A spy named “The Wide-Mouthed Frog” gave an extremely detailed review of the LotR preview footage shown in Sydney. Even though the spy has only sketchy knowledge of the original story, his comments suggest the films still deviate from the books to some degree. However, the reviewer still seemed to like what he saw.
I have reproduced the review below, “bleeping-out” words inappopriate for our “family-friendly” site and adding a few comments of my own.
Today in Sydney, Executive Mark Ordesky (from New Line) presented 20 minutes of raw footage of THE LORD OF THE RINGS to potential licencees.
All of the footage had temp soundtracks, but all dialogue seemed complete, and several scenes, whilst not really heavy on SFX, looked very much finalised.
I managed to hypnotise the usher with my voodoo Krusty Doll, and heard/saw the following from the aisle.
He spoke very generally about the spirit that had developed over the making of the films. He seemed genuine when he said that this project was the one that he felt would be New Line’s legacy, and was the most exciting thing that they had ever worked on. That there was a spirit of PASSION amongst everyone who was working on the films – essentially that there would be easier ways for a lot of the people involved to be making more money, but that everyone was aware that they were part of history in the making. (Aside: I have heard similar speeches from Hollywood execs about their upcoming films that they were ‘so excited’ about before… YAWN…. but for once this guy was actually convincing. I was thinking about using the Krusty doll to get him to take me back to NZ with him, but it’s too cold down there).
He said that apparently one of the first things that happened in the making of all the props was that they built an actual armoury factory to make master copies of all the weapons in (?)steel in the way that they would have been made a thousand years ago… so that when the props people made duplications in the thousands, every single prop would look and feel like it was genuine, not a cheap rip off. When Viggo Mortensen was given his sword, he literally carried it around with him for three months, so it would feel like it was part of him.
There were (I think) nine or ten scenes, some ranging from a minute, some for 4 or 5. They were shown in sequential, but not consecutive, order. I think that all were from the first film, with the exception of the last scene which was from the end of the 2nd. I will tell you as much as I can remember from each of the scenes.
IMPORTANT NOTE – I DON’T KNOW THE BOOKS VERY WELL – I have a vague recollection of the story from when I read Fellowship 15 years ago, but I am not going to pretend to say the names of the key characters, even though I’m sure many readers will immediately know who I should be referring to. I apologise if some of the assumptions about the story I have made are wrong… just tryin to do my best.
From what I can remember, the ‘Ring’ in question, created by an evil lord with the power to enslave the world, has fallen (by accident?) into the hands of a hobbit clan, and is currently held by descendent Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf has arrived to help tell him what to do with it.
FIRST SCENE SHOWN
Gandalf arriving at Bag End.
First note: the Hobbit getup on Wood looks superb. The big feet and ears don’t look fake, and the movement is completely natural.
Second note: Wood speaks with an English accent. (Actually, they all do..) Hasn’t mastered it completely, but within seconds I felt that the casting of this kid was very smart. He has a very compelling mix of intelligence and wide-eyed wonder… Clearly he will be carrying the films, and he’s GREAT.
McKellen as Gandalf is also great casting – he’s got a majesty and dignity but also a weariness… he’s obviously seen a lot in his time. Looks like a real wizard, not a guy in a cape with a funny hat.
The scene essentially consists of Frodo on a mossy ledge on the LHS of the screen, with Gandalf approaching the frame on the RHS on a horse-drawn carriage. There’s some repartee that makes you initially think there’s some antagonism or they aren’t familiar with each other, but it’s just a playful joke – they’re both obviously thrilled to see each other (again?)
SECOND SCENE SHOWN
Gandalf and Frodo in a cabin (Frodo’s home?) [Bag End, obviously — David]. Painted portraits of Hobbit cousins/family in that English countryside fashion above the fireplace. Cute. It appears Frodo has thrown the ring, encased in a letter, onto the fire. As the pages are scorched, the simple gold ring is revealed. Gandalf tells Frodo to pick it up, and examine it. “It won’t be hot” he says. “What is on the ring?” – it seems Gandalf isn’t sure that the ring is the one he fears. Frodo holds it up to the light – the outside of the ring is unmarked …and then it seems it isn’t. As Frodo turns the ring in the light, writing (unintelligible) scorches itself across the width of the band, and the light is reflected in red across Frodo’s face and the fireplace. Gandalf is clearly freaked, Frodo asks what the writing means. Gandalf says (the lines that end the first teaser trailer) “One ring to rule them all… one ring to find them… one ring to bring them all… and in the darkness bind them”… except his face shows that this is some pretty serious s***. He says words to the effect that, as a wizard, he’s wasted his life on stupid and silly magic… here now was something completely of another level.
THIRD SCENE SHOWN
Frodo and three other Hobbits on the road… I presume they have set off to dispose of the ring. Sean Astin is one of them, and again speaks with an English accent that isn’t entirely 100%, but isn’t too distracting. The four hobbits have fallen off the side of the road and are tumbling down a hill, and stop to admire some mushrooms (for what properties I have no idea…) Frodo senses that something is stirring on the path ahead… the others don’t seem to concerned, but as a strange blue mist comes ahead of them he screams for all of them to jump over to the RHS and under a ledge…as a SERIOUS SCARY DUDE ON A BIG BLACK M*****F***** HORSE IN A CAPE bounds by. [A Ringwraith, obviously – David]
Clearly this guy is on the case of Frodo and the ring. In one of those slightly annoying scenes, the hunter comes about 10 cm from the ledge where Frodo is (scared as s***), but misses him. The hunter rides off and the hobbits bolt further into a town.
