur's heir and become who he was born to be, but the fact that he only does so reluctantly and from a place of humility sets him apart from those who desire to dominate others.
The changes to the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring may be subtle, but they greatly enhance the experience of the film. First and foremost, a lot of the material that was cut for the original theatrical release is of a humorous nature, the sort that may not advance the plot but provides important leavening. There's a lot more Elvish, which is a huge bonus for folks like me and Skylar -- she wrote two Elvish poems in study hall this spring -- who love the linguistic angle to Tolkien's creation. And the character of Boromir, so crucial for the first film's climax, is fleshed out a lot better. Finally, there's even more of the tremendous scenery that made New Zealand a hot destination in the wake of the trilogy.