"Lord of the Rings: One Film to Rule Them All"
By Teddy Durgin
Do not trust any film critic who does not heap lavish,
over-the-top, unabashed praise on Peter Jackson's brilliant
big-screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's"The Lord of the Rings:
Fellowship of the Ring" (new in theaters, Wednesday, Dec. 19).
Vivid, powerful, refreshing, daring, beautiful, terrifying,
thrilling, unforgettable ... there are not enough adjectives to
describe it. "Rings" is pure cinematic dynamite. Finally ...
yes, my friends, FINALLY ... we have a movie--a big-budget,
fantasy adventure, special effects extravaganza--that is truly
thrilling, truly entertaining, truly worth every penny spent on
it by filmmakers and audiences alike. I loved, loved, loved this
movie, and I will love, love, love it until the day I die.
Gee, uh ... so, Ted. How do ya really feel?!
I love this film. "Lord of the Rings" represents everything that
we go to the movies for. It announces its presence and its
brilliance in the first 10 minutes, giving audiences both
familiar and unfamiliar with Middle Earth a crash course in
Tolkien lore. I had not read "Fellowship of the Ring," the first
book in the three-book "Rings" trilogy, since I was 13. That was
18 years ago. So, I didn't remember everything going into it. I
remembered thrilling to the exploits of Frodo Baggins (Elijah
Wood), the diminutive Hobbit charged with destroying the Ring of
Power forged by the Dark Lord Sauron for control over all Middle
Earth. I recalled the wisdom of Gandalf (Ian McKellan), the
all-knowing wizard who helps Frodo on his journey. And I kind of
recalled Frodo's hodgepodge of companions, among them: his best
friend, Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin); Gimli, the dwarf (John
Rhys-Davies); and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the elfin archer who
can fire arrows from his bow with supernatural speed and
I remembered them in the way any adult remembers stories he/she
read as a child. They were sort of half-memories. Thanks to
Peter Jackson, I will never, ever forget them! Jackson has
brought the entire world of Middle Earth to life in vivid,
breathtaking realism thanks to stunning New Zealand locations and
some of the best CGI special effects ever. But he has done more
than just reproduce images from a page. He has made this fantasy
world real. He has made it urgent. He has made it a place you
come to care about, a place you want to see more of, a place that
makes you curious each and every time a character turns a corner,
goes over a hill, crosses a bridge, or enters a home or a castle
or a tavern or a cave.
"The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" is the best film
of the year. It is three hours long, but every single second of
screen time is meaningful. Every single second resonates. Every
single second is pure movie magic. When this movie ended, I
wanted the projectionist to run it again immediately. I can't
wait to see it again. I will probably spend 12 to 15 hours of my
life over the next month or so watching this movie.
He did it! Peter Jackson freaking did it! He has made a film
that has fulfilled the dreams and soothed the fears of every
rabid Tolkien fan, while turning out a movie that will delight
both casual fans and non-fans. PLUS, he will have the critics
raving. I saw this movie at a private press screening in
Baltimore. At the end, to a person, every single member of the
media applauded this film as the final credits rolled.
That NEVER happens!
We all sat there mouths agape. There are scenes to thrill to in
this movie like you haven't seen since the glory years of Lucas
and Spielberg. There is a gargantuan opening battle that just
whets your appetite for the wars that will be waged in the next
two films ("The Two Towers" will be released next Christmas,
while "The Return of the King" will be released Christmas 2003).
There is a battle royale in the Mines of Moria between the
Fellowship and hundreds of Orcs and a vicious cave troll. And
there is a final stand against the forces of evil in which
loyalties are tested, fates are sealed, and true strength is
But the most thrilling moment for me personally was Gandalf
facing down a fire-breathing creature known as a Balrog. Now,
when I say fire-breathing, I don't mean some flame-throwing Puff
the Magic Dragon knock-off. I'm talking about a gigantic
creature whose every exhale is pure searing, deadly hellfire.
McKellan is just perfect as Gandalf. Until this point in the
film, he inhabits the part as perfectly as the late Alec Guinness
inhabited Obi-Wan Kenobi. Then, he has this completely bad-ass
moment of truth, where he ceases being the standard all-knowing,
all-seeing wizard and becomes ... well, MY HERO!
It's him and the Balrog on a bridge. The creature is set to
attack, and Gandalf just slams down his staff and screams: "YOU
.. SHALL ... NOT ... PASS!!!!!" Man, oh, man! When he says
that, when he screams that, and when you see what happens next
.. Lord, Almighty, it's everything! It's the Visigoths coming
over the wall! It's Babe Ruth pointing to center field, and then
launching the ball over the fence. It's Ahab screaming, "From
Hell's heart, I stabbeth thee!"
But here is the real brilliance of this movie. It's not the big
scenes. In truth, most big-budget special effects blockbusters
get the big moments right. They really do. They deliver time
and again the spectacle, the fireworks show, the big bang. "The
Lord of the Rings" delivers the small moments. It has the
humanity and intimacy necessary for true and lasting greatness.
It has strength of story, and Jackson takes the time to tell the
story. No rapid-fire jump cuts. No throbbing techno soundtrack.
No ending or running time dictated by test screenings and
audience surveys. He makes Frodo Baggins a real person with
doubts and yearnings and weaknesses and strengths. He gets the
size of all the characters right. How DID they make the Hobbits
so small and everyone else so big?! Ian McKellan towers over Ian
Holm as Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit who originally comes to possess
"Fellowship of the Ring" is full of "How did they do that"
moments. It's also filled with moments where you don't even
question: "Is that a digital effect? Or, a real place? Or a
model? Or a matte painting?" It all blends together seamlessly,
thanks to the Herculean efforts of Jackson's put-together-from
scratch Weta Workshop.
Mr. Jackson! Academy Awards and Cheetos for all your men!
And, to think. There are two more of these babies on the way!
Boy, I sure could go on for another 12 or 14 paragraphs detailing
each and every thing I loved about this movie. I haven't even
talked about the pitch-perfect performances of Viggo Mortensen,
Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, and Hugo Weaving. I haven't even touched
on the delicious malevolence Christopher Lee brings to the role
of Saruman, the turncoat wizard who aids in the resurrection of
evil. Most great movies have dozens of things memorable about
them. "The Lord of the Rings" has hundreds!
One final point, and I'll end this. I really must regret to
inform the parents out there that "Fellowship of the Ring" is not
for little children. There are some really, REALLY scary parts
to this movie. The orcs alone will frighten kids under 10 right
out of their seats. Orcs are the hellspawn of Mordor, and they
are vicious in their attacks. Then, there are the urak-hai, an
unholy hybrid of orc and human that Saruman harvests from the
Earth to become Sauron's fighting legions. Most creepy of all
are the Ring Wraiths, hooded black horsemen who pursue Frodo and
his companions early in the film in search of the Ring of Power.
As they ride, they emit these high-pitched screams at all times.
One particular moment was so intense, that with all apologies to
Senator Theater owner Tom Kiefaber, I actually gripped the seat
of my theater chair so hard, I broke it!
Parents, you know your young 'uns better than I do. See this
movie first, then decide if your particular kid can take it.
Teenagers will have no problem. But the very little ones may
need to stick to "Harry Potter."
For the rest of us, Peter Jackson has made a film not just for
our time, but for all time. Here is the highest praise I can
give a movie:
It could not have been better!
"Lord of the Rings" is rated PG-13 for largely bloodless
violence and intensity.
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