on August 18, 2002
If you have never read the book, or read it once and forgot it, or just don't care much about it, you may enjoy this film. It is beautifully made and has many fine qualities.
If you are a devotee of the books, have read them with love and understanding, if Tolkien is important to you....be prepared either to forget temporarily the plot which Tolkien developed or to suffer repeated great shocks and disappointments.
I have not the heart to go into a lot of detail, but I'll give just a few examples (for I do not want you to think that I object to the omission of the Old Forest and Bombadil--no, they had to go--or to some trivial change or deletion.)
Saruman is one of the few ambivalent characters in the book--a too-clever man who plays his own game. In this film he is just a tool of Sauron from the start. The subtlety of his character is destroyed.
Merry and Pippin start out as minor juvenile delinquents. They join Frodo and Sam more or less accidentally.
Gimli is a buffoon. Legolas hardly exists except as a machine-like archer.
Aragorn, in the film, does not want to be King--he has "given that up long ago." Really. I thought he had been spending his whole life preparing to claim his rightful throne. (I guess that's why, in the film, he finds the shards of Narsil in Rivendell rather than carrying the Sword That Was Broken with him.)
In this politically correct age, we cannot slight the ladies, can we?--and it's a long wait to get to Eowyn. So we'll just have Arwen show up at Weathertop to save the whole Fellowship with her sword and fast horse. Charming. This idiotic scene should please Xena fans, though it is a little disconcerting to see Aragorn reduced to being Gabrielle.
Elrond Half-elven. Ah. My favorite character in the film. "Venerable he seemed as a king crowned with many winters, and yet hale as a tried warrior..." is how the Master describes him (I, 274). His appearance instead inspired in me an acute nostalgia, for he reminded me of some of the sorts of people I remember from my college days, who existed on the fringes of academe, usually by selling beads, incense, and other, less-legal things from basement shops in college communities. Ah, yes, good old Elrond Half-hippie. (I expected him to try to calm down the film's farcical Council by offering them marijuana.)
The final battle scene is a wonderful example of the director not knowing where to stop. The "Boromir-as-pincushion" scene(a.k.a. "You can't keep a good man down") goes from being appropriately tragic to inappropriately hilarious (will he get up yet again??), while Aragorn's dismemberment of the Uruk-hai leader makes one wonder if this Mortensen fellow should have starred in Gladiator.
Did anyone else notice the final music (when Aragorn talks to Gimli and Legolas)? I swear it's like something out of Braveheart--which is, I think, the film the director really wanted to make. I expected bagpipers to come marching up and Aragorn to cry "Freedom!"
Not content with many extra-close close-ups of the Ruling Ring, the director decided it should say a few words occasionally, and recite some poetry ("Ash nazg durbatuluk," etc.) I think the Ring has more lines than Legolas.
The Lidless Eye might be more effective if it were horizontal, not vertical.
Much more could be said, but not by me. Words fail. This ill-judged mangling of the works of a great author is very unfortunate. There was no reason to change so much.
on August 16, 2002
My biggest criticism of the movie is that it tries too hard to be an epic, and as a result has its moments of grandeur, and unfortunately, its moments of stultifying boredom. I'm sympathetic to the problem the director ran into: keeping true to Tolkien's vast vision while making a movie that didn't sprawl for six hours. As someone once remarked, "more about less" -- I'm sure Tolkien fans would've have complained, but I'd rather irritate a few people than make a bad movie. Don't get me wrong -- I've read the Hobbit countless times, the Lord of the Rings trilogy several times, and finally I've actually read Simarillion twice (for this I believe I deserve significant financial compensation) -- so I don't mean to disparage Tolkien's vision. But to think that one can reproduce the magic of the trilogy by being literally faithful to the text is simply naive. In short, this is probably a good movie if you are a Tolkien fan, but a disappointment if you are looking for combination of action, drama, and special effects (well, they did this pretty well, except for the obscene "eye of sauron" -- what the [heck] were they thinking?).
on August 15, 2002
This is a movie that takes you out of the reality of this world and into a startlingly believable world of fantasy...as no movie has before. There are elements of BRAVEHEART and the like here and there, but over all, it bridges the world of reality and the world of fantasy.
It didn't seem three hours long to me at all. The sheer imagery and the music had such effect on me that time didn't seem to be elapsing and I was rather surprised when I realized this movie was drawing to a close.
The best I can do is say that I personally feel this is the greatest fantasy or science fiction movie I've seen. I know that there are those who will disagree with me. There are changes from the novel and this is necessary, unfortunately, to reach the movie audience. If you will notice, those few movies that cling to the source material generally fail completely to be good movies.
