Skip to comments.Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring ( reviewed by Tolkien Scholar )
Posted on 12/10/2001 2:57:51 AM PST by maquiladora
Friday night here in Toronto, I had the privilege of watching Peter Jackson's "The Fellowship of the Ring." Alliance Atlantis, the film's distributor in Canada, kindly invited me to the press preview screening. Given the enormous challenge Peter Jackson and his team faced, we should commend them for a wonderful piece of film-making.
To convey the vast and mythic scope of Tolkien's masterpiece in a three-hour film would have made most directors (and studios) recoil in dread. Yet Jackson and the other talented individuals have set out to present the greatness of "The Lord of the Rings". The film is magnificent visually. For instance, the opening draws on the history of the One Ring from various parts of the book and, with grandeur, dramatizes the essential information and establishes the serious epic tone. Throughout the entire film, we see key aspects of Tolkien's "sub-creation," his invented history and world. There are the necessary points, such as the wretched background of Gollum, and the more obscure, such as the origin of the different races of orcs.
The flim also portrays effectively the idyllic pastoral life of the hobbits. Jackson seems equally at home in the deep, dark dungoens of Isengard or in the light, lovely land of Lothlorien. (If the film doesn't win the awards for art direction and cinematography, a fix must be in.) There is a vivid blend of actual landscape, animation, and computer generated graphics. Readers will always have their own unique visions of the Middle-earth realms. Jackson and his great crew of artists, artisans, and crafts people created a spectacle that does reflect the essence of Tolkien's masterpiece.
Another strong feature is the sound. The score never seems to dominate the action or dialogue, but rather nicely augments the scenes. When the music is silent, the breathing, grunts, and clash of weapons heighten the tension. The ballads by Enya sound lovely. Many of us in the cinema stayed throughout the closing credits mainly to enjoy the music.
The acting, overall, was polished and genuine. Elijah Wood's Frodo appeared vulnerable and frightened, while still displaying inner fortitude. Sir Ian McKellen's Gandalf was indeed majestic. Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, and Cate Blanchett also performed well. All the actors appeared committed to their roles and endeavoured to bring out the best in them.
The pace of the film is brisk. As a Tolkien scholar, I would have preferred more reflective and poignant moments. When Gandalf convinces Bilbo to give up the Ring is in the film, and it's very moving. Other scenes, such as those with Gandalf and Frodo, or Aragorn and the hobbits, or Gimli and Legolas are quite abbreviated, which may impinge on character development. I'm sure it was agonizingly difficult for the screenwriters to cut and condense so much of Tolkien's great text. Perhaps some of the action sequences could have been trimmed and more time given for calm reflection. A number of key moments do appear, such as Gandalf's words to Frodo about having pity for Gollum. The Saruman subplot receives significant screen time, with some added spectacular scenes, yet the time in Rivendell and Lothlorien was briefer than I would have wished.
Further, many Tolkien fans and scholars might object to the alterations and additions to the author's text. They would understand that screenwriters must edit and paraphrase the book's dialogue and scenes, especially with a work as rich and extensive as Tolkien's. Perhaps the writers were concerned that some of Tolkien's wordings might seem too archaic or formal to a general movie audience, one that hasn't read the books and doesn't know (or appreciate) the august nature of works like the Anglo-Saxon "Beowulf" or the Old Norse "Poetic Edda".
For many Tolkien enthuasists, "The Lord of the Rings is like a sacred text: you modify it at your peril. It remains to be seen if some changed scenes, such as the attack of the Ringwraiths at the edge of Rivendell or the Gandalf and Saruman confrontation, will upset Tolkien fans. When Tolkien's own wordings essentially remain, such as in the Gandalf and Balrog battle or in the Aragorn and Boromir scene near the end, they come across exceedingly well.
In the final analysis, anyone can find flaws and quibbles with any film, great or otherwise. Given the monumental task of bringing to the screen Tolkien's vast epic masterpiece, New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson have done an amazing and admirable feat. The film does display the lofty and serious tone of the books of "The Lord of the Rings" and honours its subject matter. Some people may quarrel with certain scene changes and dialogue choices. Still, the look, the feel, the overall impression is Tolkienian. And for that, this Tolkien admirer is grateful. Daniel Timmons, Ph.D.
The film gets four pluses out of five.
Yes. The Lord of the Rings lives up to its expectations. The film is a magnificent adventure film with fantastic vista shots. It is also the most violent film ever that has got a PG11 rating in Sweden. It is exciting and at times brutal. Heads roll and creatures from hell roar in terror in the faces of the gaping spectators.
A good film pulls us into its reality and Lord of the Rings manages to capture the world of Tolkien. Peter Jackson skillfully integrates the dramatic scenery of New Zeeland with computer effects as the story evolves from the peaceful and rounded hills of the Shire to icey mountain tops, dangerous rivers and the beautiful elven places Rivendell and Lothlorien.
