The tragic war with Mordor
A year and a half after the rest of the country, I saw The Return of the King this week, in its extended (four hour!) DVD version. As in the previous two parts of the trilogy, director Peter Jackson’s addiction to unrelieved, gigantic close-ups of the actors’ faces, his refusal to portray his characters as whole persons relating to each other in a shared space (a further result of which is that we barely get to see the marvelous sets and costumes on which vast millions were spent), continued to spoil what would otherwise have been a fantastic movie experience. Despite the director’s unforgivable perversities, however, the film has a genuinely tragic quality that gains more and more force as the story moves toward its conclusion. In the end, Frodo, this innocent young hobbit, has been so spiritually scarred by the horrific trials he has undergone in his quest to destroy the Ring, climaxing in the revelation of his own moral darkness at the Cracks of Doom, that he can never return to ordinary life. He has heroically saved the world of men and hobbits, but cannot be part of the world he has saved. It is deeply moving.
Another outstanding quality of The Return of the King is the sense of the total evil and destructiveness of Mordor. The analogy to the threat we face from resurgent Islam is very strong. Out of the East comes this re-awakened, dehumanizing power, threatening to destroy everything we are and everything we have, everything that is human and civilized, and seeking to put all of existence under the thumb of the monstrous sharia regime. And the men and hobbits of the West must gather their courage and endure great fears and trials in order to defeat this power and save their world.