Hehehehehe, Harry here... Oh boy we're going to see some interesting reviews here. I think it is interesting that the first review from a die hard Tolkien fan feels the first hour has pacing problems. Since most critics of the book that I've talked to often comment that they didn't make it through the first part of the book. However, from the sound of this review... the film just builds and builds and builds and builds... I don't know about this... But Joe Mama is who you came to read...
Long time reader, first time writer. Call me Joe Mama. I was privileged enough attend the Fellowship of the Ring tonight in Sherman Oaks and let me say right off the bat that I was blown away.
But first, I'd like to get the minor negative issues some may have with it. Let me just say that these are initial impressions and my brain is still processing the full impact that this 3 hour monster of a film has. Also let me say that I have read the trilogy and The Hobbit twice each. This means that once I get the chance to see it again and watch it without the expectations and years of imagination that have been put into imagining Middle Earth as well as focus more on the film for what it is as opposed to judging it as a reflection of the books, these impression may change.
But I digress...
For the first hour, I wasn't always pleased with the pacing and the editing. The build until RIvendell felt choppy and there didnt' seem to be much sense of time or cohesion throughout the mandatory exposition. But again, it is also because the film was jumping gaps in the book storyline that is still relatively fresh in my mind. There were a few times that I felt that Peter Jackson was much too liberal with his camera movements and sweeping crane and helicopter shots and at times I felt that Tolkien was getting a more modern Matrix-style treatment. At times I felt the action was a bit claustrophobic, but then again, I am a sucker for the long wide shots of Hong Kong kung fun movies. But these are minor nitpicks and I feel compelled to follow it with a congratulations to Peter Jackson and his cinematographer for making a very cinematically elegant film. Also, there are undoubtedly several issues that hardcore fans (the exclusion of Tom Bombadil being the least of them) will find with the choices made in adapting the story for the screen, but I leave that to them because I understand the pressure Peter Jackson must have been under as a lifelong fan to stay as loyal and detailed as possible and I credit New Line and all involved for allowing the 2 hr. 58 min. runtime to stand (I could have stayed for four EASILY). Let's just say they most definitely make the most of that screen time.
And now to the good...
GOOD LORD..........I MEAN GODDAMN......this shit is unreal. ILM should be spanked for doing such comparitively shoddy work for so long. Peter Jackson and his team at WETA have created some of the most mind blowing special effects (an all encompassing term for CGI and all other forms) ever seen. This film is without question the most visually stunning cinematic experience I have ever had. There is so much to say, I almost don't know where to start. They waste no time kicking the "HOLY SHIT" factor into gear with the prologue that brings the Tolkein virigins up to speed in a very competent and well done fashion. The Shire looked every bit as amazing and beautiful as I had imagined it...even more so when coupled with the beautiful cinematography and excellent visual sense of Peter Jackson.
And I need to start a new paragraph just for Ian McKellan. I have never, ever seen an actor or actress just INHABIT and simply BE a part as he does Gandalf. From the first second he raises his hat in the first close up and we see his face, you know it's him. His demeanor, his speech, his facial expressions, everything is impeccable, top-notch, whatever word you want to use. The first hour is rather slow at times through Bilbo's birthday party and Frodo's discovery of his task at hand. For the sake of moving the film along, he doesn't deliberate much at all and Gandalf and the four hobbits bounce around rather quickly through the first events leading up to the forming of the fellowship at Rivendell. One aside regarding a detail from the books is that they reveal pretty much immediately that Saruman desires to join forces with Sauron and I didn't think that happened until much later in the books. But seeing as a good part of the action in the film centers around the creation and breeding of the Uruk-hai and building up Sauron's forces, it pretty much had to happen that way. The power and mystique of the ring are well-established elements of the story. Elijah Wood makes the transition between a carefree Frodo and a pensive, brooding bearer of immense emotional weight flawlessly. Viggo Mortensen was right on with Aragorn in the same way Hugh Jackson nailed Wolverine. Everyone else acted with a passion that was reflective of the bonds they all reportedly formed with Peter Jackson and each other on the lengthy shoot.
I really don't want to say many other specifics so others can have a similar experience to mine. Once the Fellowhship arrives in Moria, hold on to your nutsack. You won't believe your eyes, I swear to God. And that's before the Balrog shows up (cue goose bumps). Galadriel's Forest is equally stunning (running out of adjectives) and there are enough interesting tidbits of visual flare and other elements to make even the most seasoned reader raise an eyebrow, jump in your seat, or simply smile with unexpected awe. The arc of the story itself creates more of an Empire Strikes Back ending. Once again, though, as is the case with the ending and throughout, Peter Jackson does a magnificent job of achieiving an excellent balance between Tolkien's wonderous tale and certain elements of a Hollywood script (this is a $350+million investment, after all). Moria is most definitely the absolute show stopper and there is more than enough eye candy and other action elements to keep everyone satisfied.
I have the feeling that critics and some fans man not completey agree with my significant praise for some aspects of the film. But the fact remains, this eye candy of the highest order of magnitude, unsurpassed and in my mind, it will always be so because it has the rock solid substance of Tolkein's imagination to back it up. The money is on the screen, no expense was spared, everything is jaw dropping and awe inspiring. Once I was able to look past the few shortcoming I had as a movie lover and Tolkien fan, I realized what an immense accomplishment this is for Peter Jackson, New Line, and everyone involved. They created Middle Earth. Two of my friend who were there as well had never read the books and they were awe struck as well. The wait was worth it.
As I walked out, I slowly liked the movie more and more until I reached the point I am at now. I can't stop thinking about it and if this is a sign of what's to come in the next two, I sure as hell (forgive me for being greedy) can't wait to see the siege on Isengard. I really doubt anyone can walk away from this movie disappointed no matter who you are. I can't wait to see it again.