With an understated gold band firmly on her finger, Becca whispers the words ‘one ring to rule them all…’
With it being almost three months until the much-anticipated Hobbit film is released (that is, the first part), I thought I’d write a review for the films that brought Peter Jackson to fame. Plus, I absolutely love them…
Okay, for those who don’t know by now, The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy of books by J.R.R Tolkien, set around the back-drop of ‘Middle Earth’, where elves frolic through forests, dwarves roam under-ground, and hobbits (tiny, little people with hairy feet), just keep themselves to themselves in the Shire, a place where I secretly wish to live one day.
The Fellowship of the Ring is set many years after Tolkien’s first short story, The Hobbit (natch), but instead of Bilbo Baggins setting off on an adventure, you have Frodo, his nephew…or maybe it’s his second cousin twice removed; you never can be sure with hobbits. Anyway, it is Frodo who is chosen for the incredibly daunting task of destroying the One Ring – that’s the magic ring that belonged to the Dark Lord Sauron, before he got done in about a thousand years ago. Bilbo has had it with him ever since he found it in Gollum’s cave, sixty years ago.
Still with me? Good. The thing about this ring, though, is that whoever has it eventually becomes completely twisted to its will, and when you’re in the power of something that only has the power to destroy, well you’re in real trouble there. So Bilbo is a tad reluctant to give it to Frodo, who then has to throw it “into the fiery chasm from whence it came”. Yes, that was a direct quote from the book/film. That’s how much I love it, people.
Frodo must travel to Mordor, where Sauron’s not-quite-so-dead-after-all Eye watches over everything from his Dark Tower. But our pint-sized hero is not alone on this journey, oh no. He travels with eight companions, including three of his kin: his devoted friend (and, er, gardener) Sam, and Merry and Pippin; they’re the kind of Ant and Dec of the group. There’s also Legolas, an elf (Orlando Bloom, probably the main reason I watched this so many times, as a teen), a dwarf, Gimli, two men, Boromir (Sean Bean, who still can’t quite shake off his Sheffield accent) and Aragorn. But more importantly, there is Gandalf the Grey. His is their leader, a wizard played with heart-breaking ease by Sir Ian McKellen. Apparently Sean Connery was lined up for the role, but turned it down, because he “didn’t understand the story”. Now, hard-core fans of the franchise may scoff at that (I know I certainly did, when I read it on imdb.com), but when you step back and look at it from a Tolkien virgin’s perspective (I doubt I will be using that phrase ever again), you can kind of see what Connery was getting at.
The plot is rather complicated (many would call it epic), full of dark twists and turns and magic, and “do we trust this person, or are they just trying to get their filthy mitts on the Ring?” kind of paranoia that is incredibly engrossing. Poor Frodo is like a fish out of water, having a nice life in the Shire, only to discover the uncle he loves has been hiding a dangerous secret from everyone, and now he has to pick up the pieces – it’s hardly fair, is it? Elijah Wood plays him admirably, I mean, when you spend most of the film having to look scared, it helps to have big eyes – and he certainly has those.
Now, I would be a pretty rubbish reviewer if I did not mention the use of effects in this film. They were groundbreaking in their day (wow, that makes me sound old), particularly the memorable scenes in the mines of Moria, and the way Gollum was brought to life…but as he doesn’t feature much until the second film, I won’t go on too much about it. I will take this time, however, to applaud the crew that spent four hours every day applying the necessary make-up to bring the orcs to life. Those nasty blighters were the reason I hid behind a cushion while I watched the film for the first time, aged nine, so it was certainly worth that time. A part of me still grimaces when I look at them now, especially when you see them being ‘created’. I call it the maternity ward, heh, heh.
And don’t get me started on those Black Riders, either. Considering they barely say anything, they still have the ability to unnerve and generally send multiple chills up your spine, with that awful screeching scream they make.
But all in all, my favourite performance of the film has to be Viggo Mortensen’s as ‘Aragorn, Son of Arathorn’. He is a mysterious man, known only as a ‘Ranger’ (which I think is Middle
Earth’s equivalent of a ninja), called Strider. There is a definite sense of “who is this guy, and more importantly, can the hobbits trust him?” at the beginning, but as the film progresses, his back-story is slowly revealed. Aragorn is fierce with a sword (apparently Mortensen carried it around with him even when he wasn’t filming, and got in a spot of bother with the police for it too), growling with effort, as he battles many of the fellowship’s foes, but he is also full of softly-spoken angst, but only in the presence of his elfin belle, Arwen.
Come the end of the film, you feel it has reached a satisfying conclusion of sorts, but it also leaves you chomping at the bit for the next one.