Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

By Guest Reviewer Trehern the Pale
"The blogosphere is changed: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air...Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it..."
Alright, so that isn't exactly the first line to this movie, but I almost got it. Pretty excellent way to start a film: referring to a history that no one yet knows about, setting the stage for what will be the most detailed, intricate and loyal movies ever created. Of course I'm talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy. No amount of reviewing could cover the monstrous amount of feelings I have for this series of films, so I dare not delve much. However, thoughts must be scribed to convince you to experience LOTR for what it is: one of the greatest stories of all time.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Sir Ian McKellan, Sean Bean and Viggo Mortensen

These movies are based on the best-selling and widely-popular series Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Since I was a young lad, these tales have intrigued my imagination like no other medium, and the film adaptations, directed by Jackson, have traveled on that same wavelength.  It's easy to say a film is "one" of your favorites, but Fellowship of the Ring holds hard at #2 in my book.

Now a lot of people think LOTR is an allegory for World War II.  WRONG!  Totally wrong, dude.  From what I've read and studied, Tolkien's ideas for the stories started long before Hitler invaded Poland and engulfed the world in conflict.  In actuality, Tolkien strived to create an original mythology that had as much history behind it as our own world.  It's a story of myth and legend, a story of language and a story of people. Its storytelling pillars are built around higher ideas, like religion, the adversarial relationship of good and evil, the true state of Man and our very souls.  The simple idea of an evil ring drives a story that's really about the strife, sorrow and trials of many different but entertaining characters.

Jackson took this highly-developed novel and its ideas from a page and made it into something that the entire world can see and experience.  Although Fellowship is 90% tourist video to some, to others it is an exploration of the unknown, a struggle with inner demons and a look into a world we will never see.  If you see this only as a stupid fantasy film with magic and monsters, you are totally missing the point, dude.

Now instead of telling you all about the plot and cinematography and what not, here are a few of my favorite scenes.  Just keep in mind that this movie is a personal best, and so you're clearly getting a bias opinion.  If anything, judge the movie for yourself BY WATCHING IT!!  SPOILERS AHEAD!!

The Shire
The beginning of the film takes us into the uncorrupted world of the hobbits, the Shire.  Now this scene may seem meaningless, but when Frodo meets Gandalf the Grey as he rides into town, one instantly wants to be a part of this stress-free and simple film.  How can a movie that deals with such torment and sorrow start so innocently?  The birthday party scene has such mirth to it that you dread the scenes where trouble starts brewing.

You also start seeing the main characters develop; even though most think it's all about Frodo and Samwise, the movie is equally about Gandalf, Merry and Pippin, and later, Strider.  Plus, if I lived in Middle Earth, I'd totally hit up them dames in Bree; solid town.
The Occupy Middle Earth Movement.
Gandalf's Last Words with Frodo
Deep in the Mines of Moria, the Fellowship stops briefly in front of three identical paths.  Gandalf pauses to consider their options, and Frodo mentions that the dark creature Gollum is following them.  Frodo continues by saying it was a pity Bilbo didn't kill Gollum when he had the chance...and Gandalf scolds him:
Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo?
Like a child, Frodo instantly slips into guilt, and wonders why he had said something like that, mentioning that he wishes the ring had never come to him...
So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us...
The best scene in the film isn't a battle, or a shortcut to mushrooms, but these kind words.  Interesting, eh?

The Fall and Redemption of Boromir
Sean Bean [1] pulls off a fantastic performance that sets the stage for the entire series.  It was a pivotal point in the book, and a well-executed scene in the film.  Boromir (Bean), tormented by his inability to bring strength to his weakened city, is tempted by the ring.  Everyone feels Boromir is the antagonist here, but he isn't.  The entire Fellowship is tempted by the ring; it calls to all of them.  Boromir is just the weakest of them.  That doesn't necessarily mean he is evil.  

Boromir's attempted theft of the ring from Frodo sends him to the realization that he is weak, and although it is too late, he does finally recognize the weight of their greater situation.  His final breath is spent redeeming himself by protecting the Fellowship, but his greater accomplishment is that he has convinced Strider (Aragorn) that the courage and greatness of Men is still there and worthwhile.  A most excellent climax to the film.
"Hehehe...dude, our hair is long."  "YEAH! Chicks dig it..."
The soundtrack by Howard Shore is beyond extraordinary.  It is perfect for this type of adventure; nothing to say about it other than that.  I always felt this franchise should have swept the Oscars every year for three consecutive years.  Is that even possible?  If it is, we need a recount a decade later.  Re-release these bitches every year like Lucas does with Star WarsFellowship is a great beginning to a grander trilogy, but this is my personal favorite of all three entries.  From the homey beginnings in the Shire to the unfamiliar adventure that awaits in the perilous Middle Earth, The Fellowship of the Ring needs to be on every single person's DVD shelf.  One of the greatest tales ever written made into one of the greatest films ever.

Ben's Notes:
While I don't have the same personal history with this series as my compatriot, I'm just as impressed as he is with the sheer quality of filmmaking from Jackson and his team. The term "epic" gets thrown around a lot these days, but no other movie (or series) deserves that description as much as this one. The way Jackson sets up the entire world of Middle Earth is masterful, making it feel just as real as our own. The score, production design, cinematography, editing, digital effects, and directing are all astoundingly good, and though I've yet to explore the behind the scenes content, I can't imagine the obstacles the filmmakers must have overcome to successfully translate this material to the big screen. 

Oftentimes when I watch trilogies, it seems that the filmmakers are just stretching out the story ("like butter scraped over too much bread") to fill three movies' worth in order to get more money from audiences. But the massive distance between the Shire and Mordor makes it plausible - nay, necessary - that this story span multiple films. In fact, there's a lot in Fellowship of the Ring that Jackson DIDN'T include in his film adaptation that could have made the series even longer. Anyone who's read the book may remember the utterly worthless and annoying character of Tom Bombadil; thankfully, Jackson and his co-writers decided that he wasn't worth exploring on film.

From the innocence of the Shire to devastating loss in the mines of Moria [2], The Fellowship of the Ring is an exercise in excellence. It's high quality storytelling with spectacular performances and a conflict that is seemingly insurmountable, making our hero's eventual success - c'mon, you know he makes it! - that much more legendary. I can't wait to rewatch the rest of the series.

[1]  "For England, James?"     "No...for me!"
[2]  The shot of Gandalf falling in the mine rivals Alan Rickman's plunge at the end of Die Hard for Ben's favorite "falling shot" of all time.
Layeth down your lunch money, halfling, for we are the free bullies of Middle Earth!

1 comment:

Panther Joe said...

Wait, text cuts here on NJNM!?!?

Hole ona cuppa minnets here, playas.