The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring (Review)

Poster copied 1,000 times by 1,000 inferior films.

Poster copied 1,000 times by 1,000 inferior films.

When I was a brash young lad I tried so hard not to follow “the crowd” that I would often deliberately bypass mainstream fare even if I suspected I might like it. It was a short term phase, I eventually became more selective and I think better at picking the duds in advance. Over the subsequent years I managed to catch most of the good flicks that I had previously ignored, there weren’t too many.

The experience taught me two things, that often hype is built up to cover up a crappy film and you should latch on to a trustworthy friend who shares your tastes, (or a critic with a measure of consistency), and that my judgement when it came to what to watch wasn’t all that bad, though I still manage to watch some stinkers now and then.

The hype thing is far more tricky nowadays as the media builds up almost everything to both fill time and to break the “next big thing” to the crowd, but I still think my theory holds true. “Click” with Adam Sandler was boosted for months in Australia up to release, where it vanished from cinemas only weeks after, I’ve never watched it but by all accounts it was lousy. Another more recent film was Yes Man with Jim Carrey, but as the film clip looked family friendly it must have made a few dollars from unsuspecting people who just want to watch something. Many other films have tried to do the same thing, I’m predicting “Night At The Museum 2” next, and have grave concerns for “Land of the Lost“.

My point is this, the Lord of the Rings got soooo much hype in the year up to and the time of release that my spidey sense was tingling just a little. It was very possible that a reasonably unknown director could lose the handle on such a massive undertaking and that instead of a masterpiece we could be left with an average to middling costume drama with funny creatures….. or worse.

Thankfully, it’s hard to watch any of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR from here on) films and find much to knock.

(Don’t worry Hobbits, I’m not about to try.)

Several years ago I was bored at work, so I went to IMDB.com, registered myself as a user, and spent a couple blissful days inflaming LOTR fans by claiming that FOTR should be ignored as it was a straight rip of a novel, and was not original at all! I then went on to say Peter Jackson should hand back all the Oscars for ROTK and that I had contacted the academy and that they were looking into my claims.

I also had a go at the more obvious fanboy temples of Star Wars, Star Trek, The Matrix and a couple of “girl-friendly” flicks, as I recall Bridget Jones and Titanic. Strangely enough I got a far stronger response to the chick flicks than the more “dude-friendly” films, I reasoned that this was because the Star Wars and Trek universe are used to being teaased and needled, and can spot a hack job from a mile away.

They even have a term for message boards pests, “trolls”, which I found strangely apt given the LOTR source. It reminded me of a quote from the film Broken Arrow, where some guy says “I don’t know what’s scarier, the fact that we’ve lost a nuclear weapon, or that it happens so often that we have a name for it.” (I don’t like Broken Arrow especially but I remember the quote for some reason.)

I planned to cut and paste my trolling effort here, with full advance transparency that I was taking the piss, but it was so long ago that it has been bounced from my message board history. I only wanted to show just how far “Ring-Lords”, as they prefer to be called, would go in defence of their precioussss.

My Gran gave me The Hobbit, LOTR – FOTR and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was a little tacker, around 10 or 11 I think, and while I read them all I remembered FOTR most fondly for some reason, I pretty much stopped reading fantasy novels at 13 when I discovered movies and music.

Peter Jackson has been lauded for the superb job he did on these and rightly so. But if I were to look for nit-picky reasons to complain about any of the films it would go like this:

  1. Hugo Weaving.
  2. Corny jokes.
  3. The oft discussed multiple endings to ROTK.
  4. Hugo Weaving.

I watched all three LOTR flicks in the cinema and enjoyed them all immensely, I then found all three 2 disc special editions on Ebay a few years ago around Christmas time at a bargain price and snapped them up, and as my parents were staying with me over the break me and my mum (who’ll watch anything without question if I recommend it), watched all three over a week or so.

(My Dad started out watching until the Orc and Cave Troll scene in FOTR before he had enough, then a couple days later during TTT he walked in, sat down and lasted around 15 minutes before he realised and said “You’re watching this shit again?” and left.)

I’m pretty sure that was in late 2005, and I haven’t watched any of the flicks since.

Enter 2009, and after my recent horror flick binge I thought long and hard about what would be next before deciding to have a crack at the LOTR trilogy over the next couple of weeks/months?

There is little need to tell you what happens, that has been very well explained in Clerks 2, (walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, drop the ring, done.)

These are simply my thoughts as I was watching the movies:

1st minute – The film starts with Cate Blanchett explaining how the Rings came to be, and I wondered how much a simple casting choice could have changed the tone from the outset, just imagine :

“Alright so this guy makes some rings right? And he giss a few to some elves, a bunch to some trolls and a bunch to some geezers, who like a bit o’ power, well don’t we all? Anyway so bugger me dead if this guy din’t keep one for ‘iself. Fair enuff I reckon, the poor blighter made a bunch for erryone else, he should be able to skim off the top shoon’t e?”

