Monday, December 10, 2012

Family Movie Night: The Fellowship of the Ring

Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Director: Peter Jackson
Original Release: 2001
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Image via Wikipedia

"What about Tom Bombadill?"

Regular visitors know I've been reading Tolkien to our nine-year-old daughter for well over a year in anticipation of Peter Jackson's live action Hobbit films, installment #1 to be released this coming Friday.  The first book (The Hobbit) was my idea, but she requested the next two.  Despite her professed enthusiasm, I occasionally wonder how closely she's paying attention.

This weekend began with a nebulous plan to watch all three of Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.  Our Girl had never seen any of them.  As the hobbits were making their way to Rivendell early in Fellowship, she turned to me and asked the question above, clearly disappointed and echoing the purists' main complaint back when the film was first released.  My Wife and I are both so proud of our little Tolkien scholar.  Sniff...  I guess she's ready.


In the end, we only made it through the first two movies.  The Return of the King will have to wait for another time.  For blog purposes, I shall focus this week's post on the first movie of the trilogy.

Despite the omission of one of our favorite characters, Jackson's work is about as faithful to the original text as a near four-hour film (extended version, of course) could be.  There are other discrepancies, of course, but I expect Tolkien himself would have been pleased.  If you've devoted your life to the study of fantasy literature's grand master and have, for whatever crazy reason, avoided Jackson's films to this point, you will at least appreciate the filmmaker's obvious love for the material.  If you're a novice, the movies are every bit as likely to get you hooked as the books are.

So many things to love about Fellowship:
  • Middle Earth is the gold standard for world building in literature.  Jackson's film offers a textured, detailed reality worthy of Tolkien. Settings, casting, costume, makeup, sound - every facet is rich.
  • New Zealand is beautiful - minimal CGI required for the landscape shots.  Has any nation ever received such outstanding PR from a movie franchise?
  • Whenever I have read Fellowship, I have found the Ringwraiths genuinely terrifying and Jackson's treatment is very satisfying.  The bugs and worms that fall out of the first one the hobbits encounter are a great touch.
  • My favorite part of the first book is the affection/crush which Gimli the Dwarf develops for Galadriel, the Elf co-ruler of Lothlorien.  Most specifically, her parting gift to him is especially touching.  I can't remember if it was part of the theatrical version of the film but it's part of the extended version.
If you're curious about my previous Tolkien posts:

Bedtime Stories: The Hobbit
Bedtime Stories: The Fellowship of the Ring
Family Movie Night: The Hobbit

Multi-generational considerations:
  • The PG-13 rating is for violence and scary stuff.  Our Girl doesn't really seem particularly fazed by violence in movies, though she'll ask if a character she likes is going to die.
  • There are definitely scary moments: the aforementioned encounters with the Ringwraiths, of course, and also the face Bilbo makes as he reaches for The Ring on Frodo's necklace.
  • Speaking of characters she likes, she has confessed to me that the Elves are her favorite - especially Legolas.  She got a sheepish grin when I asked why.  She said she'd like to be an Elf herself.  I suspect, though, that there may be an Orlando Bloom crush involved as well.
  • Our Girl has a tendency to giggle during what I think of as tense plot points of movies - battle scenes and the like.  Her mom does it occasionally, too.  At one point during our marathon, I made some snarky comment along the lines of "It would be nice to feel the two of you are taking the story seriously!"  "We are taking it seriously," My Wife replied. "We have to find humor where we can.  It's a very dark story!"
  • To that end:


My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.

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