A Conversation for 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring' (2001) - Film Review
Action Versus Drama
Stavro Meuller Beta Started conversation Apr 3, 2002
I was reluctant to see Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, so that until it had almost left the theater I avoided it. My worry? As a devoted Tolkien fan who has read Lord of the Rings a half-dozen times, I was worried I'd like it too much, that the images f the movie would supplant my own when rereading the novel. So when I finally went, I was expecting to like it.
Therefore it was with a positive attitude I saw the movie, and was suprised when I didn't like it at all.
I don't want to critique the movie as compared to the book; that would be unfair and frutless, apples to oranges. But let's look at it as a movie.
You get the flavor of a stroy with a great potential for drama, set in a detail-rich world that aches to be explored through dialogue and directing. But none of these possibilities are exploited.
The attraction of Tolkien's novel is largely due to it's tone and style. Of course the movie would have to be different: the scope and available resources make it impossible to translate book to screen with complete faithfulness to every detail. But tone and style could have been preserved to produce a work that was an epic drama in its own right.
What we did get was an action movie, and a really good one. It was a special-effects comic-book/dark heroes Hollywood extravaganza. The color in the movie was drab; the world bleak and hopeless, full of unfriendliness and menacing strangers.
In typical Hollywood comic-book fashion, the heros weren't noble, radiant, and powerful, but full of doubt and weakness, like ships menaced in a storm without a port to harbor in. An epic need not neccesarily be cliche, but in today's culture this fact is unkonwn. The movie could have been one of a tale of light versus dark, and good versus evil; instead it was scripted in the shape of ordinary people (albeit with above-average potential) that weren't sparkling heroes, but merely weren't as bad as the evil they set out against. Jackson should ahve had the daring to use characters like Aragorn as Tolkien did: not as an reluctant king in exile and full of self-doubt, but a powerful, noble man of great character who hides his nobility and power when he wishes to and has need, a man already tested and proven by sixty years of hard life.
As an action movie, it was impressive. Each bad-guy was suitably larger and more fierce than the previous major bad-guy. A steady escalation that made the movie somewhat of a cinematic video-game. The final showdown between Aragorn and the invented, one-dimensional 'boss orc' was inserted not as a plot device, but merely so this action movie could have an action ending. And bad-guys in the film in general, from Sauron on down to the average orc (with exception of Saruman) weren't powerful in the etherial sense, but merely brutish and slimy, wearing stereotypically pointy and hard looking costuming (we are taught that the more ginsu knife-like the armor, the more senior the bad-guy).
Anytime a plot twist that might be subtle happens along, a contrived cut-away narration serves to keep the most literaily-deadened movie-goer keep track on the story.
And the entire movie has a timeline of a few weeks, the characters never staying in more than one location for more than a day. It leaves the audience feeling as though the movie is one long car-chase, with slimey baddies in place of cars. Though there was much richness hinted at (e.g. when Borimir blows his horn near the end of the film, shorlty before he's killed, Legolas knows the sound by name, indicating a world where there is a rich hidden history the audience sadly is never told of), the script would have been more consitent with the pace and style of the movie if these half-hearted allusions had been left out.
The real treats to watch were Sir McKellan and Legolas as rich characters, whose roles were not marred by cheap moments of comic-relief.
The movie takes a tale of great potential, and trades epic for urgent, grandeur for flashiness, and drama for action. As a drama it scores a four out of ten. Because of the tendancy to try to include too much, inconsistently distracting the viewer form action with unexplored details, it scores seve or eight out of ten as an action movie.
Action Versus Drama
TheMyriadWhoIsALordOfTheRingsFanatic Posted Apr 3, 2002
I think you have missed one of the points - which is that this is the first episode of a three part epic.
Action Versus Drama
Stavro Meuller Beta Posted Apr 3, 2002
There's more to an epic than just length. A nine hour action movie in three parts is still an action movie. And a single two- or three-hour film can be epic if done properly, e.g. Gone With the Wind.
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