This time around, I won't go into great detail. I will say though that this is a movie that everyone should see, if only to satisfy your own curiosity. There's no other way you're going to find out if you like it or not than to go and see it.
on August 11, 2002
Well... where to begin? I myself have read the entire trilogy no less than 20 times. I've also read ALL of Tolkien's supplemental works as well as some of his unrelated poetry and prose. I can speak some of the ancient languages Tolkien used to develope some of his own languages in Lord of the Rings (Welsh, Cornish, etc.) So I imagine you could say that I am a nutfanaticgeekandwhatever of J.R.R. Tolkien.
As far as cinematics are concerned, the movie was excellent. It portrayed most of the characters, places, languages, as they were very well supposed to be. The way The Shire was depicted left me in tears as I know that we will never see a place and people so happy and carefree and beautiful while we live on earth.
The battle in which Sauron was deprived of the Ring was absolutely stunning. The orcs were, for the most part, well-done- although no Orc was ever any shade of green. The detail of weapons and armor was exquisite. The scenery altogether made me want to gather an army and claim New Zealand for myself.
The story line, however, was not very well stuck to. Some of the most terrifying and bizzare and entertaining parts of The Fellowship of the Ring were left out entirely. The part where Fatty Bolger awaited the Ring-Wraiths at Crickhollow, the Old Forest, Tom Bombadil, the terror of the Barrow Downs, etc (if you've read the book)... all were left out entirely! Some of the characters were changed as well. Instead of meeting Glorfindel on the way to Rivendell, they met Arwen (va-va-voom by the way!) Galadriel wasn't even as remotely beautiful as she was in the book. I could go on...
Altogether, it was... better than okay. I loved it for this, hated it for that. But I'll probably watch it as many times as I've read it. I'd like very much for Christopher Tolkien to write a review here.
Ffarwelio y nes trenydd!
on August 11, 2002
The Fellowship of the Ring is a three-hour film that feels like a mere 90 minutes. The story is so well-paced and the characters so absorbing that one hardly notices the passage of time. When the film ends, it's as though one has awakened from a trance, and there's an acute feeling of loss, of wanting the story to go on. Happily, two more installments in the epic fantasy saga have already been filmed and will be released in months to come.
For those familiar with Tolkien's works, no review is needed. The Fellowship of the Ring is simply a great movie. For those who really only prefer comedies, romantic melodramas, and those odd foreign films, this movie is simply not for you. However, for lovers of action/adventure, suspense, horror/thriller, fantasy/sci-fi, and high drama there's something for you in this movie. The movie is paced like an action-adventure film, acted like a piece of high drama, and pervaded with gorgeous special effects which blend with the story and support the cast rather than upstaging them. There's also a good bit of horror in the film, though it's far from being a gore-fest. It's not fundamentally a violent film, but it doesn't pull punches in depicting the bad guys as thoroughly, nightmarishly evil either.
You've never watched a movie like this before because there's never been a movie like this made before. It's a fantastic movie for a night alone or a party, and appeals to people of all ages. If you want a movie to pick you up from your easy chair and take you away to another world for a while, this is one you won't want to miss.
on August 10, 2002
Occasionally, a controversy arises in advance over whether Hollywood can do a book justice in the movie version. In the case of Lord of the Rings, make that three movies. New Line Cinema gave New Zealand director Peter Jackson hundreds of millions of dollars to film the entire J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy. These were shot simultaneously in Jackson's native New Zealand. The first, The Fellowship of the Rings, was released last Christmas and is now on video and DVD. The second will open in theaters in December, the third in December 2003.
So far, Jackson has triumphed. While some purists have complained about certain elements of the movie (for example, about the lessening of the Hobbits' roles in fighting the forces of evil), most fans seem quite pleased. The movie has been a huge hit both here and abroad, which indicates its appeal goes far beyond the books' rabid supporters.
The Lord of the Rings is an epic tale about courage and the dangers of power. It takes place in a time long ago in a place called Middle Earth, which both is and is not of our earth. It is peopled by far more than mere humans beings. There are hobbits and dwarfs, elves and goblins, wizards and assorted strange creatures.
Once upon a time, a great but evil wizard forged powerful rings in the fires of the Mountain of Doom. The mightiest of these he kept for himself, but he lost it during a great battle. One day, a hobbit named Bilbo [Ian Holm] found it and kept it. Now he has decided to pass it on to his favorite nephew, Frodo [Elijah Wood]. There is great danger for Frodo because the wizard will stop at nothing to get it back. With the help of another wizard, Gandolf [Ian McKellan], and others, Frodo begins a long and treacherous journey to where the ring was created, for that is the only place where it can be destroyed.
