Some 16 years after the rest of the world got sucked into Middle Earth, Annemarie has finally taken her first trip into the land of hobbits, elves and orcs. This will be the first in a three-part run of Required Viewing dedicated to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Naturally, we have The Fellowship of the Ring up first.
We’re joined in this effort by some special guests, but first, we’ll cut to Annemarie to kick us off. We need your reactions, we need predictions, we need questions. We need to know how soon you’re going to start living the hobbit lifestyle!
AM: If you’re wondering exactly how I didn’t get on the LoTR train sooner, it comes down to this. One of my parents had read the series and it lived on the basement bookshelves my entire childhood. My mom encouraged me to read it, but I didn’t have a lot of interest (probably just to be contrarian, if I’m honest), and so wasn’t over the moon when the movies came out. My college roommate and I once rented Fellowship and started to watch it, but she’s super not into fantasy (she fell asleep during the second Matrix in theaters…) so we got about 30 minutes in and quit. Without a strong force or interest in a film or TV show or song or whatever, I have found I will simply stop it and go to something else.
Anyway. Fast forward to many, many discussions held last year in the office about how I could possibly have NOT seen this majestical trio of movies, and it was decided that I would finally watch them. But wait! It was also insisted that I watch the EXTENDED EDITIONS of these already long films. I decided that if you’re going to do a watch party series like this, you might as well give in to the crowd mentality and just go with the flow.
I was actually looking forward to Fellowship by the time we finally got it on the schedule (that and I do dearly love movie snacks), and I really enjoyed it. I like dense storytelling told during historical times (Hello Game of Thrones) and who doesn’t love some gnomes and dwarves and elves in the mix?
Let’s start in on a discussion of real estate. I quickly came to the realization that I wish very much to live in the Shire. My reasons are as follows:
- Hobbits live in awesome homes tucked into hillsides with round doors. Adorable and cozy, I’m totally in.
- Hobbits don’t have to wear shoes. I also don’t like wearing shoes. I only do because it’s rather unclean to not wear shoes to work and also my feet would freeze.
- Hobbits get to eat like 47 times a day. I also want that in my life.
- Hobbit culture seems genuinely caring and collaborative. It didn’t escape my attention that hobbits seem to be the only creature in Middle Earth capable of holding the Ring without immediately losing their shit, but maybe that’s Frodo-specific? I’m entirely not sure on that point but I did appreciate how quickly Rudy, Charlie from Lost and the Other One leap at the chance to help out Frodo on his quest.
I decided during Fellowship that I’d like to have a Shire house for winter, as well as a Rivendell vacation house. I might want to collect more houses as we go, but for now, that’s the plan.
Brooke, what say you. What does this film in particular mean to you, how much do you like it in comparison to the rest of the films in the series, and probably the most important question on deck: would you rather Aragorn or Legolas?
B: Just coming out with the big questions, aren’t you AM? You haven’t even told us if you like the story so far, other than lusting after the hobbit lifestyle! I too want homes in the Shire and in Rivendell. I would like to visit Lothlorien, but I think it’s more a vacay spot than anything else. Hard pass on basically every other place we’ve seen so far.
But I digress, you didn’t ask me about my preferences for fictional places. You did ask about my take on The Fellowship of the Ring. For me, this trilogy is inextricably linked with middle and high school, and my friends who were obsessed with it — two of them joined us to watch this movie. I can’t even begin to tell you how often LoTR was a point of discussion with us — our friend Ashley had lifesize standups of Aragorn and Legolas that were sources of endless amusement. Aragorn, in particular, was a very effective prank — stick him in a dark room or on a dark landing and wait for someone to have their wits startled out of them.
The TL;DR is that I have a lot of memories from my youth wrapped up in these pictures. On the whole, I think it’s the film in the series that I love the least, however, it has some of my absolute favorite scenes in the series. I always get a bit wispy at the idea of Frodo and Gandalf reuniting early on in the film and I love the scenes of Bilbo’s party. I also love the introduction to Rivendale and the scenes at the council, it’s such a brilliant way to learn about the stakes and relationships in Middle Earth. But what I love most about this installment of the saga is the thing I expect you’re also going to say you loved about it — the friendship between the hobbits. I love how devoted Sam is to Frodo and I love the adoring competition between Merry and Pippin, I still laugh over the pint conversation at the Prancing Pony every single time.