The almost three hour long film starts off with a prologue about the evil Sauron, the different rings and how Isildur during a gigantic battle becomes the owner of the most powerful ring. The fascinating villain of the books, Gollum, shows up in the prologue and is also shown in a glimpse later on.
Peter Jackson is faithful to the spirit of Tolkien, even if the film doesnt follow the books dogmatically. The most faithful readers might miss a few details or get upset when the elven that saves Frodo when he is injured is Arwen (Liv Tyler). But the film benefits from her expanded role. Its possible the non-Tolkien reader will perhaps scratch their heads from time to time.
But most of all this is a dramatic adventure to get absorbed by after a slow start. The film has got the perfect actors. Elijah Wood was born to play Frodo, Viggo Mortensen is an unbeatable hero as Aragorn and heavy-weighters like Ian McEllen and Cate Blanchett can make even the most high-flown lines to sound believeble. The Lord of the Rings is a saga with a great seriousness. The heros are unsecure and doubtful. The evil ones are selfsecure an arrogant when they think they can control the temptations of power. Its all convincing, from details like dirt under Frodos nails to wizard Saruman's (Christopher Lee) gigantic and horrifying tower where his evil army is grown. Good. Now I want to see the sequel.
Director Peter Jackson has transformed a literary epic into a feast for the eyes and mind, bringing picturesque Hobbiton to life from each hand-crafted house down to every single original teaspoon.
The narration explains the significance of Saurons ring. Whether good or evil prevails depends upon who has the magical ring. In the wrong hands, it is capable of destroying Middle-Earth.
Relating to Frodo
On his journey, he is pursued by the evil nine Black Riders sent to capture him. It is not long before Frodo is embroiled in a series of vicious, bloody battles that, unlike the Harry Potter film, are definitely aimed at an older audience. I found much of this part truly terrifying. At one point they are surrounded by swirling mist so realistic that I could feel a chill on the back of my neck. And the ferocious orcs are even more terrifying on screen. They are grey, wrinkly, slime- coloured creatures which will surely play a part in many nightmares in weeks to come.
The orcs, together with the Uruk-hai warriors and a nasty cave troll in the Moria mines, attack Frodo as we follow him on his journey. The first 30 minutes of the film are a little slow, though I was happy enough immersing myself in Middle-earth and learning about hobbit craft and culture. But from then on its all action.
The story really works as a film and, like the tales themselves, the movie version has an appeal thats bound to last. Sadly for JK Rowling, her Harry Potter simply does not have it on the same grand scale.
When Liv Tyler appears in a stunning cream-beaded dress that sets off her dark hair, she makes you gasp at her beauty. As the ethereal but tough elf Arwen, she performs brilliantly, particularly as she speaks largely in elf talk accompanied by subtitles.
It is gritty and scary in a down-to-earth yet mystical way that make you believe there could be a little of the hobbit in everyone. However, despite its PG certificate, I really would not recommend parents to take young children along its far too gory for that.
But to everyone else, The Fellowship of the Ring will prove irresistible. It is a hugely satisfying watch and a chance to enjoy a little escapism for an enchanting couple of hours.
What's stunning about Peter Jackson's film is the way he has married computer-generated special effects with the extravagantly varied landscapes of New Zealand to create a mythical kingdom. I don't think I have seen anything so epic and visionary since the silent films of Fritz Lang--and they were made entirely within the studios and under artificial light. Tolkien-maniacs may dispute the adaptation, but it is beyond question that a huge imaginative translation has been made. You believe in these characters, you yearn to be part of their quest. And when the film ends--with two characters setting off across a sombre lake in a small boat--you want to be told you can come back next week for another three hours.
Will it play like Harry Potter? I don't know. There are passages here with subtitles; it's hard to recall the names of every character; the first hour is leisurely. But The Lord of The Rings is the real thing--a movie sensation. it's made my Christmas already.
Maybe, maybe not. There are several things going against LOTR.
First of all, HP was driven by kids who loved the HP Books. Plus their moms viewd HP as fun, non offensive material.
Second, HP had wider commercialzation prior to release. Toys had been in stores even before the filming began.
Third, studio hype. It's not that New Line HASN'T hyped LOTR, but they've hyped it to a pretty narrow - IMO - demographic.
Fourth, and this is just a personal bias, I think A LOT of parents waited for HP, saving discretionary income for that special day/week. HP opened big, dropped off pretty big as well. Oceans 11 beat it this weekend. Thing is, parents who had to choose between HP or LOTR probably gave the nod to HP. As a result, and again I don't know how big an effect it is, I think money spent on HP won't be available to take a family to LOTR.
