February 1, 2001

How Does One Rate a DVD Movie Before It's Released?
Michael Martinez

Editor's Note: This is Michael's advance (and I do mean advance) review of the DVD for The Fellowship of the Ring. Click here for the full review.

I'm amazed to find this product listed, but I guess anticipation is important for a project as large as The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson is giving the story his own unique perspective and I think people will have a lot to talk about when the movies come out.

The well-documented deviations from Tolkien's book (armor-plated orcs emerging from pods, full-plate armor on Gondorian soldiers, pointy-eared Elves, Arwen's more active role, the early death of Saruman, the loss of Bombadil and Glorfindel, Cate Blanchette's line in the first theatrical trailer about even the smallest person making a difference, etc.) have sometimes caused greater furor than the long-running debates about the book itself. Jackson will most likely be excused by the majority of people because he is a director with a flair for the horrific. Tolkien provides plenty of opportunity for horror.

Curiously, the storyline for the films has already been altered, or so we are led to believe. The Arwen controversy, for example, has been rendered almost moot by rumors that Liv Tyler's role was rewritten after Peter decided that an action-oriented role didn't suit her. Arwen was never going to have that much of a presence in the movies anyway (most people would have trouble naming more than five scenes reported to include Arwen, and we don't yet know what made the first cut for "The Fellowship of the Ring").

The special effects will be a big part of the movies, and one can only hope that the DvD provides some interesting clips showing how things were done. I think that people will be very interested to see how Hobbits and Dwarves were represented using doubles, forced perspective, and CGI (Elijah Wood's face is being superimposed on a double for at least one scene). The special effects are being touted as "cutting edge" right now, but the innovations should include many unique applications of existing technology.

I also hope we'll get to see some of the props and sets up close. There is a "Making Of" documentary which may show us these things, but they should be on the DvD. Aragorn's sword, for example, will define the look of Elven weapons for years to come (yes, Telchar of Nogrod made Narsil, but Elrond's smiths reforged it). And there are carvings and graffiti and road signs and other things all created for the world which may not even be perceivable on film. Karl Urban and Brad Dourif have both stated their costumes are simply incredible. Will the viewing audience get to see the full details? The DvD can ensure that happens.

And most likely the DvD will push the Web site and the two sequels. Why not? It's a marketers' dream. Like many other people I'm looking forward to the movies. I may be disappointed. "The Phantom Menace" is a great movie but people had unrealistic expectations for it. The same fate may befall "The Fellowship of the Ring".