“You shall not pass!”
The Scoop: 2001 R, directed by Peter Jackson and starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and Sean Bean
Tagline: One Ring To Rule Them All.
Summary Capsule: Tolkein’s epic fantasy quest begins as little people join a tour group going around Middle-Earth
Justin’s rating: Holy monkey poop! It’s actually great! (the movie, not the afforementioned monkey poop)
Justin’s review: In a movie world that we live in, we constantly buy into the hype of the Next Big Thing, and are almost nearly disappointed. Shall I say… The Phantom Menace. Even Harry Potter didn’t live up to the standards of the book and public expectations, and that was one of the better movies this year. So as the countdown began for the first of three Lord of the Rings movies to release, Tolkein fans, movie buffs, fantasy freaks and even PoolMan were all sweating in mixed anticipation and dread. If they screwed this up, it would be close to literary sacrilege as you could get.
Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration: The Best Movie of 2001. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Make no mistake, this movie is a serious time investment. It’s loooong. And it’s just the first part of a trilogy, at that. That’s about the only negative thing to brace for, if you’ve downed a Big Gulp beforehand and think you can make it to the end of this flick without your bladder erupting all over your theater row. Yet it has this epic feel to it that the novel does, a page-turning adventure that sucks you in and fills you up with all sorts of delicious goodness. Earthiness. Save the worldness. Horror. Suspense. Humor. Battles. Magic. Strange creatures. It’s an escapist dream come true, another world brought to life so fully that it makes you dearly want to jump through the screen to join the action.
I scarcely know where to begin, and better reviewers than I (including Ms. Thompson’s 4th grade class) will be able to weave together both plot summary with critical thoughts. I’m just going to let it stand that this movie was simply and completely amazing (and both friends I went with saw it again that same day), and I’ll move on to a few highlights that I made in my head while watching.
First of all, while the plot of the Tolkien book is dense and crammed with all sorts of backstory and literary enricher, the film managed to make good choices by trimming out some of the more extraneous elements while repackaging the plot in a slightly new way for a cinematic approach. For those of you unfamiliar with the books, you’re going to get bombarded with names and places and back history… but it’s all good. In fact, the movie opens with exposition set against the backdrop of a massive battle. I’d like to say that while I’ve read the trilogy four times, some things in the movie really helped clear up a lot of the plot threads that I couldn’t completely follow in the novel. Onward!
With your actors and characters, there’s a bit of something for everyone. I so enjoyed the hobbits (notably Elijah “Let’s run from a 1500 foot wall of water” Wood and Sean “Rudy! Rudy!” Astin), and Frodo has a devastatingly quiet and spot-on performance as The Little Guy Who Could. In a couple scenes you could just feel the weight of his burden and his aloneness even in the midst of allies. Gandalf… well, let’s just say that any wizard that uses both a staff and a sword rocks, and I was delighted to see that he had both his serious side and a sense of humor to go with that. Everyone else was good, and for the characters that survived, I look forward to seeing how they develop in the next two sequels.
One thing that really stuck in my mind that differentiates FOTR from many other so-called “epic” fantasy movies is that there’s little to no attempt to insert non-book dialogue into the flick. It’s not jazzed up for our pop culture age, and the characters don’t start spouting off clichés left and right when you’d expect them to. Instead, they have meaningful conversations and say and do the grand things you’d expect. Forget all the SFX and set designs… the dialogue I loved. Plus, there are some VERY funny moments in here, and the filmmakers knew how to use laughs to defuse all the tension that builds up over time.
But speaking of special effects, and there are many of them in this movie, eye candy is plentiful and well-done. And dude, when’s the last time you’ve had fireworks as a SFX in a movie? That’s just cool. Director Peter Jackson (The Frighteners) utilizes many long computer-aided sweeps with the camera, jumping over buildings, diving into crevices and plowing the audience into the thick of battle. While the movie does take time to build up to some of the more action-packed sequences, when you get there it’s well worth the wait. They use fast cuts and quick camera motions for many of the fights, but it was a LOT less confusing here than in Gladiator and other movies that made you shrug and give up on who’s-fighting-who in any scene.
