Day 327: Five Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon Week 5

5 week middle earth movie marathon week 5

A full day meant that I had a late night viewing of the final film in the Middle-Earth movie marathon. Perched on the bed with a late dinner as well, I enjoyed watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Not only was the Middle-Earth movie marathon part of my first today, this was also my first full viewing of the extended edition of this Hobbit film, which adds another 25 minutes to the movie. I had a sneak peek immediately after I purchased the dvd, however, I saved the full film to savor this evening.

And I did savor it. This middle film in the trilogy moves deeper into the adventure of Thorin Oakenshield and his company, made up of 13 dwarves and one hobbit. The first film is much lighter, as the characters are being introduced and established, while this one delves into the darker undertones. It is in that darkness that we begin to see who Thorin, Bilbo and the others truly are.

Beorn, the skin changer, is introduced in this film. I loved his character in the book and looked forward to meeting him on the big screen. What I thoroughly enjoyed were the additional minutes in the extended edition that focused on the mighty man who can shift into a gigantic and ferocious bear. The scene where Gandalf introduces the company to Beorn, who does not care for dwarves, is one of the most light-hearted scenes in the movie. It is unfortunate that it ended up on the editing floor, but very welcomed indeed in this longer version of the film. I confess to replaying the scene several times, to enjoy the expressions on each character’s face and Gandalf’s rare case of nervousness.

Bilbo is transforming, rapidly. No longer the timid and mild hobbit who fussed over his mother’s dishes and doilies, Bilbo tells Gandalf that he found something in the goblin caves….his courage. Although it might be noted that he was not yet courageous enough to tell Gandalf about the precious ring he found! The ring gives Bilbo a sense of courage often born out of desperation. He uses his sword, which is christened Sting. He engages in battle. He acts as the burglar he was hired to be. And he begins to show signs of leadership, as when he takes action in the musty and darkly enchanted forest of Mirkwood, home to huge spiders, and King Thranduil and the woodland elves. His cleverness shines forth as well. The barrel scene, Bilbo’s exit strategy for the company imprisoned in Thranduil’s kingdom, is one of my favorite sequences in the movie.

I watched with keen interest the growing relationship between the dwarf, Kili, and the warrior she-elf, Tauriel. I know some Tolkien purists disliked the addition of a new character in the story. I researched her a bit, and the reasoning behind Peter Jackson’s decision. He felt a strong female character would be a great counterpart to the mostly male cast, Galadriel being the only other prominent female. He kept her in alignment with Tolkien’s depiction of the woodland elves. Her name, Tauriel, means “daughter of the forest.” I like Tauriel. Although I am a huge Tolkien fan, I am not opposed to change and adaptation. I think her character is well done and I like the romantic element between her and Kili. I suppose because the final film is so near, the scenes featuring their story caused my eyes to sting with tears tonight.

This film fleshes out the titular character, Smaug, in powerful detail. I found the special effects to be as stupendous as the fire breathing dragon himself. British actor Benedict Cumberbatch lends his marvelous voice to Smaug, and actually, through stop-action filming, movements and actions as well. When I first read the story years and years ago, I wasn’t sure what I thought about a talking dragon. But of course he must speak. How else would we know his chilling thoughts? His character, like Gollum’s, is an essential computer generated character that is so important to the story. I am left wide eyed in the final scene, as Smaug flies toward Lake Town, rasping, “I am fire. I am death.” When the screen goes to black, I exhale, both in relief and disappointment that it’s over.

My final thoughts are about additional minutes and footage of Gandalf in Dol Guldur, Sauron’s stronghold where he is gathering his dark army as he gathers his strength. Very vital information ended up on the cutting room floor here too. So much about the return of Sauron and the connection between the Dark One and the dragon is revealed that I’m surprised the decision was made to remove those scenes. And, big wow for me….Thrain, Thorin’s father, is discovered, alive, by Gandalf. I’ve been waiting for him to appear and thought maybe he would be found in the final film. But no, here he is. Again, it seems so important a revelation that I wonder how it was cut from the theatrical version. I am glad to see it included here. Only a shell of who he was, he sighs to Gandalf, “I have been here a lifetime.” He gives a message to Gandalf for his son. Perhaps, since Gandalf has been apart from the company during most of film 2, he will share Thrain’s message with Thorin in the next movie by way of a flashback for the viewers.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug concludes the 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon. How fun it has been to watch all five movies as a preparation for the final film, in the Hobbit trilogy and the Middle-Earth saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This defining chapter is scheduled for release December 17. I know it is only a movie. And yet, I also know, beyond a doubt, that this one is going to be very powerful for me, very emotional. Two months ago, my mind would shy away from the thought of it, whispering, “I’m not ready….I’m not ready.” This movie marathon has shifted that. I will weep. Perhaps as soon as the music starts during the opening scene. I will hurt because it is still physically painful to me to allow strong emotion to move through me. But allow it to move through, I will. I am ready.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

