The definitive cinematic mythologies

fantasy movie trilogies4

As I try to thoughtfully reflect on Star Wars and Lord of the Rings like I did with Jaws and Jurassic Park, I find that, while Jaws and Jurassic Park are quite formative to how I view cinema, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, especially Lord of the Rings, are the definitive reasons why I love cinema, and it’s actually easier to try and write about them objectively like I did on Catholic Wannabe Critic than it is to write about them personally.

I mean, I’m so biased by the Lord of the Rings movies that I can’t fully appreciate the masterwork by J.R.R. Tolkien on which they’re based. As for Star Wars…well, Star Wars—and by Star Wars, I mean the Original Trilogy—has been with me for so long that I don’t even remember my first experience with it. It was always just there.

Not only are both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings cinematic landmarks, with the former setting the standard for popcorn movies and the latter setting the standard for modern Hollywood epics, but none of their prequels, sequels, or spinoffs have recaptured their magic. Both trilogies are followed up with disastrous prequel trilogies, though I have a softer spot for the latter two Star Wars Prequels than I do for any of the Hobbit movies, and I genuinely haven’t been impressed with Disney’s Star Wars thus far, partly because The Force Awakens makes every heroic victory in the Original Trilogy meaningless.

While I think Lord of the Rings is superior to Star Wars on an objective level, what hits me about it more personally is not only its more spiritually resonant themes but also a single line Frodo says to his uncle Bilbo: “I spent all my childhood pretending I was somewhere else, off with you on one of your adventures.” That’s how I spent my own childhood, with the likes of Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, and Link.

Star Wars may be more fun than deeply impactful, but even as its legacy is stained by the Prequels, the Special Editions, misguided video games, and its own turning into a corporate cinematic product (all of the first two trilogies except for A New Hope were essentially big-budget independent films, which gives me an appreciation for the Prequels’ singular creative vision, no matter how flawed it is), the Originals remain a joy to watch.

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