December 19, 2001

My Review of 'The Fellowship of the Ring'
Matthew Bass

All I can say is that Jackson did it. What a superb film! I thought the wait for The Two Towers would be bearable after the past 4 years, but the excellence of FotR has just made things worse. The scenery was breathtaking, the acting was top-notch, everything was as just about as perfect as you can get.

Let me back up, though. I arrived at the theater with my father and brother at 11:00am (the showing was at 11:30am) and the place was packed! I was barely able to grab the last open 3 seats before everything was filled. Keep in mind that this is in Raleigh, North Carolina too... it's not like we're in Hollywood here. The crowd at opening night of Jurassic Park III wasn't even this big, not to mention the crowds at The Lost World and The Phantom Menace. Incredible!

Anyway, after an annoyingly long string of previews, the film began. Most of the introduction I had already read about in spy reports and on message boards, but the CG armies were really spectacular. Mount Doom was even better... one of the best computer-generated landscapes I have ever set eyes on. It was impressive to see the Elven and human armies clashing with the Orcs. I really thought that I was in the Second Age for a while. The only complaint I have is Sauron seeming to throw soldiers away from him while swinging his mace (or whatever it was). Really cheesy if you ask me, but oh well.

From there we were introduced to Frodo, Gandalf, Bilbo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin rather quickly. Bilbo's party was just as I had imagined it, save for Merry and Pippin's accident, which I won't go into here. At times, the movie seemed to be on the verge of stalling on some exposition, but then it would pick right back up again and keep on going. Bree was too short for my liking... we didn't get to see enough of Butterbur, who, I must admit, was perfect. PJ's cameo in Bree was quick, but obvious and I laughed when I noticed it. Viggo Mortensen was, of course, perfect as Strider. I am so glad that PJ decided to leave in the smoking. In today's PC climate, it would have been easy for him to have left that out (especially the references to "weed" which could be misinterpreted), but he stuck to Tolkien's original vision and kept all of it in. Thank you, PJ! (And in case you were wondering, no, I don't smoke and never plan to! LOL)

Weathertop was excellent. Very moody setting. Arwen's role... well, I think I will never get comfortable with PJ's expanded version of Arwen, but she certainly wasn't as bad as she could have been. The ride to the Ford featured some interesting shots. I had never imagined Rivendell the same way it was presented to me on-screen, but I think I like PJ's version better. Very beautiful architecture (we have Alan Lee and John Howe to thank for that) and scenery.

Orthanc!! Orthanc was uber-cool... it was PERFECT. Christopher Lee as Saruman, again, was perfect. Great casting there. I especially enjoyed viewing the top of the tower of Orthanc when Gandalf was on it. The four, what do you call them, spires? looked quite authentic. I could have done without the wizard battle, of course, but as with Arwen, it didn't detract from the film.

Moria was, undoubtedly, the highlight of the film for me. The Balrog was... incredible. Language is too limited to express my admiration for the job that was done in creating that guy. I can even forgive the wings... well, almost! I said it before and I'll say it again, the effects in this film were top-notch. I do believe Weta has catapulted itself into a position in which it can vie with ILM for the title of "Best Special Effects Company." The Hobbit shrinking was fantastic and I never got sick of the fly-throughs of Isengard, Barad-dur, etc. The only thing I regret was not being able to see more of Minas Tirith. I guess we all have another couple of years to wait for that, unless it gets sneaked into TTT.

As I mentioned before, I have a gripe with PJ about how dark he made this film. This was more along the level of what I expected for The Two Towers, which is, undoubtedly, the darkest of Tolkien's three books.  If PJ can make FotR this dark, I wonder what he is going to do with TTT? I, personally, would have liked to see more of the goodness and glory of Middle Earth. Sometimes, it was hard to tell who was good and who was evil. Galadriel, for example, struck me as being neither totally good or totally evil... she was mostly aloof. That's not the Galadriel that Tolkien wrote about. And in the case of the Elven and Gondorian armies of the Second Age, I didn't expect them to look so... dark. I expected the armies to come marching over the hills, light glinting off of their swords and armor, glowing, the hair of the captains blowing in the wind, etc. But even so, PJ's vision of Middle Earth is closer than anything I have seen before and is an entirely enjoyable film in its own right. Segments, such as the death of Boromir and the Mines of Moria, are spot-on and I applaud PJ for his brilliance.

I won't go into detail about the remainder of the film. You have to go see it yourself if you haven't already done so. It's well worth the $6 ticket price. Suffice it to say that I had few complaints. I am totally convinced now that this film will go on to become even more popular than Harry Potter and make potentially much more money. We should all keep an eye on the box office stats over the next few days to see what's happening there. As for myself, I will be going back to see the film again this evening with my brother and a couple of friends.

You did it, PJ. Nothing more needs to be said.