Day 320: 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon Week 4

5 wk mmm TH AUJ week 4

After completing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy last week, today, for the fourth week of the marathon, I began The Hobbit Trilogy. As I popped The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey into my tv/dvd player, I scrolled through my blog posts, sure that I had written about this movie before. I haven’t actually done a review of this film. I’ve mentioned it in several posts, especially as I was working on The Hobbit Fan Contest. This, then, will be my thoughts about the first Hobbit movie. As with the other Peter Jackson films, I chose to watch the extended edition version.

The LOTR movies had such a great impact on my life, that I didn’t see how The Hobbit films could possibly do the same. This prequel to the Lord of the Rings was not my favorite JRR Tolkien story. However, I admired Peter Jackson’s ability to bring to life the complex characters from Tolkien’s books and I looked forward to a return visit to Middle-Earth. Gimli the dwarf was not my favorite character. I didn’t dislike him. I just liked some of the other characters more. And, Bilbo, while important in the Lord of the Rings story, is a minor character in that film. He is nearing the end of his life. After he passes the One Ring on to Frodo, he journeys to Rivendell and we only see him a couple of other times in the trilogy.

There are references to Bilbo’s great adventure during the LOTR, including a look at the stone trolls and peeks at the book he is writing, as he records the tale for Frodo. I knew Sting the sword, and the mithril shirt were acquired during that dragon hunt. So I felt more indulgent than excited about the film as I prepared to view The Hobbit in the theater for the first time. I sat back, ready to enjoy a good story in my beloved Middle-Earth. And enjoy the story I did. To my surprise, I fell in love with another amazing cast of characters. I missed Aragron and Arwen, yet some of my other favorites from LOTR were there: Gandalf, back to being the Grey, Elrond, Galadriel, Legolas, and a cameo by Frodo.

I was impressed with Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves. Fierce, stubborn, proud, warrior-like, my appreciation for this displaced band of journeyers was sincere, and strong. And Bilbo, young and uncertain of his worth, did indeed carry this movie as an unexpected hero, on a very unexpected journey. Tonight, watching the film again, I noted the scenes that stirred my own sense of adventure and took notice of the lines that were worthy quotes. Here are a few of the stand out sections that spoke to me in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Bilbo, though still young by Hobbit reckoning, has settled into a predictable and sedate lifestyle. An adventure is the last thing he wants to experience, when Gandalf comes to visit. The wizard, who is very familiar with Bilbo’s ancestry, sees the cleverness and courage lurking within the Hobbit, and calls him forth. Some of the most powerful lines in this film are spoken to Bilbo, who fainted at the thought of encountering a fire breathing dragon, and wants to sit quietly to recover. Says Gandalf, “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me, when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young Hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves in the woods. He’d stay out late, come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young Hobbit who would’ve liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.” Gandalf’s words not only give Bilbo pause, they give me pause too. I noticed for the first time the word beyond in his dialogue. I don’t want to experience the world through books, maps or movies. I am proclaiming, like Bilbo, “I’m going on an adventure!”

When Galadriel asks Gandalf why he included the Halfling on the adventure, Gandalf tells her that having Bilbo along infuses him with courage. “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.” It is the good-hearted Bilbo who inspires Gandalf, and his small acts that have the biggest impact. I too am capable of such everyday deeds and acts of kindness and love to keep the darkness at bay. Bilbo infuses me with courage as well. This conversation takes place in Rivendell, a place of beauty and restorative peace. I have been captivated by Rivendell since LOTR and I am inspired to create Rivendell-like spaces, whether in my garden or somewhere larger. I love the additional Rivendell scenes included on the extended edition version.

