A Molly Moment: Lord of the Rings: Trilogy Tuesday
by Rachel Jaffe
Published: December 18, 2003
Those words shimmered in my head from the moment I got my tickets (a
little matter which involved vulturing online, three phone calls, and two
separate trips to
the ticket office) up until the magic day itself, December 16, the day when
I would see the extended version of "Fellowship of the Ring," followed by
version of "The Two Towers," followed by one of the first showings of
"Return of the King." Billed as a once-in-a-lifetime event, only 100
theaters in the United States
were allowed to participate. One of those theaters was the Loews Uptown
Theater in Washington, DC.
And this is one woman's journey on that day.
11:30 a.m. I'm struggling to get out the door, and I'm already
behind schedule. Ordinarily leaving at 11:30 a.m. for a 1 p.m. movie that
is no more than 15
minutes away would be insanely early, but today it's late. I know that
there'll be an early line to get the best seats. Fortunately, I like to sit
close to the screen, and I'm hoping that the crowds will be angling for
seats farther back.
11:45 a.m. Before the movie theater, I make a quick stop at 7-11.
The theater, as most do, has a "no outside food" policy. But with only an
shows and over 800 fans, I'm not sure how available food outside the theater
will be. Also, because of various technical snafus, the Uptown sold
individual tickets for the three movies instead of one ticket for the day,
as most other theaters did. If they're going to be emptying the theater and
having people line up to go back in, I don't want to be at the end of the
line. I'll refrain from eating outside food in the theater, but I sure
don't want to spend 12 hours eating nothing but popcorn. I get a couple of
power bars and a couple of apples, and stash them deep in my pockets ...
just in case.
11:50 a.m. I'm at the theater. The ticket taker asks for all
three tickets for the day, and provides me with a button saying "Trilogy
Tuesday." Inside, the
theater is about half full. I make a beeline for the front row, which is
empty except for two other fans. I settle down a couple of seats away from
an Attractive Geek Guy
(one of many in the crowd!), and take a look around.
A few people are costumed -- primarily women wearing long flowing robes a
la Arwen. The most notable costumed figure -- who was garnering screen time
the local news reporters when I came in -- is a tall man made taller by his
Gandalf costume. There are no particular activities planned, but the crowd
is friendly and excited. A woman wandering around stopped to chat. She and
her husband had arrived at 5:15 a.m., and were 15th in line for tickets.
She tells me that there was a
group that camped out all night. Apparently, none of them wanted this front
12:30 p.m. The excitement is building. A college-age guy goes to
the front of the theater and leads a cheer of "Gimme an L-O-R-D," to fairly
A later effort to start a wave by some other people falls flat, however.
12:50 p.m. Gandalf comes to the front of the theater and exhorts
the crowd. He juggles a glowing ball that flashes intermittently, telling
us to "follow the
Elven lights to Rivendell!" It actually is quite a lovely effect. He does
some other magic tricks, talking about how great the films are and what an
exciting day it is.
12:55 p.m. The manager of the theater comes to the front and
welcomes us to Trilogy Tuesday. He asks that we squeeze towards the center
to accommodate latecomers (I briefly consider taking advantage of the
situation to sidle
next to Attractive Geek Guy, but decide that it probably doesn't really
apply to the front row). He also announces that there will be sandwiches
from a local sandwich
place available for sale during both the break between the first and second
movies and the break between the second and third movies. Huzzah! I will
eschew my illicit
1:00 p.m. It's time! It's here! The crowd applauds furiously as
"Fellowship of the Ring" starts up. Oh, and it looks glorious, too. It's
lovely to see
the full council scene there on the big screen. The only problem -- but
it's a major one -- is that I realize I've made a serious miscalculation in
sitting right up front.
While sometimes there's the delicious sensation that I could just walk right
into the movie, overall there are just too many quick cuts and too many
movements for comfort. "Fall back! Fall back!" Surreptitiously I scout
out other possible seats for the next movie. (Even though the show
officially sold out the first day tickets went on sale, there are a fair
number of empty seats available close to the screen). And despite
my occasional discomfort, I still enjoy the movie. Once again, I tear up at
the death of Boromir -- so valiant, whose goodness was corrupted by the ring
towards evil and
who died as the hero he truly was. (Aragorn ... sigh ... so dreeeeeeeamy
.. yet I also love Boromir.)
