The Bling’s The Thing.
“Yeh, Woodstock – I was there.” What – as a pair of gametes in two people who were making out while watching Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, you 21 year old peach?
Much like Woodstock, John Ronald Reuel Tolkein’s oeuvre has insinuated itself into First World vernacular and most Real Worlders – even if they have not read any of his works – simply lie about being intimately familiar with his wealth of fantasy characters and worlds. But those Fantasy World books are heavy-duty reading and unless they were tackled in school, or ingested during an insurmountable gulf of time spent supine in a hospital bed or desert island idyll, I cannot imagine that nine-tenths of those who profess a knowledge of Fantasy Worlds have actually invested the energy in imbuing their psyches with the pain-staking canon.
Not that I am against Fantasy Worlds – The Lord Of The Rings occupies its two inches of shelfspace in my library and I am a regular patron of Madame Svetlana’s House Of Clamps every month or so, though after consuming the two brain-draining trilogies of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever, I put the kibosh on books which featured non-earth maps in their prologue pages, as the recurring motif of Good battling Evil (with the requisite Dragons, Wizards and iron-thewed Heroes peopling the landscape) began to grate on my elfin sensibilities.The geek contingent may hiss at me in denigration for having not tasted the wonders of Anne McCaffrey’s storm-driving dragon heroes; for never buckling myself into a rousing game of ElfQuest II, or creeping the corridors of horror in Dungeons and Dragons, yet, though I may never have wielded vorpel sword to lop off green-skinned limbs, or battled an ogre to avoid being turned into a purplish bogradoon, I have been a Dungeonmaster [refer above to House Of Clamps], so cut me some Fantasy slack, O you Questophiles and Salad-Tossers!
Thus, this exordium is to proclaim that in the following arcane writings, I do not compare THE LORD… film to The Lord…book, nor do I attempt a dissertation on comparative Fantasy Worlds in Tolkein’s ilk, but rather, regarding this film as a sui generis Fantasy tale unto itself, I cry havoc and let slip the balrogs of war.
Someone said they would give me a penny every time there was a close-up of filth-encrusted hand opening around a gold ring. I now possess an attractive and handy electrical kitchen appliance for accepting that deal. The movie being named THE LORD OF THE RINGS, it was imperative that the suburbanites in the audience keep being reminded what all the running and screaming and puling and poking was over.
In Sweden, this film is renamed CLOSEUPS OF DIRTY HANDS. Like fans of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW emulating their film heroes, people arrive at screenings having not washed their hands or hair for three weeks. If you can make a person puke by letting them smell your hand, you get in for free. If you have vomit in your hair, you get an attractive salad-tosser. If it’s someone else’s vomit, you get a Gold Pass.
Coincidentally, I lost my ring in my kitchen appliance yesterday.
Between Points A and B of any Fantasy World tale, there are about 3 million characters you’ll never have to think about for the rest of your life (much like algebra). Thank goodness there were only about 30,000 characters in this movie, most of them practically cameos, due to the sheer quantity.
|Elijah Wood, not having reached puberty yet at 22, is the Casting Director’s masterstroke: the wide-eyed and bushy-footed hobbit hero, Frodo, extending the film’s appeal to the generally-untapped pedophile demographic. (Those cerulean-blue peepers and cheeks as-yet-unscarred by the Gillette Corporation makes it feel so devilishly like cradle-robbing…) Forty-foot-high baby-bottom face, shot through soft-focus lens for two hours screentime, should leave more than just popcorn and raisinets stickying the floors of some cinemas.|
|Ian McKellen, renowned, rille-faced veteran of stage, film and backdoor-mannery, is the stringy-haired, hessian-robed wizard Gandalf The Grey, hard-pressed curbing his desire to touch Elijah Wood’s Golden Ring, dusky whispers taunting him whenever the candy-skinned man-boy would saunter near. One face-crease away from being Patrick Stewart’s doppelganger, McKellen leads the ragtag expedition (did I just say ‘ragtag’?) into special effects flummery and wins the audience over time and again with his awesome displays of unadulterated burlap robe-wearing.|
|Sean Astin, having reached puberty and finding that he didn’t like it (so reverting back to dull, ambiguous child actor) is Frodo’s sidekick, Sam-I-Am, most notably from Dr. Seuss’s classic tale of Wizardry and Demonology, Green Eggs And Ham. When entrusted by Gandalf to ward Frodo on his quest, Sam-I-Am’s purpose in life became clear: attempt at leading-man stardom nullified (remember the stirring intensity he summoned in Icebreaker or Dish Dogs?), husky manservant roles from here on in. His one attempt at poignancy (“If I take one more step, it’s the farthest I’ve ever been from home”) is righteously slamdunked by two hobbits from the East End, who join Frodo’s quest to travel to the farthest reaches of the land, which was about ten miles down the road.|