Thorin Oakenshield, like Aragorn in LOTR, undergoes the most transformation. For him, though, unlike Aragorn, he must first descend into an obsessive madness. After being driven from his kingdom of Erebor and losing his grandfather, the king, and his father, Thorin becomes a homeless wanderer. “And he never forgave. And he never forgot.” His deep anger fuels his passion for reclaiming his kingdom, and his treasure. And yet, he is a noble warrior, and very protective of his nephews and his company. By the end of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, he has an awakening respect for Bilbo, his burglar who has never stolen a thing. There is a dragon involved too, of course, but more about him after the next Hobbit movie.

I have appreciated the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the Middle-Earth stories and to lay aside what I thought I knew and perceive anew with fresh eyes. As a result, I’ve continued to draw life lessons from these films while also enjoying the epic adventures. One more week remains in the marathon, and with it, the chance to watch the extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug, which I have not seen in its entirety yet. And then, the short wait for the last Hobbit movie to release in theaters, mid December. I am ready!

5 wk mmm TH AUJ movie poster

Day 314: 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon Week 3

5 week middle earth movie marathon week 3 return of the king blue

Tonight’s movie for the marathon concluded the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I settled in for a long evening of watching this beautifully done film, as I prefer to view the extended edition version. At 4 hours and 11 minutes long, I had ample opportunity to journey through Middle-Earth with some of my all time favorite characters.

I love this final Lord of the Rings film, although all three movies together create the powerful story. The many strands, within each story, weave skillfully together to create a rich, colorful tapestry that is revealed in all its glory in the final movie. The overarching theme is good prevails over evil, light pushes back the darkness. Within the framework of that larger story, the characters stretch and grow, becoming who they were born to be. It is watching those transformations that so speaks to my heart, especially in Return of the King. The journey draws to an end, and none who began it, remains unchanged.

In ROTK, I have many favorite scenes, from the lighting of the hope beacons to the ride of the Rohirrim to the aid of Minas Tirith (which gave me goosebumps tonight, as well as tears), to the sailing of the last ship into the west. I enjoyed watching them all unfold, several times pausing to rewind so I could savor the moments again. I won’t unpack those scenes this evening. There were an amazing number of fresh insights that stood out. I’ve selected a few aha’s to share.

I really noticed the relationships tonight, and the further breaking apart of the Fellowship. Merry and Pippen are now separated, Merry staying with the Rohirrim, and Pip carried away by Gandalf to Minas Tirith in Gondor. Both grow through that separation, pledging themselves to serve with two mighty men. I love how it is Gandalf who shelters Pippen. The wizard calls Pip a “fool of a Took” and often berates him for acting without thinking. And yet during this film, a fondness grows between them, especially as the White City comes under siege. The way Gandalf calms Pippen’s fear of death provides him with a beautiful hope. “Death is just another path…to a far, green country.”

Denethor, Boromir and Faramir’s stone hearted father, reveals the root of his disdain for his younger son. He despises the line of kings, and strongly resists Aragorn taking the throne. He mocks his peace loving, level headed son with these words: “Ever you desire to appear lordly and gracious, as a king of old.” I had missed that line before, and suddenly the reason for Denethor’s dislike of Faramir was revealed to me. It is good that the actor, John Noble, went on to play a likable, absent minded character in a television series so that MY dislike of Denethor could be tempered somewhat! I was able to be sympathetic to him this evening, more than I ever have been before. Hearing Pippen (Billy Boyd) sing to the steward reminded me that Billy is singing the song “The Last Goodbye” during the credits for the final Hobbit movie. That seems so fitting, and is guaranteed to punch me, emotionally.

Aragorn is the man to watch during this film, although I dearly love the power and wisdom of Gandalf the White and the assumption of authority by Théoden, King. However, it is Aragorn who comes into his own as he finds his way at last to the throne. I feel for Éowyn, who shyly offers her heart to the would-be king. As a shield maiden of Rohan, she is captivated by a man who is confident enough to appreciate her strengths. I heard for the first time tonight how gentle he was with her heart. His love is given to an elf princess who has become mortal. He never falsely promises Éowyn his love. He does hope for her joy. “I have wished you joy since I first saw you.” That is so honoring of her. The extended edition offers a beautifully touching scene with Aragorn recognizing his ability to heal, and laying hands on her, he heals Éowyn of her pain, both physically and emotionally. She is released….to fall in love with Faramir.

