Archive for February, 2002

The Fellowship of the Ring – 02.01.02

Friday, February 1st, 2002

Quote of the Day:
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”
“Moulin Rouge”

On December 19, 2001 “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” was released to sold-out showings in theaters across the United States. On December 19, 2001 I was in Houston, TX. After my dad and I got into town that afternoon we planned to go see the movie. However a variety of factors kept us from doing so, including an idiotic hotel employee, a closed theater, and inaccurate phone book listings. Instead we got Blizzards at Dairy Queen.

On December 20, 2001 I was in Biloxi, MS. The best thing I can say about our hotel was that it was across the street from a beautiful stretch of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Besides that, the wallpaper in the bathroom was moldy and peeling off the walls and the sheets were too short for the mattresses. When my dad confronted the front desk staff about these problems the next morning all he got was excuses. Apparently they were in the middle of remodeling but that shouldn’t excuse such blatantly unhealthy and annoying conditions. The prospect of seeing “The Fellowship of the Ring” in Biloxi was better than in Houston, however. At 5 PM my dad and I found a theater that was showing the movie and we bought tickets for the 8 PM showing. That left us with three hours to kill at the Biloxi Mall. Not an easy thing to do. Anyway, we eventually got to see the movie.

I hate to say it since I am such a huge fan of the works of JRR Tolkien, but I was disappointed by the movie adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring. During filming of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” fans were constantly reassured that the director was staying true to the wildly popular book. No such reassurance accompanied the production of the movie I saw in Biloxi. There were so many little discrepancies between the film and the book that I was distracted trying to remind myself how things “really happened.” For example, I remembered that Gandalf had figured out the “speak friend and enter” riddle but somehow that role was transferred to Frodo in the movie. Also, Boromir didn’t actually hold the ring at any point. The proximity alone was enough to make him power hungry. Then there was the Arwen thing.

I often call Jar Jar Binks the worst mistake George Lucas ever made because the character ruined the carefully crafted world where Star Wars takes place and also alienated many fans. I feel the same way about the portrayal of Arwen in the movie adaptation of “The Fellowship of the Ring.” In the trilogy she was nothing more than a pretty face and didn’t utter a word until the story resolution, near the end of The Return of the King. She was certainly not Arwen: Warrior Princess according to Tolkien. If I were Peter Jackson, the director of “The Lord of the Rings,” I would have cast a gorgeous model as the non-speaking Arwen, rather than Liv Tyler, and kept the plot as it was originally written. I did notice one funny discrepancy between the book and the movie involving Arwen. When she and Aragorn are talking in Rivendell she reminds him that when they first met she vowed to give up her immortality to be with him. Actually, in the story, she kind of blows him off at their first meeting. It takes her quite a while to decide that Aragorn is good enough for her. I was quite amused that this fact was ignored in the movie adaptation. Moviegoers who haven’t read the trilogy don’t realize that this couple wasn’t always so happy together.

When my dad and I were walking out to my car after the movie was over I realized what was really bothering me. There wasn’t enough character development. Even though we had sat through a three-hour production I wasn’t as drawn to the onscreen characters as I was to their literary counterparts. In a diary entry dated April 28, 2001 I wrote:

“It’s not usually the story that entrances me but the characters in the story. I don’t care if they appear in a book, in a movie, or on TV a great character makes all the difference in any form of entertainment. Even if the story isn’t as interesting or exciting as it could be, if the characters involved have been developed carefully they become more important than what they are doing.”

I suppose it can be argued that the events that transpire in The Lord of the Rings are more important than the characters but that doesn’t change my perception of the movie. Tolkien spent a good deal of time creating traits and backgrounds for each character and those details add a significant amount of depth to the good vs. evil storyline. There just wasn’t time in the movie production to do justice to the complex characters without numbing the backsides of audiences past recovery. One of the most significant aspects of the books is the relationship between Frodo and Sam but I didn’t even get a hint of that in the movie. In the end I just didn’t feel close to the characters I had watched for three hours. In a diary entry dated April 14, 2001 I wrote:

“Sometimes I form such emotional attachments to fictional characters that I worry about how they lived when the written story ended. I can see myself in their nature. I can sympathize with their feelings. I can wish I was there beside them to offer my help. Sometimes the world that we live in isn’t the most exciting one you can find and you need to go searching for one that will make you feel like no matter what happens you will always have a friend to turn to – even if he or she only exists on paper.”

I couldn’t form emotional attachments with the movie characters, as I had with the ones I only read about. I saw no place where I could fit into the story, as I had when I held the book in my hands. I didn’t see the characters as friends, as I had when I knew them before. Something was lost in the translation, a sense of intimacy that I felt with written words that didn’t make it to the visual medium. I am sure I am not alone in mourning that loss.

So that pretty much sums up the reasons I was disappointed in “The Fellowship of the Ring” as I saw it on a movie screen in Biloxi, MS. If I went into the aspects of the movie that I did like this entry would twice as long as it is now. Since I know that no one wants to read any more of my amateur critiques now I will stop here. Maybe at a later date I will expand on what I liked about the movie.