Peter Jackson’s first installment of the epic trilogy Lord of the Rings was an excellent movie, but it left me with a sense of disappointment. I will assume that you have read the book – if not, do so! I am not, in general, a fan of fantasy. However, J.R.R. Tolkien created such an incredibly detailed world that in the context of the book, it wholly replaces our reality.
Jackson has, in most cases, done a magnificent job translating Tolkien’s vivid descriptions of landscapes and people to the wide screen. The casting is excellent, although Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn doesn’t feel quite right to me. The remainder of the characters look much as I imagined them.
Where I feel let down is that the cinematic version of The Fellowship of the Rings does not seem to capture the feeling that the characters are engaged on an Epic journey. The travel scenes are far too short, especially between Hobbiton and Rivendell. There’s no enjoying a bath at the Brandybuck household and Tom Bombadil is left out of the movie. There is little sense of the weariness that comes from a long trek, nor the delight of reaching comfort at a destination.
Lacking too is the menace of darkness. For whatever reason, the scenes with the black riders are played out in daylight rather than in blackness. Similarly, there is little sense of the dark of Moria. It is easier to see the wonderful stunts and special effects in full light, but sometimes what you can’t see is scarier than than an intricately designed horror.
This lack of subtlety and imagination is a major feature of Jackson’s and Fran Walsh’s adaptation of Tolkien’s story. In the book, the history of the Ring and Gandalf’s imprisonment by Saruman were fairly briefly referred to in conversations between Gandalf and Frodo.In the movie, these scenes are fully fleshed out with sumptious visual effects and very little left up the imagination. It is probably for this reason that so many other parts of the movie are cut short. Lothlorien, Bree and more are mere shadows of their book selves.
Whatever my complaints, the movie was certainly enjoyable fair and the three hours passed too quickly. My wife, who has not read the book (I’ll have to change that!) was quite tense during certain parts of the movie, and jumped a few times in shock. The soundtrack, by Howard Shore, is also quite good, although it took me a few listens to fully appreciate it. If you have Quicktime (I wish they’d provide it for Linux) you can listen to the entire score at the Lord of the Rings movie website. This flash heavy site provides lots of other information on the making of the film.