So, although part of me thinks of The Fellowship of the Ring as a necessary stepping stone to the rest of the story, there are some moments in it that I love very much indeed.
Now, as to the most important question: when I was younger, I would have said Legolas 10 times out of 10. He was so young and pretty and the elves are so glamorous. I also had kind of a thing for Frodo, less the feet. But now, at the ripe old age of 28, I am feeling Aragorn. He doesn’t strike me as so very old anymore, and in fact, that brooding mysterious vibe he throws out really works for me. I love how much sorrow he carries in his eyes. I love his devotion to Arwen — and I love that he doesn’t balk when she flat-out tells him she is a better rider than he is. I love that he, like Gandalf, recognizes his own limitations and understands Frodo’s journey is far more important than anyone else’s. I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve changed teams.
Alright, AM. Out with it. I want to know how you’re liking this story. Are you confused by any goings on so far? Do you have grand predictions? Do you have early favorite characters? Are you concerned about the power of the One Ring? Would you be able to carry it without being corrupted?
AM: I said I liked it so far! It was buried in the midst of discussions about my zest for the Hobbit lifestyle, but I do like it. It’s more exposition than I expect the rest of the films to contain, but I expected that if I took the time to actually watch the story unfold, I’d enjoy it greatly.
I completely understand the nostalgia, after all, that strong feeling is a key reason this column exists, and how we relate to movies we’ve loved for years. That’s also why I think it makes perfect sense that Young Brooke would have gone gaga for Legolas (he is so very pretty) but Adult Brooke prefers the mature Aragorn. I am in 100% agreement in your assessment that Aragorn’s deferment to his elvish lady friend (was her giving him her eternal life necklace a marriage vow?) on her riding and healing skills is super sexy.
Ah yes! Merry and Pippin. I do have a question about their allegiance and why they were so eager to come along on this journey — are they loyal to Frodo like Sam is? Or did Frodo owe one of them money so they’re trying to keep him alive to collect? I missed the catalyst to their joining the team.
I don’t think I’m that confused about what’s going on, outside of those type of small details. It’s clear that this film was needed to set up all the characters and the overall theme of the story, but there is a fair amount of action going on. Well, lots of running and hiding. Which I’d also opt into if giant undead zombie riders were bearing down on me. Plus orcs seem like a good creature to completely avoid.
I’m interested to know more about what Legolas and Gimli get out of the Fellowship. Are they in it purely because they want to save the world, or is there something else going on? I’m assuming that the Fellowship is in the hero category, but as Sean Bean has unequivocally demonstrated, the Ring has a pretty powerful hold over even the most heroic person. (Side note, do you call dwarves and elves people? This world has Man, but do you call them all people? Or is “people” reserved for Man only?)
One prediction: someone else will fall prey to the Ring’s power before Frodo can toss that shit into the mountain magma. And partly because of my love for Hobbit culture and partly because he’s Such. A. Good. Friend., I’m strongly rooting for Samwise to make it out of all this alive and well, hopefully with the cute Hobbit lady he was making eyes at.
And yes, I’d be terrified to hold that Ring, its power is clearly no joke. I think I’d get to the point where I’m first attacked by Black Zombie Riders and then I’d use the ring against them. I don’t know if it’s even possible to turn back from that, so I’m glad it’s Frodo and not me.
Broader predictions are harder to come by, although I’m fairly certain I know this whole epic has a happy ending. I know that because I recall reading that George R.R. Martin was inspired by LoTR when he wrote Game of Thrones but he wanted to up the tragedy factor. But since Sean Bean dies in literally everything, I can’t say I was too surprised when he kicked it. I’m glad he went out a hero though.
And also speaking of not being surprised, was the evil wizard’s name not a clue to Gandalf that he’d gone to the Dark Side? Saruman sounds like a direct homage to Dark Lord Sauron. How did no one see that?
It might be time for our friends to join in on their opinions of Fellowship, I’m interested to know if there are any disagreements or big things we’ve missed.