|Ian Holm is Bilbo Baggins of Bag End, the diminutive Hero of the book that preceded The Lord Of The Rings tome, The Hobbit, which, if current idiot trends are any indication, will probably be made into a film sometime around 2010, after all three Rings movies have had their run on home video release and brainless marketing pioneers come up with the heftily original idea of doing a PREQUEL. Bilbo’s initial meeting with Gandalf set the special effects tone for this movie. Here at last was a modern movie that did not shove its efx In Yo Face; a masterful handling of double-camera technique so subtle that it took a few minutes to even realize your eyesight was being exploited. And so it went throughout the film: each effect – and there were many – only enhanced the credibility of this incredible tale, paradoxically working towards making this Fantasy World seem more ‘real’, rather than transport the film into the realm of CGI glut-fest: the vast subterranean caverns, camera tilting through their dank corridors as if they really existed; the giant sculptures from antiquity adorning the countryside; the wizardry, the beasts, the Vallejo-esque castled structures, and then there was –|
|The Balrog: was there ever a cooler daemon to stalk cloven-hoofed and flame-chiaroscuroed across a screen, stage or pentacle? This torn-winged, hell-blackened, ram-horned apotheosis of Evil Incarnate (how I love him so!) faces off with The Great Gandalf in a cinematic sequence so astounding, breath-stopping and power-hammering that George Lucas is still trying to re-write STAR WARS: EPISODE II. Just in case there was the smidgeon of doubt, Gandalf assures us, “Your swords are useless!” (Was it the fact that this ten-storey-tall entity was causing thermal atmospheric disturbance through its existence in our dimension that gave him the clue? Or was it the fact that most of the Fellowship was already doing their impression of Jesse Owens at a Klan rally?)|
|Sean Bean, well-known advocate of ‘big men grabbing other big men’ (UK Football ad spokesperson, “We know how ya feel – we feel the same way!”) and known Secret Agent with a license to kill, is one of the few Real Men in the movie – and by that, we are only differentiating between dwarves, elves, hobbits, wizards, stone-creatures, wraiths and other beings with dynamic costumes and/or pointy ears. It took three broomstick-thick arrows to bring The Bean down, in a battle with the head orc, a MANstrosity straight from the Bodies In Motion gym on Olympic and Sepulveda in West LA.|
|Liv Tyler is a goddess. Anyone got her number?|
|Christopher Lee, whom many younger viewers may not remember as the Lord Of The Wings, the original caped crusader – no, not Batman, but twice as fey – Dracula (pronounced ‘Drah-kyule’, or any other Euro-sounding deformation of the name, which lends it more legitimacy for some reason), is the treacherous Saruman, Gandalf’s Human Resources Manager. Enrobed in startling white, snowy mane cascading to his lower back, beard grown down to big-ass medallion on his sunken chest (that was how he turned up on the set every day – before makeup), Wahmpyre Christopher is testament to the rejuvenative diet of worms and virgin blood. Considering his mortal body died 35 years ago, Lee continues to make onscreen cameos with as much flair and verve as undead people half his age.|
|Orlando Bloom, whose real-life name is perfectly congruent with his leggy, blond elfin archer, Legolas, was responsible for holding up shooting for days on end when camera lenses would crack under the spell of his haunting boy-face; Liv Tyler was constantly knocking on his trailer door, begging for beauty tips, which he happily conveyed; tips like, “Don’t speak after sex” and “Wear skirts and no panties”, but she thought he was joking…|
|Viggo Mortensen (reeking Euro Man-Toy like a furry version of Fabio) is the unshaven rockstar Hard Guy Hero who gets the girl. On his first day of shooting, he started making out with Orlando Bloom until someone told him that wasn’t the girl. Always looking like he’s just stepped out of a shower that didn’t clean him, the wet-haired Viggo, as Strider/Aragorn, lends his mighty sword to the quest in the hope that Wizard Gandalf might one day conjure up some soap.|
|Hugo Weaving, having displayed his fabulous wardrobe in PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT, was a no-brainer for the role of the Elfin Queen, Elrond, simply being told by director Peter Jackson, to “wear something from PRISCILLA,” which he did. Weaving summoned untold reserves of his thespian prowess by successfully melding two of his most famous roles: that of the drag queen in Priscilla and the monotonal Mr. Smith in THE MATRIX, further confusing anyone in the audience who was insecure with their sexuality to begin with. The pointy ears were just icing on a cake much too rich to swallow (and I do mean swallow…|
In Canada, this film is renamed AMBIGUÉ, because no one has been able to figure out the sex of most of the lead roles yet. In Ontario, police descended on almost two-hundred movie-goers, citing probable cause as “intent to solicit as transvestites”, before they realized that it was just fans dressed as Legolas, Elrond or Saruman. Even a few Gandalfs got arrested for loitering with intent – but that was true.
the story so far…
The spirit of the long-dead super-wizard Sauron works through Wizard Saruman to recover his lost, magical Ring Of Power. Unbeknownst to Sauron, his One Ring is on its way to Mount Doom to be cast into the lava there, warded by The Fellowship, a ragtag troupe made up of a Wizard (Gandalf), an Elf (Legolas), a Dwarf (Gimli), four Hobbits (headed by Frodo Baggins), a Human (Boromir), and a sex symbol dripping with man-sweat (Aragorn).