2nd minute – I know it ain’t the fault of the director, but Mount Doom is a lousy name, (sorry J.R.R.)

3rd minute – The initial flashback battle scene. This is the point in the cinema that you knew Peter Jackson hadn’t taken the big bucks and phoned it in, he pulled out the stops from the start and by jingo it looked cool already.

25th minute – The introduction to Strider/Aragorn, if I might paraphrase a barbershop customer (played by Eddie Murphy) in “Coming to America“, “Goddamn the boy can act!”

Early cool scenes – The RingWraith standoff / The Ringwraith horse chasey to the river.

76th minute – The tyranny of Hugo Weaving. Huge’s forgot this wasn’t a comic book movie and decided to ham it up the entire film, who else would put 5 p’s in Fellowship? “And you shall be called, the Fellowshippppp, of the ring.” Dramatic pauses and butchered dialogue abound, he did almost the same thing in The Matrix, especially the sequels where he had more dialogue. (The sequels sucked anyway but I was still annoyed.) I’ve seen the movie three times now and I won’t budge on this.

120th minute – Frodo is stabbed for the second time in the movie, why didn’t he practise his swordplay on the hill with the other two hobbits, he’s obviously lousy? Also makes me wonder when Damart will be smart enough to market Mythril, the lightweight alternative to bullet proof vests. Get yours today!

The Cave Troll fight is officially the point where I switched from a guy watching a movie to a fan of the series, and also the point where I decided being an expert bowman was at least as cool as being skilled with a sword, should I ever be forced to make the call.

125th minute – The great Orc chase scene, number 1 of 27 through the three films. Forgot these were all 3 hours long, got work tomorrow, another can of coke might pull me through. (That’s product placement Coke if you’re reading. I’ve always found personally that Coke adds life! (TM) Ahhh refreshing Coke!)

Shameless product placement

Shameless product placement

128th minute – “You Shall Not PASSSS!!!!”

132nd minute – Another example of the corny jokes that abound through the films, Gimli the dwarf is the main culprit, but Merry and Pippin get in their share. Credit where credit is due though, from memory Gimli gets in 2 of the best lines of the series, I’ll mention them when they happen.

136th minute – Again some casting decisions that really paid off, Cate Blanchett added dignity, Viggo is just a really good actor as well who looks very cool while doing it, and I think Ian McKellen’s technique of thinking what his character would do really worked a treat, (check his appearance on Extras for clarification).

144th minute – The makeup job on the Orcs and Uruk-Hai (sp?) was top notch. I also loved the top down camera shots of the Orc mines now that I remember it.

155th minute – The start of the final Orc battle… for now.

158th minute – Not one Orc can touch any of the Fellows (?), even Merry and Pippin, until the leader, perhaps remembering The Matrix “Bullet-time”, has the savvy to ask Jackson to use slo-mo film, where he has time to line up his arrows and off Boromir with a series of hits. He then makes the mistake of taking the time to admire his handiwork once all his buddies have Orced off, leaving a gap for Aragorn to take him on mano-a-orco. By this time he has either run down his bullet time meter of simply forgot to use it, in any case he doesn’t use slo-mo despite disarming Aragorn and pinning him to a tree, (if he had he might have made it part 2). Unfortunately for him, this mistake costs him an arm and his head.

166th minute – If you can’t swim don’t go in the river, Frodo should have let him drown to teach him a valuable lesson, a la the Ant and the Grasshopper. (I think the moral is become buddies with some ants, only then can you afford to be truly lazy!)

167th minute – Same sex hobbit love, a niche market for pornographers if there ever was one. I see Danny De Vito in a lead role.

169th minute – “Let’s hunt some Orc.” Way to build hopes for the second film Aragorn.

170th minute – Let the 8 minutes of credits roll. As a comparison Walking Tall, an 80 odd minute straight ahead action film where the biggest special effect was straightening The Rock’s eyebrow digitally,  had 11 minutes of credits with no bloopers or bits after they rolled, (I always remember that as it baffled me then and now). The Spirit had about 9 or 10 minutes and was green screen. I know it is high-tech but how many green screen operators do you need?

Movie over – It’s after midnight and I’m working in not too many hours. FOTR was probably the weakest of the trilogy but that was more or less a necessity as the vast story must introduce a great number of characters, most being based in fantasy, much like dragons, mermaids and rational women. The first hour was slow while this happened but the set up for TTT was good and by this time if you weren’t willing to go again next Boxing Day then I couldn’t see why you would put yourself through another 3 hours (X2) to see out the story.

As we left the cinema me and TOG were already in agreeance that we were in for the long haul.

Final Ranking – 9 / 10. The start of something very, very good.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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