There’s just so much detail that went into Fellowship of the Ring that just as I was done nudging my friend from the last little cool thing that happened, something new would pop out. Legolas zinging off shot after shot after shot with his bow. The sound cutting out to highten the tension. Sting’s blue blade. Using the actual maps from the books. Dozens of breathtaking locales. Giant statues. Elves that didn’t tick me off. Bilbo’s little round green door with the knob in the middle. Wizards fighting… WITHOUT using pyrotechnics. The list of the Hobbits’ meals (second breakfast anyone?). Nazgul screams. That wicked-cool “Ring On!” effect that changes the way everything looks. Gollum’s voice. And the anguish of knowing that we have two more years to go for the whole story to be complete.
Other than Star Wars and maybe The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings is the banner under which both the lifelong D&D addict and the typical “Ooo, let’s rent that new Hugh Grant movie” filmgoer can congregate while celebrating in geek love. We, as people, dig this sort of thing: good vs. evil, the heroic journey, the nail-biting battles. To phrase it in a botched metaphor, this is like having a beloved dog die; everyone (except Crazy Larry) says he’s gone to a better place, and you rest content in knowing that. Well, Fellowship of the Rings has made a new home in the realm of moving pictures, and while it may not be better or worse than the book, it’s definitely the best anyone could ever produce. I thought I’d end this review with a little diddy (to the tune of “I’m a little teacup”):
I’m a little hobbit
Short and stout
Here is my one ring
Evil without a doubt
When I get all pumped up
Then I shout:
“Just get me to Mordor
To throw the cursed thing out!”
DnaError’s rating: I have seen it 3 times at this point and plan to see it again….
DnaError’s review: I can sum up all of my feelings for LOTR in one sentence: It shut me up. Normally during a movie, my head is busy jabbering away, an internal critic who makes snide remarks and thinks of witty ways to begin reviews. For 3 hours that little critic was struck silent by the beauty, the awe, the sheer moviemaking of LOTR.
It is really hard to describe the emotions stirred by Peter Jackson’s adapted epic. Other reviews have praised the actors, the scenery, the direction way better then I could. I didn’t see it saying “wow, what an interesting interpretation of Hobbiton” it was “Dude! Hobbits!” Everything was *right*, everything fit, even Liv Tyler (who looks more beautiful here then in anyplace else). Middle Earth has never looked so lush, so dangerous, so large, so real, and so very close. For three hours I didn’t look at my watch or go to the bathroom or fiddle with my hands. When it was over I sat down and sulked “It’s over? That’s it?”.
Sure The Two Towers comes out next year… but I didn’t want to leave the fantastic world that was created. (I can’t wait for DVD… if the long running time continues for the next movies then you’ll have 9 solid hours of movie joy) This is what movies should be. This is why people build fan sites and quote endlessly and buy collectable luchboxes. This is what make peoples pay way more for popcorn and soda for. I could talk about this movie for hours, the attitude of the elves, the Pre-Ralphite look, the dualism of Boromir/Strider, but no words can do it justice. See Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and you’ll understand what I mean.
PoolMan’s rating: A preciousss movie indeed.
PoolMan’s review: There’s something about the release of a truly geeky movie that just can’t be found anywhere else. A certain je ne sais quoi that I absolutely thrill upon. It was there on the opening night of Episode I (whether you liked it or not), and it was there on the opening night of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (and I’ll get into the Sorceror/Philosopher argument with you in another review). But I’ll tell you, I’ve never felt it like I did at the premiere of Fellowship of the Ring. The giddy thrill running through the crowd was electric. Due to a few botched circumstances, I was there on my own, but it was the kind of evening where all the strangers in the audience just HAD to talk to one another (honest, I started chatting with a guy named Guy. How surreal is that?) about what they hoped they would see. They would not be disappointed. Tolkien’s dream has come true, and whether or not it precisely matches the one on the page, its heart is the same, and it’s the heart of a masterpiece.
A little background. I’m NOT one of these people who can speak Elvish. I don’t know the complete history of Barad-Dur, I can’t tell you the full meaning of each time someone screams “Elendil”, and I get nervous when someone asks me to name all five thousand dwarves in The Hobbit. I have read the Lord of the Rings in its entirety twice (and The Hobbit about six times) in my life, enough to be familiar and comfortable, but I don’t have my Ph.D in Hobbit Smoking Habits. It’s a little like someone who’s seen Star Wars a couple of times. He may not be able to quote Han perfectly, but at least he knows to cheer when he shoots Greedo. But I digress.
