Two things have inspired this new series of blog posts: one was fellow blogger and author Berthold Gambrel’s series of reviews of 90’s action movies, and the other was a post on Twitter asking users to name four movies that they find to be flawless masterpieces.
And so, I intend to do a review of each of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, as well as a few other movies I really enjoy too. A quick reminder and point of emphasis, these reviews will be on the movie version of The Lord of the Rings, not the books. So I won’t be bringing up Tom Bombadil or anything else from the books that did not make it to the movies. First up is The Fellowship of the Ring.
When I say that I believe the The Lord of the Rings movies are flawless, I truly mean it. I do not think there is even one facet of filmmaking that could be improved upon: the casting, the script, the special effects, the actual acting, the camera work, the musical score, the sets, the costumes, nothing at all comes up lacking.
From the very opening of the film, you know you’re in for a sweeping epic. A dark screen with a hushed woman’s voice speaking in Elvish, then translating into English.
The World is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the Earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost. For none now live who remember it.
Goosebumps, even as I write it. A great monologue that perfectly captures the spirit of Tolkien’s world and his writing, which is an abundance of sorrow that leads to precious hope. Tolkien says as much in The Silmarillion when he writes that Nienna, one of the Valar (a race of gods in Middle-Earth), saw so much sorrow in the fate of the World that her song of mourning “was woven into the themes of the World before it began”, but that she also “brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom” for all those who call out to her.
The action comes quickly, as Frodo received the One Ring after Bilbo’s birthday bash, is told of its history by Gandalf shortly thereafter, and immediately begins his quest. Black Riders, Morgul blades, goblins and cave trolls, and orc raiders all accost him and the Fellowship throughout the movie, and we get some truly epic battles. Who can forget the iconic standoff between Gandalf the Grey, old and bent and perhaps weary, and the mighty Balrog, a demon of fire and darkness?
Again, goosebumps. And again, what a perfect casting to have Sir Ian McKellen play Gandalf. Sir Christopher Lee had wanted to play this role, but he ended up portraying Saruman the White. Personally, I think either one would have been perfect for either role.
But my favorite part of the film, which involves my favorite character, is the last stand of Boromir (I’ve previously written about him here). A lot of people I know don’t like Boromir’s character, but to me he’s one of the most inspiring characters in the movie. A man of honor and great courage, he wants to take the Ring and use it against Sauron. The Ring knows this and works on his heart, finally convincing Boromir to try and take it from Frodo, causing Frodo to flee right into an orc patrol and thereby shattering the Fellowship.
But he gains instant redemption when he dies protecting Merry and Pippen, who to that point were a burden on the Fellowship rather than any help. It takes three arrows to finally bring him down, and as he lays dying he acknowledges Aragorn as his king.
The whole scene (his last stand and dying words) is fantastic. What I like most about Boromir is that he’s the only true Man in the Fellowship. Gandalf is a wizard, an ancient, powerful being. Aragorn is a descendant of a race of demigods, blessed with long life. But Boromir is literally just a man. A soldier fighting to protect his home from destruction and death, and its this very bravery and determination that the Ring uses to corrupt him. But despite his failure, he finds redemption in the end.
It can be hard to aspire to be a wise, masterful Gandalf, or a warrior-king Aragorn. But a brave and noble man, one who stumbles and falls but keeps getting back up? That we can be.
Boromir’s part in the story is a small, but important one. Indeed, his action may well have secured the Ring’s fate. Who knows what may have happened if Frodo and Sam did not go off to Mordor together and alone? Or had Aragorn, Gimlie, and Legolas not helped save Rohan because they were looking for Merry and Pippin?
If you read this far, I want to thank you! This was a long post since I’m discussing a greatly beloved topic, though I did try to keep it succinct. Next week, I’ll discuss a bit about the next movie in the trilogy, The Two Towers.