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    Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, The [28]

    Movie Reviews
      
         
    This movie has been highly anticipated since the August 24, 1998 announcement from New Line Cinema that they were producing a three-part-movie of The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. A budget was stated approximating $300 million U.S. dollars. That kind of money talks. It is saying we expect to book somewhere around $1 Billion US between worldwide theater and DVD releases.

    And then, on June 09, 1999, 2 ½ years before the release of The Fellowship Of The Ring, the official website www.Lordoftherings.net is launched. At the premiere the site only shows some sketches. The few pictures made available were enough to get fans very curious and excited already. Over the next two years we would all spend much time cruising to this web site to look at the latest desktop backgrounds and screen savers.

    Between 1977 and 1980 we were treated to the Rankin Bass Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings by Ralph Bakshi, and the Rankin Bass Return Of The King. Because the Tolkien books were seen as belonging to a fringe audience, we all figured that cartoons were the best we could ever expect. The Hollywood powers that be probably said, “You should be thankful we got you that, (You freaks….)”

    Certain conventions were broken after 1980. The second and third Star Wars movies were almost as successful as the first. The Back To the Future producers showed as that you could schedule filming and budget for two movies to be filmed at the same time to keep the cast together. Special Effects came a long way in the PC revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Movies like Toy Story and Twister in 1996 and Men In Black in 1997 showed us that Computer Generated Imagery could be used to great effect. CGI would enable moviemakers to produce things that previously would have been drawn as cartoons.

    With the high budget and the knowledge that all three movies were going to be filmed at the same time, Tolkien fans knew they were in for something special. The real gamble was whether or not the average moviegoer would pay to see wizards and orcs battle it out. This is nerdy Dungeons and Dragons stuff.

    Peter Jackson had a real job on his hands. He had to take a beloved book, with a very intelligent, opinionated audience. He had to bring this story to the movie screen. This means,
    • Reasonable running time: more than two hours of show starts people squirming.
    • Character trimming: The original books have a wealth of characters, all with extensive backgrounds. The economy of Movie characters demands that no unnecessary characters be present.
    • Love story: Women play a very minor role in the Tolkien stories; you cannot alienate half of the movie going audience.
    • Special Effects: There needs to be a Balrog, 9 Riders, trolls, orcs, towers, spiders, you get the picture…
    • Costumes: Just what exactly do Elves, Hobbits, and Men wear? How about Orcs?
    • Props: Swords, Staves, rings, and armor are all part of the story
    • Epic Scale battles: There are several huge battle scenes in the books that need to be represented on the big screen. Just how many extras are going to be needed?
    • Sets: Rivendell, Hobbiton, and Moria to name a few.
    • Characters: Just who could play the hobbits, Gandalf, Saruman, and Elrond?

    With a live action movie, plenty would have to be done with blue screen. The Star Wars Phantom Menace movie demonstrated to us how much could be filled in, so in 1999, we were confident that the Fellowship of the Ring could look good. Before the movie was released, my only concern was the cast. When the trailers appeared on TV and showed the narration over the “Shadow of The Past” scenes, my jaw dropped. This was going to be good. Who cares what the cast was now.

    The movie opens with the narration of the creation of the rings of power. The back-story is not really important to the movie, other than to leave it at “Hey, we got rings…Let’s go”. Sauron’s costume is extremely scary. Take Darth Vader and make him 9 feet tall and pointy. Then you have Sauron. In the story, Sauron is good-looking still when the rings were created, but the whole back-story of Sauron pretty much needed to be excised. In any case, the movie goes on to the battle at the slopes of Mount Doom. Sauron himself comes forward and effortlessly sweeps men and elves aside with his mace. He throws king Elendil into a cliff. Then he steps on Elendil’s sword, breaking it. Isildur grabs the sword hilt and (rolling a natural twenty) cuts off Sauron’s fingers. This battle scene is epic indeed. The line of elves with their wheeling halberds is quite cool.

    We get one scene from the Hobbit, where Bilbo picks up the lost ring left behind by Gollum. Then we move forward to the present, A Long Expected Party. The Hobbiton scenes are done well. It takes the first sixth of the books to get the hobbits out of The Shire. Jackson needs to do it all in about 45 minutes. He did pretty well. Tom Bombadil was cut along with Old Man Willow. But their inclusion was not really an advance to the story, other than the one Ring does not affect Tom. A more important part of the back-story was left out. That is, where do the swords come from that Aragorn wings at them at Weathertop? These were the swords from the Barrow Downs, forged specifically to kill the Witch King of Angmar, who is also known as the Leader of the Nazgul/Nine Ringwraiths and who it is foretold that no man will kill. Merry’s sword has a large role to play in Return of The King. So, I have to write that off and figure I will get an explanation in two years. I already figure that Eowyn’s role will be pumped up since she plays a role in killing the head Nazgul because she is a woman.

    I am one of the few people that did not see The Matrix before seeing Fellowship of The Ring. So I had no idea what Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith was like until months later. I can tell you that I would have had a very difficult time accepting Agent Smith as Elrond. In my opinion, Hugo Weaving was an excellent Elrond. Here is a man (elf) who had his shot to destroy the ring 3000 years before. He has not aged a day since. Now he is helpless, and his only role has been to shelter Aragorn’s family. (What? Aragorn is the descendent of the Kings of Gondor, how did that happen? He just is! Moving on!)

    In the creation of the fellowship, only Boromir’s back story is explained. Everyone else has to just jump in. Legolas says, “You have my bow!” Gimli says “And my (other) Axe!” Well you see, his first axe was shattered as he tried to cleave the one ring with it. Saruman is well played by Christopher Lee. We expect the Tower of Isengard to contain a Hammer Films chamber of horrors. And Lo! It does. Evil Orcs are forging swords and breeding Uruk Hai. They are also felling trees. (They’ll pay for that later I can tell you!)

    Why is there a Balrog in Moria? Who cares! He is cool. When he opens his mouth, you can feel the head and smell the brimstone. That is a great effect. I would imagine the same feeling of heat from opening a steam locomotive fire box. The Balrog looks much like John Howe’s painting from November in the 1991 J.R.R. Tolkien calendar. So it was no surprise to find that Howe and several other Tolkien illustrators worked on this movie project. We don’t need any Galadriel back-story either. She is an elf queen, and full of power, but cannot help the fellowship destroy the ring. We know she has one of the three elf rings.

    The ending of the film is a real cliffhanger. We leave the Sam and Frodo heading to Mordor, Boromir dead, and Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli chasing Merry and Pippin. Now we have to wait another year for The Two Towers. And we have to wait two more years for Return of The King!

    Peter Jackson is off to a great start. His work and that of all the collaborators will be tough to match for anyone else that wants to take on The Lord Of The Rings. Even if the next two movies are never released, this movie erases the bad will created by the Ralph Bakshi Lord of The Rings. This is probably the best movie that can be done with the material, without turning it into a TV Miniseries.{BB}

    Added: December 24th 2001
    Reviewer: BB
    29 Point Scale Score: 28    [28]

    Related Link (IMDB): IMDB
    Hits: 3408
    Language: english

      

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