Sunday, August 4, 2013
LORD OF THE RINGS, THE: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE
(December 2001, U.S.)
Having finally arrived at one of the most popular franchises in film history, and I might add, the first complete group of franchise films I'm discussing since the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy some years ago, I can't help but feel a strong sense of challenge in that I never do quite feel completely up to the task of intelligently discussing films of fantasy or those that are comic book-based; in other words, it's safe to say that I suffer from a sever shortage of "inner geekness". Someone who truly know his or her J.R.R. Tolkien subject matters could (and would!) probably do these film a lot more justice than someone like myself who takes and accepts them at pure entertainment face value. Having opened with these words, I'm suddenly reminded of a funny story about an episode of FRIENDS in which Ross asks Joey in amazement, "Didn't you ever read Lord of the Rings in high school?", to which Joey replies, "No, Ross, I had SEX in high school!" Well, I can understand how Joey feels...sort of. You see, I never read LORD OF THE RINGS in high school either and I spent all four of those years TRYING to have sex! But, anyway...on we go to Middle-Earth.
This first volume of the legendary trilogy tells the story of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking what has been deemed "the One Ring to rule them all". The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit called Frodo Baggins (played by Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and his eight loyal companions who form their group knows as the Fellowship of the Ring begin their journey to the fiery Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed forever. Along the way, the hearts and strengths of men, hobbits and elves are tested as the powers and corruption of the ring produce great temptation to those who would seek to possess its powers. Confrontations and battles consume their journey as they must not only fight the powers of assorted monsters and creatures, but also the evil of the mighty Orcs, which I can only describe as a race of creatures who are used as soldiers and henchmen by both the greater and lesser villains of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings — Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman (look up these character names for yourselves because I'm just not enough of an educated fantasy geek to truly get into it now). By the end of this first chapter, our main hero, Frodo has ventured to continue to journey to Mount Doom on his own with only his faithful sidekick, Samwise (played by Sean Astin) to assist him in his quest. Part I ends with a true cliffhanger, leaving the view wanting more as soon as possible. Thankfully, we only had to wait one year instead of the traditional three!
In any fantasy film, I've always been of the opinion that not very changes in the basic tale of good versus evil and the powerful magic that often accompanies both sides. Peter Jackson, on the other hand, has taken the experience into the 21st Century with not only the CGI effects of the time that absolutely makes the powerful movie experience come alive on screen, but also casts the film with those who can truly perform their roles with just the right degree of intelligence and wit, including Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn and Orlando Bloom as Legolas (a character that my wife has had a serious crush on since the films hit the screen...so this one's for you, darling...)
...and Liv Tyler as the elf Arwen (now there's an elf I'd sleep with...so this one's for me...)
While their journey represents the traditions of conflict, battle and triumph, we also witness a wonderful sense of friendship and loyalty, which in my opinion, only serve to enhance one's character and turn a somewhat traditional story of fantasy and fun into something just a little more solid and viable for those who simply don't want to be entertained for more than two hours with nothing but visual images, awesome as they be.
Initially, I had very little interest in devoting three years of my life to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy when it was first released in 2001. When I was younger, the closest I'd come to this story was Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film version, but it failed to hold my interest. However, through a little nudging from my wife and one particular Saturday afternoon in New York City when I had nothing else to do, I walked to my local multiplex theater and gave it a shot. Well, clearly I wasn't too disappointed or I wouldn't be writing about it now. And lately, the more I learn about the stories of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the more I'm learning that they were the source of inspiration behind two of my favorite classic rock bands, LED-ZEPPELIN and RUSH. Just open up the gatefold to Led-Zeppelin's fourth album and tell me if that wizard on the mountain isn't supposed to be Gandalf? Maybe yes, maybe no...
And so, as I wrap up the first chapter in this legendary trilogy, I can only say to any and all fantasy geeks reading this post that I hope I did a somewhat reasonable job with my writing. After all, I'm just a traditional moviegoer who doesn't know his elf from his hobbit from his own ass!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Aragorn: "If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword."
Legolas: "And you have my bow."
Gimli: "And my axe."
Boromir: "You carry the fate of us all, little one. If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done."