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Review - Ringers (DVD-2005)
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Ringers (DVD-2005)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

Ringers: Lord of the Fans is the newly released DVD feature-length documentary tracing the history of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the impact it has had on Western Culture. Narrated by Dominic Monaghan (the hobbit Merry from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film epic), Ringers also solicits comments from authors, scholars and readers around the globe.

Indeed, the reach of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary epic, The Lord of the Rings has been worldwide and influential, culminating with Peter Jackson’s recent blockbluster three-part cinematic adaptation.

The term ringer applies to a devoted Lord of the Rings fan. The film features dozens of interviews with such core fans from all walks of life, most of whom offer candid testimonials directly to the camera in a confession-booth style setting. Influential authors such as Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett and Terry Brooks, and musicians Geddy Lee of Rush and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, also note the effect the saga has had on their own work. There are also interviews with most of the cast of the Jackson Rings films including Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Jackson himself.

Following the successful publication of The Hobbit in the late 1930’s, Tolkien followed up with The Lord of the Rings in the mid-1950’s. But his new literary effort got off to a lukewarm start. Although it was embraced warmly in a select literary circle, it also was blasted by some literary critics and generated controversy. Its more public road to fame began with the books being embraced by the counter-culture hippie movement of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, and the enthusiasm never abated thereafter. Several Rankin-Bass television animated settings of Tolkien’s Middle Earth characters along with Ralph Bakshi’s partly completed animated film adaptation of the books furthered the epic’s fame with variable success prior to the global phenomenon of Peter Jackson’s mammoth film undertaking.

What particularly distinguishes this documentary is its lively pace, stylized animated artwork and quirky production values which weave a comprehensive historical tapestry. Learning has rarely been this much fun and the film’s makers deserve kudos. There’s even a clip of Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy singing his novelty song “Bilbo Baggins”. But Ringers never condescends in examining the trilogy’s fandom. Unlike Trekkie-bashing. It is a celebration of enthusiasm and an explanation of what Tolkien’s epic has done for its legions of fans. Extras on this DVD include an engaging film commentary, deleted scenes and interviews and a making-of featurette.

The Lord of the Rings offers something of value in each of its incarnations, but perhaps the best summation is given by Peter Jackson who states: “The masterpieces are not the movies, the masterpiece is the book.”

2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams

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