Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

On a day like this, I face my darkest hour: I am tempted to quit writing, and worse, I am tempted to quit film. Sometimes suffering can be worse than death, and that’s what I’m doing right now. You see, I have just come back, after months and months of delay, from seeing “The Fellowship of the Ring.” And did I love itr

“With all my heart, no.”

Let me prequalify this editorial with a little bit o’ background. I am a big fan of fantasy, but I am a cold-blooded hatemongering Nazi when it comes to middle-Earth. I hate Tolkien. I hate little creatures like Ewoks and Hobbits and Midgets and Mini-Trolls. I hate muddy settings in the Earth, where Enya belts through invisible speakers and fog enters my sexual openings, where everything is grim and grey and oh-so-in-tune-with-Gaia-and-nature. I’m all for purity of fantasy, a holocaust of fantasticism: I need my gothic-Victorian castles in “Harry Potter,” with flowing robes and gold and mystery, with suits of armor hand-crafted by masters who were just as concerned with the designs of the lions on the breast as they were with the suit’s actual effectiveness. I need a place where there are 15 categories of “wizard” and too many different spells to count, with complex incantations and wonderous visual results. I need a world that’s almost completely removed from the shithole society we live in.

The last fucking thing I need is to see Christopher Lee and Ian McKellan engage in a wizard’s duel that’s basically two old-ass Jedis™ masturbating each other with the Force™ and throwing each other through doors. If you’re a fucking wizard, where’s the fucking fireballr Where are the spells to make the other person insaner Why use force-of-gravityr If you’re a wizard, why do you need a swordr An archer needs no sword. A short-weapons expert needs no sword. Why, oh why, in this film, does Gandalf have a swordr Where are the spellsr Did he spend all his mojo making fireworks for the West Hobbitwood pride machiner

Ahhh, but as cold and cruel as I can be about that stuff, I can also forgive it. I understand that my own personal preference for the fantastical does clash with Tolkien’s world, and I *do* see what other people cherish in it. I can, indeed, embrace a world of elves and Hobbits and mud and Enya. But I cannot embrace the film called “The Fellowship of the Ring.” I just can’t.

Hobbits and Enya aside, the film is visually breathtaking. So is “Blade Runner.” In fact, this film is going to be the next “Blade Runner.” It’s a horrible, horrible attempt to convey a rich, layered, deep-ass story with a few broad strokes. “Blade Runner” sucks my ass after a day and night in a Mexican bar: great vision, bad storytelling. FOTR suffers from many of the same mistakes: poor character development, awkward dialogue, a strange, jarring distorting of space and time, and an overall shallowness to the quest. All this I blame on the script, not the film.

Part of the problem is director Peter Jackson’s doggedness to stick to Tolkien’s story. To this, I can only say that, in film, when changes are necessary, you make them. Kubrick butchered Stephen King, and rightfully so. Anne Rice butchered her own book when she made it into a script. JK Rowling sat over very specific changes in dialogue and circumstance when Kloves hammered out the first Potter script. Sometimes characters or scenes are removed or rewritten; not just to shorten the pace, but to enhance the story. Note that there is a difference between simply editing out the parts that are extraneous, and rewriting out the parts that could be even stronger: Jackson has chosen the former, and he has chosen poorly.

Okay, so let’s do this right now: the film is 3 hours long, and yet, features almost NO character development or background story for the 9 main members of Fellowship. NINEr! WHY NINEr In a book, okay, there’s time, there’s pages… not in film. So, let’s make it SIX or SEVEN. We don’t need FOUR hobbits, TWO will work just fine. Then we might have had an extra 10 fucking minutes to tell us a little bit about each of the characters. Then we might care if they live or they die. As it is, we’re being paid to care, bought off by a giant CGI monster made of shit and fire… stuff like that captures our eye. And then we say “Shit Monster… evil! Shit Monster kill good guy! Nooooooooooo!!” Sorry, I want to know why I should be moved when the shit monster does his thing. Is that too much to askr

