PG-13, mostly for just a lot of violence. It's so weird because I think the movie is pretty innocent when thinking about it out of context. But there is a lot of violence. I'm pretty sure the beheadings start in the first movie. There's a lot of beheadings. When I get to the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies, I might actually have to rule in favor of the MPAA. There are just a lot, a lot, a lot of beheadings. Also, genuine scary stuff. Ring wraiths are scary. Also, smoking and drinking are popular in Middle Earth.
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
I normally don't have time to watch movies over an hour-and-a-half, but I was chaperoning a retreat where I had zero responsibilities. Since these are extremely important travel narratives that will play a central role in my presentation, I decided to knock out as much of The Lord of the Rings movies as I could in a single sitting. I got through all of the movies except for the last hour of the extended edition of The Return of the King. When it comes to The Fellowship, I have to say that I've seen this one the most. I rarely ever want to jump to a random sequel when it comes to The Lord of the Rings movies because they are one story. All the attempts I've made towards watching the whole trilogy are usually stymied after my sense of accomplishment kicks in post-Fellowship. Regardless, I still like it the best.
I know. The Two Towers is possibly the best movie of the bunch. The hipster in me wants to say that. I even think my review might reflect that attitude. But I love The Fellowship of the Ring. Again, this is one story to me so it's odd to think that I have a favorite entry in this story. But I'm also a guy who likes the stuff on Hoth more than the rest of the film, so I guess that is a reasonable thing to say. The pacing in this world is at a snail's pace. Again, the series is probably close to twelve hours of film as a whole. Maybe its ten, but regardless, the movie doesn't mind taking its sweet time. This is what makes Peter Jackson so interesting to me. I watched all of these movies with subtitles on for a lot of them. I really didn't want to disturb the retreat or draw attention to myself (mission failed on that one), so I had the volume at a reasonable level. But the subtitles really stress the amount of detail that went into planning this movie. Most movies, when someone is obviously speaking Spanish, the subtitles say something along the lines of "Speaking foreign language." The Lord of the Rings? Ho-hum and p-shaw! They tell you which dialect of Elvish someone is speaking. Every character is identified by race and sub-class when speaking. Nothing about this series seems phoned in. So when it takes about an hour to leave the Shire, it makes a bit of sense. And I love the Shire. The tone of the Shire is so different from everything we'd get from the rest of the movie. There are other beautiful places like Rivendell (again, prominently featured in The Fellowship of the Ring) in the series too, but the innocence of the Shire always makes me very comfortable. I think I would make a fine hobbit in that sense. I want to cozy up with a warm fire and some delicious food and watch an adventure from a distance. Jackson does this cool think with attaching a setting to his characters. Merry and Pippin, even in the darkest parts of the series, are fundamentally walking avatars for the Shire. They gain courage, sure, but they don't lose their drives and their moral codes...for the most part. (I know that there's got to be Tolkienheads who are completely losing their minds for these generalizations.)
Since my paper is about setting, I also noticed that the first movie is focused more on the spectacle of setting. The later movies prefer bleak and washed out colors (I know, the City of the Dead is green. Minas Morgath? I'm trying my best here.) But when the New Zealand tourism board wants to show off how pretty New Zealand is, I'm sure they probably focus more on The Fellowship of the Ring. The movie is just so pretty looking. I noticed that Return of the King has a lot of sections that are intentionally washed out to create an ethereal effect. But New Zealand compliments this movie so well. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are such genuinely joyful character and the Shire partners with them extremely well. What's genius about what is going on is that we get the scope of their journey from the first movie. It is a slow burn to get to actual genuine danger. Like a video game tiering system, the danger that the hobbits first encounter seems so paltry compared to what would be the enemy later on. There's a scene in Return of the King where Sam scares a handful of orcs and then moves to dispatch them. It's so odd to think of them running from ring wraiths for the first movie. Yes, ring wraiths are incredibly dangerous. But one of the hobbits fights the king of the ring wraiths in the first movie. There's something charming about the whole thing. Really, Fellowship of the Ring is the charming of the bunch. I know the theme of creature comforts (pun intended) keeps popping up in the entire series, but the first one embraces it so close to its chest. I love that, because of this movie, people start using the phrase "second breakfast" and knowing what it means. It's also interesting to think that Viggo Mortinson's Aragorn is so cryptic in these movies. We don't actually get much of the titular fellowship in this movie for a lot of it. Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas aren't this tightly knit fighting group. Rather, the focus is on the A-plot: get Frodo to Mount Doom. The hobbits play this central role that the other movies don't really get to experience as much as you would think. Actually, in the next two movies, we barely get hobbit stuff on the level of the first one. The first one is with the hobbits as the action heroes and that makes us the action heroes.
The overarching theme in the first one is what is important. We get a very quick understanding of how evil the ring actually is in the first movie. We don't get the despair stuff that we'll get in the second movie, but Jackson stresses how important it is that Frodo carries the ring. He is not devoid of its temptations. He actually puts the ring on a lot in this movie. But Jackson balances that out showing how, when Frodo carries it, he's doing it for altruistic reasons. He has no ulterior motive. He knows right from wrong and it is very pure. It's so interesting, and this credit goes to Tolkien, to have few characters want the ring for outright evil motives. Boromir is such an interesting character study because he comes across as icky. We know that Sean Bean is not an icky dude. He's Ned Stark, for goodness sake. But we keep seeing him make these slow steps towards full on evil. That end sequence with him is intense. That entire sequence is what the movie is building up for me. While the Mines of Moria might be the major set piece in the film, I really care for the confrontation between Frodo and Boromir. It's still pretty impressive for a movie, but I should be enamored with the Fellowship fighting the cave troll. But Fellowship of the Ring is a movie that is really good at sticking the landing, not by going bigger, but by shrinking the threat. The Fellowship is at a low point and Jackson just goes for kicking the dead horse. But the movie doesn't end on a bleak note. The first movie ends like Empire. It shouldn't be considered a happy ending because the goal of the film is actually a bit of a fail. But there's this sense of innocence and hope at the end. I don't know how that makes all that much sense, but the fact that the movie ends the way it does and it is hopeful makes it feel like the right decision was made. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have made that choice if I was in Frodo's hairy feet. But it really works and I think a lot of that comes down to Sam. I am going to talk a bit about Sam in my analysis for The Return of the King, but this is Sam at his best. People keep quoting Sam from Return and I think that's fine. But Sam is far more difficult to accept in that movie. This is Sam accepting responsibility that he could easily walk away from. He risks his life when no one asks him to do so. It's an excellent choice.
It's great that the three movies have disparate vibes, despite being one movie. I really love The Fellowship of the Ring possibly best, but that doesn't meant that I have a lesser opinions about the other films. It is a movie that needs the sequels to work, but I just enjoy watching this movie. It is odd. This is almost an incomplete movie, but it stands up on its own. I often think what it would be like to watch this movie with my dad. He was such a Tolkien fan that I'd like to think that he would love these movies. They are so obsessed with getting every element right that it is amazing that stuff like Tom Bombadil didn't make it in. But there's no phoning it in. Most genre stuff that goes this deep usually alienates most audiences, but it is just impressive looking at this film and how much detail went into it. I thought about it and I realized that I have seen this movie a lot of times. That's not a bad thing. My kids will see this movie and I will probably have at least a dozen more viewings of this very long movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.