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Mr ManyNames Reports In With Another FELLOWSHIP Review!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

It seems like EVERYONE saw this film last night except me.

Oh, I know that's not true on a rational level. It was an employee/trade screening, only the first of what will be many screenings in the next few weeks, and only a very select few got to attend. Still, between the phone calls from friends and the short e-mails clogging my inbox, it feels like everyone saw it. Take the case of this guy, Mr ManyNames...

Got invited somehow. Even says his theater wasn't totally full. YOU MEAN THERE WAS A SEAT FOR ME AND I WASN'T THERE?! I'll just go sob quietly in the corner now.

Before I do, I want to emphasize one thing about his review. Seems he's a hardcore fan. I wholeheartedly believe, based on what I'm hearing from everyone who's seen it, that knowledge of the books is not required for this film to deliver to an audience. This isn't DUNE, where they're handing out glossary sheets when you buy a ticket. Peter Jackson seems to have taken particular care to build a world that will work for everyone. That's what excites me most here... the idea that you can please the faithful and seduce the novice at the same time. If Jackson's done that, successfully done what so many others have failed to do when adapting works to the screen, then he deserves to take his place among our most revered visualists.

So now, as I crank up the Howard Shore score for the 454,345th time this week, here's Mr ManyNames with his glimpse at the film:

Peter Jackson's Elvish Lament

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is what got me through high school. I spent 5 years escaping into the three books, revisiting Middle Earth every chance I got. Every time I finished, I would feel a profound sense of sadness knowing that I would have to return to the "real" world.

In college I fell in love with "The Silmarrilion" - Tolkien's Old and New Testament of Middle Earth - the story of the glory and fall of the Elvish culture added considerable emotional depth to later readings of the trilogy.

I reread all four books this summer in anticipation of a movie I have waited 20 years to see. I have gone out of my way to avoid any information about the movies other than the trailers.

Having nothing else to go on, I was a little concerned about some aspects of the casting, most notably Liv Tyler as Arwen. I was also a little worried about the fact that Jackson had decided to bring her in a bit early as far as story line: She doesn't show up until the third book - My assumption was that this was in order to develop the "romantic" subplot that is a requirement for any mainstream blockbuster these days.

I was invited to see the screening last night for New Line employees, exhibitors, and other guests. I was surprised that the theater wasn't packed - I later found out that New Line had been thoughtful enough to provide another overflow theater to ensure that everyone had a seat that they were happy with. I sat by myself as close to an exit [this is a 3 hour movie, after all] and sat back for the show.

I want to qualify my impressions of the movie: as a die-hard Tolkien fanatic, it would be irresponsible of me to consider this movie from merely my narrow perspective. As I see it, there are going to be three types of people going to see this movie.

1. Hard-core Middle Earth Fanatics [see description above].

2. The "I read the books XX years ago" crowd.

3. People who have never read the books.

CAVEAT: Although I consider myself in the first category, I made a conscious decision to surrender myself to Jackson's interpretation of the book: Gollum's racial origins, the absence of Tom Bombadil, and the 20-year newsgroup flame war concerning whether or not the Balrog has wings are irrelevant, and I caution anyone who is overly concerned with such matters to leave that stuff at the door - it's Jackson's interpretation, not yours.

The movie's opening exceeded all of my considerable expectations. Jackson manages to summarize the last part of "The Silmarrilion" and lay the foundation for the story of the Ring. It hit me like a freight train - I thought it was brilliant that Jackson chose to start the movie with such a climactic scene. I felt like my ears were ringing as the movie transitioned into the Shire and the story's setup.

Jackson's casting is inspired. All of the major players manage to communicate the aspects of their character's subtext. In most adaptations these subtleties do not survive the transition from book to film - this cast actually managed to define the cliché of "breathing life into" their characters.

The one exception to this was Liv Tyler. As I mentioned above, she was my biggest concern going into this movie. She was sublime. Having seen her work in a number of other films, I can only attribute this to the director. She is both heroic and tragic. The romantic setup between her and Mortensen was perfectly subtle - it didn't feel like a clumsy, heavy-handed plot bolt-on, which was a refreshing change.

The settings are gorgeous. From the hyper-pastoral Shire to Minas Morgul and Mt. Doom, Jackson captures the essence of each of the locations perfectly. Again, what struck me was the way in which the settings accurately reflected the appropriate subtext of the story and enhanced the storyline perfectly. There were at least 3 occasions where I sat in my seat agape wondering how he had pulled this off with the reported budget - he could teach Cameron, Lucas, and most recently, Chris Columbus a few things.

Where this movie delivered for me is it's emotional impact. Watching this movie as a Tolkien fanatic, it's clear that Jackson understood the material he's working with. He really manages to capture the underlying sadness of the decline of the Elves in a beautiful way, and I think that anyone who sees this movie will get that, whether they've read the books or not. The shot of the regrouping of the Fellowship after the Moria sequence was just devastating, and blew any remaining concerns I may have had about how the film was cast. I was surprised, especially in an industry screening to look around and see that I was not the only person brought to tears by this sequence.

"Fellowship of the Ring" is a wonderful movie. I walked out of the theater, sad that I would have to return to the "real" world - at least for the 3 weeks I have to wait before I can revisit Middle Earth.

I imagine J.R.R. would have been really pleased with it. So will everyone else, whether or not they've read the book.

Thank you, Mr. Jackson.

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