Lord of the Rings -- My Thoughts

Most of the following has been copy and pasted from another site of my own.

Fellowship of the Ring

Have you ever had one of those moments where you know that you're experiencing a life-altering event? Something that will change you forever? The first time that I saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, and I saw the army of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men marching stalwartly towards the forces of Mordor in the opening scenes of the movie, I knew that I was on the brink of something very important in my life. As the movie unfolded and I experienced a gamut of emotions, from happy joy at Frodo jumping into Gandalf's arms, through concern at the gripping action in Moria, to actual grief at the death of Boromir, I felt myself wishing that the movie would never end. The movie has had such a profound effect on me that I've seen it a dozen times now, and started this site.

Oh, I can see some of you shaking your head and saying, "It's just a movie, Rivka! Get a grip." Maybe. Maybe it's just a movie to some. I certainly wouldn't rank its affect on my life up there with say, my wedding day, or the day my grandmother died. But it can't be denied that it has affected me strongly in many ways. The movie has such an emotional depth and beauty to it that I find myself deeply moved, even when watching it for the 12th time. How rare to come across such a fulfilling and stirring film, especially in today's cinema arena (perhaps the fact that it is not actually a Hollywood film is part of the reason it came out so well.) I find it hard to believe that even the most hard-bitten cynic wouldn't be moved by the complex emotions and poignant scenes that this movie portrays.

Of course, a significant portion of the film's success lies in its source material. More than anything else, I love this movie for having introduced me to the rich and exciting world that Tolkien himself created. I had read the Hobbit as a child, but could never get into Lord of the Rings for some reason. Having now read the books, I can appreciate the movie even more (while at the same time, railing at the changes that were made; but that's a topic for a different entry.) As a librarian, I'm exceedingly pleased that the movie may have caused some people to (gasp!) actually pick up the books and read them.

But since this is supposed to be a movie review, I guess I should actually get to reviewing the movie, huh?

The Script

I have very few gripes with the script, and was incredibly put out that it didn't win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars. My favorite scene in this entire film is the one where Frodo and Gandalf are talking in Moria; it's a beautifully written scene, and it works so well where it's been placed in the film (it's lovely in the book, too, but I think it has more emotional impact in the film, due to Gandalf "dying" shortly afterwards). I think most of the best lines in the movie are the ones taken directly from Tolkien's writing. The scriptwriter was very wise to use as much of his dialogue as possible-not only would the fans have lynched her if she hadn't, but there's no reason to rewrite perfection.

My second favorite scene, though, is one that expands greatly on what appears in the book, and that is Boromir's death scene. The line, "My brother…my captain…my king," gets me every time, and if you didn't at least tear up watching that for the first time, you must have a heart of stone.

There are very few actual scenes in the movie that I dislike (the only exception being a couple of Elrond's statements, and a few other minor scenes.) There are some areas where I wish that the actor had said their lines differently, but that lies with the actor himself, not with the actual dialogue. And sure, there are some specific lines and scenes from the books that I wish had stayed in, but overall, I'm very pleased with the script, and give kudos to Fran Walsh and the others for smushing 400+ pages into a workable (and watchable!) story.

The Special Effects

When they're good, they're very, very good: The Balrog. When they're bad, they're very, very bad: Legolas jumping on the cave troll. The problem, of course, is that I've seen the movie so bloody many times that I can't not notice the problems in this regard. CGI effects are great nowadays, and they certainly bring to life things that couldn't otherwise be seen on film. CGI technology still isn't perfect, though, and I worry about how well Shelob and Gollum are going to turn out. We'll just have to wait and see, of course, but I do hope more time is spent on making things look as good as possible, especially on the big screen. What looks good on a small computer screen while it's being worked on by the 3d artist may not translate so well to a large cinema screen, something that I wish more filmmakers would realize.

The Music

I think the soundtrack is an excellent example of how soundtracks should be done. The music is not obtrusive, it always fits the scenes, and you find yourself haunted by parts of it later. There are certain parts of it that are incredibly beautiful, such as the Breaking of the Fellowship, and the song by Enya. If you don't own the soundtrack, I highly recommend purchasing it.

