FT TOP 100 FILMS
13: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
“It doesn’t feel like three hours”, my companion said as I left the cinema. Perhaps they were not as nuanced at reading their bodies signals. My arse felt the three hours and told the rest of me without compunction. But does the book feel like seven hundred pages? Again, yes.
Reasons why the first Lord Of The Rings film is great range from the snarky (NO TOM BOMBADIL) to the reverent (WHAT AN ADAPTATION). Myself, I am very wary of adaptations: full stop. What does it profit cinema to be constantly aping other art forms. Not to say that some adaptations are not better than the original, as anyone who has read Puzo’s stodgy The Godfather. All they show is that the novel was the wrong form for that story. Something it is relatively difficult to say for The Lord Of The Rings (and I am by no means a fan).
What Peter Jackson’s first film in particular did was shut up the fans of the book who suggested it was unfilmable. I agreed, it was unfilmable, not because of the fantastical nature of its contents but rather the oft dull, overly portentous tone of the thing would never translate. Jackson’s version is lighter, whilst full of brooding looks and end of the world smoulders (which certainly come a-cropper in the last film where dropping a ring down a crack does not pass Hollywood muster). But okay, lots of people went to see a visionary blend of solid adaptation, special effects and a guiding hand who believed in his project.
What the Fellowship Of The Ring did was reinvent the cinematic EPIC. The event movie. As it was filmed concurrently with its sister films, then released three weeks before Christmas, it latched on to a human need for ritual (a need clear in the films themselves). It will be odd seeing a Christmas without one this year. I love the ritual of cinema: I love the buildings, I love the anticipation and I love seeing films with an audience. The Lord Of The Rings films, on opening night, in the best seats in the house (in the same seats in the house each year natch) was the pinnacle of that kind of cinematic experience. The films were fun, but what they confirmed about why I love cinema were much more important than the films themselves.
That there is a generation who will no longer be hung up on Star Wars is another good thing. The only question is what kind of cinema will they spawn?