OBJECTIVE: Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring once per every week of 2014.
WHEN: January 9, 2014, 12:23 pm. (Week 2, Jan 5-11.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: DVD on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating goat cheese pizza. Standard levels of disdain for The Lord of the Rings.
An interesting trend emerged when I announced that I was going to be reluctantly watching The Fellowship of the Ring 52 times this year. The hardcore Ringsies were shocked that I could shit on a single second of this brilliant film series, while my fellow Hobbit-haters lamented for my sanity, but the casual fans all seemed to share the same opinion: this is the weakest film in the trilogy.
Booooo– wait, is there no Fellowship title card?
Some of this opinion was expressed as praise for the other installments. Cinemanaut John prefers The Two Towers. Friend of the site Jonathan Paula, despite an aversion to the fantasy genre, declared The Return of the King “incredible cinema.” I’d weigh in on these insights, but I haven’t seen the sequels.
Oh, don’t look so shocked.
Okay, technically, I’ve seen the end of Return. Some friends wanted to watch just the second half (???) and I was outvoted; I didn’t pay attention and I don’t remember anything that isn’t painfully predictable. Still, they chose that particular chunk of this epic for a reason, right? No matter what fictional franchise you love, you have to admit that there are weak points in it somewhere. Just because Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a whole is great doesn’t mean that the episode “Beer Bad” is automatically also great.
While I wouldn’t go to the mat for “Beer Bad,” I do think it deserves to be analyzed like any other Buffy episode. It’s in this spirit that I’ve deliberately chosen not to watch The Two Towers or The Return of the King for at least ten weeks. Since The Fellowship of the Ring is the first step of the journey, that gives me the opportunity to thoroughly assess it as a standalone installment before I tear into how it stacks up against the rest of the trilogy.
A few friends have told me that they, too, are bored by Fellowship and usually avoid it. I can’t think of any other series where this is the case, that the first entry is such a slog that people just skip over it. The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are all typically viewed as better than the original, but that doesn’t mean you have to beg somebody to watch A New Hope, Alien, or The Terminator. Hell, usually Part I is the smash hit that the sequels can’t live up to, and yes, I’ll throw my beloved Back to the Future into that category, along with just about any other film series. So why does Fellowship start on a weak note? If an appetizer tastes terrible, you don’t get too excited for the main course, no matter how delicious it is. There’s a chance I might actually enjoy Towers or Return, but I don’t particularly care to find out after sampling the cold, mealy mozzarella sticks that are The Fellowship of the Ring.
So, with… all of that in mind, I went into today’s Fellowship viewing looking for elements that legitimately made me want to stick around for the sequels. Did it set up any plot points that I wanted to see paid off? What character traits or flaws might be put to the test? Who’s gonna hump whom? And, to keep it nice and subjective in the interest of Fake Movie Science, I didn’t include anything just because the filmmakers clearly wanted me to get excited about it. I found myself writing, “What’s So-And-So’s deal?” a lot and then constantly realizing that I didn’t actually give a shit.
You were exiled or something– OOPS, my shit-summoning spell failed.
My list is, not surprisingly, pretty short. Right off the bat, I want to know more about why all the rulers just plain accepted the gift of the rings back in the day. Did they show up with a little Hallmark card that said, “Cool, huh? Put ‘em on! You’re welcome!” Were they even told what they did, minus the enslavement bit? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope there’s a flashback in this already exposition-crowded series that covers this event in more detail.
Also, prolonged exposure to the ring turns you evil. I wanna see a good guy turn bad. They show Bilbo, Boromir, Gandalf, and Other Dumb Name constantly afraid of the ring’s power. That shit better infect somebody all the way. Bonus points if it’s a total goober like Merry or Pippin that goes Full Villain.
Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Speaking of those two, I would really like to see Merry and Pippin stop being such wacky fuck-ups. There are two ways to accomplish this: get them fully trained in combat or have them die. There are so many ways to go with these two options. Maybe one starts to really enjoy killing and goes off the rails like a hairy-footed Punisher. Possibly sparked by the tragic death of the other. Ooh, this is gettin’ good. Too bad I suspect that they’re just occasionally heroic comic relief from here to Mount Doom.
“Hey, this isn’t a mountain!” *BOI-OI-OING!*
Oh, Gandalf has a line about how the enemy can control animals. And we see that Gandalf can as well, when he tells that little moth to go get the big bird. I wanna see a crazy huge animal fight that’s more ridiculous than the scene in Jumper where they teleport goddamn buses at each other. Yeah, I liked Jumper more than this movie. Suck on that one.
Crows?! Show me a gorilla fighting a hippopotamus.
Arwen needs to kill EVERYBODY. I will accept no less. If she doesn’t find and subsequently kick every ass in Middle-earth, I’m gonna start to suspect that her role was beefed up just so they could avoid accusations of sexism by putting her one badass line in the trailer.
“If you want tickets to this movie, ladies, come and claim them!”
Everything else is a pretty minor plot point. If Sauron takes physical form again, will he look different? What’s Frodo really seeing when he puts on the ring? What else can they use that lady’s magic water mirror for? Beyond that, I’m out of curiosities. I’m pretty sure the fellowship will come back, though I don’t know where Merry and Pippin fucked off to. I’m already aware that Gandalf is resurrected with a new paint job and I’m pretty darn sure the ring goes in the fire. Actually, yeah, that might be where the lack of tension is for me. Once they have their quest, that’s the quest. The entire second half of Fellowship is “go put ring in fire, oops, here comes a thing.” I’m assuming that will still be the quest for six more goddamn hours.
Heh, it’s kind of fun to watch part of a story and try to figure out how it ends. If only there were a brand new monthly feature on Cinema 52 that did just that…
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
A little more upfront than the water mirror.