4:30 p.m. Whew, one down! After the credits are over, I grab my
coat, bid a mental wistful goodbye to Attractive Geek Guy, and head to the
seat I've scouted. It's to the right and 4 rows back.
Next order of business -- I leave my coat on the seat and head towards
the ladies room. I don't have a pressing need, but with movies that last
over three hours, it's important to plan ahead. Other women have had a
similar thought, and the line is extensive, although still not
Back in the main theater, I joined the line for food. It's a little
early for my dinner, but I also had an early lunch. Plus, I was at the
infamous "United We Stand" concert in DC, where food and drink ran out well
before the end of the 12-hour ordeal -- ummmm, concert. Not happening to me
this time. I'm pleased that the theater seems better prepared than the
concessionaires at the concert. There isn't an extensive selection, but the
food keeps coming, and they do have veggie sandwiches! I order one, with
beverage and chips, and also get some Sour Patch
5:25 p.m. The manager is back up front. It turns out that they
will be distributing keepsakes after the next movie, and he describes the
distribution process (three locations to hand them out, show your 10:30 p.m.
ticket for "Return of the King," collect your prize, then return to your
seat via a separate aisle). The crowd buzzes happily, because after all,
who doesn't like prezzies?
5:30 p.m. It's time for "The Two Towers"! And, ah, yes, my new
vantage point is a big improvement. Who would have thought that ten feet
could make so much of a difference? But that little bit of distance helps,
and I still have the "front row feel," because there's no one sharing my row
or in the rows ahead of me.
I had, for complicated reasons, gone to see the extended version of "The
Two Towers" just the Sunday before, so I am a bit worried that it is too
soon to see it again on Tuesday. But it actually is surprisingly fresh.
Part of it is having the "extended" material in there. I still can't get
over that the Boromir/Faramir scene was left out of the original. That in
itself would be enough to keep me interested.
The crowd is also making a difference tonight. In the more rollicking
adventure of "The Two Towers," the crowd is really cutting loose. While
"Fellowship of the Ring" received applause at the beginning and end and when
Elrond proclaimed the nine travelers "the fellowship of the ring," "The Two
Towers" has multiple applause points. There are enthusiastic cheers for the
appearance of Gandalf (both when he first appears and at Gondor), the
arrival of the Elvish archers (oh, that always moves me too -- those
strange, secret warriors who arrive to fight not for defense of their own
land or people, but for honor and the love of a long-ago alliance), Legolas
looping his way on to a horse, the battle of the Ents, and Legolas using a
shield as a skateboard down a set of stairs, firing arrows all along the
way. Laughter is loud at the punchlines, and there's a good vibe in the
9:00 p.m. Another one down! Even as the closing credits roll,
people start getting in line for their present. Because I am close to one
of the lines, I decide
to join when they reach the level of my seat. The present turns out to be a
ornament that contains a single film frame from each of the three
movies, mounted into a frame decorated with "Lord of the Rings" motifs.
Nice, but I'd rather have had a T-shirt or pendant or something.
Part of my master plan in getting my present early (aside from the fact
that I'd be too frustrated staying in my seat while other people passed
right by me with their
loot) was that I could then make another stop at the restroom while other
patrons were waiting for their present. (I know, I know ... but remember,
people, it's over three hours of movie, and this is the one that I
really did not want to have to interrupt!)
After that, it's a long wait for the 10:30 p.m. showing of "Return of the
King." Around me, I can hear people opening up their collectibles to find
out what pictures
they have (because all the frames were taken from a single print of each
film, they were all different). Out of superstition, I decide to wait until
I get home. (I'm not very lucky on stuff like that. Many hours later, I
finally had the courage to look -- a frame of Bilbo from "Fellowship of the
Ring," a frame of Eowyn from "The Two Towers," and a frame of Gandalf
entering Minas Tirith in "Return of the King." The Gandalf one isn't much,
but the Bilbo is nice enough and the one of Eowyn is lovely, so I guess
that's all right. But if anyone with a Boromir pic wants to do tradesies,
send me an e-mail!)
