The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

In 2001 a movie was released that not only changed the way we look at trilogies but also defined the fantasy genre as we know it.That movie was Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring; a film that everybody has seen and most people love, so what do I think of it? Well, you might be surprised.

Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) is a Hobbit who, after his uncle Bilbo (Ian Holm), (who is a brave little Hobbit whom we all admire), leaves him Sauron’s legendary one ring of power, is forced to travel to the land of Mordor in order to destroy it. Accompanying Frodo on his dangerous quest are wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian Mckellen), heir to the throne of Gondor, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys Davies), the elf, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Pippin (Billy Boyd) and , Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s on and off homosexual lover (Citation needed). Together they form the Fellowship of the Ring and head of to Mordor, fighting orcs and the evils of Sauruman (Christopher Lee) a wise old wizard who has joined Sauron.

I was 8 or 9 when I first saw this film and frankly, I was bored to tears; perhaps the most bored I have ever been watching a film. Because of this early experience with the franchise, I have naturally been very reluctant to re-watch the films; I always thought they were really very over-rated. After watching The Fellowship Of The Ring again I realised that 9 year old me wasn’t entirely wrong. Despite the fact that there are some really very good things about this film there are a few glaring flaws that many people seem to ignore. The casting here is the very definition of hit and miss; some actors, like Christopher Lee, Ian Mckelln and Elijah Wood are pitch perfect while others like Orlando Bloom and John Rhys Davies  don’t fit as well. The characters are the same as the casting; when they’re done right, they’re really done right. Gandalf and Saruman are excellent and the fact that two such magnificent actors as Ian Mckellen and Christopher Lee play them has a great deal to do with it. Boromir and Elrond are two characters that get a bit of a hard rap from critics and fans alike. Boromir is accused of being a dick and Elrond of not fitting in with the typical idea of an elf eg showing an ounce of emotion (we’ll get to the elves later, trust me) Frankly, neither of these criticisms have any merit. Boromir is a dick but he mellows. The only reason why he’s a douche is because he’s stressed and worried about his people. He shows a lighter side when playing with the hobbits and even accepts Aragorn as an equal on his deathbed, he is probably one of the stronger characters in the film. Elrond is also unfairly criticised. To me, it makes perfect sense for him to be more cynical and emotionally negative than other elves simply because he’s older, has seen war and has more than enough experience to warrant a belief that mankind is utterly flawed and that things can, and probably will, get a lot worse. Frodo and Sam are also really good characters, even if Frodo is a tad insufferable all the time he is having to be saved by other characters and screaming in that way only Elijah Wood can scream. Sam is a good loyal friend and even has a few funny moments. Obviously I couldn’t go any further without talking about the immense elephant in the room that is the blatant homoerotic overtones of Sam and Frodo’s relationship. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Frodo and Sam are just good friends, there’s no homosexual overtones whatsoever, you’re reading way to much into it” but no, it’s there to the point where you kinda have to wonder whether it wasn’t intentional, hell they even referenced it in posters and trailers

You could literally subtitle the entire franchise ‘Two Hobbits, One Ring’ and nobody would notice

While I find it really friggen difficult to ignore the immense levels of sexual tension between the characters, it seems pretty obvious that they are just good friends. They never make out or declare their feelings and Sam even gets married at the end of the film; they’re just good friends. In fact, their friendship is done perfectly, Sam’s loyalty is admirable and despite having to deal with the addiction and burden of the ring, Frodo clearly cares for Sam immensely; the friendship between these two characters is one of the highlights of the film. After these characters, the others seem kinda bland and lacking of personality. Gimli is mostly for comic effect but, to his credit, he still has other aspects to him. He grieves when he finds his cousin’s tomb, he argues with Gandalf about the best course of action, is a little bit racist and adores combat. Aragorn is kinda cool and to give him credit he does look a lot like a ranger. The worst character by far though has to be Legolas. He’s totally emotionless, doesn’t really do anything and has no complexity whatsoever. In fact, you could say that for all the elves apart from Elrond and Galadriel. None of them really have any emotion or do anything of interest, I guess you could chalk that up to the fact that immortality gets boring but I found nothing interesting about them. I guess it was originally supposed to make them cold and distant but it comes across as boring.

When this movie came out, people applauded it for its special effects and, to a large extent, they still do. Is this warranted? Well, for the most part, yes. There are scenes that use digital effects, others use more practical stuff like models, paintings and tricks of the eye, and obviously a lot of emphasis has to be placed on the importance of location and the natural beauty of the New Zealand landscape. The fact that Jackson uses a variety of visual effect techniques ought to be applauded; far too many directors are relying solely on the use of computers which, ironically, results in something that often looks far less impressive than something that uses models. There is, however, one time when the special effects really fail and that’s the stuff in Moria. There really isn’t any excuse for this, the blue screen effects are awful at times and the movement gets clunky. The only reason for this that I can think of is that they’d spent the majority of their budget and didn’t have enough to perfect the Moria effects so they just settled. Another thing that really annoys me is the action scenes which, despite being reasonably cool and well choreographed, suffer from an obnoxious case of shaky cam meaning that I could hardly see what was going on. It seems a shame because I would’ve liked to see it. This being said, it may just be because all the action in the first film involves small groups of characters and maybe Jackson thinks that with small groups the important thing is tension because the main characters are at the heart of the action as opposed to large battle scenes where the most importance thing is the spectacle. Nevertheless, it still annoys me, regardless of reason.

