Another attempt to turn the trilogy into a movie. This time, the financing and technology appear to be there to actually pull it off.
I've never read the trilogy. I tried to read the Hobbit, once. I made it about 100 pages in before giving up. I'm told the trilogy is much better. I suppose I should add it to my pile of unread books, someday.
There's just so much about this movie that works. The cinematography was incredible. They made good use of camera tricks and special effects to make the hobbits look short. The land of Mordor was sufficiently dark and gloomy. Whereas, Shire Baggins was sufficiently bright and cheery. They had good actors with a good script. Even though the dialogue was mostly "period" it never got stilted nor melodramatic. Nor did they ever break down into modern colloquialisms.
Though I never read the stories I did used to play D&D, so pretty much all of the races were familiar to me. It brought up a lot of nostalgia to hear about Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits and the Balrog. Again, everything from the actors in their makeup, the dialogue, the mattes, etc all worked well in establishing the and maintaining the atmosphere of the story.
There were a few very minor gaffes. When Gandalf visited the master Wizard the mattes of the castle didn't fit very well. The lighting was a bit off. Later, during the secret meeting at Rivendale, the effect used to make the hobbits short among the rest of the actors popped out. The contrast wasn't quite right. And there was one computer-generated fly-through. Flying a camera down a chasm is sorta fun the first coupla times you see it, but it got old a long time ago. I think a pan-down, beginning of a dolly down, followed by a cut to a boom down would have been less obtrusive.
One slightly more serious problem was that I don't know the geography of Middle Earth. It was very difficult to get a feel for the progress of the party. It felt slightly similar to Alien Resurrection, where we're given a glance at a map fairly early on, but little else to help us keep track of where they were and what to expect next. This story flowed much better, so it didn't feel too terribly episodic. But I think I would have liked maybe a zoom in on a map overlay a coupla times to let me know where they were at. As it stands, I have no idea where Rivendale is in comparison to the Shire and Mordor. I have no idea where the mountain was that they back tracked away from in order to go through the Dwarven kingdom. At the end of the movie they showed Mordor on the horizon. I have no idea how that distance compares to where they started from. Again, not fatal, but it would have helped the sense of progress a bit.
Liv Tyler looked great, though she didn't have nearly enough screen time. She spoke in a very deep voice. In fact, I'm wondering if it was even her own voice. Sean Astin did a good job as Frodo's sidekick. He wasn't too bright, but very loyal. The other two hobbits were used well as comic relief without bringing the entire film to a halt whenever they had a joke. One actor that did seem a little anachronistic was the Elf leader. He was the same actor who played one of the Agents in The Matrix. Whenever he frowned it was almost hard to think of him as one of the good guys.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Full Price. A very good fantasy story done very well.
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