The Fellowship of the Ring
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

I've waited my whole life for this film. In fact I wanted to make it myself. The Lord of the Rings is, of course, my favorite book of all time and I've read it at least 10 times in the last 30 years. All this made my expectations way too high for Peter Jackson's live-action version of The Fellowship of the Ring but I couldn't help it.  And I was a bit disappointed.  I saw it again and I liked it better but I'm still a bit disappointed.  Peter Jackson has made a heroic effort.  Shooting in New Zealand was perfect. Everything looks right. The casting is great.  Unfortunately in adapting the book for the screen, in which hard choices obviously had to be made about what and how much to include, and about what and how much to change, Peter Jackson has decided to make The Lord of the Rings into some kind of action-adventure movie.  What is lost is the characters and their motivations and therefore a lot of the heart of what I love about it has been lost.  After a lot of time spent in the Shire which could have been shortened to save time for other things The Fellowship of the Ring moves from chase to fight and back again.  Most characters come and go with little introduction or explanation. If you've read the book, you know who they are, if not, you'll be a bit confused through the whole movie.  The pivotal scenes where characters could be developed and introduced have been pared away.  In their place, we have Orcs and more Orcs.  Jackson builds up Saruman as some kind of super-villain.  He even has a Matrix-type fight with Gandalf.  And then the story becomes one long Orc fight.  Some things are just weird if you are a fan of the book.  When the hobbits meet Strider in Bree, we never get the scene where they try and figure out who he is.  It's a good thing they don't have the rhyme about the sword that was broken because low and behold, Strider pulls out his sword and it's not broken!  And then for some reason, they have Elrond saying that Aragon can't be king because he ``has chosen exile."  Some changes are better than others.  It was a nice idea to increase Arwen's role by having her save Frodo at the Ford.  Although, I have to say this scene is much more exciting in the book.  This is another problem. Peter Jackson has only directed small films before this and I don't think he is quite up to the task of bringing an epic to the screen.  The direction is pretty clunky.  The big scenes lack drama.  And the music doesn't help.  Another example of what should have been an exciting scene but wasn't is when Boromir is killed trying to save Merry and Pippin.  First of all, having them jump out in front of the Orcs and yell, ``over here, over here,'' is stupid. Then, any drama is leeched out of the scene with the endless shots of the super Orc drawing his bow to shoot Boromir.  The main point at the end of the first book is the helplessness that Aragorn feels as all his decisions seem to go awry. So instead of him failing to find Frodo and arriving too late to help Boromir, Jackson insists on instant gratification. So Aragorn meets and talks to Frodo and then gets to lop off the head of the Orc that killed Boromir.  All this being said, the movie is pretty good.  The special effects of making the hobbits and Gimli look small work very well.  It's one thing making Elijah Wood small. He's small to begin with but how did they squish John Rhys-Davies so small!  The other big special effects, the cave troll and the Balrog aren't quite so good.  Jackson liked the cave troll way too much. He had much too much screen time. The entire cast including Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Ian Holm (Bilbo), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sean Bean (Boromir) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas) all look and act just right for their parts and it takes your breath away to see them.  Unfortunately, Jackson felt he had to dumb down the story for the movie and stick to the action. But you gotta see it.