OBJECTIVE: Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring once per every week of 2014.

WHEN: May 24, 2014, 8:20am. (Week 21, May 18-24.)

WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.

FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV.

COMPANY: None.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Just woke up and ate some waffles.

It’s no secret that The Lord of the Rings bores the shit out of me, but I haven’t really spent much time getting to the root of why. If you asked me for a one-sentence answer with a gun to my head, I’d tell you it’s because I don’t like the fantasy genre, but hell, I’ll gladly watch The NeverEnding Story or The Princess Bride or even Krull over Hobbits Hobbitting through Hobbitland. So LOTR must be failing me in departments other than genre, and I think one of the franchise’s biggest weaknesses is a lack of interesting characters.

Here are nine. I don’t care about any of them.

Sure, they’ve got distinct mannerisms and quirks, but what have they got beyond that? In an effort to understand why I think these adventurers of various heights are so goddamned bland, I took notes on a vital aspect of making characters interesting: what do they WANT or NEED? To find out, I watched The Fellowship of the Ring and jotted down every time a character’s motivation changed. And now, as much as I normally hate copying my notes verbatim, here’s my list of character actions and the motivations behind them for everyone in the film, which shouldn’t bore you because they’re just so interesting, right?

Sauron: Forge the rings BECAUSE he wants to dominate all life; turn into a giant eyeball BECAUSE he’s dead but he still wants to dominate all life; bug Saruman BECAUSE it’s hard to dominate all life when you’re just a giant eyeball; command Saruman to build an army BECAUSE this Frodo guy looks like he’s up to something.

Elrond: Stop Sauron BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated; heal Frodo BECAUSE that’s what healers do; form a Fellowship to destroy the One Ring BECAUSE why not throw a Hail Mary when you’re clearly fucked?

Isildur: Stop Sauron BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated; keep the One Ring BECAUSE its power is addictive.

Gollum: Keep the One Ring BECAUSE its power is addictive; follow the Fellowship BECAUSE ring ring ring ring ring.

Bilbo: Pick up the One Ring BECAUSE it’s shiny and right in front of him; let Gandalf into his house BECAUSE they’re friends; leave the Shire BECAUSE he misses mountains and wants to write a book in peace; disappear at his birthday party BECAUSE hahaha, fuck you guys; keep the One Ring BECAUSE its power is addictive; give Gandalf the One Ring BECAUSE Gandalf yells and sucks all the light out of the room, or because he’s his friend, probably; try to get the One Ring back from Frodo at Rivendell BECAUSE ring ring ring ring ring; feel bad BECAUSE he’s a creep.

Frodo: Hang out with Gandalf BECAUSE they’re friends; throw Sam at Rosie BECAUSE he wants to help his friend get laid; accept the task of protecting the One Ring BECAUSE Gandalf seems to know what he’s talking about and evil sucks; run off of a cliff BECAUSE Farmer Maggot is ripshit; go with Aragorn BECAUSE they’re pretty much out of options; join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated; survive BECAUSE survival; consider giving Galadriel the One Ring BECAUSE he doesn’t fucking pay attention; break off from the Fellowship BECAUSE nobody else can be trusted with the One Ring; save Sam from drowning BECAUSE he’s your friend; keep going to Mordor BECAUSE the domination thing still sucks.

Gandalf: Come to the Shire BECAUSE it’s his friend Bilbo’s birthday; convince Bilbo to give up the One Ring BECAUSE he suspects it’s evil; travel to the library BECAUSE they might have information on the One Ring; send Frodo away with the One Ring BECAUSE he’s a weak little goody no-shoes and inconspicuous; make Sam join Frodo BECAUSE Frodo needs a pal, I guess; travel to Isengard BECAUSE that’s where his powerful wizard buddy Saruman is and maybe he can help deal with the One Ring; send a moth to get an eagle to rescue him from the tower BECAUSE Saruman turned out to be a dick and will probably kill him; join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated; survive BECAUSE survival.

Sam: Avoid talking to Rosie BECAUSE he’s shy; eavesdrop on Gandalf and Frodo BECAUSE they’re talking about cool shit; accompany Frodo on his journey BECAUSE he’s his friend and Gandalf told him to; run off of a cliff BECAUSE Farmer Maggot is ripshit; go with Aragorn BECAUSE they’re pretty much out of options; join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated and also friendship; survive BECAUSE survival; run into water even though he can’t swim BECAUSE his love for Frodo has overpowered his survival skills; keep going to Mordor BECAUSE the domination thing still sucks.