Jackson has invented some incredible, jaw-dropping camera angles here, hanging his lens from wires dangling above the trees and filming the action from an overhead that we could never imagine. Sometimes we drop to the ground, and we get involved… limbs fly, people scream, it’s like Braveheart on Vicodin with Enya in the background. It’s too ethereal. It loses the grit. I almost fell asleep during several of the fight sequences… it’s like being stoned and floating above the action, floating, floating away, floating up, I’ve got the munchies… oh cool, Frodo’s having another acid flashback from that evil Ring… munchies. Bad camera choreography, man. It doesn’t film the action right. In fact, a friend pointed out that it feels like a goddamn Oz/Kiwi film… there are about 50 shots too many of surreal backgrounds and ooooh-ahhh-twisty beautiful nature. Yes, I *know* Peter Jackson is from New Zealand, but you know what, fucking Chris Columbus is American, land of the shit film, and “Harry Potter” still feels perfectly balanced.

Sorry, I’m ranting, and I need to summarize for you. I hated this film on it’s own merits. The script was weak and cut meat out in the wrong places. The camera choreography is lacking. The score is lame. The Enya and Lorena McKennitt bullshit going on the background needs to stop. There’s no character development. Technically, some of the effects in the film are fucking AWFUL… I know it was rushed a bit, so the next two films have NO excuse. And for all that bullshit ‘forced-perspective’… call Jim Henson Productions before you do that shit again. I caught so many mistakes with it that it wasn’t funny. Your scales are off and your camera angles are showing it. Some of it was great… Ian McKellan does seem 7-feet tall at times, but not in any shot with Ian Holm.

What works for the filmr The performances, for one. McKellan is sharp, as usual. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin manage not to suck, which is rare. Liv Tyler is limited to 3 minutes of screen time, which is very good. Viggo Mortgage-sohhnnn is kickass as always. Hugo Weaving is still stuck somewhere in between Agent Smith and that fucking drag queen from Priscilla. Ian Holm is usually cool, but here he has a strange awkwardness about him. Cate Blanchett is almost wasted. Billy Bob Thornton is really cool, too. He is! No, he’s not in this movie, but he should be. He can be the Texas retard that saves Frodo and puts the ring on his cock while belting ‘yeee-haws’ and sniffing coke off Angelina Jolie’s floatation breasts. But that’s another rant…

The film has good vision. It has a lot of heart, a lot of ambition. BUT — like a tweaking tour guide in the White House, the film is so intent on hitting every-single-major-point-of-interest so as not to piss off the purists, it forgets to tell a story. It forgets that some of us have NOT read the bloody book and do NOT know the backstory of these characters. You don’t make a film for the people who already know the story, you make it for those who don’t. That’s why “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” and “Indy Jones” all work. That’s why this film has failed.

Or has itr It’s currently in the top three all-time best films list at IMDB.COM, where it’s been since before day one. It’s made almost 300 million domestically. It could very well win Best Picture come Oscar-time. The purists love it. The fans love it. The Academy loves it. The critics love it. The people love it. Kids love it. Old fuckers love it. The “Blade Runner” experiment finally has succeeded: create a film that’s large enough, that’s beloved by enough, that’s loud enough, that’s pretty enough, and stick in plenty of fucking Enya, and it will be truly epic. Hey, it worked for “Titanic.” And they didn’t have to pay Enya’s salary, they hired a cheap knock-off.

So I’m swimming against the tide here. Based on public opinion, maybe I’m alone in my hatred for muddy fantasy and my love for gothic fantasticism (based on public opinion, you’d swear it was the other way around, actually. Notice that religious freaks aren’t spooked by wizards who use The Force™ to open doors, but it’s heretical to make a feather levitate… hmmmm…. hmmmmm….) Maybe I’m wrong to ask a film to tell me a story first and give me eye candy later. Maybe I’m wrong to want to improve upon a classic. Maybe I’m wrong to want a filmmaker to take risks, when all he has to do is “not fuck up”. Maybe I’m the only person who still believes that a film’s score is paramount to its success or failure. Maybe I’m wrong to think that film should be GOOD, not just good for the market niche that’s already read the fucking book. Maybe I’m just wrong.

Or maybe you all got assfucked by the marketing machine again.

Rating: D