B: I know this story quite well, but my knowledge isn’t on par with say my Harry Potter or Game of Thrones knowledge — I’ve only read one book after all, and by read, I mean listened to, but I’ll hazard an attempt at answering your questions. I think that men are “men,” “man” or “humans.” I think any of the races can be considered a “people.” As in, the elves are a haughty and glamorous people. Okay, now on to the more complicated queries about character motivations.
Legolas and Gimli are on board for this quest because they want to see the Dark Lord undone and they want it known that the elves and the dwarves played their respective parts. As I imagine you gathered, there is some animosity between elves and dwarves — part of the larger rift series that has left all of the peoples of Middle Earth susceptible to Sauron — and there is a measure of competition mingled with mistrust betwixt the two. Actually, the frenemy vibe between Legolas and Gimli is one of my absolute favorite things in this series, you’ll see how it develops as we move on.
Your questions about Merry and Pippin actually leads me to one of my other favorite elements of this series. I adore the friendship between Sam and Frodo, but I am positively tickled by the fact that Merry and Pippin basically mischief themselves into the quest without a clue of what’s really going on. At first they are just tagging along for fun, learning about pints, and then around the time the Fellowship is forming they think to ask what is actually going on — after they’ve insisted upon coming along, of course. And, as you’ll recall, we left those two in quite a precarious situation.
Now, AM, I’d like to hear your favorite and least favorite things about The Fellowship of the Ring, I’ve been promised strong opinions, and I’m ready to get into all of it. Give us a full-on AM analysis of all of this business. Oh, and obviously share whose clothes you would most want to swipe.
AM: Oh, strong opinions are being shared left and right. Ok, first up, an elaboration on my overall enjoyment so far. You mentioned Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. I distinctly recall a sense of delight and buzzy anticipation when I read the first chapter of Sorcerer’s Stone. And I also distinctly remember thinking “I need to see the next episode NOW” when I saw the first episode of Game of Thrones. So while I like the LoTR story up to this point and am interested to see how it’s going to go (as well as being impressed about the visuals for the film), I have to say that I’m not as emotionally engaged as I know you and our watch party friends are, especially when you compare to HP and GoT.
However, I think the language of the story is magnificent. There’s so many quotable lines and beautifully written set pieces here, and I anticipate that to be the case as we move into the second two films. And in addition to the shout-out for visuals, the casting and acting is also top-notch. There’s a reason these films won all the awards.
I also think the Dark Lord and his minions are quite the terrifying villains. I wouldn’t want to meet an orc in a dark forest, that’s for damn sure. And The Ring itself is super effective at being a life ruiner, so we’re setting up Frodo for quite the task and quest to defeat Sauron. What’s your take on the scariness level here? Is Sauron worse or more frightening than Voldemort or the White Walkers?
I’d wear what the elves wear, hands down. I’m actually quite a fan of Elf culture. It’s not as awesome as Hobbit culture, but the flowing gowns and sparkle and glow are all amazing and I also like that they have some magical powers. As a person without magical powers, it looks neat. I don’t quite get why the elves can’t just destroy The Ring themselves, but apparently it’s just TOO powerful? Also, where in the power hierarchy do elves fall? Are wizards more powerful? Differently powered? It seems that Gandalf is pretty powerful himself, but we did also see him get “defeated.” And I use quotation marks because while I may not know much about this story, I’m almost positive “Gandalf the Grey” becomes “Gandalf the White” and does some sort of resurrection trick at some point. And it’s not a spoiler alert because I’m the least informed person in the world about this stuff.
I’ll pause here and throw this back to Brooke. What say you to my musings and my questions?
B: I’ll tell you that you’re not alone in hooking into the mythology of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones more readily than with The Lord of the Rings. I was honestly, quite uncertain about the whole affair until The Two Towers and Treebeard came into my life — we’ll get to it. I will also agree that the language here is just lovely. Tolkien was a linguist first and foremost, and I think that’s why he shows more care for drawing beautiful scenery and elaborate names and cultures than in sculpting epic battle scenes (run and hide is a thing that seems to be the answer an awful lot) or myriad plot mechanisms and relationship entanglements.
