Movie: I greatly enjoyed this movie and plan to read the books over break since I can't wait to find out how the story ends. It was exciting, had great actors, and even better visuals. I especially liked the escape from Moria. There were a couple technical problems: the audio balance was noticeably off in several parts and the editing in some action sequences made it hard to see what was happening (the part where Frodo is being chased around the woods by a Ring-Wraith comes to mind). Other than that it was excellent. Oh, and since Geoff wants to hear from people who disagree with him, I thought Galadriel's scene with Frodo was chilling and brilliant.
Book Comparison: Over break I started reading my new one-volume edition of LOTR and have finished FellowshipOfTheRing (I know, I read very slowly) and thought I'd post some thoughts on how the movie did in the translation. Overall, I am very impressed. Obviously, since I saw the movie first, the visuals are impossible to compare at this point, but as for the narrative, I thought it was very faithful and made most of the correct changes. The obvious problem with making this kind of movie is that there isn't time to give all the history, so instead the movie alluded to the history and talked about it casually to give us a sense that there at least was a history, which I thought worked very well, especially with multiple viewings. Most of the changes in the plot I noted were clearly to quicken the pace of story (especially Frodo's departure) which worked well since it gave a sense of urgency and suspense that was perhaps less important when the story was in literary form. Making the action scenes more elaborate also helped the screen version a lot in this same way. Some purists have complained that more action was added, but I actually noticed action scenes from the book that were left out of the movie(such as the wolves and the rapids) and I also think that, for the movie, the story really needed a climatic battle at the end as opposed to just Sam and Frodo wandering off. Cutting chapters 6-8 (the Tom Bombadil subplot) was probably also a GoodIdea since frankly, I thought this was the weakest part of the book and wouldn't have been very relevent to the movie. The Old Forest and the history behind it might have been interesting, and the explanation for the hobbits' daggers would have worked better than Strider just happening to have 4 hobbit-size weapons, but I doubt it would have been worth the screen time when all was said and done.
However, I think the way the book introduced the history of the Ring was better and the movie should have stuck with that. In the movie, we are immediately told that Bilbo's Ring is the One Ring, which not only takes away some suspense, but also leads to some confusion since it wasn't clear at the beginning what the other characters thought or knew about the ring. Had I been the writer, I would have opened the movie with Bilbo's confrontation with Gollum (as the book does in the prologue), thus introducing the ring as simply a ring of invisibility (which is what Gandalf and Bilbo think it is) and then let Gandalf explain the whole history later when he comes back after having done all his research.
The other thing that seemed lost in translation was the characterisation of Pippin and Merry. In the book, they seem to have a purpose throughout the story, especially by applying their regional familiarity in guiding Frodo. In the movie, however, they are pretty much silly and useless until they prove their valor in attacking the Cave Troll (and later with the super-Orcs), which I suppose works in a way for Hollywood character development, but something was definitely lost here and you have to wonder why the hell they were let into the Fellowship to begin with.
They were let in because Gandalf thought it'd be a good idea (despite Elrond's protestations), same as in the book. They just didn't (something of an oversight) say much about it in the movie.
10 to 1 the problem with the sound balance was the theater (unless you noticed it in multiple theaters)- the quality of modern cinematic sound design is light-years ahead of the quality most theaters put into their sound systems The dorm lounge will give you a better sound experience than all but the best multiplexes. -GeoffRomer
GeoffRomer: My thoughts are not yet coherent enough to form a full-fledged review, but I thought I'd toss out some of the thoughts I have:
In a word, I thought it was magnificent. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and more. I have a few minor gripes, but overall it was outstanding. I'm starting to chafe at the notion of waiting a whole year for the next installment.
My god, what a visual feast that was! Absolutely everything I wanted to see was as good or better than it was in my imagination (an area where book adaptations frequently slip up). The shire, Bag End, Saruman's tower, Sauron's tower, the Mines of Moria, basically every setting in the film was both beautiful, and true to (or an improvement on) my own images of them. I would also like to single out the Balrog and Sauron, two of the most incredible personifications of evil I have seen in a film- the Balrog was beautifully demonic (though his whip seemed somehow cheezy to me), and Sauron has to be up there with Darth Vader as an image of the embodiment of evil- that suit of armor is breathtaking (even if we had to sit through that flashback to the fingers getting cut off three frickin times). Our few fleeting glimpses of Gollum were also tantalizingly perfect (right down to the enormous, lantern-like eyes).
I also have to single out the cast- it's enormous, full of excellent actors, and there's just not a false note in the lot of them. I really don't know who to single out, but Elijah Wood carried the movie perfectly as Frodo, and Ian Mckellen simply was Gandalf. Ian Holm was also simply dead-on perfect as Bilbo. I had a little trouble dealing with Agent Smith as a High Elf, but that's just because Hugo Weaving was so memorable in the former role- he's excellent as Elrond. Major kudos to the whole lot of them.
