Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson; based on The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
Producer: Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Tim Sanders
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1 and Part 2...
When the Fellowship fails to scale the Misty Mountains, they turn to the Mines of Moria, once ruled by Dwarves as they mined for the priceless Mithril. Outside, they face a pretty funny puzzle and killer Octopus, providing the worst scenes of that 25% of the CGI that completely fails as the creature attacks the fellowship, attempting to hide the detail with moonlight and water, and just looking like a giant video game monster.
Doesn’t matter because it leads to the film’s greatest scene, as the Fellowship discovers the mines abandoned of Elves but filled with Orcs, Jackson achieves the finest balance of thrill and action, relying on an Orc drum beat to anticipate their approach. Up to this point, we haven’t seen an actual battle scene, not beyond the sword fight between the Ringwraiths. Here Jackson shines with his talents, taking us from the tomb to the various corridors, with the drumbeat ever playing, building up excitement for what’s to come next and how much greater it can get.
While I was honestly taken out of the movie with the shitty Octopus, Jackson fully delivers with his VFX in the deep caverns with molten lava burning far below, with precarious massive staircases extending all the way down. When the Balrog comes, while needing a bit of a CGI polish, it caps off the scene with near perfection. I had always enjoyed the scene, but I never grasped how well crafted it was. I’d put this as one of top twenty five greatest scenes of all time, demanding to be watched with stellar sound and image, accomplishing the rare feat of making you hope, no matter how illogical, that things might be different for Gandalf this time around; that he would escape and continue to join the Fellowship and that they’d remain together. I’m not sure what goes on in the mind when this earnest hope for a impossible alternative reality takes place, but when Gandalf dies and the Fellowship mourns, I still get a bit moist in the eyes, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.
The film then moves to Lothlórien where the Extended Edition drowns, as we get blue dreamy sequence after blue dreamy sequence, with Elves like Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) speaking in slow motion, feeling as though it’s all shot in close ups causing me to feel claustrophobic. I wish I could insert the theatrical release for this section, as this section really dragged, and while I believe the theatrical cut is a bit confusing with all of the flashbacks and slow motion talk, it at least played fast enough for me not to care.
The remaining Fellowship leaves via river. Boromir tries to steal the Ring from Frodo who escapes off on his own, as more Orcs close in on their position, once again highlighting the frailty of men and providing one of the more gruesome murders to watch; especially for a PG-13 movie.
It’s the closing scene that always sticks with me, as Frodo attempts to leave by canoe, abandoning the others, and Sam chases him down, nearly drowning. The score kicks in with the song is “The Breaking of the Fellowship” and even as I listen to it as I’m writing this, I get washed with that feeling of hope and anticipation; where not since a film like Back to the Future (1985) have I been so sad that it ended, forcing me to return to reality. While I could have probably done without the melodramatic drowning moment, hearing Sam declare that he’s going to stick with his friend also hits right in the heart. To see the connection between these characters which plays so true and entirely real is something, it’s clear that Tolkien had some thoughts on friendship, and which I could only surmise was based upon the bonds of war.
As the movie faded I was immediately taken back, to a time before I was into movies, simply excited for the next film which I’d only know through television commercials and magazines, immersing me into a world unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve spoken of summertime blockbuster trilogies - The Dark Knight Trilogy, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and so on. Rare is the winter blockbuster trilogy or series (Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.). The Fellowship of the Ring is a movie I could have just as easily started up all over again the moment the credits rolled. It’s escapism at its very finest - combining brilliant insights with an accessible and fully realized stories. It’s one of the all time greats that, because it can’t be franchised the same as Star Wars, Marvel, or DC, has lost some of its popularity. I bet soon enough it’ll again takes it position as one of the all time greatest in cinematic history.*
*Coincidentally, only weeks after writing this, Amazon announced their ~$1 billion Lord of the Rings series is in the work.
BELOW: For all the CGI faults, this some how still holds up well
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