Twelve Things about The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
12. Well, this takes me back . . . way back . . . to 2001. (LOL!) At least it seems longer ago than it was because I never thought I'd see the day when visual effects which wowed me as a fastidious adult would look embarrassingly low-tech all of a sudden. (Naive me.)
And now I know why the best visual effects of earlier decades, which we laugh at today, weren't so awful to their first audiences. In fact, they would have been the opposite of awful--for we forgive much when we can meet good filmmakers halfway on the bridge of a strong story.
That means the question for anyone coming back to this after all that time is not so much, "Has it aged well?" as it is, "Was it truly a well-told story?"
11. Another difference between my old self and my current self is a whole lot of J.R.R. Tolkien. Although I refused to watch this film until I had finished the first Lord of the Rings book, I was still a total greenhorn when it came to Middle-earth. Since then, I've read the entire trilogy (Three times and counting!), The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, and other Tolkien texts having nothing to do with Middle-earth at all. And how delightful it was to see all the little "inside jokes" I've been missing for the past ten-or-so years. (My favourites? Bilbo's trolls!)
10. But what really inspired me to blog about this was the scene of the Council of Elrond--the part where everyone starts bickering and Frodo can see them all reflected in the Ring . . .
It is probably the best visual representation of the power of the Ring in the entire film. It is such a small object--but it makes everyone else around it seem smaller. It is outnumbered in their midst--but it looks as if it has trapped them.
9. Even in dark matters do we see that the small often trump the great--which, of course, is Tolkien's very theme. Indeed, it is a hobbit among the Elves, Dwarves and Men at the Council who most clearly sees this power--and malice--in the Ring . . . and of course, a hobbit among all the other races of Middle-earth who can be entrusted with the enormous task of destroying the One Ring once and for all.
8. So I'm thrilled that Peter Jackson underlines, at every chance he gets, the hobbityness of the hobbits. There is a neutral Everyman quality to Frodo that I'm not too crazy about, but Sam, Merry and Pippin are definitely hobbits. Not characters Just Like Us who only happen to be short . . . but Hobbits.
And yes, the Dwarves and dwarfish, the Elves are elvish, the Wizards are . . . well, you know. I have no complaints about the characters, save one . . .
7. Meet Arwen, the Empowered Elf-Hussy:
Now, I've never minded Arwen being here instead of Glorfindel--not because I thought this movie "needed" more female characters, but because her character does figure in the greater story and this was the most economical way to introduce her. But to underline her very first line with having her hold a knife to Aragorn's throat, however teasingly, makes her too much of a Modern Woman.
See how literal we've become? A woman doesn't have to be adept with a blade to be a fitting mate for the wielder of Anduril.
6. Back to the infallibly good stuff now. The Uruk-hai were fantastic.
Is this worth a thousand words or what?
Seriously . . . I respect Lurtz.
5. A random thought I had during a minor battle scene was how many other "ensemble movies" get most of their momentum from the interpersonal conflict that comes while all the big personalities learn to get along. Then it becomes about "teamwork" and "setting aside differences" and "getting along"--all pathetic excuses for themes, to be honest.
What you can see here is beyond "Teamwork".
I don't think there's a word in modern English for what this is.
I don't think there's a word in modern English for what this is.
I can't help comparing The Fellowship of the Ring to one of this year's big blockbusters, The Avengers. Over half the movie was bickering. Yes, we get our payoff at the end, in the form of an epic battle that probably should win it a Visual Effects Oscar--but the point is that it shouldn't be a payoff. After I caught The Avengers in the theatre, I came across a review which praised its "conservative values"--and suddenly everything became clear. People actually think that values are themes! (LOL!!!!!!!)
4. Something else Tolkien got that we don't is that certain things mean an end rather than a beginning. That the different Kindreds of Middle-earth, with a Wizard for good measure, are coming together in the most desperate stand against Sauron yet is indeed a Good Thing . . . but it is also a Last Thing.
When "the ends of the earth are closing in" (Name the G.K. Chesterton text that haunts my dreams!), it is probably because the world is about to end . . . even if it is only the world as we know it.
And so multiculturalism is probably not something to be excited about.
3. Now, before I forget one more time . . . Although Boromir's most quoted line of all time (thanks to this movie) has been:
The real Best Boromir Line Ever is:
Don't even argue with me, Raphael!
2. The year this film was nominated for Best Picture, I was actually rooting for A Beautiful Mind to win. I would have been happy had either of them taken the prize home, but the latter just seemed to me to be the David in this fight--an odd impression for me to have, given what The Lord of the Rings has to say about the little ones of the world. But even if David was to Goliath what A Beautiful Mind was to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the same simple tension between Small and Big becomes suddenly complicated when we bring in Frodo. For Frodo is not small just in relation to Sauron, whom he vanquishes, but in relation to all of Middle-earth, past, present and future.
Like the entire set of books written about Middle-earth, this movie had to be big--heck, it had to be epic--precisely so that Frodo could stay small. Not because it's cool when the underdog takes down the "obvious" victor, but because sometimes only an underdog can take down an overconfident, self-appointed victor.
If I had only seen that ten years ago, I would have championed this movie all the way. (I guess it has aged well.)
1. Something else it has taken me over ten years to say: they really should have written Tom Bombadil in.
Image Sources: a) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring poster, b) The One Ring at the Council of Elrond, c) Lurtz, d) "One does not simply . . ." meme