We arrived about 5:50p for the Pre-party (in heavy traffic) and walked up the Red Carpet (strange for a Hobbit from the Shire) and went in. The atmosphere was electric as people chattered between glasses of wine and tastes from the floating trays: ( of course, there were mushrooms-yum!) We met Elijah first, who looked amazingly fresh considering all the interviews he had to do this week. He was cordial and composed, ready for another evening of questions, concerns, and a showing of the film in front of the first American public audience. He signed autographs and posed for photos. We discussed a number of things, including the excitement of being a part of this tremendous project, and what he was going to do with The One Ring. He refers to IT as a ‘souvenir’, and that it was at home in CA. We suggested that maybe it was an archetype of negativity, and had he considered getting rid of it, but he
feels it’s a token of remembrance of the experience of doing the films. He is also very comfortable with people calling him Elijah and Frodo interchangeably (as he mentioned to David Letterman earlier this week). I wonder if he will feel the same way, in say…March? We’ll see…
Dominic Monaghan was friendly, and enthusiastic. He seemed generally excited about the premiere, and confident about the prospect that this was going to be the most successful project of its kind…like there are any of this kind! Billy Boyd (dressed in a kilt and a Shetland fisherman sweater) was absolutely wonderful! We talked about Glasgow (and my days there back in college), and about recipes for Haggis. We also discussed the issue of the Scouring of the Shire (Dominic and I discussed this after the movie). I shared my feelings about why I thought it was so important to include: about the Hobbits’ defense of their home, their personal strengths and character, and their ability to show how much they have grown through their experiences. I shared that I hoped that the profits from FOTR would be strong enough to justify perhaps extending production to include that…both expressed enthusiasm that they would enjoy being a part of something like that, should the opportunity arise.
John Rhys-Davies was warm and gregarious and fun! He joked about his future career prospects after playing a dwarf… he’s such an amazing talent, he shouldn’t have any problems. Sean Astin and his wife Christine were there…they are so nice! Sean and Elijah got to ham it up a little and we have some pictures to develop (I hope they come out!) I also spoke briefly to Howard Shore about the soundtrack and how it blended so well into the film…(he sat two rows in front of us at the showing). I feel the lack of bombastic themes add a texture and authenticism to the film that’s very intoxicating. The music never overwhelms or demands to be the center of attention, like in some films. When I shared that with him, he seemed genuinely touched. Oh, yes…about the film…
Everyone has already heard so many reviews…I am not sure what I can add. I would consider myself to be an old Tolkien fan, and a bit uncompromising in some spots, so I won’t trivialize about some things. Everyone already knows about The Ford Scene, and we all have our opinions about it. Beyond that, the film flows well, and handles magnificently. I love Hobbiton, and the Shire is beautiful. I adore Lothlorien…I love the depths of Moria…it’s absolutely mind-blowing. What I really love, however, more than any other element of this film…is its passion.
Before I go any farther I feel that I need to say this: I don’t expect the film to fulfill my every fantasy of what Middle-earth is…no more than I would expect every interpretation of “Swan Lake”, “By the Skin of our Teeth”, or “The Secret Garden” to be like I imagined in my mind; they are different and special in their own ways. It’s harder to compile an effective epic of this proportion, and the $658 million price tag may keep any other film interpretations from being done in my lifetime, but there are other medium…including my imagination, and no one can replace that. I would never expect them to. I also know that even people who may not have read LOTR yet, and may see this as their first sample of Middle-Earth will not leave the images to the film alone, but will go on to read Tolkien’s world and create new images of their own. We all did that with “Ulysses” and ‘Paradise Lost” , even with movies out depicting images, and we still had the ability to call upon our own imaginations…this project will be no exception. I say that not because I had any disappointments, but just because I feel a lot has been said about whether these should have been done in the first place…well, I am a firm believer in fate…this project was destined to be, and needed to “be”, regardless of what happens with public response; which I think will be a tsunami of public acclaim. Even if it wasn’t, it would still have been necessary to do…it was simply time.
