25 June 2002 | Alexander Christie-Miller
An amazing achievement
'The Lord of the Rings' is one of my favorite books, I have read it several times, and remember thinking the last time, about 3 years ago that if I made a film I'd want to make it of this, but wouldn't it be almost impossible. You can then imagine how strong my expectations were when I went to see the eagerly awaited first installment.
This film impressed me hugely, more than anything else because of how true it was to my imagination, both in the characters as well as in the effects and setting- a sentiment I have heard consistently from other fans of the books. Elijah Wood brought across the character of Frodo with the kind of haunted, frail courage that Tolkien captures so well in the books. Nor could I find any fault at all with Ian McKellan's Gandalf, Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn, and Sean Bean's Boromir, all of whom I thought were portrayed excellently. I could pick out instances where I did think, 'no, that's not right', however their seldomness in number would only serve to illustrate the excellence of the overall portrayal. One thing that did stand out for me was Cate Blanchett's performance as Galadriel, the part itself became so perfunctory in the film that to me her alternation between benevolent seer, and figure of potential terror seemed little more than a slightly confusing detour with no real connection into the plot other than as a vehicle for a glimpse into the future. But that was it.
I thought that the points where Jackson did deviate from the text were completely the correct ones to do so. Shortening the opening Shire scenes and cutting out the whole Tom Bombadil bit was great since frankly they bored me slightly in the book anyway. Also, expanding the role of Arwen was a sensible decision.
However this film is by no means above criticism. The dialogue was in my opinion terrible and purely there to drive on the plot. Normally this would ruin a film for me (as in "The Matrix"), making it almost intolerable to view, however fortunately here it proves little more than a minor irritation. Also, the film seemed overall to be excessively plot-driven and at times a mad dash from one action scene to another, the characters, for all their truth to the book did seem flat and sometimes little more than stereotypical fantasy characters. This is perhaps my major quarrel with the film- I would have liked these characters to have come alive as people in a way that was made impossible by the sparseness of the script and the rollercoaster nature of the plot. In general the whole film lacked the depth of context that I think distinguishes Tolkien from other fantasy writers. However to have achieved this would have required a very different movie, and you can't fault an action film for being an action film.
This movie is undoubtedly not for everyone. A lot of people just don't get fantasy- other than Lord of the Rings, I don't particularly either. However in my opinion Jackson really has made an incredible achievement- his and Tolkien's vision carried through suberbly by a breathtaking setting and stunning special effects, as well as by a cast clearly as enthralled as he was. He has taken on a huge task, and is dealing with it with breathtaking success.