Aragorn: Are you frightened?
Aragorn: Not nearly frightened enough.
F: I’d say getting on for a dozen times.
R: This might be the sixth time I think.
F: I saw this three times at the cinema. I was 14, so prime age for Middle Earth, and although I have never been able to get into the books, was completely swept up in the film. Now, I’ve seen it many more times and I’m still always impressed with the spectacle of these films.
R: I think it’s a mistake to see this as a stand-in for the entire trilogy – for me this is by far the best of the Lord of the Rings films. The main reason I say that? It’s got the highest proportion of Ian McKellen. He is, by some distance, the most talented actor among the fellowship. Among the entire cast for that matter.
F: I think that’s fair. I think Viggo Mortensen is generally a very good actor but he looks bored as Aragorn throughout. And whilst I would probably say Return Of The King is my favourite of the trilogy, this does feel like a complete film rather than part 1 of 3.
R: For me the weakness of the later two films is the lack of depth to the characters. Here we get to spend a good amount of time with them, in a decent variety of situations. We also get the benefit of a strong Sean Bean performance – Boromir is the second best character after Gandolf, isn’t he?
F: For me Boromir is there to show the weakness of men but doesn’t serve much other purpose. I think that Samwise Gamgee is a much more important character – yeah his overwhelming loyalty can grate but Frodo wouldn’t last two minutes without him.
R: A character can be interesting without being important to the plot – in fact those often are the best characters! But I agree Sam is another well-rounded character here – certainly much than he is in the later films, where we end up with just a lot of repetitive scenes of him and Mr Frodo bickering then making up then bickering then making up in caves.
F: Plus I do think this film suffers from a lack of Gollum who is my favourite character in the trilogy.
R: Putting Gollum ahead of Gandolf is… interesting! While he’s pivotal for the plot he’s a little too cartoonish in these films for me. That’s probably because the CGI is not quite good enough to be photorealistic, and I think there could be more subtlety in the performance from Andy Serkis. But we should probably talk about things that are actually in this film! What do you make of the Liv Tyler character Arwen?
F: She’s ok. I know the love story between her and Aragorn is much more exaggerated here than in the books but I don’t have a problem with it. There is a huge lack of female characters in this but you can’t really blame the film for that when its based on a book. Cate Blanchett’s character is much more interesting than Liv Tyler’s for me but too underused.
R: Yeah I think all the elves are a bit wet and one dimensional, with the exception of Elrond who does some great eyebrow raising here. As you say, the source material is probably most to blame for that – the elves kind of have to be cold and emotionless. But seeing as Arwen is supposed to be wrestling with whether to give up her immortality it feels like her performance could have hinted at more than we see here.
F: I feel it does that more in the second and third films though! Let’s just mention some of the shortcomings of the source material -most notably Mount Doom! What a ridiculous name for the end setting. Feels so unoriginal especially compared with all the other inventive names Tolkien came up with!
R: I guess the idea is that Mount Doom has been named by men instead of elves or something, but yes it is a comically over-dramatic name. I do though give the film a lot of credit for turning the lengthy (sometimes tedious) exposition of the book into a plausible living and breathing world here. I think that’s why the film has carried so many people’s imagination, and can appeal both to those unfamiliar with the books and those who have learnt to speak elvish.
Is it worthy of the top 100?
F: I’d say as a trilogy they definitely are.
R: About as good a fantasy film as you could hope to see, so I’ll say yes. Although the trilogy does go downhill (surfing on a shield) after this…