I'm feeling just a bit ambivalent about Peter Jackson's direction. On the one hand, his macabre sensibilities are arguably exactly what this material calls for, and it was certainly much better than it could have been. On the other hand, it occasionally seemed just a hair too stylized and over the top In particular, the battle scenes were much too choppy and hard to follow, the effects and music got in the way of Cate Blanchett's acting in Galadriel's scene with Frodo, and the Dark Riders hurt my ears. My jury's still out on this, but it's really just nitpicking- New Line made a very bold choice in putting a director with such a mixed track record (and no track record at all with this sort of material) in charge of such an enormous undertaking, and it has clearly paid off.
Based on what I've heard a few other people say, I have to say the following: Tolkien purists can suck it! Every one of the changes made relative to the book was a significant gain. Of course, some of the events not related to the main plot had to get cut (e.g. Tom Bombadil) just to keep the running time reasonable. I thought they made exactly the right cuts. The introduction of Saruman's plots in this movie rather than the next was absoutely the right thing to do- it gave the movie variety (and some absolutely jaw-dropping visual moments) and it established the flow of events much better than a recap in the next movie (the way Tolkien does it) would have. And the decision to merge Elrond's son Glorfindel was not Elrond's son into Arwen, and introduce her in 'Fellowship' was a good decision- it cuts one character out of a plot that is still a little too complicated, and it gives them a chance to introduce her romance with Aragorn in the first movie, rather than tossing it in as a fifth-act deus ex machina.
Basically, the movie was astonishingly faithful to the book- more so than we really could have expected, given the way most books get butchered in the transition to the screen. Everything important was there, and moreover, everything was made to belong there- nothing felt like it was just tossed in for completeness. The filmmakers have done the near-impossible: they have made a movie which is utterly faithful both to its source material, and to itself as a movie.
KimEspinoza thought that this movie had it's share of visual wonderment. It's a bit overwhelming because there is an action scene every two seconds. Of course, we all know that it's a trilogy and isn't going to have an ending, but that's still frusterating. I think this movie was exactly what I expected. It will be really nice once they get all the movies out though, so you actually feel like you can have an ending.
AndrewSchoonmaker still has very mixed feelings about the whole movie project. As a movie, standing on it's own, it's definitely worth seeing. As an adaptation of the book, it's not a bad third approximation, but perhaps someone should've realized that Tolkien's work was divided into *six* books for a reason (yeah, yeah, the Ford would've been a pretty terrible place to end up a movie, but....). He suspects that, in line with what Mark mentions below, the staircase-toppling scene in Moria is going to get progressively stupider each time he watches the movie...
After the passage of some time, he realizes that the above is overly harsh. As someone on rec.games.roguelike.angband noted, the movie and books work well if one considers them to be two different tellings/novelizations of historical events. All of the little details that differ then sort out, and one realizes that naturally the books focus more on the hobbits, since they were written from the hobbits' point of view, whereas the movies were made by unenlightened Big People.
Also, after seeing the movie adaptation of WhereEaglesDare?, he realizes that he'd like to see the six-hour version...once. He'd probably find things wrong with it, too.
JoeFrosh thought that this movie was a lot like the Harry Potter movie, in that it was quite faithful to the book, but due to time constraints a lot of good stuff had to be left out. In this case, the result was giving the movie a much less epic feel, in a way, since we don't get all the background and history and everything, though I don't really see how that could have been included. Anyway, the part of the movie that I enjoyed most was the scenery. I thought they did a great job with that, especially in Moria and everything.
AndyOlson was really, really excited to see this movie, and really enjoyed it (especially the bits with Gandalf, allegedly portrayed by the brilliant actor Sir Ian McKellen?). It is one of his very favorite movies ever. That said, he agrees with some critics who point out that the books are about a bunch of unlikely everyday heroes (the hobbits) who get caught up in great events, while the movie is about a bunch of elves, men, and wizards, who drag some hobbits along on their epic quest.
He is very, very sad to hear that The Scouring of the Shire, his favorite part, has been excised from the third movie.
And MarkSandoval hasn't been able to recover his dropped jaw after what Andy mentioned above about the exclusion of said chapter. All in all, it was a very worthy adaptation though a few annoying mindless Hollywood action mechanisms crept through. That massless stone staircase in Moria is a prime example. Galadriel's added dialogue in that altered scene stood out as particularly flat. Also, the Balrog was a wee bit oversized to the point where his flaming whip became as diminutive as dental floss. However, those were all very minor in retrospect. The only flaw that really bugs me (though I am not myslef a purist, it struck me as a blatant oversight) is that the megalithic statues of Isildur and Anarion at Emyn Muil were on the wrong sides of the river... assuming that the bearded one was supposed to be Isildur. I'm not sure, but I think that the statues in the movie were of Isildur and Elendil, considering Anarion never appeared onscreen. They may have been looking for a more recognizable face for the statue . . .
The elfstone's supposed to be green, too. The number of such small oversights is quite large, if you look for them.
I particularly liked how this movie emphasized Boromir's lust for the ring early on. The additional tension was very effective. I felt very welcoming of the duel between Saruman and Gandalf as the depiction of magic in Tolkien's works tends to be rather sparse otherwise. What I especially enjoyed was the transformation of Rohan Isengard?. Not only was it entirely in good judgment to put this aspect of the plot in early, but I also felt that the imagery of a well-to-do forest being obliterated to make room for mine-like operations was an emphatic nod to the allusions Tolkien had made to the industrialization of his native England. Pretty pictures... tee hee!