Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Review: 'Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

SAW the Lord of the Rings movie with Gail. Thoughts, with minor spoilers:

1. I enjoyed it.

2. Making normal-size actors into hobbits was very clever. For the first few minutes I tried to figure out how it was done, then I just gave up and let myself enjoy it, which is the mark of good special effects: they don't call attention to themselves as special effects, but create the illusion of verisimilitude. Nicely done, guys. The hobbits correctly had hair on their feet, and correctly went barefoot at last some of the time. Thanks. In fact, they acted and looked pretty much what I expected hobbits to act and look like.

3. You killed Tom Bombadil! You bastards! Okay, admittedly, Tom isn't exactly a central character, in fact, he doesn't have anything to do with the plot at all, but he and Goldberry are too damn colorful for their own good, and it's a shame he had to be left out. The Affair of the Scary Barrow Wights also apparently didn't make it into the script. Like Tom, the barrow wights are just a deus ex machina to get a gun into a drawer in the first act so it can be pulled out in the third act, but still, I'll always remember the standing stones on the hill, like broken teeth protruding from green gums, and the wind 'hissing' over the grass... Mmmmm, barrow wights...

4. Aragorn as grunge rocks.

5. And speaking of grunge, grit, grime and just plain dirt, what's with that? A couple of shots of the Ring in Frodo's hand made it clear his hand was just plain grimy, with dirt in the creases of his palm and his in his fingerprints, and his nails bitten very short with grime under them. Frodo the auto mechanic. Huh? In at least one of the shots, if I recall correctly, he should have been perfectly clean: he had just been rescued by Arwen and resuscitated at Rivendell. What's with the obvious grime? Oh, and about that Ring: there are major continuity problems with the Ring and its chain. One minute it's on a chain, the next it's lying loose in Frodo's hand, the next it's back on the chain. Couldn't the director decide?

6. Legolas was good. Gimli was underused, and almost a figure of fun, which is a shame; he should have been the most fearsome, and fearless, fighter. And the 'dwarf tossing' joke was just lame. Talk about breaking the suspension of disbelief! One friend who saw it complained that Merry and Pippin were used as little more than comedy relief. That's true. They were a little more than comedy relief in the books, but admittedly not much. I didn't think comedy was done well in the movie. The books are very serious, and the comedy is minor, and very gentle; the movie didn't get the tone quite right.

7. Samwise is bigger and burlier than I imagined him; for some reason, I imagined him as smaller than Frodo.

8. It's a shame that a lot of the stuff that shows the true depth and history of Tolkien's world had to be left out. The barrow wights, for example, whose barrows are the graves of a people who perished thousands of years before, but who were part of Aragorn's people, and a living part of Middle-Earth's troubled history. Other stuff that got left out may cause a little confusion in viewers who haven't read the books. For example, at the gates of Moria, the party has to get rid of the pony Bill, and Sam says a brief, regretful goodbye to him. Huh? What's up with Sam and the pony? The story of how they came by the pony and why he was named 'Bill' is interesting, but evidently didn't fit into the movie script.

9. I liked the conception of the balrog. The horns reminded me a little of the cyberdemon in DOOM. His entrance wasn't scary enough, though. A balrog is not merely a demon, but essentially a fallen angel, almost as old as the universe itself, immensely wise, powerful, and terrifyingly evil, almost beyond comprehension. The balrog is the most powerful and dangerous entity the cast will face except for Sauron himself, much stronger and more evil than the Nazgûl.

10. Saruman the White should have been whiter. Or 'multicolored'. I really liked the scenes of his 'creating' the Uruk-hai. Nicely disgusting. The orcs in general were well done, in make-up/special effects, voice, and general orcish demeanor. 

11. Cate Blanchett as Galadriel just wasn't pretty enough, I'm sorry. Her looks are 'interesting', and not unattractive, but she just doesn't have that other-worldly, perfect, supernal beauty that an elven queen should have. They should at least have switched her with Liv Tyler's Arwen. I'm glad they kept in the scene of Galadriels's temptation by the Ring, although in it she became weird and scary-looking. IMO, a better choice would have for her to become even more beautiful and goddess-like. Consider her words, which I imagine to be spoken softly, with subtle irony, but increasing in pitch and strength until the last line is uttered in a terrifying voice, like a maenad of destruction:

"And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"

This is a complex and challenging temptation both for her, and for Frodo, who would like more than anything to give up the ring. It is a reminder of Lord Acton's old saw, that power is corrupting, even in the best of hands. It is one of the most memorable moments in the novels. "Beautiful and terrible as the morning and the night..." What a great phrase. It challenges our conventional sense of meaning, and achieves its force by indirection. The scene is also missing the moment when Frodo realizes that Galadriel bears one of the Rings that were made for the Elves.

12. Speaking of special effects and transformations, Galadriel's was similar to what happens to the world when Frodo puts on the Ring: the world to him turns into shades of grays, and objects seem to smoke and run into each other. I thought this effect was superb, and really conveyed that when the Ring is donned, the wearer is partly drawn into another world of magic and evil, alive with the presence of Sauron.

13. I never liked Boromir in the books, and didn't find him and his struggle all that interesting. I liked him better in the movie, and found him a more interesting and sympathetic character.

14. Gandalf should have looked like Albus Dumbledore.

15. The mad race to the ford was well done, but it was well done in Ralph Bakshi's animated version, too. In fact, I suspect this film owes a lot to Bakshi (who also left out Bombadil), but it's been so long since I saw the Bakshi film that I can't compare them in detail.

16. Unlike what others have reported, the theater I saw the film in didn't stick an intermission in the middle. Nor did it need one. LotR was engrossing all the way through, and the three hours went quickly. Well done, Mr. Jackson.

This is long enough. Stuff about the visual presentation and technical quality of the film in the next post.

SI [Hep: SHI]
meaning: think
omou == to think, to believe
omoide == memories
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