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Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5-star film, 5-star DVD, 17 Aug. 2003
This review is from: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Four Disc Collector's Box Set) [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
THE FILM: watching films of books I tend to mutter (and occasionally shout!) at the screen "That's not what it's like!" Although not an obsessive Tolkien fan, I do love the books and my initial reaction to the film was: "Why?" I felt sure that none of the characters/ locations/ action scenes would match my own mental images, but from the start of the prologue it was obvious that Jackson was the perfect director for the movie and had approached it with respect, vision and imagination. Hobbit-newcomers will be blown away while the initiated will concede that this is one film which comes close to matching its source (although the "Why?" question remains; the books are so descriptive and detailed that there is no real need for a film-why do we need to reduce the written word to the simpler visual image?) Still, locations such as Isengard, Moria and the Shire are wonderfully realised, and the casting is first rate. Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee in particular are marvellous, and Wood pulls off the tricky role of Frodo well, saving him from being a wimp. Mortensen, Bloom, the other hobbits and Rhys-Davies inhabit their roles with great conviction and accents (it's only when you hear them on the commentary that you realise what a good job the Americans did with their British accents) while Sean Bean is a perfect Boromir.
Although I dislike the design of Rivendell and Lorien (I don't think thousand-year elves would go in for such tacky garden statuary), and don't like Blanchett as Galadriel (I would have cast Michelle Pfeiffer), these are minor quibbles based on personal taste. The Ringwraiths, the fantastic fight by Balin's tomb, the Bridge of Khazad-dum and the absolutely flawless Boromir death-scene are guaranteed to win over the staunchest devotees of the book. In some respects, the film is even superior-by cutting out the 17 years that pass between Bilbo's birthday and Frodo leaving the Shire, Jackson has hugely increased the menace and danger of the Ring, and his Wraiths are supremely terrifying, matching Tolkien's Witch-King of the third book rather than the "snuffling" riders that he initially described in the first book. And the Uruk-hai are wonderfully hideous, with Saruman's creation of them brilliantly shown-you're in no danger of confusing them with the orcs, as you might be on a first read of the book. The created character of Lurtz is also a great stroke, and I defy anyone not to feel tearful as Boromir fights on to defend Merry and Pippin with Lurtz's great black arrows piercing him. Overall, a 5-star blockbuster that's also a 5-star film (not many good blockbusters are also good films)-it really should have been rewarded come Oscar night.
THE DVD: The extended version is essential, and you wonder why they released a version lacking such moments as Galadriel's gift-giving, which is important in the next 2 films. Most of the restored scenes built up characters, and thus give increased depth and emotion. Sadly, no Tom Bombadil-I know it isn't essential, but I wish they could have found time to include it.
4 commentaries are included-most people will probably listen to the cast first, which is lots of fun. The four hobbits watched the film together, and have clearly formed a real life fellowship; they have lots of stories about funny moments on set, and you find yourself smiling too. Bloom is a little too starry-eyed (everything is 'incredible') but McKellen, Lee and Bean contribute insightful and interesting comments throughout. The director and writers' commentary is probably more for fans of the book: it's fascinating to hear them explain why they changed or left something out-all three really respect Tolkien's work, while juggling the demands of cinema, the studio and the budget. The other 2 commentaries are less essential but still interesting if you have time for them.
The documentaries are wonderful, and, thankfully, don't go into too much production detail, although I did find myself losing interest in a few. From Book to Script and JRR Tolkien are the best on Disc 3, although the Costume Design, Designing Middle-Earth and Weta Workshop are also interesting. For those who care, there are loads of design galleries, although I found these really dull, and the commentary on some of the images that I listened to does repeat what's in the video clips. On Disc 4, A Day in the Life of a Hobbit is great and lots of fun; Big-atures really has to be seen to show the wonderful work done to create Isengard, Rivendell and the Argonaths, and Digital Grading shows how the distinctive look of Middle-Earth was achieved. After watching the commentaries and documentaries you feel as if you were there during filming, and were one of the group. However, my personal feeling is that there should have been a little more human info. I would have loved a documentary on casting-why was Stuart Townsend replaced by Viggo Mortenson? Why did they pick Orlando Bloom who had never worked on a film and has dark hair and olive skin in real life? How did they approach Elvish, which has never been spoken (except by the Hobbit-addicts at home in their bedrooms!) A greater focus on the cast and the human elements of filming as opposed to the technical elements would have interested me more. Still, this can't really be faulted and it's clear that a huge amount of work went into making the DVD right from the start; unlike some it wasn't cobbled together after the event but was compiled throughout filming. And of course the people behind the scenes are the ones who brought the film to life and really deserve this chance to be appreciated. By the way, if you select chapter 48 and then go down to the bottom right hand corner of the page that plays the fan club credits, there's a hidden trailer for the Two Towers.
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