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Ringers: Lord of the FansMovie Review
by Bertha Chin
Genre: Documentary / Comedy
Director: Carlene Cordova
Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Cliff Broadway, Elijah Wood, Peter Jackson, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom.
As a self-confessed fan familiar with the world of fandom, I am often weary of any documentaries that claim to depict fans and the (private) world they inhabit. Often a double-edged sword, a documentary made by non-fans will make the fan look ridiculous, while one made by fans who are equally as emotionally invested in the text as those depicted in the film will make it appear overly self-indulgent. Like the other fan documentaries in circulation (one on Star Trek fans, one on X-Files fans and another recent one on fans of Star Wars), Ringers: Lord of the Fans is no exception in toeing the fine line between ridicule and indulgence.
Narrated by Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lost), and featuring interviews with the principal cast of Peter Jackson's trilogy, Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett, Cameron Crowe, David Carradine and the like, this is perhaps a fan documentary that appears to be "officially-sanctioned" and looks less like a student film. Made by owners of the popular website TheOneRing.net, the documentary examines the impact of Tolkien on popular culture and the lives of lifelong fans for the past 50 years, from the publication of the books through the release of the films. While it features interviews with the now internationally recognised cast and other famous faces, the film is first and foremost made for and by fans.
Through interviews and re-enactments, the film traces the influences of Tolkien on 60s and 70s counterculture with the introduction of the books to American popular culture, right through to the advent of the internet as a medium of fan communication by the time the films were due for release. The film explores the various activities that fans participate in within the world of fandom, including pilgrimages to New Zealand, which is referred to as Middle Earth by fans. Audiences are also introduced to terms like fan fiction and slash, and a nod must also be given to the mention (and an extremely hilarious re-enactment) of Cassandra Claire's now infamous "The Very Secret Diaries". Most of the fan interviews were conducted during the annual ComicCon in San Diego, and there were some surreal moments where fans were dressed as Jedi Masters and Klingons, talking about their love for Lord of the Rings in a room aptly named the "Ringers Confessional".
For fans familiar with the ins and outs of fandom, this documentary will prove to be a gem. Famous faces are presented as fans talk enthusiastically about their love for the world Tolkien had created and how it has influenced their own creative endeavours, and these interviews are placed alongside the ComicCon attendees and fans who queue up for tickets weeks ahead of the release of Return of the King. It also interestingly tracks the influences of Tolkien in popular culture (look out for a song sung by none other than Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself!) that your average audience may not have been privy to before.
The DVD also contains extras such as the now-requisite making of, deleted scenes, and extended fan interviews (some of which were just plain weird). All in all, Ringers is an interesting foray into the world of one of the biggest fandoms in this day and age.
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