It’s interesting to hear that you are impressed by the visuals — now, I agree that the Shire and Rivendell are disgustingly idyllic and that the costume design is magnificent, I found myself thinking that many of the effects did not hold up particularly well. I’m looking at you, wizard fight between Sarumon and Gandalf. That looked basically like hot garbage. That said, the contrast between the Hobbit size and everyone else still works nicely, so I’d give them partial credit at least.
I tend to think the Ring Wraiths and the Witch-King (we’ll get there) are more haunting than Sauron himself. And those orcs are not creatures I’d want to meet in a back alley. BUT, I’m not as scared of Sauron as I am of the White Walkers or Voldemort. Here’s why. Sauron’s power is largely down to the rings, and without those objects compelling various people to his side, he loses much of his prestige and power. I wouldn’t want to mess with him, but he’s mostly up in his tower letting other people do the dirty work.
Next most fearful for me, would, I think, be the White Walkers. The White Walkers are nearly indestructible, and horrifying, but if they succeed, you’re either suuuuuuuper dead or one of them. There’s no prolonging a bad situation, just death or oblivion. It’s not an ideal way to go, but that, I imagine, is a great deal preferable to what Voldemort would have done given his druthers.
You see, Voldy is charismatic in the way of cult leaders. He can rally followers and put them to do his bidding with ease. We’re also told by no less an authority than Albus Dumbledore that Voldy’s talent for sewing enmity and discord is great. So he is very, very well equipped to smash any resistance once he has a hold even on a smidgen of power. And he’s not out to just kill everyone. He aims to rule people. To punish those who don’t see the world as he does. The world in which Voldemort reigns is a prolonged existence of torture and terror and indoctrination. He doesn’t want to end people, he wants to assimilate them. And even if they give in, there’s always the fact that he’ll kill his most loyal followers if it means getting closer to his goals. I don’t want to hang out with any of them, but Tom Marvolo Riddle strikes me as the most fearsome in his ways and means.
Your question of power rankings is an interesting one. I would say the wizards — of which there are quite a few — are more powerful than the elves. That is to say, Gandalf straight-up compared to Elrond would most likely go in Gandalf’s favor. Sorcery is applicable in ways that elven powers are not. However, the elves are still a pretty fearsome people. Their power seems unquestionably greater than say a hobbit, dwarf or human. But, as we say, we’ll get to it.
Here’s a question, if we were to do a closed internet quiz right now, how many characters do you think you could name? Actually, yeah. Let’s do that thing. And also, do you remember the rhyme about the Ring of Power?
AM: Love the breakdown of the power rankings. I should have known a Harry Potter fanatic would put Voldemort at the top of the Terrifying Villain List. I mostly kid, because I agree. Simple smash-and-kill destruction is less scary than an absolute power dictatorship. And aside from Tolkein’s mastery of language, I think he clearly had a talent for reflecting real life into a fantasy story that tellingly remains relevant today.
I think it’s fair to be critical of the special effects. You’re right, there are some rough edges that our eyes in 2001 didn’t even notice, but our 2017 eyes know what to look for.
While I’m not loving your use of “we’ll get to it” multiple times, I get it. We’re only 1/3 of the way through this story. There’s more to come and more to discuss later. I think we should leave this particular post with a lame attempt by me to name as many characters as I can without the aid of Google:
- Bilbo Baggins
- Sean Bean
- Mr. Smith
- Liv Tyler
- Cate Blanchett
Clearly, I’m missing some people. I forgot Sam entirely and for some reason I can’t remember any elf names. Dangit. And I also remember nothing of the rhyme. Help me, I’m poor, and we’ve reached the end of my LoTR knowledge. Any final thoughts or words of encouragement? I’ll try real hard to learn the names when we watch the next film.
B: I have to say, you did better than I thought you would. Did you peek at the tags? I jest. Mostly. I will give you partial credit on the items you got wrong, however, as they made me laugh quite a lot. Does that count as encouragement? I think it should. Fo reference, here are the words about The One Ring. There will be a test.
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this (hopefully) scintillating query: “What’s taters, eh?” And also with this GIF of what we would look like trying to live the hobbit lifestyle.
Keep it tuned to Required Viewing for more from Annemarie’s first journey to Mordor!