…and the quest to see everything

LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring

While watching  Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen, my friends, as you, realize that I have never seen it until now. Yeah, it’s really sad.

Movies with people with long hair look more dated than movies with people with short hair. This is the conclusion I got from looking at Frodo Baggins’ (Elijah Wood) hair. But I don’t say the word dated as an insult and other elements in the movie that give it that vintage-y vibe. The colors here are deeper as opposed to saturated or drained. The CGI, which is unfortunately becoming director Peter Jackson‘s signature as of late, is almost absent if not beautifully seamless.

And yes, I’m surprised at how Peter Jackson-y this movie is, having fewer similarities with King Kong and more with his earlier and raw work like Heavenly Creatures. He takes shots of Frodo and other characters in a voyeuristic way through windows or  through uncomfortable arm’s-length distances. It’s also close-up heavy, like that of Gandalf the Grey’s (Ian McKellen) who makes us feel like he’s larger than life. Jackson also gives that sense of urgency, telling Frodo, and us the audience, about strange lands from which Hobbits are supposed to stay away. In the same vein, tracking shots and zoom outs, like the one when Gandalf visits Saruman (Christopher Lee), have just enough wobble to let its audience know that a human being is behind the camera.

After a prologue, this trilogy starts with peace, showing the Hobbits living within the greenery of the Shire. Short shot lengths follow the unnamed citizenry of Hobbiton, their images accompanied by the bucolic music. The Hobbits seem immortal and magical but they’re more relatable because their lives aren’t as busy as the other races living miles away. The movie is more famous for its fantasy and its battle scenes, but this beginning shows how the hobbits are beautifully oblivious towards what could be lost. The same short cuts are employed when other races disturb the peace, as Jackson introduces the black riders. His camera bordering on sadomasochistic fetishism as he closes up on their hooded heads and horses’ hooves or mouths – i.e. they might be scary but those armored gloves look shiny and intricate. And when the Uruk-hai assemble their army, the Orcs’ faces crying out for battle.

The same rapid cuts are used when Arwen (Liv Tyler), a female elf, rescues Frodo, a male, and says something in Elvish to wash the black riders away. I mention the genders to obviously point out how the scene subverts expectations towards them. The only other thing I can say about that is that it reminds me of how these horses are weapon as they were used in historical crusades, the riders evoking evil Conquistadors while Arwen rides on with her virtuous looking white horse. It’s an intensely badass scene, transitioning into one of two hallucinatory hazes, the first one involving Frodo convalesces in Rivendell, as he sees other elves comforting him. These white flashes strangely fit into the movie itself.

Ok I lied. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Fellowship, having seen glimpses of it when Teletoon was constantly playing this movie. They go to Mount Doom via the Mines of Moria where the titular fellowship made up of men of random races fight the Orcs. Gandalf and a Balrog have a death match culminating into Gandalf saying ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS!,’ that seminal moment in gay history. Gandalf’s loss is one of two blows against the fellowship, but I held back my tears because rangers from the noble race of Men like Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) are on the screen. I had this irrational feeling that if I did cry, those men would have jumped off the screen and made fun of me for being such a wuss. Which says a lot about how it handles that event, these characters gaining control despite Gandalf’s absence.

The rest of this leg of the epic journey is pretty masculine with the well representation of Aragorn and Boromir, but it’s  masculine in a valiant and not in a constricting way. The movie also questions that aspect of themselves, with Aragron’s self loathing doubts and Boromir’s close calls with temptation. It’s a great story about clashes and friendship set in the most luscious of fantasy worlds.

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5 responses

  1. You couldn’t spare a single syllable on the awesomeness that is Cate “Galadriel” Blanchett? I love this movie, I shall ignore your jabs at Jackson and I will say:
    “that seminal moment in gay history.”
    that line is a beauty.

    January 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    • I’m sorry about choosing to talk about Arwen instead of Galadriel. Will correct that. And my jabs about Jackson concern his style now. I do wanna see his Tintin because at least I’ll know what I’m going into.

      And about “that seminal moment in gay history?” It’s true, and it’s super awesome. I also saw the Extras version which was hilarious.

      January 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm

  2. I don’t mind you talking about Arwen, the character is beefed up from the book but I LOVE what Liv Tyler does. I had an Arwen poster on my bedroom wall (along with a general LoTR: RotK poster) for years. That moment at the water with her and the Black Riders is still a favouite movie moment of mine, and Viggo has not had more chemistry with a screen partner since (not even with all the sex in History of Violence).

    January 29, 2012 at 8:16 am

    • That’s true. After Violence Viggo’s sort of been typecast as this avuncular, magical, butt-kicker. With the exception of Good of course, which he plays a nerd and I saw it on a plane and I slept after five minutes. I like how he focuses on great character work, especially under Cronenberg’s direction, but he should mix that while milking a potential leading man status before he runs out.

      January 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

  3. Pingback: Brace yourself fanboys, LOTR Part I, or, Hobbits and Orcs and Elves, Oh My! | ThePageBoy

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