The theater starts filling up. The row next to me, the rows in front,
all full now. I don't know if some people decided not to show for the first
couple of movies, or if
some people only bought tickets for the 10:30 show, but everyone is here
10:25 p.m. Hey, it's our friend the manager! And by now, he
really does seem a friend. He goes over some final remarks, and laughingly
tells us that if we're
the ones who sent e-mails complaining (about the ticket snafu and worries
about how the event would go), we should send some other e-mails tonight!
We cheer him for the success of the evening, and he calls out his staff to
take some bows as well. Well deserved.
10:30 p.m. Oh my gosh -- it's time for "Return of the King"! But
what's this? Holy cow, for the first time all night -- commercials! Coke
commercials! Anti- piracy commercials! We boo.
But now -- no, wait, now it's previews! Dear heavens, they're torturing
us! We boo. Then we see that it's a preview for "Hidalgo," starring Viggo
then we cheer. However, three more previews, none of which star actors from
"Lord of the Rings," is straining our patience.
Finally, finally, finally we start watching "Return of the King." I was
very happy to see that Andy Serkis, so great as Gollum, was given a chance
to actually act on his
The movie ... geez, it's so big! So much going on. All new. All what
we've waited for. No time for analysis as we watch. We laugh and cheer and
2:00 a.m. And then ... it's over. Our last round of applause.
Our last good-byes.
2:10 a.m. On my way home, my mind still reels from the day. It
was a long, emotional day, and I wonder if the reason why it was billed as a
"once-in-a- lifetime event" was not that they wouldn't show these movies
this way in the theater again, but that no one who'd seen it that way once
would have the fortitude to do it
And since that day, I've been thinking about this last movie, this much
anticipated movie, and the trilogy as a whole. Having seen the three
movies, how do they stack
up to one another?
I find that I actually was somewhat disappointed with the third movie.
Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed it, and will probably go back to see it
again before it finishes
running on the big screen. But I'd heard for so long from so many that this
was the best of the three, and yet to me it wasn't.
For me, the best movie is still the first one. Of course, it has the
advantage of a fairly compact storyline. But for me, it's also the most
human. We learn about the fellowship, how they work together and care about
one another, and we see their individual struggles. Compared to the other
two movies, it has the least amount of special effects, but the special
effects it has ... ah, the Nazgul were scarier than I'd ever imagined them
reading the books, and the Balrog is a wonder of fire and smoke.
With "The Two Towers," I felt very aware of the special effects,
sometimes for good, but also sometimes for ill. I can't see Merry and
Pippin riding along on Treebeard without thinking they look like they're on
a Disney theme park ride!
But then again, "The Two Towers" has that tremendous battle at Helm's
Deep. And it's not just the battle, but everything leading up to the
battle. The humanity of
the desperate soldiers -- some who have seen too many winters, and others
who have seen too few, to paraphrase Gimli and Legolas -- brings a lump to
The fear of the women in the caves, not knowing how the battle is going or
how their loved ones are faring, is a poignant reminder that the conflict is
not just what
happens on the field of battle. The quiet valor of the Elvish archers, as I
mentioned, moves me. And that moment of quiet, tense, resigned anticipation
as the Enemy's
soldiers advance is amazing.
With "Return of the King," I was again overly aware of the special
effects, and the battles were too fast and furious and spread out to get
that humanity so moving in
"The Two Towers" (although I do enjoy a good "St. Crispin's" speech, and
there were a couple in "Return of the King").
But what "Return of the King" had was an amazing emotional payoff,
particularly in the storyline involving Sam and Frodo, and the final
struggle between Gollum and
Frodo. It was gritty and exhausting and wrenching ... just as it needed to
have been. Scenes that could have been overblown and melodramatic came
across as straight
from the heart and powerful.
Having seen the three movies now, and having seen them together ... Peter
Jackson did an amazing job. For that, I will always be grateful to him, and
to everyone who worked on the movies. It wasn't all perfect, but it was all
amazing. And some of it ... ah, some of it ... was Legend. And for that, I
am in awe.
More Lord of the Rings links: SirLinksalot