The movie is a visual feast. Computer generated imagery techniques have truly come of age. When you mix these cinematic tricks with the naturally awesome and exotic landscapes of New Zealand, the effect is magical. Some, but not all, of this is lost on the small screen, for The Lord of the Rings is designed to be seen larger than life.
One of the movie's great accomplishments is the way it seamlessly matches the small and large characters. You would swear that Elijah Wood is a midget in real life, and Ian McKellan a giant.
The cast is superb. Especially notable are McKellan as Gandolf, Holm as Bilbo, and Wood as Frodo. These actors will forever be known for these roles. Also mesmerizing is Kate Blanchett in her fairly small role as Queen Galadriel.
The Lord of the Rings will not please all viewers. It runs three hours. The characters travel on and on and on, in much the same way Peter O'Toole was forever trooping across the desert in the 1962 classic, Lawrence of Arabia. Also, because this is the first in a trilogy, it doesn't have a true climax. It simply ends with the main characters planning their next moves. I personally can't wait to find out what they are.
on August 7, 2002
First off, I want to say that I enjoyed this movie and found it better than I'd expected, with wonderful special effects and a clear attempt to be faithful to Tolkien's structure and plot. It was clear that this was not just another Hollywood vehicle but a serious effort - from the casting to the script.
Even so, I found some significant shortcomings in the movie. I felt that the book's emotional and spititual essence did not reverberate through this movie. Perhaps this was simply because this was an "introductory" movie, one of only several to follow and the director felt that the plot needed to be emphasized. But I didn't find myself thinking about this movie for days nor did I find that it had an emotional resonance, the kind of resonance that makes you want to see the movie again and again (just as I wanted to re-read the books). There were a few words of wisdom that stood out but, for the most part, it seemed as though emphasis was given to action and adventures at the loss of characterization.
I know there are plenty out there who will disagree with me and I can certainly agree that Hollywood could have done worse. Elijah Wood is a warm and winning Frodo and others in the cast are equally appealing - to a point. But I urge viewers to think carefully about what makes a movie a classic, especially movies which have elements of fantasy. I'd argue that there has to be something enduring, a movie that goes beyond state of the art special effects and spectacle and gives equal weight to Tolkien's words, language and enduring soul. I didn't quite find that depth in this movie.
on August 6, 2002
Let me say that The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the BEST movies ever made and I am VERY happy to have it on DVD. But beyond the movie itself, the 2 DVD set I just bought was very disappointing. The "extra" features included are nothing but the same interviews and behind-the-scenes footage rehashed nearly a dozen times over the course of four TV features and a dozen or so web-featurettes. By the time I was finished with the nearly two-and-a-half hours of Extra features I was almost sick with boredom from seeing actors and the director make the SAME comments from the SAME interviews nearly half-a-dozen times in each of the different features and many of the featurettes. The Two Towers footage was the only real treat. What upsets me most is that I have to now wait THREE MONTHS in order to BUY THE MOVIE AGAIN! - just to see the additional 1/2 hour of footage not included in the theatrical release (among other extra features - rumored to be more in depth than the ones included here). Because this was such a great movie, I did not want to wait another three months to view it at home. If you can wait another three months to own the definitive version of this excellent movie, then I recommend it. ...
on August 6, 2002
I waited for two or three years for this film to come out. I have been a Tolkien fan since the age of eight, when I read The Hobbit. I waited and hoped that I would not be disappointed. I was not. Indeed, it transended all of my wildest dreams. I was especially impressed with Rivendale; it was exactly as I had pictured it in my mind. The special effects struck me as better than any other movie that I have seen in my life. It seamed more realistic because of the setting. It didn't have to incorporate any of our modern day junk into it.
One of the things that made me the happiest was to find out who was playing Saruman. I have long been a fan of Christopher Lee, and feel that he doesn't usually get a part that befits him. I haven't seen him in anything for a long time and it was wonderful watching an old villian return in honor and glory. Especially since he is the last one alive of the great horror movie group of the '50's and '60's. This role seemed to fit him wonderfully. He brought more life to the role than I had ever imagined was possible. I can only hope that he does as well in the next installment.
As in all films, this one is not perfect. The thing that bugged me the most was the way that Merry and Pippin were portrayed. They are more like blundering idiots than intelligent spy-like characters that they are. They don't pull their weight as they did in the books. There were things that were skipped that were desperately needed. The thing that pulls the whole going away together was not used. They needed to show more of how hobbit-like Frodo was, instead of making him seem more like a human, which might be easier for us to relate to, but that is what Aaragorn is there for. Also, the introducing of characters that are not supposed to be there was very annoying.
