A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

September 4, 2010

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings

In the nerdish circles I inhabit there are people who have strong opinions about these movies. People who denigrate them as a crass popularization of Tokien’s masterwork. They point to the liberties that Peter Jackson took in adapting the books to the screen (and I’m sure I’ll talk at length about some of the more radical changes tomorrow when we review The Two Towers.) I am not amongst those people. From the very first I have been absolutely enthralled by these films.

Back in 2001 when this movie first came out Amanda and I started a three year quest. We took every friend and relative to see these movies as Christmas gifts. We took her father (whose knowledge and memory of the books is legendary in her family) and her mother. We took her brother, my brother and my sisters. We took our mothers and our friends. We went ourselves to midnight shows and sat in almost empty theaters. In the end we each saw this movie, and its sequels, probably about twelve or thirteen times each in the theaters during their first runs.

As such, watching this tonight, it is like a homecoming. This movie starts after the prologue which sets the tone and introduces the epic scale of the story with Gandalf the Grey riding on his cart into Hobbiton, surrounded by the rural beauty of this simple land. After nine years and with every frame of the movie carved into my memory I see it very much from his point of view. Arriving here once again in the peace and tranquility of the Shire I feel like I’m arriving back at a place I had almost forgotten. It’s been far too long since I was last here, in Middle Earth.

What Peter Jackson has done here, and what I love so very much about this movie in particular in the trilogy, is take the world that Tolkein created (forged from the trenches of World War I and his love of epic Nordic poems such as the Kalevala) and bring it to life on the screen. More than the story itself, more than the perfect casting for absolutely every character, it is the way that Middle Earth is brought to the screen that amazes me. The verdant fields of the Shire, the wasted land of Mordor, the ancient grace of Rivendell and Lothlorien… these are places that had existed only in illustrations or imaginations until Jackson and his army of talented artists brought them to life. It is the world itself that is my favorite character.

I’m pleased to see, it having been several years since I last watched this movie, that it has hardly aged at all. Naturally, since the world of Middle Earth is not our world, there is nothing in the costumes or setting or even the hairstyles that dates the film. Everything on the screen has been created specifically for this one purpose. The only thing that might have aged are the special effects, but happily they have not. Peter Jackson chose exactly the right time to make these films – just when the technology had reached the level where anything that a director can imagine can be brought to vivid life on the screen (if sufficient funds and time are available.) There is not a moment in this movie that requires suspension of disbelief. There are no seams that I can see or flaws in the numerous complex effects used. I can actually believe that Peter just took a camera crew to Middle Earth and found races of little people to work alongside his human sized actors. Even after watching all the special features and making of documentaries and listening to all four commentary tracks and going to see the traveling Lord of the Rings movie exhibit at the museum so that I know every trick and effect was accomplished I still feel like I’m really there. That’s a pretty significant achievement.

Another thing that stands the test of time and instantly throws me back into those darkened theaters where I first witnessed this world. From the very first, when the screen is still dark and before even the narration of Galadriel has begun there is the music. The first of many great themes that Howard Shore brought forth and entwined together to support the astounding visuals. Howard uses the languages and words of Tolkien’s creation to weave a kind of spell. They drive the action, the beauty, the emotion, the power.

I am ensorcelled by these movies. They may not be one hundred percent faithful to the books, but they are a major accomplishment and by far the greatest fantasy films yet made. They fill me with awe and wonder, and they take me to another world – one that has long been only within my own imagination and dreams. A world that it is a great pleasure to visit once again this weekend.


Related reading:

There are many works throughout the internets that were inspired by these movies. Here are my two favorites:

DM of the Rings uses stills from the movies to tell the tale as it would be if Lord of the Rings were a D&D campaign. It’s great stuff, since so much of what Gary Gygax used for inspiration in the creation of D&D came from Tolkien.

The Very Secret Diaries tells the story behind the story from the POV of the characters in the movie – with a fairly tongue in cheek and not-altogether-SFW bent.

September 4, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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