A couple of other things I noticed for the first time included Gimli’s remark, “Have you learned nothing of the stubbornness of dwarves?” Oh yes, Master Dwarf, I have! And with the attack on the giant spider, Shelob, I now know that Frodo’s sword, Sting, has bit into spider flesh on two occasions.

What a grand story. It is the conclusion of all things. “And the Fellowship of the Ring, though eternally bound by friendship and love, was ended.” Aragorn and Arwen get to spend a very long life-time together, creating a new kingdom, hand in hand. Éowyn gets Faramir. Merry and Pippen remain friends forever. So do Legolas and Gimli, creating a legendary friendship never heard of before in Middle-Earth. Sam at last marries Rosie Cotton. And Bilbo and Frodo join Gandalf and the last of the Eldar, Galadriel, Celeborn and Elrond, in heading west across the sea.

It meant more to me this time, to see written on the title page of the red leather journal,

There and Back Again, A Hobbit’s Tale

By Bilbo Baggins


The Lord of the Rings

By Frodo Baggins

Very soon, this amazing 13 year journey, led by Peter Jackson, will end with the sixth film. I am grateful that I, too, accompanied Bilbo, Thorin Oakenshield and his company on their adventure, and the Fellowship on their quest. And I, who began it with them, did not remain unchanged either.

5 week middle earth movie marathon week 3 rotk

Day 306: 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon Week 2

5 week middle earth movie marathon week 2

Today marked the beginning of week two of the marathon, leading up to the release in December of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The Middle-Earth movie this week is the middle film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers. Tonight I settled in with a cup, or two, of hot tea and the extended edition of this action packed movie. As with the other LOTR movies, I’ve seen this one many times. It is watching it as part of a marathon that sets this viewing apart, as is the fact that I have journeyed far since last watching the film and I am watching with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. As the saying goes, no man steps into the same river twice….and the same Cindy doesn’t watch the same movie twice.

I have regarded Two Towers as a dark movie, bridging The Fellowship of the Ring, which establishes storyline and characters, with the triumphant conclusion in The Return of the King. It is certainly a part of the story, and truly, the three films are one tale. That opinion was before this evening. Tonight, I set aside my perceptions of this middle segment of a larger story, and just watched, allowing the story to unfold and the fellowship, now broken into three companies, to continue on their quests. And…I loved watching Two Towers. I had forgotten how beautiful it is, both in its stunning cinematography and in the development of the familiar characters from the first film and in the new ones introduced here.

Although charged with the main task of taking the ring to Mordor, Frodo and Sam are the lesser characters in this movie. I see the relationship between the two Hobbits deepening, with Sam, the gardener turned bodyguard, assuming more and more responsibility for the duty they have been burdened with. Gollum has joined their little band, and he is such a presence, and represents such an advancement in technology, that it is easy to forget he is computer generated. Merry and Pippan spend most of this movie in Fangorn Forest, while Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli range from tracking the Hobbits to defending Helm’s Deep.

My heart expanded the most watching the return of the wizard, who is no longer Gandalf the Grey, but Gandalf the White. He is the hero of this second movie, as Aragorn is still finding his way to the throne, and seeking the courage within to take it. The beauty of Gandalf, the wisdom and steely certainty about what he must do, is wonderful to watch. He no longer needs to ask anyone in his order what to do. He knows. He is grace and strength personified. I was struck tonight with remembering how Gandalf feared to go into the mines of Moira, in FOTR, knowing the fiery balrog was there. His account of not only facing the balrog, “You shall not pass!”, but pursuing the beast through fire and water, to the mountaintop, until at last he could declare “I threw down my enemy”, inspires me to as relentlessly face and pursue my own dark fears.

One of my favorite scenes in this movie tonight was the freeing of King Thèoden in the land of Rohan. The king is aged and rendered immobile by the constant evil whispering in his ear by Grima Wormwood. Poison enters the king’s mind, by way of words, and darkens it. What an amazing portrayal of the effect of negativity. Gandalf brings light back into Thèoden’s life, removing the source of darkness. I am very fond of the king. His physical transformation is rapid, his mental and spiritual transformations are slower to emerge. When his kingdom is threatened, he relies on what he has always done, to survive, rather than being willing to experience a new way. His adherence to old habits, or limiting beliefs, nearly destroys all that he holds dear. Aragorn begins to step into his kingly role, coming alongside King Thèoden as one who helps, rather than taking power from him. Aragorn calls Thèoden out, and the king responds.