On the whole, this was a magnificent effort. The actors were well chosen and the film was well researched. They looked beyond just the trilogy and looked at The Lost Tales for more information, which helped cinematic viewers that want to know all of the secrets without any hassle. A commendable film.
on August 6, 2002
Back in the 70s, viewers from around the world praised the epic journey known as Star Wars. It was a grand adventure and George Lucas changed the art of filmmaking forever, usually known for being the "creator of special effects". It had everything a brilliant film could have: Emotion, wit, imagination, fantastic characters, gripping storyline and genuine special and visual effects. Never since that trilogy has a film created so much of what I stated above. But that was before Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of probably the greatest novel of the 20th century. I'm talking about The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R Tolkien's beloved classic has finally been adapted to live-action films, which includes The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, which will all be released annually, with Fellowship released in theaters in December 2001. This movie had a lot to live up to. After the horrible failure of Ralph Bashki's animated Lord of the Rings movies, filmmakers did not bother to touch the epic classic. That until it was announced in 1998/1999 that filming would begin in 1999 for all three films, Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. So, I was there at the theater on that fateful day of December 18, 2001, eager to see if the movie lived up to Tolkien's beloved beauty. I was so relieved to see one of, if not my absolute, favorite book of all time faithfully reproduced on screen and more. Star Wars: Episodes 4-6 were the last movies to accomplish something this great. It has everything a great movie should have and more. The film features real emotion, terror, character and a great set of visual effects. And unlike Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Fellowship of the Ring can appeal to viewers who haven't read the book. If you haven't read the book, it's still a great movie. The story is THE story that started fantasy. The Dark Lord Sauron seeks to enslave the free peoples of the mythical realm of Middle-earth by recovering a mighty ring of power he forged in the fires beneath Mount Doom. After many generations, the ruling ring, cut from Sauron's hand by the human hero Isildur, has fallen by chance into the keeping of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). Guided by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and assisted by companions representing the free races of elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits, Bilbo's heir, Frodo (Elijah Wood), embarks on a perilous quest to destroy the ring before Sauron's minions can recapture it. The actors are terrific. The fantastic cast is why this movie is just so good. Elijah Wood plays the wide-eyed and innocent hero Frodo Baggins and his faithful partner Samwise Gamgee played by Sean Astin. Let's briefly run through the cast:
Ian McKellan, however, does not appear in this film. He is transformed into the old wizard we know and love. Viggo Mortensen plays the part of Aragorn pretty well. Physically he's fit for the job and is a fantastic actor. Sean Bean is usually an actor for villains of many flicks. Here, he joins the Fellowship as Boromir of Gondor. He's perfect. I had not heard of Orlando Bloom before he was announced. Though he is fit for the job of the elf archer. How cool is this? John Rhys-Davies delivers some humor and plays our favorite dwarf well. There pretty well-done, Frodo and Sam. Pippin and Merry also provide high-spirits. Christopher Lee is famous for villains. He plays Saruman at just the right speed. Liv Tyler is a decent actress but her role as Arwen surprised me. It's her most realistic role yet. I was skeptical about this. However, Cate Blanchett delivers Galadriel. The set pieces are absolutely staggering. New Zealand is perfect for the role of the wondrous Middle-Earth. From the Shire to the Great River Anduin to the mines of Moria, Director Peter Jackson has given us an exact replica of Middle-Earth. Everything is lush and warm, from Hobbiton to Rivendell, with the help of a few computers. This makes Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone look like it was filmed in a garden shed. The Visual Effects have won an Academy Award. Their very strong and very realistic and blend in with the environment perfectly. They put Harry Potter's CGI effects to shame. There's a cave troll, a demon Balrog, the slinky Gollum (who is only shown for a small while), forest trolls and the mixed orc breeds called the Uruk-Hai. This is filmmaking at it's best. Director Peter Jackson has created a classic and the upcoming films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King will collide with The Fellowship of the Ring to create a memorable trilogy that will be cherished for decades in the future. Folks, put this film with Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI and the Indiana Jones trilogy. It's a keeper. And now the DVD. The DVD is loaded with extras including three in-depth documentaries, "Welcome to Middle-Earth", "Quest for the Ring" and "Passage to Middle-Earth). There are 15 featurettes first made for lordoftherings.net that have interviews with Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellan, Orlando Bloom and more. There's theatrical trailers, TV Spots, Enya's "May it Be" music video, 3-minute preview of EA's video game, "The Two Towers" and exclusive DVD-ROM features. Now we get to the good stuff. First is a 10-minute preview of the next installment, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers". It hosts some new (and old) footage of the movie and goes behind-the-scenes. And last is the 3-minute preview for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended" DVD due out for a November 12 release, which will include 30 minutes of never-before-seen-footage incorporated into the film. This is the only way to see the Theatrical Version of the movie. It has fantastic special features and is a must-own.