Urged by Gandalf to journey to faraway lands to destroy the ring, Frodo embarks with his three idiot friends. The hobbits stop for the night at an inn of disrepute, and when Frodo tries to stop one of the East End hobbits making an arse of himself, he trips and goes ring-over-tit amidst the drunken bar patrons, whereupon he – disappears. Inadvertently ringing his finger, Frodo is assaulted by high-decibel shockwave static, out-of-focus fuzzheadedness and time-dilatory dream-state slow motion, a sum effect not unlike having way too much tequila with the boys the night before and going home with a fat stripper named Belulah and waking up with your face buried firmly between elephantine cheeks. (How I miss those days.)
A Ranger named Strider (who would later change his name to Aragorn just to confuse us) allies with the naïve hobbits and ushers them to a stony knoll, where he retains his sweaty demeanor by battling evil Ring-Wraiths single-handedly, while the hobbits do Benny Hill impersonations. Frodo is stabbed in this melee, which was good because it necessitated the appearance of Liv Tyler with Pointy Ears, whereupon I touched myself. The sensual electricity is headily apparent between Liv and Viggo, even though he hasn’t washed since 1437 and his musky shirt is now stuck to his back with sweat, the pimples on his thighs reddening with excreta due to his pants not being removed for two years, his boots sloshing with runoff from his backside… Some chicks just dig the rugged outdoorsy type…
Frodo recovers at Elrond’s Elfin Keep, where our heroes gather and Elrond schmaltzily crows the film title, “Hmm: nine companions – you shall be The Fellowship Of The Ring.” Embarrassing? Ooooo! Sign me up! Hugo’s willing to say anything if it’ll pay for that gender-reassignment operation.
In the magnificent, subterranean Goblin Hall (a masterpiece of CGI architecture, 200-foot pillars stretching upwards into darkness and into the shrouded distance), the fleeing friends must combat a hybrid orc, a brainless giant lumpy thing with the speed of a train, the relentlessness of Herpes Simplex B and the face of a good-looking Jabba The Hutt. For the first time in a “special effects movie”, the giant, brainless monster looked like it could actually kill the real-life actors. For this was no jaded Ray Harryhausen stop-motion/clay-mation model – pioneering as his craft was in its day – this was fully-destructional state-of-the-art computer graphic, melded with live RC-puppetry and smoothed over with post-production speed and shadows and weight-distribution computations. It was visually unnerving. Not since seeing Kevin Costner’s hairstyle in THE BODYGUARD was I that disturbed.
As good as this movie is – and it’s very good, for you are dragged into the adventure, unbidden – there are many segments that seem unnecessary, where the quest encounters incidents which do not further the plot and therefore could have been left out of the final cut – such as the crumbling stone stairs sequence. At a point like this, even if there is no plot point per se, then at the very least, someone should die (usually the person with last billing, or who is not pretty enough to take up any more screentime). But no one died; no one was injured; no one made any discoveries (a path to freedom, ancient runes exposing a mystery); there were no character revelations (‘I’ll save this person at the loss of my own life’ or ‘Screw these guys! I’m saving myself’). Some may argue that the party was slowed down enough for the Balrog to catch up with them and battle Gandalf, but the Balrog is a PARA-DIMENSIONAL DAEMON – it doesn’t need the plot convenience of crumbling stairs to catch up with mere mortals. This segment was one of many which was simply a gratuitous flexing of extra-grim special effects muscle. Granted, it was phenomenal, which lent to the movie’s overall luster, and it allowed the dwarf a nudge-nudge-wink-wink pc line of dialog, when Strider suggested he be thrown across the yawning gap, “Nobody tosses a dwarf!”, but nonetheless, it was merely to annoy George Lucas.
You don’t need to read Tolkein or Fantasy World books in general to gain a grasp for political coups. An aspect of those Fantasy World plots that has always bothered me – even as a child (a Mini-Me Dark Warlord) – was the intent behind the Bad Guys’ misdeeds. It seemed they were always out to blight the very land that they were trying to conquer. Does it not occur to them to just overpower the current ruler and inherit all his peoples, serfs, farm animals and lands and let business continue as usual? – the only difference being that the taxes are now coming to him – the Bad Guy. Sure, you’ll probably have to resort to a little attritional warfare, but ultimately, why decimate the whole shebang? I mean, really – what fun is it going to be ruling over a char-blackened globe that won’t support crops or fauna? How long can you exert control over your hordes of half-men-half-weirdos if you can’t feed them? Letting them rape everything in sight is okay at first, but what are you gonna do in order to spawn a new generation of troops and peons? Let’s face it – even the evilest of Eeevil Lords needs to keep some kind of order – otherwise, what’s a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for?
So why all the foofaraw over one little ring? Why did the end of the movie seem like the middle of a Monopoly game? Why a “fellowship”? That’s just what Ontario authorities were asking those Gandalfs they picked up. But all they could get out of those hopped-up old ex-hippies is some dumbo-jumbo about how the Jefferson Airplane slipped them some bad acid at Woodstock, man…