Through the Shadow World and back
No fellowship followed me to the Plaza Theatre in Kensington on Nov. 11 where, along with 20 dedicated fans, it was my mission and duty to watch all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was the theatre’s first Tolkien-inspired marathon.
No doubt I was chosen to take on this mission because of my proven adoration of the books and subsequent films, and indeed I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know, however, just what I undertaking.
Instead of just previewing this fantasy extravaganza, it was asked of me to be in attendance to capture the sights and sounds of an event that proved to be both challenging and exclusive. Over the next 12 hours, the entire Third Age of Middle-Earth washed over me.
Chapter One: Concerning Hobbits, Fellowships and Seat Choices
11:10-11:39 a.m. – As I walk towards the Plaza, I half expect a long line of fans trailing out the door. Instead, I am greeted much in the same way as the Fellowship when they entered the Mines of Moria. Although there are no dead dwarves riddled with goblin arrows, there is nobody outside the building at all. I know I’m early because, just like Gandalf, a Reflector writer is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to. I have come as alone as the ring bearer in Shelob’s lair so that I will not be distracted from my quest.
As I enter, the thought of being the only one watching the movies leaves me when I see 12 other people already in their seats. I spend a long time searching out my seat because once I sit down, I know I will not be moving for a very long time. Behind me, a couple is making out sloppily. Before the movie marathon begins, I go to the bathroom, and then to the concession to buy a slice of Orc pizza with every type of meat imaginable on it.
11:40 a.m. – The lights start to dim, the curtains open and I have strapped myself in for what is sure to be a long day. My quest and the Fellowship of the Ring are both about to begin.
11:56 a.m. – I have not been getting enough sleep over the past couple of days and my eyes are beginning to get heavy. I feel like butter scraped over too much bread. This does not bode well for finishing the marathon.
3:00 p.m. – The Fellowship of the Ring has finished. After one movie, people are slightly tired and are ready to go home, but this is not the case for this observer. It is not the darkness of Khazad-dum that fills my heart, but the idea of sitting in the theatre for two more movies has begun to feel daunting. As I step outside into the sunlight, it feels good to stretch out my sore muscles.
Chapter Two: A Shortcut to Starbucks
3:20 p.m. – After I down a root beer and purchase a piece of Elf (vegetarian) pizza, I am as ready as I’ll ever be for the beginning of yet another movie.
4:00 p.m. – My eyes feel as if an Ent is squeezing them.
5:00 p.m. – In my exhausted state, I think I am wasting away like King Theoden of Rohan under the spell of Saruman. I am very proud that I am sitting in a movie theatre watching 12 hours of my favourite story. Back-to-back viewing of the three films connects the separate chapters in a way that J.R.R Tolkien would be proud of.
6:00 p.m. – I have survived seven hours of the marathon, but at this moment, I am no longer tired. I have hit my second wind and I believe I will easily make it through the rest of the trilogy.
6:05 p.m. – The battle for Helm’s Deep is about to begin, and as ten thousand Uruk-hai march upon the humans, I am once again in awe of the battle scenes in the trilogy. I am starting to get emotional as the drums begin.
6:24 p.m. – I feel pain for the Ents when their tree friends are killed. I have been here for so long that I am getting a little bit teary.
At the end of The Two Towers, I was able to talk to an avid fan of the series in the lobby while munching on my third piece of pizza. Fifty-year-old Louis Zimmerman, who always wanted to watch the movies back-to-back, said the time has flown by: “Once I get started, I don’t want to stop.” Zimmerman said the interplay between the three movies is the “garnish and spice” of the trilogy.
Chapter Three: All’s Well as Ends Better
7:00 p.m. – Before sitting through The Return of the King — with a run time of four hours and 10 minutes — I better use the bathroom.
8:00 p.m. – I have lost my second wind and feel utterly wiped out. Frodo’s exhaustion and how the Ring is dragging him down is destroying me as well. I fear I may leave the Plaza as a Ringwraith.
8:10 p.m. – My leg has fallen asleep.
8:15 p.m. – My other leg has fallen asleep.
9:00 p.m. – That headache that has been plaguing me all day has returned. I have been at the Plaza Theatre for 10 hours. I’m pretty sure I look like Frodo after he got stabbed by the Witch King of Angmar.
9:21 p.m. – Please insert disc two of The Return of the King.
9:31 p.m. – In my exhaustion, it would not be strange to have the Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien speak to me. She would say: “This task was appointed to you, Kevin of The Reflector. If you do not find a way, no one will.” I cannot turn back now.
10:00 p.m. – There is an hour and a half left to go. The closer Frodo gets to Mount Doom, the faster I can go to sleep. It’s keeping my head up that requires strength. The area behind my eyes hurts.
10:45 p.m. – No one can understand how long the scene where the two hobbits sit on the rock in Mount Doom is until they watch all three films together. At this point, even I cannot remember the taste of strawberries with fresh cream.
10:50 p.m. – I am beginning to feel ill. I am so tired. I need sleep. I am jealous of the fact that Frodo gets to close his eyes and be borne home by eagles. I still have to catch the train home.
11:10-11:20 p.m. – I am giddy with exhaustion and am laughing along with Frodo and Gandalf at the end of the movie. As the marathon ends, I am as tired as the heroic pair of hobbits on the slopes of Mount Doom. I have come to the end of my quest, and now I must head home to my bed.
As I learned after one of the deepest sleeps of my life, these sorts of themed film screenings are far from rare at the Plaza Theatre. Pete Harris, theatre programmer and manager, said when people watch a movie at the Plaza, they will witness programming that is “challenging, independent and exclusive.” On Nov. 19, the Plaza will be playing A Night with Peter Lynch, hosted by Calgary Cinematheque.
A free screening of the best of the International Short Film Festival will be held on Nov. 26. Finally, on Dec. 3, a horror film that is yet to be selected will be played as part of the Night Terror film series.
Harris said this particular marathon will not be an annual event, but they are sure to do it again. He was happy with the results and, just like me, he considers the Lord of the Rings series to be “some of the best films ever made.”