The Lord of the Rings: The... (2001)
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Review Date: December 13, 2001
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Peter Jackson, Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Producers: Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne
Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Viggo Mortensen
We're in Middle Earth and it's packed with hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards and all other kinds of kooky characters. A ring has turned up that is extremely powerful and is said to lead anyone who holds it to evil. The Dark Lord Sauron wants that puppy back (the bastard wants to rule the world) but a fellowship of nine goodies from the area, including Frodo, the dude actually carrying the ring, set out to return and destroy the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, the place at which the band was forged in the first place and the only place where the ring can be obliterated.
An amazing production filled with awesome special effects, terrifying beasts from another time, darkness all around, interesting characters and a pretty basic story to follow, but not one which engulfed me completely, most likely due to my personal disinterest in the genre and some smaller issues as well. But for what it is, this movie certainly delivers in spades with wizards, hobbits, elves, black-hooded riders (creepy as hell!), dwarves and everything else you'd ever want from an adult fantasy movie (not that kind of "adult" movie, ya perv!) and a little bit more. Have you read the books? Are you already a huge fan? Well, then my opinion will likely not resonate much with you. I haven't read the books, don't know much about the story or the people surrounding it and basically went in to this movie with low expectations, which were happily surpassed. Now there's been a lot of hype and early hyperbole on this film already ("One of the greatest movies of all-time?") but I suspect that everyone will come to their own appreciation of this film, in relation to their personal connection to the stories in the first place. For me, this was "just a movie" and as a film, it's a pretty solid fantasy/action/horror flick with some minor issues.

The most obvious one for me was the film's length, which seemed a little elongated at three hours. The narrative followed a very basic action/slowdown & exposition/action/slowdown & exposition pattern, and some of its more gradual scenes weren't as interesting to me as they might be to others who actually understood everything that everyone on the screen might've been talking about. To me, there were just too many weird and indistinguishable names and places to separate from one another, and after a while, some of them just got confusing (and why on God's green Earth did Frodo's buddy keep calling him Mr. Frodo?!? What was that all about?!) Don't get me wrong, the story is actually a pretty simple one to follow (kid with ring being helped by others must get it to a mountain and destroy it there), but some of the smaller details, the conversations about so-and-so in such-and-such a place, went over my head, every now and then. The dialogue was also decent for the most part (no over-the-top crap here and generally quite comprehensible), but some of the more overly-poetic stuff just struck me as a little too goofy. But I'm sure that would also depend on whether or not you're "into" this genre, and like I said earlier, it's really not my cup 'o brew. Other than that, the CGI was pretty solid and complementary (although I noticed that the hobbits were a little smaller in wide shots then they were in close-ups with their immediate environments) and the creatures lurking all around, very authentic to the point of scaring the shit out of me, even though I was in the theatre (the Ringwraiths, Orcs and that nutty ol' Cave Troll being the most kickass). As for the plot details, well, I bought most of the stuff that they tossed my way but I still don't understand how these nine individuals looking after the ring, could sustain themselves so well against these crazy animal-beasts-from-hell, during one particular scene in the Mines of Moria. I mean...c'mon...four of them are even under four feet tall, for God's sakes! Aaaaaanyway...

What was good about the movie? Well, after all this time in waiting, I have to give it up to director Peter Jackson for creating such an incredibly believable environment in which this otherworld takes place. Every detail of the film seemed real, from the dark, twisted battle sequence opening up the movie, down to the dirt in the little hobbit's fingernails. The sense of "evil" all about is particularly well established. Speaking of the opening, I also liked how they prologued the entire film with a little back-story for everyone to get the gist of the ring, its power and its history. Well done. The actual physical beauty of the picture was also quite astounding with amazing sets and real-life locations used to bring the movie to an astonishing life. And what would any film be without its actors and their credibility? Well, that was another plus on this film's side. The casting seemed perfect from top to bottom, with special kudos going out to Ian McKellen as Gandalf (the anchor of the movie, in my opinion), Elijah Wood as Frodo (despite/because of the overly bulgy eyes) and my main man Viggo Mortensen (still acting with his hair, but coming through gangbusters here). Christopher Lee is also to be noted. The pacing of the film was good enough, with action leading to exposition to more action, but there were at least a few scenes which seemed pretty extraneous to me (and not knowing the "full story", maybe I'm missing something...I don't know). The Cate Blanchett sequence in particular, struck me as somewhat unimportant to the grand picture of it all. To top it all off, the score also did a fine job of churning the film's butter, although it didn't necessarily overwhelm (whether that's good or not...you decide).

Overall, the movie certainly does give you the real sense of dread, fear and pressure that l'il Frodo is under, and provides for enough very cool sequences to make up for its little faults. It will definitely not play for everyone (in fact, I'm curious to see how it does at the box-office, because it's certainly not geared towards kids!) and the ending might not be appreciated by some (it's open-ended, you see-I didn't mind at all), but the overall picture is extremely well-made, with authenticity flowing from its pores and plenty to take in. A solid start to the three-part adventure.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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