A lot has been made of whether FOTR is a worthy heir to Tolkien’s original text. In my humble opinion, it certainly is, keeping in mind that it’s a screenplay based on the books, and not a literal translation. I don’t know about you, but if I had to endure twenty minutes of Tom Bombadil’s singing and prancing I would have gone out of my mind. Thankfully, even at the hefty three full hours that the film does take, the pace is almost always such that the movie just never drags. We are taken from scene to beautiful scene with an ease and speed not usually associated with such epic undertakings.
Another thing I found myself loving throughout was the cast itself. Someone was obviously thinking here. I could rattle through the entire cast and gush about how each actor was incredibly well suited to their individual role, but I’ll leave it at this: I didn’t find any weak spots in the crowd. Okay, maybe Hugo Weaving as Elrond stands out a bit, but that doesn’t mean he was bad, we’re just used to him in The Matrix. This is a solid group of actors who obviously came to the project willing to put their hearts into what they were doing. The end result is fantastic. You will find yourself caring for these characters in a way that too many flicks are lacking these days.
However, the movie is by no stretch perfect. The great big battle scenes somehow come across as flat, which is somewhat of a letdown. But that said, I’ll take the spirit of Frodo’s companions over the Prozac Jedi any day, and you can quote me on that. Plus, I happen to think the Balrog is one of the greatest creature effects EVER. It’s too bad the conflict between Gandalf and the demon couldn’t have gone on longer, it was just spine chilling to watch them face off.
The simplest compliment I can give Fellowship of the Ring is this: in the two weeks since its release in theaters, I’ve already seen it three times. That’s something that hasn’t happened since Return of the Jedi was re-released. I’ve spent enough money on tickets to have already bought the DVD (which I greatly look forward to having on my shelf). It’s gobbled up nine hours of my life like candy, and I haven’t minded for a moment.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy will take two more years to come to its cinematic conclusion, but by the time that happens we will have a new classic to contend with. Beautiful, complex, accessible, and at all times fun, Tolkien’s Middle Earth is finally here to stay. Move over, George Lucas, there’s a new kid in town, and he’s got his eye on your lunch money.
Canuck Alert! The score was composed by Howard Shore, yet another man from Toronto! (yes, yes, I’m getting nitpicky. Deal with it.)
Kyle’s rating: geek validation and wholesome entertainment in one package!
Kyle’s review: I went to see LOTR late and I’m reviewing LOTR late, so my positive vote is just a drop into the ocean of Fellowship-web-babble just a few clicks away. At this point every aspect of the film has been dissected to the bone and all that remains is to see what mystery footage gets added on the DVD. I’m not complaining. People of all ages have been waiting for this film adaptation for a long time and the fact that it is an incredible epic worthy of all the praise it has received gives everyone a nice healthy glow. I know I’m a little happier for finally seeing it and finding it a satisfying experience. All I can say is this: I hope you’re happy, geek squad.
In junior high, which is somewhat like high school while somehow retaining a refreshingly elementary flavor, there was a group of kids who seemed to always spend their lunch periods in the library. They were actually in there a lot; despite the total lack of free periods you could walk by the library on the way to the bathroom from a class and notice that at least one of these kids was in there. Contrary to popular belief, I was not one of this so-called “geek squad,” largely because the library had boring books and I was all about Batman and Detective Comics.
But the geek squad lived in the library, and even when they weren’t there you could sense their presence permeating the air. Plus they never put their favorite paperbacks back on the racks. They left them on the reading tables, because they knew as we all did that they would be back as soon as possible to pick up right where they left off, on page whatever. So when you walked in to do the latest history assignment, there on the table would be a motley collection ranging from A Wrinkle in Time to Chronicles of Narnia to that series of books that has a green moss dude on one cover and a big black horse on another. Invariably, though, the thickest book just left around The Lord of the Rings. Big, thick, old garishly-bound copies of the entire trilogy, well-worn from curious fingers and just waiting for the next eager reader to pick it up.
