Saturday, January 25, 2003

I caught part of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on TV last night. I know there are some who liked the books better, some who liked the The Two Towers better, and some who didn't appreciate it at all. I don't understand any of them. Like a lot of people, I read the books as a kid. I don't remember my first reaction to them, but I know they didn't hold up well over time. At one point in my life I read a lot of fantasy and the LOTR trilogy (and related books) were never amongst my favourites. I can clearly remember skipping whole sections of the books one of the times I re-read them and when I re-read Fellowship again recently I couldn't bring myself to read all the poems and songs cluttering up the book.

As for the second movie, it is a good movie, but that's about all. In starting in the middle of the action, something was definitely lost. By the time the action started in the first movie, the audience had gotten to know the characters enough to care about them somewhat. This is lost in the The Two Towers to some extent. It had to depend on people remembering that they cared for these characters, and the intensity is reduced thereby. It also suffered somewhat from more external shots, spectacular as they were. The variety in the first film as the characters entered the mines and spent time underground, was missing. Also, the exteriors seemed more of a single piece, focusing as it did on a single kingdom, versus having the mix of the Shire, Rivendell and mountains from Fellowship.

As for not liking the movie at all, I think you can tell by know that I wouldn't agree with that opinion. As I mentioned above, at one point in my life I read a fair amount of fantasy and up until the release of LOTR, the record of fantasy movies has been pretty dismal. Cases in point include Krull, The Sword and The Sorcerer, Conan and The Dark Crystal. Dreck, all. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one excellent fantasy related movie, The Princess Bride. On the other hand. Fellowship does almost everything right. The story has been streamlined for the screen, but not over-simplified, with emphasis added in all the right places. The writing is clean and clear, with enough done to establish and develop the large cast of characters without bogging down -- a cardinal virtue when there is this much plot to get through. The acting and direction both serve the story, rather than the other way around and the production values are astounding. Howard Shore's score adds emphasis at all the right moments and was one of the best scores I have heard in years.

I think that if the third movie follows in the footsteps of the first two, this trilogy will be seen in years to come as one of the best pieces of cinema of the new century,as well as the best fantasy movies ever made. And unless The Return of The King surpasses my expectations, The Fellowship of the Ring will be seen as the crown jewel of the trilogy.

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