The story, like the majority of other elements in the film, has some very good things and other pretty bad things. Having not read the book I can’t be sure whether the bad things come directly from the film and the good things come directly from the book.but it certainly feels that way. As any half decent English professor will tell you, Tolkien took a lot of inspiration from old Nordic and Medieval texts as well as European mythology and languages; all of which Tolkien infuses perfectly within the history of Middle Earth and the crux of the story. As brilliant as it is that the film is based around a world which in turn is inspired by some of the most important pieces of literature ever written, such as Beowulf and King Arthur, the film isn’t responsible for the idea. Another major aspect of Tolkien’s writing is the idea of analogy and theme, a subject which requires a little back story. When Lord Of The Rings was first published in the 1950’s, the Foreword of the book claimed that the story had absolutely no analogical meaning and was simply a story. In a sense, this means we can apply whatever meaning we feel to the books simply because there is none already attached to it. In this sense, The Lord Of The Rings is clearly an analogy for the Second World War. Sauron is Hitler, Isangard is Italy and Saruman represents the French who quickly allied with Hitler after the fall of Paris and the idea of various races having to form an alliance in order to defeat an ultimate evil is straight from the War. That being said, because there is no analogy already tied to the series, you could link it with anything, The War of the Roses, The French Revolution, The sinking of the Lusitania; anything.

I don’t care what you say, the Balrog is totally a metaphor for Charles’ I repressed homosexuality

So yeah, there’s a lot of analogies you could link with the series but that’s not to say that there isn’t some stuff that the film does well on its own. It does well with themes like death, loss of innocence and war. There are, however, a tonne of other minor plots and storylines that really fail. I couldn’t care less about Arwen and Aragorn’s romance, the characters didn’t seem that invested so why the hell should I? There are also plot points like why didn’t Gandalf mention the Balrog when Gimli proposes they go through Moria? Did he honestly not think to mention this? If Gandalf had just said “Hey, guys lets not go through Moria because there’s a big ass fire demon and one or more of us may die.” The others probably would’ve listened. Also, what was Gandalf planning on doing if he couldn’t open the Moria door? And why was the password  in Elvish? I thought Dwarfs hated elves, did I miss something? It’s all very well mentioning the problems with the story but there are still some really good scenes, for example, Moria is done really well and there’s a lot of tension throughout. Gandalf’s death is also pretty well done, the bit where Legolas has a confused look on his face is brilliant because, being an elf, he has not experienced the death of a friend and therefore has no idea how to deal with it. Boromir’s last words are great and I like the scene where Bilbo gives Frodo all the equipment; very Q branch.

But by far, the best part of the story is the fact that Peter Jackson understands that the One Ring is a character in itself, and a crucial one at that. Sauron is one of the most important characters in the film but he’s a disembodied eye in a land that our main characters won’t reach for another 2 films. We do see Sauron in the opening scenes and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t like his design. The armour looks really silly and I probably would’ve liked it more if he’d been kept in the shadows more. The Ring allows Sauron to be an ever-present character throughout the film whilst at the same time remaining a malevolent and omnipresent evil. The Ring itself, because of the presence of Sauron, is a living thing. It wants to be found, it flees from Gollum and tries to corrupt everyone who even comes close. It’s a character in itself and Jackson understands that. The music is good, some pieces are better than others and most, if not all of them, are used well and fit the tone of the film.

Aside from small nitpicks and minor issues with some of the characters, there are two major problems with the film. The first is that it’s too long, the thing lasts for 2 hours 45 minutes and I’m almost certain that you could’ve squeezed it down to 2 hours. Because of this, younger viewers are probably going be bored throughout most of it. The second problem is that the pacing is pretty bad. The film starts off well, but then it spends way too much time in a place or focusing on a particular thing. There are moments that are cool but they are more often than not followed by a long and boring scene where not much happens. Granted, I know the book is a bit messy in that way but with a film adaptions though, there’s a lot of room for movement; this should be far better paced than this, regardless of what you think of Tolkien’s writing style, there were a tonne of things that could be cut out simply because they go nowhere and stop the plot.

Tom Bombadil: Tension Killer

It amazes me how overrated this film series is. Despite having some great casting, some great characters, some great acting and some great visuals; the film maybe sticks too closely to Tolkien’s meandering style and there are problems with all areas of the the film aesthetic. The negative stuff does outweigh the positive and, although I’m definatly a minority on this, I don’t think the film is that good. I’d recommend it simply because it is so culturally important, but be aware that you may be bored and that it’s far from the masterpiece everyone thinks it is.



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