WHEN: December 5, 2014, 6:00am. (Week 49, November 30-December 5.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV.
COMPANY: Becca getting ready for work in the background.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating cereal, just woke up.
LIKE A MOVIE WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED:
Prior to today’s viewing, I listened to the BBC’s 1981 radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and I must say, it looks radically different from Peter Jackson’s film.
Every kingdom in Middle-earth looks the same!
If you were hoping for a full review, there are a few reasons I’m not going to do that.
- I can’t throw in screencaps because it’s just audio.
- I can only provide examples by linking to possibly temporary YouTube uploads that I question the legality of.
- It’s approximately 4 hours and 36 minutes long.
- I don’t want to.
However, I would love to bring up a few points on adapting The Fellowship of the Ring, and compare what I liked most from the radio series, the Ralph Bakshi animated film, and Peter Jackson’s live action film. So here comes that.
MY FAVORITE SAMWISE GAMGEE:
It’s no secret that I’m not big on Tolkien, Jackson’s Rings films, or the fantasy genre in general, but what I really appreciated this time around was just how good Sean Astin’s performance as Samwise Gamgee is.
Aww, this guy.
Sean is just the absolute bestest buddy, doing whatever he can to help out Mr. Frodo in a way that’s sometimes silly but mostly incredibly endearing. The animated version of Sam in Bakshi’s adaptation is just… kind of doofy.
He thinks Mt. Doom is an amusement park.
The Sam of the radio series didn’t particularly impress me either, but that’s to be expected when he’s played by some nobody named… Bill Nighy?? Yep, he’s Frodo’s BFF, but he’s a little too high-pitched and fast-talking at times for me. Of course, it also doesn’t help that there’s no (probably doofy) face to go with the character, which brings me to my next point…
THIS IS A HARD STORY TO TELL WITHOUT VISUALS:
On the one hand, an audio-only adaptation of a fantasy story helps keep the budget down and lets the audience’s imaginations run wild. On the other hand, who’s saying what and what’s happening?
THEY WERE JUST HERE!
I discussed in a recent article how you can tell the Fellowship members apart in very basic ways in the movies (Arrow Guy, Axe Guy, etc.), but it’s pretty tough in the radio series when you only have voices to go on. You can only make an accent so distinct before it just sounds stupid. As proof, Aragorn has a stuffy British lisp. Yeah. He sounds more like a butler than an adventurer when he pronounces “horseman” as “horthman.” Both movie Aragorns could heartily beat his ass with his own serving tray.
You better run.
Also, this is a story about a ring that turns you invisible, so how do you convey that with sound? Well, with whatever this weird sort of twinkly hum is. I suppose it works, but it’s not nearly as exciting as the movies. However, there’s one part of the radio series that uses sound extremely effectively…
There are no Wargs in Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring, and that’s a damn shame. The Fellowship wanders up to the Magic Moon Door of Moria and, you know, just hangs out, wondering how to get in.
The radio series, on the other hand… holy shit. The Fellowship is on the run from the vicious, snarling Wargs and desperately hoping to get the door open before they attack, and you can hear their growls and howls getting louder… and louder… and louder… it’s pretty scary. And just when you’re thinking, “Phew, they got the door open, they’re safe!” is when the Watcher in the Water busts out and grabs at them.
And then the effect is kind of lost because they have to shout aloud what’s happening: “It’s dragging me into the pool!” “There’s more tentacles coming out of the water!” Seriously, radio’s tough.
HOLM, SWEET HOLM:
Probably the best known bit of trivia about the BBC’s Fellowship is that Ian Holm plays Frodo, which is neat because he plays Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s film. But ready for a real mindbender (if you’re me and you watch Fellowship every week due to a dumb experiment)? There is a scene in Jackson Fellowship in which Elijah Wood Frodo quotes something said by Ian Holm Bilbo that we hear narrated in Ian Holm Bilbo’s voice, but that same line is said in the BBC Fellowship by Ian Holm Frodo to quote John Le Mesurier Bilbo: “It’s a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step into a road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Short version: Ian Holm says the same line in both versions and my brain shit its pants.
Sorry for the visual.
If you’re sick of me crapping on Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring as a lousy adaptation, brace yourself: it’s better than the BBC version. That’s not to say the radio series is total crap; there are some very neat ideas in it and it’s got some pretty fun scenes and nice music. Still, it’s so long that I’d rather read the book. If you need to cut the story down to its most basic adventurous elements, I consider Ralph Bakshi’s animated film to be the top of the heap, though I’d still prefer to see a sprawling epic television adaptation that takes seven seasons to tell properly.
Wait, but I also don’t even like Tolkien, so why do you want my opinion? Bye!
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
TOM BOMBADIL. I’ve sat through three Fellowship adaptations this year and EVERYBODY leaves out Tom Bombadil! Cut it out, you ring a dong dildos!
At least the card game got it right.
(And bothered to dress a guy up for it.)