At Large

Immersed in Middle Earth

/ 01:51 AM December 12, 2014

There was genuine mourning when “The Return of the King,” the last of the movie trilogy “The Lord of the Rings,” came to an end. As Frodo boards the Elven ship which is leaving Middle Earth for other realms, feelings among the audience mirrored those of the three weeping Hobbits, bidding farewell to a friend and brother.

For indeed, we were saying goodbye not just to Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Wizards and even Orcs, but also to a movie series that brought to life books that had been part of our lives and that had inhabited our imaginations. Director Peter Jackson and his production team had created a whole new world that existed previously only in our fantasies. But now even that world was disappearing from view.


But then word came seeping out that Jackson and his team were filming a movie series based on “The Hobbit,” a book that was released before “The Lord of the Rings” and told an entirely different story. But there are ties that bind the books and the story, more than chronology or setting. “The Hobbit” tells of the adventures of Bilbo, the original wanderer from The Shire, who joins a band of Dwarves and the Wizard Gandalf the Gray to lay claim to the Dwarf homeland and the riches that lie within.

But one big problem stands between them and their quest: the dragon Smaug, who laid waste to the Dwarf kingdom and scattered its population, and has taken residence within the bowels of the mountain fastness. Over three movies, tracking the intrepid band’s march through the different lands of Middle Earth, we learn the story of the 13 Dwarves’—and one Hobbit “thief’s”—quest, and how, after an epic battle, alliances are forged and history takes a turn.


* * *

But now mourning descends once more. With the end of “The Hobbit” trilogy, the story of Middle Earth—at least as conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien—comes to a definite conclusion.

Perhaps, as with the “Star Wars” franchise whose latest episode is set to hit the screens toward the end of 2015, a major studio will buy the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and continue mining the series for more movies, ensuring its survival for generations.

One part of me fervently wishes this would come to pass, but another prays that the filmmakers of the world would let Bilbo, Frodo, Thorin, Gandalf, Galadriel and even Legolas rest in peace. After all, Jackson and his production company have given us, in “The Battle of the Five Armies,” a fitting, satisfying and truly epic film. It brings the story of the Dwarves’ quest to a dramatic end, even as it lays tantalizing openings to what will be the even more epic narrative of “The Lord of the Rings.”

Jackson, asked about the sequence of the making of the films, has said things worked out quite satisfyingly. “In a few years’ time, there will be audiences for these films who won’t have any memory or knowledge of which were made first and, hence, no preconceptions; they’ll simply be watching them in the order that the story demands—from No. 1 through to No. 6.”

“It was a joy for us to go back and to tell a completely different story while, at the same time, having a lot of fun weaving in characters, story threads and setups that ultimately pay off in ‘The Lord of the Rings,’” Jackson adds. They could never have done this “if we had made ‘The Hobbit’ first,” he says. “I hope that when people finally sit down to watch all six films—the double-trilogy—they will have a much fuller and richer experience.”

* * *


Indeed, even now, my family and I are making plans for such a viewing, for a fuller, more immersive “visit” into the world of Middle Earth and its fascinating, funny inhabitants.

But even today audiences can “jump into” the action of “The Battle of the Five Armies,” especially the scenes of combat, with all the bloodshed, noise and clamor, fear and trepidation. This is especially so in a large-format (Imax) 3-D screen, with special features that pull the viewer into the middle of the action.

For once, I forgot I was wearing those dorky 3-D glasses, as blood drops splattered past us, flames licked by, and arrows whizzed past our ears. Sights, sounds, emotions and unbidden thoughts filled our senses, and all thoughts of traffic and earthly concerns vanished completely.

Mourning may descend even as soon as I finish this column. But for now, I am still fired up with memories of the feverish action and of the ennobling sentiments of kinship and love, sacrifice and comradeship that mark the movie.

This is, indeed, a fitting Christmas present from the filmmakers, whose movie of an epic battle among the peoples of Middle Earth may run counter to the placid scenes of nativity that is at the heart of the season. But what a ride, what a movie!

* * *

Fifty years after marching for their high school graduation, alumnae of St. Paul College of Manila will get together once more on Jan. 25 for their golden jubilee.

They have dubbed their jubilee celebrations “SPCM Homecoming 2015 with a Big Bang.” Alumnae here in the Philippines as well as those residing abroad are encouraged to come and join the festivities.

Registration opens at 12 noon, followed by Mass at the Chapel and then picture-taking at the Chapel steps. A program opens at 3:15 p.m., to be capped by a champagne toast and fireworks. Those interested may get in touch with Millie Braganza at [email protected] or 09276186492.

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