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LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

by on 2011/01/29

“Years ago, a sad goth girl did
Dungeons and Dragons want
But mean geek boys would turn their backs
’cause she a female was
Then one, cold Xmas Day, the game
Was tucked un’er the tree
Today, Grushenka does smash orcs
with an axe, happily.”

* * * *

Ok, that sucked. I would like to blame the above crimes-against-humanity ballad on the terror that grips me right now, writing a review on this, the first movie of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I whined, I bargained, I stalled for time. But now, here goes…

As told in the craptacular ballad above, over the Christmas break, Miss_Tree and I broke open a brand-new Dungeons and Dragons Starter Kit, given to us by our friendly neighbourhood geek.

This was war reparations as it were, an attempt to right past geek wrongs. Over the years, attempts to join various Dungeons and Dragons games were thwarted due to my XX chromosomes and “sarcasm.”

Like I really want to join in on your silly game, stupid boy geeks.

Miss_Tree and I worked through all the words in the kit (there were a lot of words) and uncovered our characters. She’s an elf rogue and I’m a dwarf fighter.

Miss_Tree likes stealth and cunning.

Grushenka like smash.

That’s why I chose the battle-axe as my weapon.

And you know what? Just about nothing we imagined while playing D&D looked as good as The Fellowship of the Rings. Director Peter Jackson can kick the ass of just about anyone’s above-average imagination any day of the week.

Jackson makes you want to give up on all this role-playing and imagination junk, and just mindlessly watch his movies instead. Except, you know, The Frighteners.

How often does that happen? When is a movie better than the book? Not bloody often. But that’s exactly what Jackson accomplished with this film and the entire trilogy. J. R. R. Tolkien zealots can feel free to pelt me with very small rocks…now.

What can I tell you about The Fellowship of the Rings that you haven’t read eleventy billion times somewhere on the Web? The action begins on the eve of Bilbo’s 111th birthday. Gandalf the Grey arrives at the Shire with a wagon-load of explosives and a mouth full of smoke.

But Bilbo Baggins has a grander scheme than just the birthday party to end all birthday parties. He’s been in possession of the Ring of Power stolen from the crazy-sad Gollum for a shade too long, and he confesses to the Wizard Gandalf he’s feeling thin. “Sort of stretched, like…butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday.”

Seemingly ageless Bilbo aims to leave the Shire for good, giving his house and the One Ring to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). Unfortunately for hapless Frodo, the dark lord Sauron (voiced by Sala Baker) wants the ring back real, real bad, and is sending out wave after wave of bad guys to get it back.

Sir Ian McKellen (X-Men) deserves every honour the secular powers that be can bestow. I’ve been hooked on him since I saw his sublime Richard III in 1995. As Gandalf, he’s charming and terrifying all at once.

Elijah Wood has the face of an angel painted by Botticelli and is himself perfect as Frodo. Viggo Mortenson (Eastern Promises) is pure, dark Viggo at his best, playing the mysterious, tortured Strider/Aragorn.

The attention to detail in this movie is insane. I remember a friend going on in giggly paroxysms of delight about the round doors of the Shire. “They did it, they made them round! Just… like …the book,” she panted. This movie is a beautiful, carefully crafted homage to Mr. J. R. R. Tolkien.

Ian Holm is great as Bilbo Baggins, a character who is like a best friend to me given the number of times I read The Hobbit as a kid. Samwise Gamgee (Sam Astin) is as sweet and simple as you could ever want. Billy Boyd as Pippin Took and Dominic Monaghan as Merry Brandybuck are the prank-pulling, hard-drinking hobbits of the group and keep the movie from taking itself too seriously.

The addition of Legolas the elf (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), and twitchy Boromir (Sean Bean) complete the fellowship, making it as entertaining a quest movie as was ever made. The locations that this super squadron of humans, hobbits, elf and dwarf hit on their journey — Rivendell, the elf haven, the spooky Mines of Moria filled with corpses — are brilliantly conceived and executed.

The viscerally affecting orcs remind you of Peter Jackson’s origins as a horror movie director. Hmmm…did I say remind? I meant smack you senseless into remembering his horror roots. Genuinely, genuinely terrifying. And speaking of terrifying, let’s not forget the horror god himself Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula) as the evil, wizard turncoat Saruman.

The overall of the overall, The Fellowship deserves its slot as the American Film Institute (AFI) second greatest fantasy film of all time. I’ve seen it many times before and I will see it again. And again.

In the interim, does anyone want to play Dungeons and Dragons with me?

* * * *

PG-13 for violence in general and for scary, scary orcs in specific

178 min , 208 min extended edition

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