The time has arrived to discuss one of the absolute crowning achievements in the history of film. Of course, I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has just come to 4K in an absolutely beautiful boxset, and even though I already own the films on two separate formats, the steelbook set was an instant purchase. Presenting both the theatrical and extended cuts in glorious quality, I knew my annual rewatch was going to be with this release, and it’s about time I got my thoughts on these glorious films into the universe. After all, films such as these deserve more than a quick rundown from me on my Letterboxd. So, let’s hop right into Middle-earth with the incredible introduction that is The Fellowship of the Ring, the soul of the trilogy.
Right off the bat, I don’t know if any music affects me as much as Howard Shore’s score does. It instantly transports the viewer to Hobbiton where peace and relaxation thrive. It’s just pure bliss, and from the prologue, the stakes are set and the pieces have been long in play. It’s expositional in a way that works, by building the world from the inside out, rather than outside working in. It doesn’t feel like Peter Jackson is breaking down the machinations of this world, but rather, we are simply witnessing a tale being told by an elf, a wizard, or even a well-traveled hobbit. And while many cite this first film as the slowest of the trilogy (which there is nothing wrong with), it is still a story full of excitement, battle, and heart pounding thrills, as well as tragedy, despair, hope and love. It’s packed to the brim with everything that can make a film great, and somehow, none feel forgotten. It’s expertly balanced in the massive runtime, and there’s not a moment that feels wasted.
As soon as the Fellowship is formed, the entirety of the second disc (which leaves around 2 hours of film), is simply pure perfection. It doubles down on the grander themes at work in the trilogy, but also sees stories to their fruition for more than a few of its characters. Take for example perhaps my personal favorite arc of the first film, the deeply tragic tale of Boromir. A man who falls victim to the power of the One Ring, his last stand is one both heartbreaking and uplifting. Not only is his arc brilliantly captured, but it serves as a wonderful complement to the story of Aragorn, who is still far from where we will see him travel, yet so perfectly encapsulated within simple lines of dialogue or actions. The internal conflicts of each character are as great, if not greater at times, than the larger external conflict at play. With ease, it seems as if this story takes one of the most epic hooks of all time, and turns it inward, crafting a deeply personal tale that every viewer can relate to in some way. And who is more relatable than Frodo Baggins, the hero of our tale?
Even though his feet may be wilder than most and he gets tossed around more than anybody else in the film, it’s him we always return to. The obligation to complete that which we never wanted. Stepping into the fear of the unknown. Knowing a job can’t be done alone, but unable to ask for help in order to help those around you. His conversations with Gandalf can be more essential than most textbooks it seems, if only by painting a picture of how large the world can truly be. Life comes down to a set of decisions as Gandalf points out, and those choices are rarely simple, but they are ours to make. And even though this is a film with a plethora of tragedies, and a trilogy rooted in many more, the choices made are essential. And in some way, the tragic becomes poetic and redeemable. As ugly as Middle-earth can be at times to those simply trying to do good, there’s a beauty that repeatedly shines throughout, lighting the way.
And at the end of the day, taking this film purely at face value works just as well. It’s a thrilling blockbuster that shoots for the moon and goes far beyond it. Filmmaking doesn’t get much grander than this. Just kidding, it totally does, and it takes the form of the next two films. But this right here, this is where it all starts. It’s the basic fundamentals of what’s next. And for the introduction, for the one that is supposed to set the scene for all that is to come, it does a damn fine job at being nonstop, pure perfection from beginning to end. Not to mention, this film probably has the most memes and quotables out of the three. There is more than enough to dissect from this film, and countless books have been written about it, but as a fan, there’s only one way to describe it, even after all I’ve written: This film absolutely blows most other works clear out of the water, and the simple idea that it isn’t even the best one is beyond mind-blowing.
The quest continues tomorrow…