The Actors

The majority of the actors of the film did exceptional jobs, and there were only one or two cases where I really disliked how a character was portrayed. The most obvious (and most cited) example of this is Celeborn, who was portrayed by Marton Csokas. The poor man has been horribly maligned by myself and others. It does seem rather unfair, as he only had the one line; perhaps if we had seen more of him, there would be less to make fun of. And then again, perhaps not. The interesting thing I find, though, is that with the one exception of Celeborn, there are no other really horrible characterizations or actors in the film. In fact, most of the portrayals are stellar. With a cast as large as the one that Lord of the Rings boasts, that's quite an accomplishment. But on to individual reviews of the major characters, in no particular order:

Ian McKellan: What can I say? The man deserved the Oscar nod that he was given. Too bad he didn't actually win. Ian brought Gandalf alive, with a humanity and skill that makes it so that people were truly upset when his character "died." Characters die in movies all the time. How often do you hear an entire theater sniffling when it happens, though? I can think of only a handful of times I've heard that, and Lord of the Rings is one of them. That kind of thing only happens, though, when people can identify both with the character themselves, and with how the death will affect the other characters in the movie. If Ian hadn't played so well off of the other actors, and if he hadn't made Gandalf such a likeable and convincing character, well, people probably wouldn't have given a hoot if he died. So, hats off to Ian McKellan! And kudos on the Golden Globe award, at least.

Orlando Bloom: This young man has been getting a lot of attention lately. I'm not so certain that he's fully worthy of it, though, as Lord of the Rings is the only movie that I've seen him in. He was an excellent Legolas. But is that saying much with the limited amount of screen time he got? Yes, he's very pretty in the role. And he looks very good shooting a bow. He did imbue his lines with a calm reserve, and he was exceptionally graceful while fighting, so in that, he certainly meets my expectations of the character. I'm reserving final judgment until the next two movies, though, to see if continues to fulfill those expectations.

Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan: They were believable as Hobbits, and in fact, there isn't much I dislike about their portrayals. Poor Dominic had to play second fiddle to Billy Boyd's rather silly and impetuous Pippin, and I hope he'll get more of a chance to show his stuff in the Two Towers. They appear to play off each other well, which I think will be important in the second movie.

Sean Astin: I don't know about you, but I hated Sam in the book. He's a large part of the reason I never got far with reading it the several times I tried. He was just so damned annoying! Well, Sean Astin has changed all that. Sure, his accent slips occasionally, and that drowning scene at the end of the film is about 20 seconds too long. But he gives Sam a homey and faithful mien, such that I can actually believe that he will follow Frodo to the ends of the earth (or Mordor, as the case may be). The important thing about watching his portrayal is to watch him when he's in the background; Sean wasn't given a lot of prominent screentime, but whenever he's on the screen, even in the background, it's Frodo he's watching and reacting to.

Viggo Mortenson: Again, Aragorn was a character I never liked much. He's another big reason that every time I tried to read the books, I never got past the scenes in Bree. I really like Viggo as Aragorn, though. Aragorn in the books is a little too full of himself. Too sure of his destiny and what he's doing. I like that Viggo gave Aragorn some uncertainty, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how he shows Aragorn's transformation from the Ranger to the King over the next two movies.

Hugo Weaving: I do wish that he had tried just a little bit harder to sound less like Agent Smith from the Matrix. He says a couple of lines in a tone exactly like that character's and it drives me crazy every time. Overall, though, I really like his Elrond (enough to name this site after him!), and I'm kind of disappointed that we probably won't see much more of him in the other two movies.

Liv Tyler: The scene with Frodo by the river annoys the heck out of me, but that's not really Liv's fault (that is one of the areas that I would quibble with the scriptwriters). I think Arwen's scene with Arargorn in Rivendell is beautiful and romantic, and she plays the stately Elf princess with an otherworldly air that I really like. So, I'm not an Arwen hater, although I may change that opinion if she pops up in every other scene in the later two movies.

Ian Holm: He is Bilbo Baggins. I will never be able to view that character in any other way. I love how Ian gave him a little twinkle in his eye in the happy scenes, and those scenes where he's puttering about in Bag End at the beginning of the film are just perfect. He plays the darker scenes exceptionally well, too, and I think the part where Gandalf keeps picking at him to give up the ring are especially effective. There are many examples in this movie where the casting was inspired; this is just one of them.

Cate Blanchett: I love Cate as an actress, but I felt like there was something a little off about her performance. Galadriel appears ethereal, as she should, but a little too cold. And the temptation scene is just too out there. That's due more to the direction and special effects, though. All in all, if we don't see the Elves of Lothlorien in the later movies, I really won't be heart-broken (which I know is a vain wish, as we already know that Galadriel appears in the Two Towers).

