17 July 2012


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 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


Angie Tusa said...

I have a lot of problems with Tolkien's writing style, but if there's one reason I'm glad I read The Fellowship of the Ring, it's that I got to know about Tom Bombadil. I get really confused when I hear a lot of people on the internet talking bad about him. I had hoped to see him in the Extended Editions at least, but no such luck.

Jenny said...

As always, I enjoyed your thoughts. The arguing around the ring has always been a favorite scene of mine too.

The Mike said...

I kind of scoff at these movies these days, as I really could never find a way to love the last two parts of the trilogy. Too much repetition, not enough of what I felt was "real" drama.

BUT, I'm mad in love with Fellowship. Perhaps that's why I'm so hesitant, the bar was set too high for the sequels. Plus, I love Sean Bean to death. (Which helps with him dying in every movie he's ever been in.)

Love the ring image. Never thought much of it, but a great point by you. Cheers!

pennyyak said...

Oh, I just stumbled on this. May the giver of Gold Stars give you many.

When I first saw Fellowship, all I wanted to do was criticize it. It departs from the book here, he did not say that, on and on. But I've come to appreciate it.

Many things well done in the first film, and some... All in all, I'm sure glad I lived long enough to see someone do it justice. After all, I picked up the book in the early 70's. Living through that cartoon version was unspeakable.

Good countdown.

I want to retire in Rivendell.

Shaz said...

Thank you for reminding me how much I love this film!

Sean Bean deserved an Ocscar for the brilliant delivery of the cave troll line.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I adore the Lord of the Rings movies and try to re-watch them each year. I always notice something new or become attached to a different character. It’s rare to find a series that gets you so emotionally involved in the action.

Enbrethiliel said...


Angie -- I'm not always crazy about his writing style, either, although since I usually complain about The Silmarillion, someone inevitably reminds me that it was heavily co-written by his son Christopher. So . . . =P

Maybe we can discuss it a little more if I ever do a Reading Diary post for one of his books? =)

Jenny -- Thanks! This was actually the first time I appreciated that scene.

The Mike -- Oh, I'm in love with The Fellowship of the Ring, too! <3 It's my favourite in the movie trilogy. I'm not sure I even want to rewatch the sequels. =P

Pennyyak -- LOL! I haven't seen the cartoon version, but I've heard some horrifying complaints. ;-) The most memorable being the one that accused the animators of thinking Tolkien's target audience were people high on weed! ROFL!

I want to live in Rivendell, point blank period!

Shaz -- You're welcome! And I'm so glad you appreciate the genius of the cave troll line. It was another thing I didn't appreciate until this latest viewing, but Sean Bean literally made me laugh out loud. It was so rich!

Melissa -- It's usually books that make me notice something new every time; movies rarely have the same effect. But The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring definitely fits that description for me. And "emotionally involved in the action" is right! It's probably unfair to keep comparing this to The Avengers, but . . . although I was blown away by the action scenes in the latter film, they didn't also move me. The action scenes here have real power!

mrsdarwin said...

I was almost, but not completely, wowed when I first saw Fellowship, but in re-watching a few years ago, I was a bit disappointed by the many chances that Peter Jackson missed to meet Tolkien's vision. Having said that, Fellowship is probably the movie with the least departures from the source -- in Two Towers and Return of the King, it's disheartening to see how every chance that Jackson could either save Tolkien's wonderful dialogue or stay true to his own b-horror movie roots, he chose the latter route. (Case in point: the reunion of the revived Gandalf with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.)

I'm not sorry that these versions were made -- they're often very pretty and visually compelling -- but one day I hope someone tries again using Tolkien, and not Hollywood tropes, as the guiding star.

Salome Ellen said...

As the mother of an Arwen (Turns 30 this year; I'm officially OLD!) I really hated almost everything Jackson did with her. It amazes me how many of the characters he just didn't "get." And although I have movie images in my head, I'll stick with the books, thanks.

That said: I would recommend the movies to anyone who wasn't sure about reading LOTR. It was actually helpful to me to have images from the much-defamed cartoon in my head when I f i n a l l y started reading the books at my roommate's insistence, and then devoured all three in a week.

geeklady said...

(I might be going to see the Hobbit in the theatre this Christmas, but I'm going to wear ThinkGeek's "the book was better" shirt.)

I really did not like the movies. Visually, they are beautiful. The music is quite good (especially Eowyn's lament, which may be an addition, but I thought it a good one.). But I cannot overlook the butchering of the characters and story, and THAT deeply mars my enjoyment of the visual and auditory beauty.

Elrond was completely out of character: unkind, reactionary, and foolish. Frodo's mercy to Gollum was transposed into a willful, desperate blindness. Faramir fell when the whole point of his character is to contrast his refusal of the Ring with Boromir's attempt to seize it. Gimli and Legolas were comic relief! Aragorn was whiney and unwilling instead of laboring for decades to restore the thrones of Gondor and Arnor, and win the consent of Elrond for Arwen's hand. Theoden apparently has a relapse immediately after his healing by Gandalf. Treebeard is properly kind, but, like Elrond, was made shortsighted and foolish.

But then these books had a heavy influence on my formation as an adult, and so I find these and other changes to be quite jarring. No one else I know is at all sympathetic.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

A thank you for identifying the meme behind "One Does Not Simply Tell the Catholic Church What to Do" ...