I recognize now that Two Towers is a very powerful movie, not just filler in the middle to get me on to the next film. It is all important, all part of the journey, all woven together to create the adventure. The same is true for me. Some segments of my journey have been less than spectacular, not pretty, full of battles and fears and uncertainty about my role in my own story. And yet, those episodes in my life are not filler either, getting me on to better times. They are vital, and necessary, parts of my ongoing journey and the powerful truths are there, for me to uncover and learn from. Those are big ahas tonight, to draw from a middle movie in a trilogy. I just love how things like that work out.

two towers

Day 299: Five Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon


Today’s planned first was postponed due to family members battling the flu! I switched gears, on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, enjoying time in the garden and time relaxing with one of my favorite movies. As part of the countdown to the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, I joined the 5 Week Middle-Earth Movie Marathon for my first today.

Launched by MiddleEarthNews on Facebook and Twitter, this fun event encourages fans to watch the five available Middle-Earth films, one each week, beginning today with Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I chose the extended edition version. I’ve watched this film many times however, it’s the first time I’ve watched it as a part of a special event and the first time I’ve watched any movie and tweeted about it and read related tweets on Twitter. We used the hashtag #5wkMMM. That was fun!

Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth movies have deeply impacted my life. I’ve discovered so many truths about myself within these transformative films, journeying and growing along with the characters. It has been a while since I’ve seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have journeyed since my last viewing and it was interesting to watch today and see with fresh eyes and a slightly different perspective. Here’s what stood out today as I watched FOTR:

• Because of my recent viewings of The Hobbit films, I noticed more acutely the references to Bilbo’s adventure, dragons and characters from The Hobbit, such as Balin, Gloin and Thorin.

• I was aware that Bilbo offered Gandalf tea when he arrived in the afternoon. Pippin also mentions tea time as a customary Hobbit tradition.

• I saw the warrior like qualities more clearly in Gimli, rather than seeing him as playing a more minor role in this adventure. Similarly, I noted how Legolas has settled more fully into who he is.

• Aragorn is one of my favorite characters in the LOTR movies and his transformation from Strider the Ranger, to Aragorn the King is inspiring. The other human in the Fellowship, Boromir, plays well the man who would take the ring from Frodo, by force if necessary. I watched his character closely today, appreciating his transformation as well and the role he plays in calling Aragorn forth. While Boromir does seek the ring, it is not for his own purposes that he desires it. He wishes to protect his city, Gondor, and its people, using the ring as a weapon against the enemy. He would not have been able to control the one ring, yet his intentions are noble. The two men have many strong traits in common. One has tried to hide who he is and fears he doesn’t have what it takes to be king. The other has lived bravely, carrying the many heavy expectations of his demanding father and he has no desire for a king. Boromir resists Aragorn’s destiny and yet, as they journey he begins to share his love of the white city, Gondor, with his companion. He calls Aragorn forth, in an added scene in the extended edition, and I paraphrase, “Stop hiding in the shadows. Stop fearing who you are and what you are.”

• I always get teary eyed over Boromir’s death. This complex man finds redemption as he sacrifices himself in an attempt to save the halflings. The emotional response didn’t change today! What I noticed for the first time though was that it is Boromir who first addresses Aragorn as “my king”. The others in Aragorn’s life encourage him to become who he is destined to be, see the strength in him, refer to him as Isildur’s heir. Boromir, as he lies dying, acknowledges fully who Aragorn is, calling him, “My brother…my captain…my king”. What a far seeing man. Aragorn responds, not with denials and hesitation, but in a quietly confident manner befitting a king. I loved seeing that unfold today. Boromir’s gauntlets that Aragorn wears for the remainder of the journey become a constant reminder of that man’s belief in his king, and his trust that Aragorn would save his people, and Middle-Earth.

I enjoyed watching Fellowship of the Ring today. It reminded me of my own journey and of the moments of realization about myself that I have had. It also brought to mind the people who make up my Fellowship, those brave souls who encourage me and call me out as they need to. They see what’s possible in my life, sometimes long before I do. May I continue to journey well and lend my wisdom and encouragement to others on their adventures!