That having been said…LOTR:FOTR is simply…magnificent. It is definitely something that will have to be viewed several times to grasp, integrate, and appreciate. There’s so much to take in. It is sweeping, majestic, (without being arrogant), emotional. That’s appropriate. It begins a little like “Braveheart” to me, with the spoken dialog (of one of my favorite actresses ever) proclaiming that the truth must be told and the stories remembered. We are immediately taken to the brink of apparent defeat, turned to victory by the hand of Isildur, with the absence of Sauron’s…to the lost…and then found again token of evil. The history is easy to follow, and even those not familiar with FOTR will be able to follow with ease. This is impressive to me…this summary can easily get muddled by too many details…and although definitely trimmed, it works well. There are some other trimmings as well, but the basic aspects of the story are in tact. What really impressed (and amazed me) were the ‘living in two worlds’ depiction of the Realm of the Ring. This should scare any child out of EVER playing with a ring of
power…and no amount of merchandising will probably overcome this: it is downright frightening, (and I might say, shamanically accurate) the way the Dark World of the Ring is depicted…sight and sounds. Frodo goes into a space most of us would have no desire to enter, much less carry the burden all the way to the place of its forging. The ring’s power of seduction is apparent throughout the film and makes sure that no one will leave the theater taking this trinket lightly. It also adds to the strength of Frodo’s character that, through his struggles and his visions, he has the will to remove the ring under the utmost pressure to NOT do so. He maintains his character in contentious situations: when others are quarreling, he takes his own authority and does what so many are afraid to even think of…he becomes the Ringbearer. His struggles (through plot and personally) are depicted honestly and with great dignity by Elijah Wood. His character must maneuver through a myriad of complex emotions and swings between innocence and possession that would have driven most people crazy. The acting in this film is a collection of some of the best assembled in some time…and they do an incredible job. Cate Blanchett is a vision! Sean Bean does the best Boromir interpretation that I could imagine. Orlando Bloom is just awesome…he is the perfect balance between talented sensitive and artistic assassin. John’s Gimli is tremendous…especially at Balin’s tomb. Aragorn and Arwen’s attractions are legitimately portrayed and wonderfully photographed. Viggo’s portrayal makes you believe he could be king. The characters of Merry and Pippin could not have been better, in my mind than Dominic and Billy…and they have a depth to them that will lend itself well later when their hobbits must grow up. Some of the pranks to lighten up the mood are all right, and they don’t seem to distract in the film. The one character portrayal that stood above them all (to me) in FOTR was Sean Astin’s portrayal of Sam. He is strong, fierce, brave, and loving…the perfect best friend. Sean makes you believe in Sam…and love him for his courage and support of Frodo.
There are no words to adequately describe Gandalf, Bilbo, and Saruman, because these actors did not portray these characters…they became them. Sir Ian Holm was the voice of my Frodo once…now he portrays a highly believable (and tortured) Bilbo; to a mighty, wise, compassionate, fiery, magnificent Gandalf in Sir Ian McCullen…and my favorite all time villain player, Christopher Lee as the bizarre Saruman…he is viciously perfect. The film never seems like 3 hours, and is over before you know it. In my opinion, it never lagged. The cinematography is very well developed…the sound, timing, editing…are very well done. (Unlike some film I saw last month with a child wizard in it that had some of the worse timing, editing, and some major production flaws…all that for how much???) The effects are well done…the proportions work pretty well, the landscape beautiful. Everyone should enjoy this film (over the age of about 8, unless they have read it; really, leave the little ones with a sitter; I’m serious). It is an intoxicating story…and its spell should ring high success for everyone involved. I think we are all going to run out of superlatives by the time it’s all said and done. I enjoyed my jaunt out of The Shire immensely. I thanked all of the folks concerned that I had a chance to converse with for doing the benefit…after all, right now, with their schedules, they certainly didn’t have to. The fact that they did says a lot about the quality of heart and compassion of this cast, crew, and the New Line personnel. It was a wonderful experience that I will cherish.