WHEN: March 1, 2014, 8:16 am. (Week 9, Feb 23 – Mar 1.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating burritos, kinda groggy, still a little sick.
You may have noticed from my many articles on this site (or the subtle symbolism of the fact that I wear the One Ring on my middle finger) that I do not enjoy The Lord of the Rings, nor the fantasy genre in general. Yet, since I’m required by science to watch The Fellowship of the Ring once per week, it helps to find something you actually enjoy somewhere in the midst of all that hatred. Luckily, I found one particular detail early on and have enjoyed it ever since, so brace yourself for the most blissful article I will likely ever write about these Hobbit movies… ladies and gentlemen, I love the weapon designs in The Fellowship of the Ring. Love, love, love.
Um, I don’t think Farmer Maggot’s scythe counts.
While I’ve previously mentioned my fondness for Middle-earth weaponry, I haven’t elaborated on just how well each weapon fits with the character that wields it. Some of the credit falls upon Tolkien, of course, but the filmmakers that contributed to the look and feel of each weapon deserve just as much applause. Since film is a collaborative effort, I couldn’t begin to praise each individual involved with the design of every weapon, as there are over 60 credits with the word “weapon” in them, but most of them mention Weta Workshop, so holy hell, good job making a Hobbit hater like myself find something to adore every week.
Okay. Pick any character in the Fellowship. What are they packin’?
He’s old, he’s a nature-loving hippie type, and he’s magical, so of course he wields a staff. But it’s not just a regular old stick, it looks like it’s been carved from a knotty piece of driftwood. This is perfect for Gandalf’s character; much like the person that uses it, it looks worn and weak and of little value, but is actually ridiculously powerful.
“Why, I’m just a confused old man–” *KA-CHOOM, Flame of Something or Other*
As with a lot of the weapons we’ll see in this article, Gandalf’s enemy’s staff is in sharp contrast to his. The design of Saruman’s weapon is clean, slick, and industrial (more on that later), with lots of hard angles and precise symmetry. They manage to hit you over the head with this symbolism after Saruman reveals himself as a baddie and dual wields both staffs.
“We’re different, Gandalf, is where I’m going with this!”
(Note: Yes, Gandalf does also use a sword every so often. A fair number of Fellowship members use more than one weapon, but we’re going with the one they use the most.)
ARAGORN AND BOROMIR:
In the opening narration, the race of Men is described as desiring power, and few weapons evoke power like a muthafuckin’ sword.
UNGH! Wait, no, that’s a terrible screencap…
YEAH, there we go. Badass.
Phallic imagery aside (these are “Men” with a capital “M” that we’re talking about), a sword can hack, slice, and stab its way to victory. Of course, not all swords look the same in Middle-earth. The swords of Men seem to favor function over form, but that doesn’t mean that thought wasn’t put into their design. The blades and handles have a proud, rugged feel to them; not showy, but not devoid of character, either.
Even a busted-up Man sword looks like it’s threatening to kick your ass.
In short, and at the risk of breaking the Internet, they’re the 1967 Chevy Impala of swords.
And they come in black.
Oh yeah, the Nazgûl used to be Men, and their swords have a similar design, except they’re old and broken and deteriorating… just like the characters that use them. This movie is so smart, you guys.
Elves are wise, according to the lady that tells me things at the beginning of the movie, so it would make sense that their most prominent weapon relies on precision, accuracy, and geometric skills. Thus, the bow and arrow.
You better run.
Still, they’re not a cold, no-nonsense race that centers purely on logic. Their weaponry features some very elegant designs. Check out these bows:
Elves shall henceforth be referred to as “fancy Vulcans.”
Clearly, these fancy Vulcans value arts just as much as smarts, crafting bows as beautiful as Legolas himself. It also shows in their swords, but once again, more on that later. Elvish wisdom seems to reach beyond mere intelligence and focus on aesthetics as well, and this philosophy is best reflected in the way they murder you.
As I’m told by Probably Cate Blanchett, Dwarves are great craftsmen. Therefore, it makes sense that their weapon of choice is the only one that can also be used to make furniture.
Nope, Gimli isn’t standing back and deciding which is the best of seven pressure points to attack with a precision strike. He runs in headfirst with an axe and swings. This fits perfectly with the rampaging, Viking-esque personality of the Dwarves. They eat red meat, drink beer, and if you don’t like it, axe to the gut. The Dwarves’ battle advantage starts in the workshop, crafting a weapon so sturdy that any Dwarf disadvantages like a lack of height or sobriety ain’t gonna be a problem.
And if you kill his family, you’re only leveling up his battle rage.
Look at that blade. I don’t know a damn thing about Axe Science, but that sucker was made to chop. And after Gimli’s enemies are slain, he can use it to build a cart to carry all the shit he takes from the corpses.
Fuck yeah, Gimli.
Welp, we never see a weapon made by Hobbits, which probably reveals more about their race than any other item on this list. Hobbits stay at home and they do not like adventuring one bit. Therefore, they need an assist from their companions in the munitions department, so Aragorn tosses a few spare Man blades at their hairy feet.
“Should we be wearing shoes while we’re swinging these around?”
Like the Hobbits, they’re small but effective. Starter swords, you might say. But one of them gets a special magic sword called Sting. Designed by the Elves and enchanted with an ability to glow when Orcs are nearby, it seems appropriate that Frodo, the leader of this quest, with all his… specialness… has the specialest of swords.
Okay, I’m grasping a bit on this one.
Once again, we see that Elvish weapons are both pretty and clever, and that’s all fine and good for this adventure, but for my money, my absolute favorite weapon would have to be… Sam’s frying pan.
“HAVE A SIDE ORDER OF PAIN!” – A line Sam tragically never utters.
While he doesn’t go klonking his way through the Mines of Moria making culinary puns, he does proclaim, “I think I’m gettin’ the hang of this!” as he bashes an Orc’s skull in. That. That right there is the essence of our brave little Hobbit quartet. As a people, they don’t spend all day honing their combat skills, but send a threat their way and they’ll come out swinging with whatever they have on hand.
Aaaaaggghhh, this stuff makes me like this movie.
As much as I love every weapon I’ve mentioned up to this point, the winner for brilliant design doesn’t go to anything wielded by the Fellowship. In terms of representing the characters that use them, you can’t beat the look and feel of the Uruk-hai scimitar.
It’ll kill me with blandness?
Full disclosure, I used to think this weapon totally sucked. It looks like something my dad would use to make a cabinet. Also, isn’t the spiky part facing the wrong way? But after a couple of Fellowship viewings, the brilliance hit me. These scimitars are mass-produced, without any care for strategy or even aesthetic, and are only a threat due to their sheer numbers… (say it with me) just like the Uruk-hai.
Toss ‘em on the pile, make a thousand more.
A lot of Rings nerds tell me that the Uruk-hai are supposed to represent the evils of industrialization, and if that’s the case, the weapons design team nailed it with the flat, uninteresting look of the scimitars, and Peter Jackson helped drive the point home with an incredible montage of these clunky pieces of shit tumbling off of the assembly line. And who oversees production? Saruman, with his sleek, perfect Big Boss staff. And who opposes him? Gandalf, with his organic, all-natural, probably gluten-free farmboy staff.
Dammit, this is good stuff.
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
Character depth be damned, you know what weapon is sorely missing here.