When I was a young lad, there was an animated version of The Hobbit, which came out in 1977, that I enjoyed. I remember it came on television a couple of times, and something about it had me mesmerized. I was not entranced enough, though, to want to read the book, or the subsequent sequels known as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yet when the trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring came out, it captured something of my boyhood imagination. So there I was on that opening night in December of 2001. I was very bored then. Unfortunately, I cannot say that my latest viewing changed my feelings on the subject.
Given my love of Star Wars and my desire to be a faithful Catholic, I feel somewhat embarrassed when I say that I do not enjoy any of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies, or The Fellowship of the Ring specifically. I do not know too many people who dislike them. I truly wish I felt as they do. My problem is that I like movies to flow a little quicker. I prefer a pace that rides the line between indulging in development and keeping events moving along. With the The Fellowship of the Ring, and the rest of these films, they all feel practically like nothing but exposition, interrupted here and there by a battle. And, oh my, the walking. Walking. Walking. Walking. I have said this before and I will say it again, New Zealand should use these films as promotional videos for tourism. Finally, this movie and its cousins all seem, to me anyway, full of references to things that the characters just know about because they inhabit that world. I guess I do not really need to get what the bridge of whatever is, or how these people are able to do what they do, but neither (despite all the exposition) do they take the time to explain what these things mean. All this is a huge yawn for me.
Okay, these are my criticisms of The Fellowship of the Ring. The one thing that I like about it and the other The Lord of the Rings movies is that they are unequivocal in the line between good guys and bad guys, and the need to defeat evil. Though I feel the badness of the ring of power is over-repeated (and beyond making people disappear, I am not sure why it is so stinkin’ important!), it is at least clear that they want to get rid of it. The ring seems to also have a strange power over people, and the more you are around it the more you want to possess it. I do not know why. It just does. Okay, fine. But the moments I appreciated the most were when characters turned away from the temptation to wield the ring themselves. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the film’s main character(?), Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), who (despite being told not do so), uses the ring anyway and thus comes increasingly under its spell. There are many other scenes of others not being able to resist the allure of the ring. But the best scene in the movie comes when Frodo confronts Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) for supposedly wanting to stealing the ring. Of course, the much larger human could overwhelm the hobbit and snatch it from him. Yet the larger person kneels before the diminutive hobbit, and reaffirms his loyalty to him and the mission. It was a noble act of humility and sacrifice that I understood as a practicing Catholic. It was also more heroic than any amount of sword fighting. Why could there not be more scenes like this?
The Fellowship of the Ring has battles and magic and orcs and enchanted mountains, and a host of other things with which I am wholly unfamiliar. I kind of felt like I needed to read those books I neglected in my youth in order to fully grasp what was going on. By the way, did you know that J. R. R. Tolkein, the author of this saga, was Catholic? In fairness to my childhood, I recently read The Hobbit. I did not enjoy that either. If you like these films, and The Fellowship of the Ring specifically, then more power to you. And if you have not seen them before, morally speaking, there is really nothing objectionable about them. In the end, good triumphs, and that concept will get my vote any day. And if you like slow moving fantasy plots, then these are the movies for you. If you can explain to me why any of these characters cared about one another without resorting to the tired phrase “It’s explained in the book,” then maybe I will change my mind. Maybe. But there is always the problems of pacing that I referenced above. I feel like they could cut these movies down a great deal by getting rid most of the travel scenes. But that’s just me.