"The Lord of the Rings" was first published in the mid-1950s, to relatively little notice. Nobody knew -- even the author -- how important this one story would become.
In the years since, however, J.R.R. Tolkien's masterful trilogy has gained a fandom that might just be the most eclectic in all of pop culture. And in "Ringers: Lord of the Fans," we get to see an affectionate love note to the fans who helped establish it as a modern classic, and turned the movies into megahits.
This documentary traces "Lord of the Ring's" influence over the years -- and boy, does it spread wide. In pop culture history we get: Led Zeppelin, the recent cover of "Where There's a Whip There's A Way" by World Without Sundays, who performed at a triumphant Oscar-geek party, and the aborted Beatles movie. Paul would have made a cute Frodo, but it was never to be.
And, of course, Tolkien's work spawned modern fantasy literature, here represented by Terry Pratchett and Terry Brooks, who speak of Tolkien's influence on literature. But media attention isn't all there is -- we get to see a town called Hobbiton, hear about elves and Woodstock, trivia, and a cute little reenactment with action figures.
And of course, there are the new movies. Dominic Monaghan ("Merry") narrates this with a mix of gravity and humour, and there are snippets of actors like Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, Billy Boyd and Ian McKellen being interviewed. And, of course, fans: Fans at parties, at cons, in costume, in rock bands, adoring actors, talking about the books, the movies... fans and more fans.
It tells you something that filmmakers Carlene Cordova and Cliff Broadway have done work for TheOneRing.net for the past few years. Namely: They are Ringers.
And so you can expect a certain amount of affectionate wackiness here. There is not a single dull moment in all of "Ringers: Lord of the Fans," from the Terry-Gilliam-style cartoons to those miniskirted "hobbits" dancing around Leonard Nimoy. Its main flaw is that it is way too short -- I could have used a few more of those costumed fans making armour.
But will it be sneering and mean-spirited towards the fans? Thankfully, no.
"Ringers: Lord of the Fans" is nice. Really nice. Nice to the fans. It's good-hearted, humorous and very geeky; Broadway and Cordova get down there with the fans and treat them as equals. We do get to hear about the more fannish activities (spending six months making a costume), but the fans range from serious and analytical to a bit wacky. They don't look foolish, just geeky and passionate. Which, of course, is precisely what they are.
Ringers, be at peace -- the affectionate "Ringers: Lord of the Fans" is not making fun of you. Instead, it's a quirky, offbeat valentine not only to the fans, but to "Lord of the Rings" itself.