This story actually goes nowhere. I went on from junior high to high school to college and now I’m writing this in my computer room. All those kids who loved JR Tolkien, graduated to Magic: The Gathering and sneered at Pokémon while building cardboard dungeons for their role playing endeavors grew up (physically) and hopefully saw LOTR. The point of all of this is to say that as much as I’m happy that I got the most out of my ticket to see LOTR, I really hope that all those kids who stuck to their love of these vastly detailed stories no matter how much grief they got for it are seeing this film and loving it twice as much as we “uninformed” viewers are. That a film like this one manages to pack them in while validating the imaginations of a lot of Tolkien fans is so impressive to me that I’d love to shake Peter Jackson’s hand, as well as anyone involved with filming this trilogy, and telling them what a wonderful job they did. Wow.
Andie’s rating: I always thought elves were tiny little critters who made toys and stuff. Turns out they’re hot. Yet another English man with bleached blonde hair that I have a thing for. Neal from Real World London, Spike, Draco Malfoy and now Legolas.
Andie’s review: So I finally saw The Fellowship of the Ring last night and decided that we need an opinion of one of the girl Mutants and an opinion of someone who has never read the books. Since I fit both of those categories, here we go:
It was okay. I mean, as far as three hour action/adventure/fantasy movies go, it was fine. I may watch it again and I may not and I suppose I’ll go see the second one. But here’s what really frosts my cookies: this movie got nominated for best picture?!?!?! Gimme a freakin’ break! It was so predictable! I have never read any of these books, I really don’t know what they’re about and yet I called almost everything that happened. As soon as Gandalf became Frodo’s “father figure” I knew he was going to die sacrificing himself for the group. As soon as Boromir showed an interest in not giving the ring back to Frodo when it fell off, I knew he was going to have to die to redeem himself. When they got to the entrance to the mines and Gandalf read the inscription, I thought, “Why doesn’t he just say ‘friend’, isn’t that the password?” and lo and behold about five minutes later Frodo figured it out. As soon as they got into the mines I was like, “When do we get the big lesson segment between the old mentor and the young hero?” and (surprise!) here it came, right before the next big action sequence.
I mean, c’mon boys. Seriously. Memento didn’t get nominated for Best Picture and this did? Yeah, it was neat to look at but CGI stuff just doesn’t get my motor running. Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock didn’t have CGI and look at their movies. They’re amazing! And nobody knows! All the fans of LoTR: FoTR know is when the next LoTR and the next Star Wars are being released and where they can buy their authentic looking outfits so they have something to keep them warm while they’re camping outside the theater for a week before the release date. It makes me sad.
People may argue that how can I rip into LoTR and not rip into Harry Potter? Well, I wouldn’t have ripped into LoTR so badly if people weren’t treating it like the second coming. I harbor no delusions about Harry Potter being nominated for anything! It’s just a fun movie that I enjoyed. And LoTR might have been a fun movie that I enjoyed if people hadn’t hyped it up to be the end all, be all of cinematic experiences. Please.
- The dozens of close up “ring” shots they used? Over and over? And over? Were you like me and started to memorize palm prints while they did that?
- There’s one shot of the Fellowship running between the columns that is clearly CGI, since the characters move in that sort of computer jerky fashion
- Ian Holm, who plays Bilbo Baggins, was the voice of Frodo Baggins in the classic BBC Radio adaptation of Lord of The Rings in the 1970s.
- The Hobbits needed to appear about three to four feet tall – tiny compared with the seven-foot Gandalf. This was often accomplished using forced perspective, placing McKellen consistently closer to the camera than Wood in order to trick the eye into thinking McKellen is towering.
- Bilbo telling all the little hobbits about his encounter with the three trolls in the forest at the start of his journey (from the book “The Hobbit”)… though the story didn’t tell the full truth.
- Boromir had on wrist-guards decorated with the White Tree of Gondor. It was fitting that after Boromir’s death, Aragorn took them off him and donned them himself.
- Boromir’s love for the halflings: this is shown when he is training Merry and Pippin and wrestling with them on the ground. It makes his sacrifice for them at the end that much stronger. This is also demonstrated when he asks Aragorn to allow them time to mourn after the events of Moria.
- On the Redhorn Pass, Legolas is trotting lightly opon the snow’s surface while the rest of the Fellowship are slogging through deep snow.
