Rating: 4.5 of 5
Of course most everyone loved this movie. Because J.R.R. Tolkien created such deep, rich, complex characters. And he did something amazing with them that just doesn’t happen now – he gave them nobility. Frodo’s fierce devotion to carry the ring, to save the world despite how hard it is for him. And the fellowship’s acknowledgement of this burden he carries and their devotion to protect him. Everything about Aragorn and Legolas. All of their devotion to the purpose of the fellowship and each other. Not just that these things exist, but the way they exist give these characters a strength, and a simpleness and a nobility.
And then Peter Jackson cast actors who could bring this nobility to life. Viggo Mortensen is so Aragorn. He somehow brings an undercurrent of an artist or a poet to this warrior. Which is what a king ought to be. You so believe the tenderness and honor when he kisses Boromir. It’s the kind of thing kings do when one of their people has fallen and it’s beautiful. Elijah Wood mingles Frodo’s vulnerability and inner strength so seamlessly. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan find Merry and Pippin’s humor and still allow for them to be real characters with heart and devotion. Sean Astin does an admirable job of capturing Sam’s unwavering loyalty to Frodo which just is this incredible thing. And Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf as this superior being in humble trappings, flawed and funny and yet still wise. That’s an amazing precipice to balance.
From the sound of it you’d think I have nothing but praise for this movie – and you’d be wrong. Because Liv Tyler was horrible. She lacks nobility in any sense of the word. She butchered Arwen which sucks so horribly because Arwen is a really great character. And Liv is so plebeian, it’s crass in light of the other actors. Which is completely ironic because Arwen, of any of them, should be noble and exquisite and Liv is just not. [This would receive 5 stars for Performance but for her.]
Despite her though, it’s still a beautiful movie with really amazing and affecting characters that get to grow in fascinating ways in two more movies.
The moments I really love are the moments of nobility…
When they commit themselves to the fellowship in Rivendell.
The aftermath of Moria, when their grief is so real.
And when Aragorn refuses the ring at Argonath.
The reason why this first part of Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ is superior to his latter two parts is because of restraint. Jackson was restrained from over doing it with the CGI and “epic” battle sequences, which in my opinion does not make a story epic. Part of the reason was simply because Tolkien did not have very many battles in the first part of his book, which thankfully forced Jackson to focus on creating a believable world rather than a believable hack-n-slash action movie.
I don’t find much entertainment in watching people mutilate each other, but I love it when a movie engages me in a world, and ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ does just that. Certainly the most breathtaking scenes in the movie are the moments of patient observation, when the camera pans around and captures the beautiful settings of Middle Earth. I must give Jackson credit. He did hire some very extraordinary artists that have envisioned one of the grandest interpretations of Tolkien’s world.
There are about five particular moments that stick out in my mind and gave me that tingle of goosebumps down my spine when I saw them for the first time. The first is the introduction to Hobbiton. After the somewhat awkward prologue, I was beginning to have my doubts to whether the movie would live up to the book. But the movie surprised me. Hobbiton is perfect. The houses have flower patches and old fences, the roads look worn and made through decades of travel, and the Old Mill spins with the laziness of a quiet town. Every color is vibrant and every moment looks as through it was taken out of a picture book. Although I still don’t agree with the particular look of the Hobbits, I believe everything else in Hobbiton is worthy of Tolkien’s words.
The second moment comes after Frodo’s awakening in Rivendell, and the third, during the exploration of the Halls of Moria. In both moments, the camera pans away from the characters and outward into a static shot of their surroundings. The moments make us feel like we’re turning our heads and gazing at the world around us just as the characters do. The golden waterfalls of the elven city mark an interesting contrast with the dark halls of the dwarfish mines, but each are inspiring in their own ways and add to feeling of being engaged in a living world.
My other favorite moments come during the exploration of Lothlorien and the passage down the Anduin. And while I won’t go into detail about the scenes, since they really should be experienced without any prior expectations, they are monuments in imaginative cinema. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is one of those rare movies that I always wish I could reexperience for the first time. Unfortunately, Jackson turned away from exploring Middle Earth in his next two movies, and instead, turned to fighting and warfare. He seems to take a lot of pride in the love story and battle sequences he created in ‘The Two Towers’ and ‘The Return of the King,’ but it is was in his first movie when he really got it right. In ‘The Fellowship of the Ring,’ it’s okay if the characters are uninteresting and have silly dialogue. Middle Earth is the star, and the characters are the ones seeing it for the first time.