And then there's the "violence/scariness" issue. Lots of kids under 12 who went to see HP probably won't be going to LOTR because their parents have heard - even in the enthusiastic reviews - about arrows in eyes, graphic battle scenes, etcetera.
That doesn't even take into account some of the scenes that might cause kids to sleep with the lights on. For instance even my 11 year old son, who has been exposed to a lot of stuff through his older siblings, came to me about the scene in the trailer where Frodo and Sam hide from the Ringwraiths. As they crouch under a tree, the Raith's hand sweeps past. I have no idea why, but it shook him.
Finally, and again it's just an opinion, I think lots of people, especially women, have no desire to expose their kids or themselves to orcs and Raiths, and all the other dark creatures of Middle Earth. HP was about as deep as they'd willingly go into that forbidding realm.
I hope your correct. It would be wonderful for LOTR to get the opening it so deserves. But from what I've heard from the Mom's and other women in my area, not to mention not just a little input from listeners at the woman oriented radio station where I work, quite a few don't care a whit about JRRT, LOTR, or anything of that genre. Instead they're ready for a "Fried Green Tomatos".
Personally it's my view that while quite a few women do appriciate JRRT, and even greater number don't have the mental acumen to grasp it. "The Hobbit" was about as far as their attention span allowed their interest journey.
WHAT FABULOUS BOOKS. You know they are good when you cry because Fili and Kili died trying to save Thorin.
I can't wait for the movie.
LOL! Yeah, that's hilarious. I wonder if any heads rolled?
But does it really matter how much it grosses?
Not at all. It's amazing to me that the film(s) were actually completed and apparently as complete in Tolkein Spirit as possible.
But, I might add at something like a hundred million a film, these movies will reap HUGE profits no matter how many opening night screens. And I think their legs will far outdistance HP.
How many hobbits does it take to change a light bulb?
One to complain that the light bulb isn't working, Five to hold a meeting to decide what to do about it, Twenty to form an expedidtion to the fabled Lightbulb mines of Mythrill, Thirty to throw a going away party, One to ask Gandalf for directions, One to sell into slavery when the petty cash runs out, Five to get lost through natural wastage (bandits, murderers, monsters etc), One to thrown to the Dragon that guards the Lightbulb mine, Two to carry the lightbulbs, Five to find a large, sword-welding barbarian to escort the lightbulbs home, Thirty to throw a safe return party, Five to find an elf tall enough to change the lightbulb, Five to compose ballads of daring, heroism, sacrifice and lightbulbs, Finally another two-hundred to appear in the subsequent Tolkien books.
Here's hoping that Jackon has got it right.
Regarding the release of LOTR:FOTR. It's opening in 10,000 cinemas worldwide next week. Whether that'll be enough to gross a lot of dollars/pounds/etc remains to be seen.
Did I type what? The article I've posted? No, I copied/pasted it direct from TORN.
As for this version of Tolkien, I'm not worried about abbreviating charaacter development as much as cutting it out all together as is the case with Tom Bombadil
That by reason of saying that I think from a business standpoint the LOTR cycle was well thought-out.
Depends if LOTR will be shown at many screens as HP (>8,000)
Depends if LOTR will be shown at many screens as HP (>8,000). In my area, some of the multi-complexes had 4-5 screens dedicated to HP. Never saw that before.
I have not given in to the temptation of viewing them yet, but it's your choice. Each is about 2 minutes long.
This is such obnoxious drivel. There are a lot of people who fit that category. I guess you have never heard a football player interviewed.
Not to quibble but.......if what you mean as a "bigger opening" is $$$$$$$, then this may not happen due to the running time of the film (3 hrs). This may mean less showings per theater than HP @ 2 hrs and therefore less tickets sold. Plus, the distributors bombarded the public with 9000 (?) screens the first weekend of HP. I'm unsure of how many screens LOTR will get.
We could see the rare (read: Titanic) occurance of a film having more screens it's second weekend than it's opening weekend.
Oy vey. Turgid, mostly unreadable, overblown fiction as Holy Writ. Can we maybe crank up New Line Cinema's marketing machine just a BIT higher, people?
I can't wait for the movie to come out - at least it'll keep the "LOTR is the greatest thing since sliced bread" crowd off the streets at night.
I'm a big boy, and I know what I do by posting this. I await and accept your flames, slings, and arrows for not supporting tripemeister Tolkien's immediate canonization.
I wouldn't, and I won't be seeing it. My point and hope is that everybody ELSE who is talking up New Line Cinema's latest financial security vehicle will actually GO SEE IT, leaving FR safe again for the likes of cheese and moose threads.
I know what you mean. While watching "Guys and Dolls" yesterday and all I could think of was Aragorn and Arwen:
When you see some guy reach for stars in the sky
You can bet that he's doing it for some doll.
By their deeds you shall know them!