John Rhys-Davies: It's hard to give an opinion on a character who only gets a handful of lines, but I do think his character was a little too over the top. The sobbing scenes in Moria I find especially annoying. And I wish they could have shown his character working with his axe more. Still, he looks and acts pretty much like I expected a Dwarf to be, so I can be content with that.

Sean Bean: My god, was he incredible in this film. There is nothing I dislike about his portrayal. He actually has made people like the character of Boromir, which is something of a minor miracle. I find it fascinating to see the ways in which Sean shows how the ring is working on him constantly, and how it all comes together in that final scene with Frodo. And I suspect it's difficult to play a death scene without coming off ridiculous; he was anything but, and he had me sobbing by the end of the movie.

Elijah Wood: Some people say, "He spends the entire film looking scared!" Well, duh. Wouldn't you be scared if you were Frodo? What else is he supposed to be acting like? If you've spent any time on this site, then you already know that I adore Elijah's portrayal of Frodo. There is very little that I didn't like here; he gave Frodo a sincerity, sweetness, and sense of purpose that made me pretty much fall in love with the character (it's not just his pretty face and big blue eyes, I swear!) I think his role is often overlooked because it seems like it must be the easiest, and because he does it so (seemingly) effortlessly. Keep this in mind, though: the entire trio of films pretty much rests on whether or not you find Frodo Baggins to be a believable character. Did his delight at meeting Gandalf in the beginning of the film make you smile? Did his terror on Weathertop make you cringe in worry? Did his discussion with Gandalf in Moria in which he showed despair and heaviness of heart make you feel badly for him? Did his grief-filled scream of "No!" when Gandalf fell fill your heart with sadness? Did you believe? I did. Frodo has already been wrung through the ringer several times in the first movie, and we all know it's only going to get worse. I have little doubt that Elijah Wood has the skill to keep making me believe, and that, my friends, is real talent.

In Summary

It has to be pretty obvious that I love almost everything about this movie. Sure, the editing and sound could have been better. Maybe the fight scenes were a little too drawn out. And there were some parts that just came out wrong (i.e., Lothlorien). But those are minor quibbles. What's important is that the movie stayed emotionally and thematically true to the book, and that is a large part of the reason why most of the fans have embraced it so strongly. The beauty, sorrow, and hope of the novel are all there, from the very moment that Galadriel begins speaking the prologue, to the end when the two brave Hobbits continue on their way alone. Peter Jackson and everyone else who worked on the movie have created an exceptionally beautiful and moving film that satisfies both fans and non-fans alike. I am incredibly thankful for the joy and new knowledge that the movie and the book have brought to my life, and also for the fact that it caused me to create this site and meet so many other interesting and wonderful people through it.

The Two Towers

As it is currently 3:30 in the morning, I'm not sure how coherent this review is going to be, but I'd like to get my thoughts and impressions down while they are still fresh in my mind. First off, let me say this is a mixed review. *waits to be pelted with stones* Now don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the movie, and I expect I'll enjoy it the 20 times that I watch it in the future. But it has to be said: it deviates quite a bit from the books, and for some people, that will be a bitter pill to swallow. I'm one of those people who always eats her broccoli first, and saves the good stuff for last, so on to the bad stuff:

Okay, so that's all the bad, which really isn't that much, when it comes down to it. There's a lot more that's good to be excited about:

Don't give up hope, and think that because this review has some problems with the film that you should be concerned or upset. When FotR first came out, a lot of people who loved the books hated the movie the first time they saw it. That's because a large part of watching the movie for them involved comparing the book to the movie, and every time it deviated, it was upsetting or distracting for them. When I saw Fellowship the first time, I hadn't read the books, didn't have any preconceived notions about the story, and so was able to just be wrapped up in the story and enjoy it. This time, though, having read the books by now, I had a harder time enjoying the Two Towers, because I kept thinking, "But that's not right!" It's interesting to note that a lot of those people who hated FotR the first time often came to really like the movie on subsequent viewings, because by then they were able to let go and just enjoy the film on its own merits - I have high hopes the same will hold true for me in this case. Not to say I didn't enjoy the movie, because I very much did - I just had a hard time getting past the things that felt wrong or different from the book.

My final verdict: As a continuation of the film version of Fellowship of the Ring, it comes through smashingly, with high excitement, action, and special effects. It deviates heavily from the books, though, and many Tolkien purists (and even just some regular fans) will be put out by this.

Return of the King

The movie that finally made me like Samwise Gamgee. Sean Astin should have been nominated for an Oscar for this! Ah well. At least RotK cleaned up at the Oscars otherwise.

Copyright © Rebecca Smallwood