Sunday, July 24, 2011

What This Film Needs Is One Ring With A Purpose

The Good: I'm searching my memory for some. And yet . . .
The Bad: Animation, Costumes, Story, Characters, Conclusion, Purpose
The Basics: A surprisingly unsatisfying attempt to tell a classic story. Fails in shoddy animation, disjointed plot, lack of character development and surplus of camp.

The Lord Of The Rings is a story that is difficult to retell without evaluating the work in comparison with the original novels. The latest (2001) film incarnation (reviewed here!) succeeds in all of the ways Tolkien fails, making an interesting film out of a tedious historical novel series (reviewed here!). Conversely, the 1978 attempt at retelling The Lord Of The Rings on film completely, ineloquently but accurately stated, blows.

If you've ever watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 and enjoyed it, then the best I am able to recommend is getting together some friends and watching this film with the express purpose of tearing it apart with quips and sarcastic remarks. That's about all it's good for.

The Lord Of The Rings is an animated feature that tells the story of the One Ring of Middle Earth and how it is created and manipulates its way to Frodo Baggins, a hobbit of the Shire in Middle Earth. This film tells the tale of Frodo as he comes to learn what the ring is and goes on a quest to destroy the ring. Accompanying him is a fellowship of travelers from distant lands who vow to fight alongside him and help him get the ring to Mt. Doom where it may be destroyed. The group is led by Gandalf, a wizard, until he apparently dies, and then Aragorn. When another member of the group tries to take the ring, Frodo leaves with his assistant and they go it alone. The remaining members are divided: one is killed, two are captured by the enemy, and the remaining three seek to rescue the two lost hobbits as opposed to going after Frodo. Frodo and Samwise, for their part, don't stay alone terribly long, as they are joined by Gollum, the owner of the ring before it came to the Shire. After that, Frodo's story is tedious, the other hobbits' story is pointless, and the other tale - which dominates - it annoyingly oversimplified.

Comparing this film to other incarnations, it's surprising how closely the beginning resembles the latest film adaptation of the novel. And that is where the similarities end. The characters are misrepresented: Galadriel, for example, is impossible to take seriously during her temptation by the ring. Instead of appearing even remotely tempted, she is flighty and thus the weighty matter of the ring is grossly misrepresented.

As my reviews tend to illustrate, I favor evaluating each thing I am exposed to as it is, as opposed to in comparison to other versions of itself or such.

The Lord Of The Rings fails in the editing process: the scenes are choppy, none of the characters truly develop. Certainly, none of them come alive in any meaningful way. They do not react like real people or even with a sense of reality to them. In short, the way the characters appear, the way they are described and present themselves, makes them impossible to take seriously. There is not a redeeming one in the bunch.

The animation is decidedly sub-par. The figures move as if they were the product of 1950s animation, as opposed to 70s animation. I swear, I got so sick of seeing Aragorn's brown lollies that I nearly vomited.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this The Lord Of The Rings is the resolution. The last lines of the film completely negate the Ring or the importance of it entirely. The plot with Merry and Pippen ends without any sense of resolution or purpose (indeed, Treebeard's appearance at all is utterly pointless) as does Frodo's plot, which is a fairly important one.

I try to find the good in every film, but this one is one of the impossibilities where the thought of sitting through this piece again sends a chill up my spine.

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© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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