Enbrethiliel said...


Mrs. Darwin -- You know I'm a huge fan of B-Horror, but I do agree about Tolkien's vision ultimately proving far too big for Peter Jackson to handle. One other reason I wish he had won the Oscar for this movie was so that the Academy didn't have to feel so obligated to give him his win for The Return of the King. =/

Ellen -- I have another friend who was so grateful to this movie for "exorcising" the very same cartoon images from her imagination, at long last!

What did you think of Eowyn, though?

Geeklady -- Ever since I heard about the "she-elf" named "Tauriel" whom Philippa Boyens (I think!) created especially for the movie, I've been wondering whether to boycott the whole thing. =(

I still think this movie was okay enough. Not stellar, but not bad, either. And personally, I really enjoyed revisiting it. (Let me guess? I'm not properly sympathetic either? LOL! But I'm truly sorry, too.)

Hans -- I hadn't even heard of that one! There are too many "One Does Not Simply" permutations to count, each one as funny as the last . . . especially if one has been drinking. ;-) Thanks for letting me know about it!

DMS said...

I enjoy The Lord of the Rings- though J.R. Tolkeins's writing style is a little long-winded for me- I loved the movies and, visually, they are amazingly creative. ~ Jess


Enbrethiliel said...


I have a love-hate relationship with Tolkien's style. Someone pointed out to me that the books I like the least were actually published after his death and that he himself might not have okayed the final versions. Fair enough! =)

Belfry Bat said...

Stylistically, the best Tolkien is his alliterative verse; it's remarkably well suited to the litanaic content he seems so fond of; and there's almost none of that in the films. Ah, well...

No, really, the first virtue of Tolkien's writing is that his heroes really are heroic --- they do great good in spite of their creature frailties --- and that his villains really are villainous --- they do great evil in spite of the great gifts they were created with; and yet all this without being sacharine or racking-up "Cross" points or falling into the modern fad for conflicted anti-hero and psychiatric unvillain.

And almost none of this... well, you know? So, there.

Enbrethiliel said...


I'm afraid I don't know! =P

I don't like "Christian" stuff, either, Bat, but I have to ask you not to link to Catholic blogs in my combox. Unless they're already on my sidebar, they seriously irritate me. (As I hope to seriously irritate them! But that's just my hubris speaking.)

Thanks! =)

Pennyyak Harper said...

You do have bunches of hubris, En. There are Catholic blogs on your sidebar? Are you seriously irritating any of them? How can you tell?

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't think I'm irritating the ones on the sidebar, but I imagine that i"m irritating a lot of other ones.

(Arrogance and delusion! I'm a package deal!)

Pennyyak Harper said...

I do love you, En. You are the most, lol.

Enbrethiliel said...


I love you, too, Penny! ;-)

Belfry Bat said...

weyell, I'll drive a jeep over doughnuts... I suppose that *is* a Cxxxxxxx blog over there; I thought the blog admin would be able to gently edit comment a-la unnameable hieratic webpersonality of extreme final initial... but now I see that, no, blogger doesn't help with that. must be a wp thing...

If I forget and do that again, just send me a jar of spiders in the mail.

Paul Stilwell said...

That's it, I can't bear it any longer.

For all that is good and holy on this earth understand that Tolkien did not write with a "style" fellow Tolkien fans! Ernest Hemingway wrote with a "style", Joyce wrote with a "style", consciously so. Tolkien did not. It wasn't on his mind. It wasn't in his subconscious mind.

His concern was the English language, but not as an orphan like Hemingway or Joyce. Tolkien *trusted* the English language. Thus, for every criticism of "long-windedness" there is to be found a parallel criticism of "plainness" in his "style". People are alternately put off by his "purple" prose and his square use of everyday adjectives.

So which is it? Tolkien re-issued the English language to us like a waking Ent, and we hum and haw about such quibbling things as "style".

Does this touch a sensitive spot for me? Perhaps.

Enbrethiliel said...


Stilwell, I don't know what the word "style" ever did to you, but I'm guessing it was a mugging in a dark alley. ;-)

I think everyone who tries to create something with words has a "style," in the way everyone who chooses his own clothes has a "style." It doesn't have to imply artifice, as perhaps the word "stylised" does.

I also think that someone who would write something like, "thought and knowledge were in her glance" definitely has a style. Tolkien was careful enough with language to be aware of its effect when just the right words are arranged in just the right way. And select and arrange them he did!

Paul Stilwell said...

I'm just being a grump.

I loved your insights in this post by the way.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

And when he used the beautiful inversion:

Helms too they chose.

It came off his pen without his having thought of it, like some long sentences, but this was a short one.

It came, linguistically from Anglo-Saxon (sometimes known as Old English) and Middle English (sometimes divided into Old an Middle English) + Early Modern English up to Malory and Shakespear either prose (long sentences, like in Latin, and still in German) or poetry (short ones with pithy inversions for emphasis).

It is a style, and people who prefere Late Modern English standard prose can be allergic to it. Too bad for them, asking me!

Enbrethiliel said...


Stilwell -- Thanks! Grump away any time. =)

Hans -- That's an even better example! And very beautiful. =) Thank you!

Paul Stilwell said...

"Helms too they chose."

Tolkien would have argued that that is no inversion at all.