Thursday, October 22, 2009

Star Wars and Lord of the Rings

As of late, we've spent some time discussing both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.  In the process, we've come to reflect on these epics and the odd relationship they share.

Just as Lucas defined theatergoers' expectations with Star Wars, Peter Jackson provided the standard for a new generation of geeks when he made The Lord of the Rings. The Middle Room stands somewhat between these generations. Perhaps that is why this is The MIDDLE Room.

No, our mistake: it's because we are situated between the front and back rooms.

We realize there are those who would pit these series against each other, as Kevin Smith has done in jest in Clerks 2, but there is no real animosity here. In truth, these have had a symbiotic relationship: neither would exist in its current form without the other. Lucas, when crafting his movies, was influenced by Tolkien's books, just as Peter Jackson was influenced by the Star Wars films.

Consider, if you will, the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. Han Solo is captured and taken to Jabba the Hutt, a scene reminiscent of Frodo's capture at the end of Tolkien's The Two Towers. In both cases, there is a great deal of ambiguity as to whether the hero is living or dead. Incidentally, this same cliffhanger occurs, in one form or another, in The Matrix Reloaded, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Chronicles of Riddick (though it's unclear if we'll ever receive the conclusion to that), Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, and X-Men 2.

In Peter Jackson's Return of the King, during a scene not in the book, Eowyn kneels beside the mortally wounded Theoden. "I'm going to save you," she tells him. "You already did," he assures her, paraphrasing Luke and Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, whose title is almost certainly a reference to Tolkien's Return of the King.

Would Obi Wan have fallen to Vader if Gandalf hadn't to the Balrog? Did Tolkien's description of Sauron influence the look of Darth Vader? Did Vader then influence the design on Sauron in the movie?

From a more practical standpoint, it's unlikely New Line would have authorized funding for the Lord of the Rings trilogy without the precedent laid down by Star Wars. And one has to wonder if Fox would have laid down the money for Star Wars if it weren't for the existing fantasy and science fiction fan base Tolkien helped establish.

We could go on, but the point, we think, is made. These two trilogies are part of the same tradition, two towering beacons which help define the genre and, perhaps, each other.

No comments: