Some Thoughts on The Lord of the Rings (2001 – 2003)

I don’t think I need to do a proper review of the The Lord of the Rings. Too much has been written about it already and I assume the story is well-known but I’m still in the mood to write about a few of the aspects.

The Blu-Ray version

Never has Blu-Ray made more sense than with this movie. I’ve seen it before but watching it on Blu-Ray is really something. It has an amazing 3D effect that stunned me. The colors are amazingly intensive and all the creatures come to life much better. It’s like another movie almost. I’m not sure that if I ever watch it again I will always watch it in Blu-Ray as it’s occasionally almost too impressive and very surreal. The Blu-Ray I watched was the extended version.

The three parts

The way this movie is constructed is pure genius. While all the main characters get together in part I The Fellowship of the Ring, they are going different ways in part II The Return of the King and three The Two Towers and we have up to 4 parallel story lines. If you are like me, and have your favourite bits, then every time the story moves away from them, you eagerly await until it returns to you favourite characters.

The characters

The Lord of the Rings is action-driven but without those great characters and the “Band of Brothers” feel, it would never have been the success it is. I always liked the idea that the fellowship included not only humans but also Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and a magician. It’s typical that of the initial group only the second human dies.

While Orcs and Uruk Hai are creatures of the dark forces, hobbits, elves and dwarves are good, only humans can choose and their decisions can be fatal for the world or – as can be seen in Gollum’s case – for themselves.

I’m not sure which was my favourite character the first time I watched it but I think – the elves in general. This time the four characters I liked best were Aragorn, Boromir, Haldir and Legolas. I’m not saying they are the most important, they are the ones I like best.

Pairing Legolas, the elf, with Gimli, the dwarf was another strike of genius and adds humour to the movie, just like the pair of silly hobbits Pippin and Merry. Pippin is particularly important as his foolish actions are the motor behind many important scenes. He triggers more than one major fight or battle.

The actors

I can’t think of any movie like The Lord of the Rings in which the actors are so well-chosen. I wouldn’t change one of them. Readers of this blog know that I’m no Orlando Bloom fan but that wasn’t always the case. The first time I saw him was as Legolas and he is amazing in this role, he is cut out for it.

My two favourite actors in the movie are Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean. I like many of their other movies as well. Sean Bean is an actor who is famous for his dying scenes. There aren’t many movies with him in which he doesn’t die. I can’t remember that any of the scenes is as dramatic as this one here.

Another incredibly great choice was Liv Tyler as Arwen.

The special effects

I’m not too fond of special effects and CGI in war movies in general but there wouldn’t be any believable fantasy or sci-fi movies without them. The Lord of the Rings raises the bar extremely high. I didn’t even notice how high in my previous viewings. What the Blu-Ray disc manages to convey particularly well are the buildings and cities. They are stunning. The two abodes of the elves as well as Minas Tirith make you sit in front of the TV like children in front of their christmas presents.

War

I have included Lord of the Rings on this blog for a few reasons. Without the topic of “war” there would be no Lord of the Rings. The movie offers so many incredible fight and battle scenes which justify including it. The most famous and longest one The Battle of Helms Deep is usually mentioned in Top 10 battle scenes, right along battles in real wars. It is an amzing scene and I found it quite scary when I saw it for the first time. And particularly one of the deaths got to me a lot (if you’ve seen it you know who).

The message of course is clear as well. War isn’t good. The dark forces bring war and it is a battle of good versus evil. I think this also is part of the appeal. In real life, in history, it’s so rare, especially in the last decades, that good and bad can been named so easily, that a war is nothing else than the good forces fighting the bad.

What I like as well is that it is a fight for the good, mankind and other positive forces but most of all also a fight for the survival of nature. This reminds me that whenever people fight for trees in our world, they are made fun of.

Book versus Movie

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book and I loved it at the time. I even remember that I was disappointed when I saw the movie for the first time because two scenes were more impressive in my mind but by now the movie has completely eradicated the book and I’m not even sure I could read and enjoy it again without seeing the people from the movie.

I could write much more but I’m going to leave it at that as anything else would contain too many spoilers. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t waste anymore time. You could alos re-watch it as a warm-up for the upcoming The Hobbit.

On the Tolkien Gateway  you can find more info, on the upcoming Hobbit movies as well.

How about you? Is it one of your favourites as well? Do you prefer the book?

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

This is the second time I have watched Kingdom of Heaven. The first time I watched it on a tiny TV and thought that may have been the reason why it didn’t work for me. A few years later and with a big screen and a good sound system it still didn’t work. And this despite the fact that it is a Ridley Scott movie, the cinematography is stunning, the music – Hans Zimmer  Harry Gregson-Williams - is good and…. That’s it. … There is nothing else I can add to the plus side. OK, maybe the battle scene towards the end which seems to be one of the Top 10 battle scenes of all time. It’s good, yes, but after 2 straight hours of utter boredom, it’s hard to redevelop some sort of enthusiasm.

Balian (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith, travels to Jerusalem with his father, Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson). Ibelin dies on the way but Balian travels on. The movie is set during the reign of Baldwin IV, the so-called leper king (Edward Norton behind a mask). During his reign, Jerusalem is a Kingdom of Heaven in which Christians and Muslims live together in peace. After Baldwin’s death,  the husband of Baldwin’s sister becomes king. He wants Jerusalem to be Christian. He attacks Saladin’s army but loses the battle and Saladin marches towards Jerusalem where Balian heads the army that stayed behind. After the final epic battle is lost, Balian leads the people out of the city while Saladin and his people take over.  This is more or less the core of the story.

It’s ironic really as it is precisely this boring movie, or rather what it stands for, which was the source of the only really controversial and heated discussion on this blog. A while ago I wrote a post on Movies on the Crusades: A List. It is the only post on which people still comment frequently, calling each other names and being extremely emotional. I know I could close the comments section but I don’t want to do that. I’m not a fan of censorship. I usually reply to every comment but I do not do it on that post anymore as the discussion is turning in circles and answering seems pointless. What fuelled the anger is one person’s comment that Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t historically accurate. Whatever. None of this will make me change my mind – I don’t like the Kingdom of Heaven. Here are some reasons why:

  • The story. Why do we need the side story of someone going back to get his illegitimate son and fight along with him? This story part adds at least half an hour to a movie that would have needed some serious cutting plus a main character who totally lacks charisma.
  • The length. It is way too long. I was bored after the first 25 minutes, yet had to suffer through another 2hrs.
  • The actors. Orlando Bloom is not a good actor. No amount of make-up will ever make him one. Eva Green is one of those actresses you see and forget the moment the camera isn’t on her anymore. Not exactly a fascinating couple. While some of the other actors are very good, their combinations makes the choices look very random.
  • The cinematography. It’s stunning, as I said in the beginning, but if that’s the only thing a movie has to offer it becomes annoying. “One more bluish picture and I scream”, was what I was thinking.
  •  The characters. Even if the main character had been played by someone else, it would still have been a very boring character. In his only strong moment, when he frees the slaves and decides to defend the city against all odds, he sounds like a parakeet and mimics his late father. As Orlando Bloom is a bad actor, it sounds as if he was reciting a badly learned text.
  • The history. It isn’t accurate or rather it seems a hodgepodge of historical elements.

All in all it is too bad as the movie had potential. If you would like to see a really great movie on the Crusades, watch Arn - The Knight Templar instead.

Movies on the Crusades: A List

Kingdom of Heaven

It was high time for another list. The Crusades are a fascinating theme and there is nothing to infuriate me more than to watch a bunch of fanatic Christians (or any other zealots for that matter but during the Crusades the Christians were disreputably active) causing mayhem.

Of the movies on the list I have only seen Kingdom of Heaven and Arn The Knight Templar. While I almost fell asleep during the first one, I really liked Arn as you can read in my review. I have a feeling that my list is far from complete, so feel free to add/comment should you know other movies.

As you may have noticed there are two Arn’s on the list. The reason for this is that there is a longer and a shorter version available but the longer one seems to be in Swedish only.

Ridiculous War Movie Characters

Maybe I am going to hurt a few feelings here, I am sorry, but I can’t help it. I discussed war movie characters I liked, some that I found obnoxious and now it’s the turn of those I think ridiculous. There are not that many  (I certainly forgot quite a few). The question is probably also, what do I consider to be ridiculous.  Let me explain my choices.

4. David Schwimmer as Herbert M. Sobel in Band of Brothers. This is really a ridiculous character. He is insufferable and makes himself look ridiculous by misjudging his own capabilities.

3. Blackburn in Black Hawk Down. I do have my problems with Orlando Bloom outside of Lord of the Rings. Occasionally I do believe he shouldn’t have done anything else than Lord of the Rings. When I spotted him in Black Hawk Down I couldn’t help sniggering. On top of looking silly the poor guy has one of the most ridiculous accidents in war movie history. He falls out of the chopper before the action even begins.

2. Nicolas Cage as Sgt. Joe Enders in Windtalkers. I have spoken at length about Windtalkers in an earlier post. A lot of my criticism is linked to Nicolas Cage being just so outrageously ridiculous in this movie. Bad, bad acting. If you suffer from post-traumatic stress, please, don’t look as if you were  having indigestion. It is not becoming.

1. Mel Gibson in Braveheart. This simply beats it. Is anyone allowed to look this  ridiculous? He was just the wrong man for this role. No amount of kilt-wearing, long hair or war paint can make this guy look like some pre 20th century warrior. This cast was a total no-go. I can not even remember the movie anymore, I was so entranced by his appearance. Mel Gibson on his worst hair day. My absolute no 1. ridiculous war movie character. (Don’t get me wrong, I think he did a lot of very good movies, but this one was not for him). Actually, they should have let him ride a bike in it.

Any other suggestions?