(NOTE: the hunter is clearly not human, mostly because it makes the sound of DEATH – sort of a cross between a banshee wail and the sound of a rat being tortured. Yeeeesh. Not good. V. creepy in fact.)
As he rides off, it’s clear he’s not on his own – two others ride in from other directions and they all take off together back down the path.
FOURTH SCENE SHOWN
The Hobbits arriving into a town and taking shelter in a pub (the PRANCING PONY), where they are supposed to be meeting Gandalf. (Aside: I swear that one of the faces of the villagers that they pass looked a lot like Peter Jackson. He looks right into frame… seemed a bit obvious for a Hitchcock-type cameo, and I could be very wrong, but I thought it was him) [Jackson is rumored to play Barliman Butterbur in the film — David]. A conversation occurs between the publican and Frodo about whether Gandalf is there or not (he’s not). Cool shot of the barman looking down at the Hobbits – they’re so short they rest underneath the ledge of the bar. Proportions look pretty cool, actually. Scene ends, from memory, with the introduction of Viggo Mortensen as an enigmatic warrior type [Aragorn/Strider, obviously – David]
Frodo, Mortensen and the other three hobbits are fast asleep in one of the rooms of the hotel. Suddenly the team of banshee-death-sword-carrying-m*****f******-in-capes enter the room, and all raise their swords in the air, and massacre the shapes in the beds beneath them!
… except in one of those Silence Of The Lambs-climax-tricky-they’re-in-the-wrong-room edits we realise that it’s not the room whether the hobbits are sleeping. Mortensen has clearly realised they’re being followed, and have taken them all to a room across the street. They can see the ‘attack’ from the window. Frodo asks who they are. Mortensen says words to the effect of that they were once great warriors, heroes even, who were offered eternal life by the evil lord who owned the ring. Now they had become enslaved to him, to do his bidding. [In the books, our heroes saw only the aftermath of this attack. – David]
I must confess I didn’t really understand this one. It was of a different wizard, all in white, in a cave. Could it have been Christopher Lee? I’m not sure. Maybe. He seemed to have conjured, created or trained some sort of ghoul, that looked a little like a demon from Buffy, crossed with one of those bounding monsters from Ghostbusters 2, except taller, and had had a bucket of blue paint thrown over him. I am probably appearing disrespectful to the monster crew, but these are simple descriptive impressions. Essentially the wizard seemed to have some sort of gripe, and was gearing this b***** of a thing to do his bidding. He didn’t look very happy, nor very nice. Lots of teeth gnashing and unpleasantness. [Sounds like Saruman and a hatchling from the reported orc cocoons – David]
Mortensen and the Hobbits on a snowcovered mountain – looking they were seriously high up in the NZ alps. Sean Bean was also part of the team at this point – I couldn’t work out who his character was (a compatriot of Mortensen?) [The “compatriot” is Boromir, obviously – David] Interesting scene here: as Bean talked to Frodo, and came closer to the ring, he seemed to be slightly disoriented, and perhaps manevolent. Snapped out of it quickly, but something strange was going on, and Frodo could sense it. [This description suggests that Boromir actually sees the Ring during his confrontation with Frodo on Amon Hen — David]
One of conflict between Mortensen and Frodo near the peak of this mountain.. as the two are face to face, Mortensen seems overcome with rage and conflict, and it looks like he’s about to attack his (friend?). Mortensen pulls away, out of a daze, and whispers “RUN” to Frodo – it’s as though he’s aware he can’t control his behaviour for much longer.
Opinion – clearly the ring, despite being an inanimate object, wields a type of intense force that disorients and changes behaviour. I couldn’t quite work out whether/how Frodo was being affected at this point.
At the end of this scene it seemed Frodo did the bolt while Mortensen stayed to field a huge battalion of creatures just around the corner. Gulp. [It sounds like the spy is confusing Boromir with Aragorn. But, in the book, neither character told Frodo to “run” because he was tempted by the Ring. – David]
A very quick sequence of the gorgeous Liv Tyler on horseback, being chased through a forest by a team of hunters. [Ringwraiths, actually – David] Frodo was on the back of her horse in a cape, looking seriously ill & blue to the face.
The beginnings of what seemed to be a large group of good warriors held up in a big fortress, attempting to fend off an attack of a thousand serious angry demons [orcs, probably at Helm’s Deep – David] or bad guys with swords and your usual fortress-raiding equipment. Not overly bloody per. Gladiator or Braveheart, but still very intense nonetheless. The scene meant nothing in context – it was just a serious battle.
I think this was the scene that was from the end of the second of the films. [Actually, it probably occurs closer to the middle of the second film — David]
There was also not a single special effect, apart from the mist in the fourth scene. Bummer.
What was really cool was the film seemed REAL – the landscape felt genuine and naturalistic, even in a medieval -type context. The real thing that stood out for me was how well Elijah Wood seemed to TAKE the screen so confidently. He didn’t seem like a kid. He had a sense of dignity and awe that made me feel like “Yup, I want to see this guy through this story.”
I really can’t comment on any of the other performances, apart from McKellen carrying all the grace and gravity that you would expect.
Most of all, it was simply amazing to realise YES, THESE MOVIES ARE COMING SOON (albeit a year or so). I felt thrilled they they were coming from a slightly left of centre studio, one that had the sense to stand back and let Peter Jackson do his thing.
Life was not so bad today.
Till next time
THE WIDE-MOUTHED FROG.