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Wed December 17, 2003
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The director has succeeded in returning our Western culture, especially America, to myths and legends of camaraderie.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time
The first title of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Fellowship of the Ring," sparked my New-Criticism sensibility to explore the "fellowship" motif. After the 3 installments of Peter Jackson's version of Tolkein, I am prepared to state that the director has succeeded in returning our Western culture, especially America, to myths and legends of camaraderie that have dogged us for centuries.
In the "Odyssey," women either torment or seduce, and meanwhile the dutiful wife waits 20 years for the hero's return. In "Casablanca," fighting is reserved for men only, and where they go a good woman can't. In the final superior installment of the trilogy, "Return of the King," despite negligible women's participation in the war and others awaiting the returning soldiers, the shenanigans are all man-centered.
The ring becomes suspiciously like a wedding ring that needs to be thrown away to win a war but resurrected in the marriage of Hobbit Sam that issues 2 beautiful kids and a warm little home. Frodo goes off for further adventure with Gandalf and no imminent marriage, more like Tennyson's Ulysses than Homer's.
Frodo and Sam are Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer bonding and breaking away from the roar of manhood and societal imperatives like procreation. But eventually, even though Frodo awakens to an assemblage like Dorothy's in "Wizard of Oz," it is Sam who learns there is no place like home. Frodo's meeting interesting monsters like the Cyclops' fiery eye at the end probably encourages him to leave behind the rather banal life of a Hobbit home.
This exciting "Return of the King" returns the little people like Hobbits and us to the civilizing warmth of home and heterosexual love. Buddies split up, and women take over. That's not bad at all!
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm.