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Episode 102 - The Fellowship of the Ring vs. The Return of the King (w/ Joanna Robinson & David Chen)

Episode 102 - Fellowship of the Ring vs. Return of the King  

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  1. 1. The Fellowship of the Ring vs. The Return of the King

    • It shall be...The Fellowship of the Ring!
    • You cannot deny...The Return of the King!


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And, whoa, somehow I overlooked the previous post that compared the La La Land bashing to South Park's Kenny gag (which also came to mind, and is more apt, but Simpsons seemed like easier shorthand.) Glad to see I'm not the only one who appreciates the consistency. What will be the first Canon episode to subvert the trope? How elaborate will it get? Will it earn its own column on the "Episodes of The Canon" Wikipedia table?

 

It's the kind of trollish move that we would have expected Devin to keep going for weeks on end. Even more amusing that it's Amy doing it.

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This post is for me. Me fifteen years ago, especially.

 

It's OK to feel impressed by a work of art, even if you don't give a $#!+ about it. Just because a movie series is big, or maybe-unarguably important, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you if you are completely removed from it in any emotional way and don't ever want to experience it again, even if you paid $50 for it back during Dubya's first term and have barely thought about it since let alone touched it. Just because every third person out there your age seemed to love and worship it, that doesn't mean it's worth putting on a pedestal, or feeling remotely bad about yourself for feeling "left out" of the continuing love. A movie is just a story, there are a million stories out there, and it's fine if - despite all your anticipation and fleeting enjoyment - it didn't in any way hold up for you, even for a single year. There will be more stories. Ones you'll be giddy to re-visit once or twice every year for the rest of this presidency and the next (beyond that, nothing is promised). Most of them have already been made, so the past remains a rich vein to mine.

 

You hoped, wanted, briefly believed, that this was one for the ages. Maybe it is. But that doesn't mean it has to be for you, and it doesn't mean you have to enjoy it...when you clearly can't even imagine re-visiting it, no matter how good certain specific scenes felt at the time.

 

Life is short. You can skip a ten-hour movie series if you don't enjoy it. Spend that time doing anything else that makes you happy, and just leave this one behind, without feeling bad about yourself. You're forgiven for thinking otherwise in your ignorance, but regardless of your feelings on the books, this movie series was never actually for you. That's why you don't enjoy it.

 

And I would have picked The Two Towers anyway (not least because I could never get through even the theatrical cut of RotK on home video). Paced way better than Return, more technically-precise than Fellowship, actually has a sort-of-ending, has a ton of memorable scenes. And I actually saw it before I just collapsed under the pressure of trying to like this series I wanted to love but just couldn't. I still have fond memories of TTT, and I'll always enjoy the soundtrack, but, even though I read the books as a child, I just couldn't get into these over-blown, over-wrought, yet still somehow really formulaic and artificial-feeling adaptations. Coming on the heels of the Star Wars Prequels was probably a big stroke of luck, as it couldn't help but impress after that crap. But it just doesn't tell its story in a satisfying way.

 

I couldn't possibly vote for a movie I've been dead-set against re-watching for over a decade, especially when the only part I cared anything about wasn't even included (not that I would have voted for it anyway, as it's one big movie, not a trilogy of stand-alones).

 

I'll stop. This is too long as it is.

 

Also, past self: Discover the films of Wes Anderson now. You'll want to get into them as soon as you can. You won't regret it. Spend your time in a unique and (mostly) happy world that will invigorate your creative juices instead of drain them.

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I'm voting Fellowship.

 

These movies aren't really my thing. I tolerate them more than I do enjoy them. But I think Fellowship did a really good job of tapping into the cultural dread that permeated everything in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I don't think it's a mistake that the franchise caught on when it did, and I'm kind of skeptical the franchise would have been met with the same larger fan fare or critical acclaim in almost any other time (as witnessed by the way everyone shrugged off The Hobbit which is in many ways equal to LOTR in quality of storytelling, scope, acting, etc).

 

So as a cultural artifact of a specific time and place, I vote Fellowship. Because let's be real, the 900 endings in ROTK are completely intolerable unless you're emotionally invested in every single storyline. It is fan service of the highest wankery order.

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Definitely Fellowship for The Canon! Joanna and Amy spell everything out; Fellowship is easily the better written, more relatable, and more magical film.

 

Furthermore, I think Fellowship has the best fan boy moments; from the great Sauron introduction and the delightful time in Hobbiton to the battle under the mountain leading to Gandalf's stand with the Balrog, and finally the first glimpse of awesome uruk-hai battles in the forest.

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The Hobbit which is in many ways equal to LOTR in quality of storytelling, scope, acting, etc).

 

No it's not.

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I voted for ROTK because to me it seems like a better candidate to represent the entire trilogy in the canon. To be honest, I haven't watched these films since their original theatrical run and I have zero interest in ever revisiting them. Wake me when Book of the New Sun becomes a 20 hour film series.

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Fellowship works better as a standalone film, has better pacing, and holds up better visually (because it relies less on CGI).

 

I prefer TTT and RotK, however, because of the Gollum/Sméagol arc. His arc adds weight, tension, and humor to the Frodo/Sam storyline while also making the Ring's psychologically corruptive effects very tangible. The ambiguity of his intentions is refreshing in a series that can feel a little too black-and-white throughout.

 

Gollum essentially has a completed arc by the end of TTT and becomes unambiguously villainous throughout Return of the King, but the drama of the Frodo/Sam/Gollum scenes is still wonderful, so I have to vote for RotK.

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No it's not.

 

I mean...subjectively you're right. But objectively, we're talking about my opinion which is also subjective. I think the first Hobbit film is the best of those six. I like the cast, the stakes, the scope, the storytelling techniques more than anything in the LOTR trilogy. And then it sort of just becomes lesser LOTR as that trilogy goes on. But it's all the elements I disliked about the original trilogy sneaking in that bored me about the Hobbit movies.

 

I'm just not a Tolkein fan. Don't like his vision. Don't like his view of the world. Don't like how sexless everything is. But I get that others do like him and his work, in this case adapted to the screen, and I try my best to appreciate what's there for me to like about those movies. And frankly, there's not a big gap between The Hobbit and LOTR for me, personally.

 

I know it's popular to hate on The Hobbit because it feels dated, but honestly, LOTR feels dated as fuck to me to now. Its view of the world feels pretty goddamn basic.

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I voted for Fellowship because it's sort of the platonic ideal of what people think of when they think Lord of the Rings (well, with the notable exception of Gollum, which might make a strong case for Two Towers.)

 

I know the precedent is for a single film to represent a series in The Canon, but if ever there was a series that deserved to live or die as a trilogy, I would think it's this one, given how they were filmed all together, comprising one hell of a studio gamble, ultimately rewarding beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The variations in quality over the long arc of the series are fun to parse, but all in all basically negligible; there's definitely no Godfather 3 or Return of the Jedi that makes its worthiness as a trilogy less than a foregone conclusion. So, whichever gets in, in my heart they all win. :)

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I think David Chen swayed me when he brought up the score- Howard Shore's score is great in all 3 films, but it almost becomes transcendent in Return of the King:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNN1zF9wldU

 

Despite the fact that I voted for Fellowship, The clip you included is one that always stands out for me and makes me feel that the series stands with some of the great cinematic epics like Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments, or Gone with the Wind. The lighting of the beacons is one of my favorite sequences in any film I've ever seen.

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I really enjoyed this ep. Like many, I think T2T should have been in the discussion. As all one story perhaps it should have been a debate of is the trilogy Canon or not. Since we have to vote between these two I went with the Fellowship. Some of my favorite moments are in Return ("I am no man!"), but the overall story from the beautiful, bucolic beginning to the journey south to the heart tearing breaking of the fellowship is better.

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I absolutely loved this trilogy upon its release, but was worried that I would have soured myself on it after hating at least 70% of The Hobbit movies. Upon revisiting the original LOTR trilogy a few months ago, I was astonished how fresh and magnificent these films still feel. Even the CGI effects are still glorious to behold (with only a few notable exceptions), and they actually look superior to a lot of the effects we're subjected to today. I do think that there is something to the point that Return of the King was more lauded because it concluded the tale, and I do love that film and would almost vote it in just because it has the more prominent use of Gollum, which is still a spectacular effect and performance. But I'm voting FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, because while Return of the King concluded the story well, Fellowship gives the series a perfect introduction, managing to introduce a world of characters while still telling its own compelling story arc.

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I voted Fellowship anyway. Whatever I feel about the trilogy these days, the experience of seeing that film for the first time was pretty damn magical. Not perfect, but better than I imagined it could have reasonably turned out given how much I had soured on big-budget films during the late 90s (seriously, how many truly GOOD blockbusters came out between Jurassic Park and Spiderman?) and how afraid I was of another cinematic train wreck. Even the parts of the film that I don't like I understand, not least because I realize I'm in the minority opinion on them, and I won't deny the film's appeal to the masses. I think it's for the best that Tolkien is no longer niche, and that classic fantasy is now deemed "worthy" of mainstream attention. Even if Hollywood still hasn't satisfactorily followed up on that (which, perhaps, should be another feather in the series' hat).

 

I think it's entirely appropriate to vote FotR into The Canon, even if I don't particularly want to watch it ever again. Like the LotR "saga" itself, it started out magnificently, and I can't imagine the last 15+ years of pop culture without it.

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This should really be between Fellowship and Two Towers - Return really only has the Gollum arc in its favor as argument for why it is the best of the three. As between Fellowship and Two Towers, I think I have to give a slight edge to Fellowship. As amazing as the Helm's Deep sequence is, the overall movie suffers from having its cast split up, losing the chemistry of the first film.

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Even the Bakshi version doesn't adapt all three books. It pretty much ends where the Two Towers movie does (i.e., after the battle of Helm's Deep and before Frodo, Sam, and Gollum get to Shelob's lair). It's also pretty terrible.

