Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) ****

PG-13, 208 min. (special extended edition)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Marton Csokas, Andy Serkis, Alan Howard (voice)

So, Peter Jackson claims the end to his time in Middle Earth has come with “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, due in theaters December 17. As such, I felt it was time for my sons’ time in Middle Earth to begin, and so it did over the Thanksgiving weekend in what might become a new family tradition. The tradition won’t be to watch “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy every Thanksgiving weekend, which is what we did this year, but maybe we’ll do some film series every year. It seems to me “Star Wars” would be an appropriate choice next Thanksgiving, And we could watch all six movies in about the time it took us to watch the three extended editions of LOTR.

The boys had only really experienced one movie longer than three hours before. We watched “Avatar” last year during a snow day. Amazingly, the LOTR ex eds make “Avatar” seem like your average length movie. “Fellowship of the Ring” is the shortest of the three. We watched it Thanksgiving night after spending the day with family and food. It was no work at all to watch. The extended edition is much slower than the theatrical edition, which was my least favorite of the series when I saw them in theaters. Yet, even with its slower pace, it feels just about perfect for the story it’s telling, and of the extended editions, it is the one that doesn’t feel like it has scenes that should’ve been cut. I’m sure the only reason Jackson did cut them for the theatrical release was to open the series with a dramatic and even pace. The extended edition is much better, however.

At this point, I’ve seen the extended version three times and the theatrical only the once. It’s difficult for me to remember with this one just what is different, other than the quicker feel of the theatrical version. That’s not the case with the other two films. Many of the extended additions to those films are obvious and will always remain so. This one feels like the natural cut of the movie.

It’s a rather impressive introduction to Middle Earth. I can’t imagine trying to figure this world out with some of the scenes omitted. Now, I had experienced Middle Earth when I was a child, reading first “The Hobbit”, then much later most of the “Lord of the Rings” books. I might’ve read them all, but for some reason I seem to remember I never quite finished. I know I read up to Shelob’s lair.

My eldest son had read some of “The Hobbit”, although he admitted to me after we started the movies that he really only made it about ten pages. He was just too bored by the history lesson and all things hobbits, which start the novel off. He certainly wasn’t bored by this movie, though. He and I both worried that his younger brother might be disinterested in some of the introductory passages, but it really only seemed to be the romantic stuff that turned him off. Anyway, day one of our family LOTR weekend was a huge success.

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