best films: #10: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001)
At last, the top 10 is here. It’s sort of amazing, since this 100-list project was what started this blog back in August of ’09 – with #100 Babe, Journalistic Skepticism was born. But now as we move into my own personal top 10, feel free to peruse that left column to review what’s come before. We’ll start things off with the first entry in that always-reliable trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which, despite the subsequent two films’ heightened action and elaborate battle sequences, still packs such a delightful punch. From the glorious set design put into Hobbiton (thank goodness this dark tale had a few bright spots – one of them being Bilbo’s “eleventy-first” birthday bash in the beginning of this outing) to the introduction of many of my favorite characters (The allusions to Gollum in silhouette were so eerily genius, and Cate Blanchett’s scene in which Galadriel flips her lid is great cinematic fun.), this movie is an epic masterpiece. I know, it’s tough to come up with many new praises to heap onto Peter Jackson’s giant efforts, but it’s hard to deny his tale of a lowly hobbit trekking across the entirety of Middle Earth to complete a world-threatening mission would’ve made Tolkien proud.
On top of the visual spectacle that’s going on – there’s just no topping a fantasy film done well when it comes to transportation to otherworldly realms – there are surprisingly good performances at play as well, a shock considering the genre we’re talking about. Elijah Wood’s best work in the trilogy is clearly in this kick-off venture, and Ian McKellen shines in his pre-white-wizard humility as Gandalf the Grey. And though the remainder of the trilogy seems to be stolen by the supporting characters, namely the little-seen-here relationships between Gimli and Legolas (John Rhys-Davies and Orlando Bloom) and the ever-entertaining Merry and Pippin (Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd), the three arguable leads – Wood, McKellen, and Viggo Mortensen as the heroic Aragorn – carry Fellowship. And to think that Viggo was hardly a household name prior to this box office champ – we can thank our lucky stars that Jackson cast him in his movie and led him to his future critical glory days. And of course, it would be a complete post on this blog without mentioning the uniquely glorious music by Howard Shore. “Concerning Hobbits” should be on heavy rotation in anyone’s soundtrack playlist, and that recognizable brass line is stuff of future movie history.