Bakshi's version was my introduction to Tolkien. I thought it was great, but it's been a long time since I've seen it. It's still the only Bakshi I've seen.

 

I voted for Fellowship because Return was too bloated and exhibited a number of Jackson's later sins. But all in all the series is a surprisingly good adaptation that we were lucky to have.

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I was so jazzed when I saw this episode but pretty disappointed with the caliber of discussion, particularly from David. Entirely too much time was devoted to shouting out particular scenes without getting into the meat of what makes them tick. This felt like a very amateur episode despite Amy's best efforts to redirect the conversation into more analytical territory.

 

I was pleased when I heard this was an episode and listened all the way through with mounting disappointment.

 

I'd vote neither if that was an option. Why was that an option for one week then gone again???

 

I'd vote Heavenly Creatures as Jackson's best movie by far. I loved that movie when it came out and it still holds up.

 

I have a friend who loved the LOTR movies (and everything Tolkien long before the movies). I understand the intensity of the fandom. I read the books when I was a young adult because you just have to don't you. I remember some of the press about what a disaster this film project might be. I understand the boldness of the plan, what a big deal it was to make the movies, and how big that gamble paid off. I saw the first one on opening weekend with some huge Tolkien fans and eventually saw the other two. But the movies just do nothing for me and never have. I had hoped to hear a discussion that would convince me of their value but instead (except for a few comments at the very end) it was a rambling discussion assuming that both of them were deserving without convincing me that either of them are. I guess that's always been the problem with versus episodes because there's no "neither" option, but this is the first time since Animal House that it bugged me.

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The biggest mark against is the army of the dead… on its own that was a "jump the shark" moment for me.

Absolutely -- that was a horrendous fan service moment that presaged an abominable trend in blockbusters to come.

 

Another thing that bugged me about Return of the King is the deus ex machina* that defines the end of the story.

 

*Tolkien disputed this assertion but it's basically what happens, however you describe it.

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Nerd cards revoked from DAVID and AMY!

 

For an epic series that gets picked to shreds by Feminist critics (rightly so, there's maybe a half dozen female characters and that's including Shelob) it pains me to hear no one stick up for the one goosebumpseverytime moment from the third movie: Eowyn's battle with the Witch King Angmar. This moment of a woman kicking ass COMES DIRECTLY FROM TOLKIEN! Examine your cynical heart AMY, turns out JRR was a brilliant complicated guy capable of brilliant complicated writing. Sure the dialogue was punched up, but the action is directly from the book. Why is it so laughable that Tolkien, Boyens, Jackson, or Walsh would reference Macbeth in the final encounter with the WITCH KING?

 

Obviously Joanna, whose Feminerd cred is undeniable, went mum in support of her film. Another unfortunate causality of the VS. format...would have appreciated her spirited defense of the scene.

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Was ready to love a discussion about these films, but my mounting annoyance at having guests call into the studio is getting hard to ignore. Yes, it's a byproduct of the show's new format, but I am impressively petty.

 

Speaking of, David Chen's weak ass arguments and interjections were figuratively killing me throughout the entire episode.

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Nerd cards revoked from DAVID and AMY!

 

For an epic series that gets picked to shreds by Feminist critics (rightly so, there's maybe a half dozen female characters and that's including Shelob) it pains me to hear no one stick up for the one goosebumpseverytime moment from the third movie: Eowyn's battle with the Witch King Angmar. This moment of a woman kicking ass COMES DIRECTLY FROM TOLKIEN! Examine your cynical heart AMY, turns out JRR was a brilliant complicated guy capable of brilliant complicated writing. Sure the dialogue was punched up, but the action is directly from the book. Why is it so laughable that Tolkien, Boyens, Jackson, or Walsh would reference Macbeth in the final encounter with the WITCH KING?

 

Obviously Joanna, whose Feminerd cred is undeniable, went mum in support of her film. Another unfortunate causality of the VS. format...would have appreciated her spirited defense of the scene.

A scathing critique from Jizzyballz69.

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An interesting thing about the LOTR trilogy is that they were filmed at nearly the same time with nearly the same crew, so perhaps there is a little less to talk about than, say, the Star Wars or Alien franchises? If so, it's natural the conversation would gravitate towards which one had the best scenes or the most memorable quotes/dankest memes.

 

Still though, not sure I agree the trilogy should've been considered as a single unit, but more on a technicality. Aside from the myriad story differences between the two, the films are crammed into a traditional 3-act-kinda-sorta structure with their own storylines and arcs, to the extent possible from the source material. Even though the books were intended as a single piece of media, the films weren't.

 

I went with Fellowship for reasons already mentioned in the homework thread (RIP Two Towers). Despite loving RotK's Smeagol opening, the creepiness of the army of the dead cave scene, and the Gandalf/Pippin mid-battle interlude, there was a lot more for me to love in FotR. Fellowship also had the tougher task of the two in establishing this world, the character dynamics, and the stakes, and all convincingly & propulsively enough to carry through two more very long movies.

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