31 December 2011

Dec 30 - "What is this new devilry?"

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
dir. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

Sean Astin (The Goonies, 1985)
Sean Bean (National Treasure, 2004)
Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood, 2010)
Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown, 2005)
Billy Boyd (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2003)
Marton Csokas (Timeline, 2003)
Ian Holm (Alice Through the Looking Glass, TV 1998)
Christopher Lee (Return from Witch Mountain, 1978)
Ian McKellen (X-Men, 2000)
Dominic Monaghan (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009)
Viggo Mortensen (Appaloosa, 2008)
Craig Parker (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, 2009)
John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981)
Andy Serkis (13 Going on 30, 2004)
Liv Tyler (Empire Records, 1995)
Hugo Weaving (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (voice), 2010)
Elijah Wood (Back to the Future Part II, 1989)

I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended edition, obviously) with my little brother over the course of three nights around the new year. He kept interrupting to ask whether or not a certain scene was "extended edition" or not. I said, "no, I think this was original" or, "yeah, this seems new and different."

Watching this movie reminds me of when I was just a little kid, maybe around Kiefer's age or maybe younger, and my older brother & I sat in my mom's big bed whie she read us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I don't know know how far along we got in Tolkien's great trilogy--I'm also certain we never finished it--but I always rememer how I scared I was at the part where Frodo is leaving the Shire for the first time in his whole life, and the Black Riders are chasing him and he and Sam and Merry and Pippin are all hiding under the embankment on the side of the road and the Black Rider is right on top of them but somehow they manage to escape anyway. That was a very scary scene.

I also remember the par to of the book where Frodo tries to give the ring away to Galadriel, and she becomes a very scary and terrible version of herself and tells him that if she were to have the ring she would become as terrible as Sauron, that "all would love me and despair" but then she sort of wilts back to her normal self and declares that she had always wondered if she would be able to pass the test that Frodo had just put to her, and since she had she would herself begin to fade away.

Of course there are dozens of great nuggets to pull out, but it's hard for me to say that The Fellowship of the Ring really works well as a movie. It's too episodic, like three movies crammed into two and a half hours. First Frodo and his pals have to flee the shire, the threat of the black riders is introduced, then they meet Aragorn, who escalates the action, then they have to fight the black riders at Weathertop and Frodo is wounded, then they have to race to Elrond's place to heal Aragorn. That would be a movie in itself, but they the romance between Aragorn and Arwen is introduced, we meet Boromir and his impending doom is foreshadowed, the Fellowship is finally introduced and the gang sets off with high spirits to Mordor. They have to change routes twice and finally decided on the scary route through the mines of Moria. They have to fight a lot of goblins and ogres and orcs in the mines and Gandalf dies. There's another little narrative arc for you, but THEN there's still another forty minutes in which the gang reaches Galadriel's kingdom and some more foreshadowing ensues. Boromir gets darker and darker until he finally tries to roughhouse Frodo who runs away with Sam, meanwhile the crew is attacked by the Uruk-hai (which are introduced at some point prior as hybrid super-soldiers, also it's established that Saruman is a bad guy with a vendetta against trees and I forgot to mention the part where Gandalf rides an eagle) and Boromir dies and Pippin and Merry are captured. I think that's how it ends but I'm sure there's even a bit of denoument tagged onto that.

So you see as a saga it's very engaging, but as a movie the storyline isn't tight enough. There are too many highs and lows. That's not to say I demand an easily digested plot that doesn't make me think too hard, but even so there's only so much time I can spend sitting still. Trying to get it all into one movie was a worthy effort, luckily I think the next two movies did much better.

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