- Galadriel telling Frodo in his mind things forshadowing the plight of the elves – they will pass on whether he succeeds or not
- When they leave the lady of the forest, the Fellowship have on Elven cloaks (which was given to them in the books, but not mentioned in the film)
- The Ring mumbles its inscription in Black Speech (Ash Nazg Durbatuluk…) as Frodo stares at it in the council meeting
- The maps used for Middle-Earth and Bilbo’s book are the same ones found in the novels
- Hobbits and their love of mushrooms
- After the battle of Weathertop and Frodo has been stabbed by the Black Rider, they are found resting in a forested area. The stones behind them are the trolls that Bilbo and the dwarves turned to stone from The Hobbit.
- Director Peter Jackson is the bearded burp-guy in Bree. It’s easy to miss him, it’s when the hobbits enter the Prancing Pony Inn.
- Everyone has dirty nails and unwashed hair (Which is good cause Middle Earth has few good hairdressers)
- Gandalf’s eyes would twitch when Something Bad was coming?
- Jackson loves that “zoom” button?
- Legolas jumping down from the stairs in Kaza-Dum and his “recycling” of arrows.
- That urge to complete Elrond’s line as “Welcome to Rivendell… Mister Anderson.”
- In the scene where the hobbits dash off the road to avoid the Ringwraith, you can see the tree whose roots they hide in. When the Wraith rides in, he does not appear on the right side of the tree, he simply shows up on the left. Post production error?
- The Ringwraiths must be related to Inigo Montoya. They go from being left handed to right handed swordsmen throughout the movie.
- Director Peter Jackson is the first director in history to shoot an entire trilogy at once, shooting Lord of the Rings back-to-back-to-back over a 15 month period. The cost of the three films is estimated to be around $300 million.
- When the trailer was released on Internet on 7 April 2000, it was downloaded 1.6 million times in the first 24 hours.
- For high-tech tasks, a computer program called MASSIVE made armies of CG orcs, elves, and humans. These digital creations could ‘think’ and battle independently – identifying friend or foe – thanks to individual fields of vision. Jackson’s team could click on one creature in a crowd scene of 20,000 and see through his “eyes”. Different species even boast unique fighting styles.
- Stuart Townsend. was originally cast as Aragorn, but was replaced by Viggo Mortensen after four days of shooting due to creative differences (or, as the official explanation goes, Jackson wanted someone who looked “older” to play the part of Aragorn).
Gandalf: You cannot pass… I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The Dark Flame will not avail you, Flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You shall not pass!
Aragorn: Let’s hunt some orc!
Frodo: You’re late.
Gandalf: A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he ever early. He arrives precisely when he means to.
Gandalf: If you’re referring to the incident with the dragon, I was barely involved.
Gandalf: What did you overhear?
Sam: Nothin’! Nothin’ important that is.
Gandalf: What did you hear? SPEAK!
Sam: W-w-well, I did hear something about a ring, and a dark lord, and something about the end of the world…
Gimli: No one tosses a dwarf!
Aragorn: Are you frightened?
Aragorn: Not nearly frightened enough.
Aragorn: I can avoid being seen if I wish, but to disappear entirely, that is a rare gift.
Aragorn: By my life or death, I will protect you. You have my sword…
Legolas: …and you have my bow.
Gimli: …and my axe.
Elrond: Together you form the Fellowship of the Ring.
Pippin: Great! Where are we going?
Frodo: No one knows it’s here. Do they? Do they, Gandalf?
Galadriel: Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
Gandalf: You must remember, the Ring is trying to get back to its master. It wants to be found.
Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.
Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.
Aragorn: Gentlemen, we do not stop till nightfall.
Pippin: What about breakfast?
Aragorn: You’ve already had it.
Pippin: We’ve had one, yes. What about second breakfast?
Merry: I don’t think he knows about second breakfast, Pip.
Pippin: What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn’t he?
Merry: I wouldn’t count on it.
Bilbo: I’m old, Gandalf. I know I don’t look it but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel thin… sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday. And I don’t expect I shall return. In fact I mean not to.
Pippin: Anyways, you need people of intelligence on this sort of… mission… quest… thing.
Merry: Well, that rules you out, Pip.
Gandalf: [Reading] They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums… drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We can not get out… they are coming.
Bilbo: … it’s mine… my own… my precious…
Gandalf: Precious? It’s been called that before, but not by you.
Gandalf: Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity.
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: 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. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.
Frodo: I cannot do this alone.
Galadriel: You are a Ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a Ring of Power is to *be* alone. This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.
Aragorn: I would have gone with you to the end, into the very fires of Mordor.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Lord of the Rings (1978)
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King