Pippin: Steal and launch the dragon firework early BECAUSE he is impatient; run off of a cliff BECAUSE Farmer Maggot is ripshit; accompany Frodo BECAUSE he’s his friend; go with Aragorn BECAUSE they’re pretty much out of options; join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated and also friendship; survive BECAUSE survival; survive more BECAUSE survival.

Merry: Convince Pippin to steal and launch the dragon firework early BECAUSE he is impatient; run off of a cliff BECAUSE Farmer Maggot is ripshit; accompany Frodo BECAUSE he’s his friend; go with Aragorn BECAUSE they’re pretty much out of options; join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated and also friendship; survive BECAUSE survival; survive more BECAUSE survival.

Ringwraiths: Go get the One Ring BECAUSE they just really love that goddamn ring, I guess.

Saruman: Join with Sauron BECAUSE he wants to get in on some of that “dominating all life” action; tell Gandalf he’s joined with Sauron BECAUSE he could be a powerful addition to their domination team; keep Gandalf alive BECAUSE Gandalf doesn’t want in on the domination gig but he’s still his friend so maybe he’ll change his mind; build an army BECAUSE Sauron said to; throw snow at the Fellowship BECAUSE impressing Sauron makes him feel cool.

Aragorn: Get all up in Frodo’s shit BECAUSE it looks like he’s got the One Ring; take the Hobbits to Rivendell BECAUSE they’d be fucked on their own and Elrond can help make a plan to deal with the One Ring; fuck up some Ringwraiths BECAUSE they’re after the One Ring; give Frodo to Arwen BECAUSE she’s a better rider and her dad can cure Frodo; steal Arwen’s immortality BECAUSE she’s bangin'; join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated and also some sort of ancestral redemption; survive BECAUSE survival; survive slightly harder BECAUSE Boromir vengeance; keep going to Mordor BECAUSE the domination thing still sucks.

Orcs: Do Saruman’s bidding BECAUSE generic henchman reasons that I’ve never really understood in any movie.

Uruk-hai: Find the Halflings and kill everybody that opposes you BECAUSE you were bred to find the Halflings and kill everybody that opposes you.

Arwen: Go find Aragorn BECAUSE he’s dreamy; take Frodo to Rivendell BECAUSE Aragorn seems to like this Frodo guy and Elrond can cure him; give up immortality to be with Aragorn BECAUSE he’s dreamy.

Boromir: Join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated and also blah blah blah Gondor; survive BECAUSE survival; take the One Ring from Frodo BECAUSE something that powerful totally belong in the hands of a Gondorian; feel bad BECAUSE he just assaulted Frodo; save the Hobbits BECAUSE it’ll totally undo that Frodo assault from earlier.

Legolas: Join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated; survive BECAUSE survival; survive more BECAUSE survival; keep going to Mordor BECAUSE the domination thing still sucks.

Gimli: Join the Fellowship of the Ring BECAUSE he does not want to be dominated; survive BECAUSE survival; survive slightly harder BECAUSE Dwarf vengeance; survive more BECAUSE survival; keep going to Mordor BECAUSE the domination thing still sucks.

Galadriel: Get close to the One Ring BECAUSE she needs to see how evil she’d be if she had it or something; give Frodo a vial of magic BECAUSE you now support his quest and it will obviously come in handy later.

SO, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
Awful lot of repeats on that list, yeah? People want the One Ring because it’s addictive and powerful, or they want to destroy it because they don’t want to get dominated. The end. Yes, there are other motivations, and some of them admittedly add depth to the characters that have them, but from 01:35:00 on, everybody pretty much just needs to survive. That’s it. Let’s go for a walk and stab shit. For an hour and a half.

“Are we there yet? Can we stab shit yet?”

Also, isn’t it weird that the human characters have extra motivation for their quest? Aragorn wants to redeem his family, and Boromir wants glory restored to Gondor, whatever that means. As much as I’m okay with extra reasons to care about these dull fuckers, this is actually one case where the motivation to live freely ought to be enough, right?

“Whine whine whine, white city, silver trumpets…”
“Uh, hey, Sauron still wants to buttfuck us?”

Now, when I started this viewing, I sent Cinemanaut John a message about how LOTR is so boring because all of the characters have the same goal, and he sent back this devastating reply:

What? No… OH, GOD DAMN. SHIT.

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK.

ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
I’ve got nothing clever this time, so funny hats, I guess.

Ha!