Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Ten years later: The Fellowship of the Ring

with 147 comments

Last night, not long after I mentioned The Lord of the Rings in my discussion of the future of storytelling, my wife and I found ourselves at Ravinia Park in Chicago, where we saw The Fellowship of the Ring with a full orchestra and choir performing Howard Shore’s famous score. An excited crowd had packed itself into the pavilion and lawn, and looking around, I was reminded of the true definition of a four-quadrant movie, which has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with how it fires an audience’s imagination. “Three generations of any family,” David Thomson has drily noted, “could see [The Lord of the Rings] at the same time, in emotional comfort.” And it’s true. For one thing, I’m pretty sure that there were grandchildren in attendance last night who had not yet been born when the movie came out almost ten years ago.

And whatever its other qualities, the movie works. It still looks great, and the special effects, if not miraculous, do a fine job of serving the narrative and performances. And while I’m personally of the opinion that Peter Jackson never quite figured out the right tone for his material until The Return of the King, Fellowship still has the strongest story in the trilogy. There’s something inexpressibly satisfying about seeing the pieces of the epic falling into place, as the Fellowship is gathered, tested, and finally scattered. The other two movies have their moments, and Return of the King in particular is a masterpiece, but I’m guessing that when most viewers think back to their favorite scenes, whether they’re casual fans or Tolkien obsessives, this is the installment that first comes to mind. And the individual moments haven’t lost any of their power: when Aragorn beheads the Uruk-Hai at the end, for instance, the entire auditorium erupted in cheers, drowning out the orchestra.

There are small problems here and there. Jackson’s treatment of Saruman’s army verges on Sam Raimi-style horror, and not in a good way; he occasionally botches big moments, like Galadriel’s speech, with overuse of special effects; and there’s a little too much slapstick in the Shire. All of these qualities would be progressively improved over the course of the trilogy, and to my relief, I found that that the acting was strong from the very beginning. Now that we’ve come to know these actors so well, it’s important to remember that many of them were unknowns or doubtful quantities at the time, and in many cases, their performances have been enriched in retrospect. It’s hard to watch Orlando Bloom, for instance, without seeing something comic in Legolas’s unblinking intensity, while Viggo Mortensen, who once came off as miscast, now seems ideal as Aragorn. Throughout it all, Ian McKellen’s Gandalf remains the film’s perfect calm center—it’s a performance that looks even better as the years go by.

Watching the film again with an audience, for the first time in almost a decade, reminded me of how movies serve as markers in our own lives. When I first saw Fellowship of the Ring, I was a college senior; now I’m married and about to get my first mortgage. Movies, too, have changed. It would be premature to say that this kind of film now seems old-fashioned, with Deathly Hallows having done a commendable job with a rather different franchise, and the two parts of the Hobbit still on the way. Yet with Universal canceling The Dark Tower, directors like Guillermo Del Toro unable to finance their dream projects, and the likes of Andy Hendrickson running the show at Disney, one senses a certain lack of the will that led New Line and Peter Jackson to risk so much on this trilogy. Thankfully, though, they did. And the movies are permanently richer as a result.

147 Responses

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  1. nice retrospective. i saw this again recently too: i was sprawled out on our friends’ couch in SD, waiting for Rx strength ibuprofen kick in to relieve me of my back pain, petting a cat on my chest, and watching it on mute. still good.

    ian mckellan’s guest appearance on ricky gervais’ extras is pretty funny if you ever the chance to track that down.


    August 19, 2011 at 10:05 am

  2. Wakes, how were you able to pet a cat on your chest? Are you not as allergic to cats anymore? What happened to you on your San Diego trip?

    Sorry for the unrelated comment, Alec! Do I get a pass because I was at the movie with you last night and already shared all my thoughts on the train ride home?


    August 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

  3. i was just petting it. it wasn’t sitting on my face. i was a little sneezy at the house, but not as bad as i expected.

    i tweaked my back pretty hard playing ultimate the thursday before going to SD. it was bad–that first night i couldn’t sleep comfortably and could not even physically roll over. the next morning–before getting drugged up–i couldn’t sit, stand, lie down, or walk without a lot of pain. i’m getting old. good thing sabina still had ibuprofen leftover from her post-partum recovery. yup, i was taking meds for a woman recovering from pregnancy.


    August 19, 2011 at 9:15 pm

  4. Great insight into movies. I feel the same way watching movies like “Labyrinth”. Have a great week.

  5. I totally agree with you regarding the tone ofThe Return Of The King. Like Blade Runner, The Fellowship Of The Ring series are movies that if on television, I never miss. They provide comfort for some strange reason.


    August 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

  6. I’ve never been a huge movie buff – gets too expensive – but the LoTR trilogy were some of the few I eagerly anticipated and then waited until the collectors edition with all of the extras and extended scenes came out on DVD (no, no BlueRay for me).

    LoTR is one of the few movies I can watch again and again. And, while I agree that some of the scenes were campy, overdone or underdone, I really didn’t like the third movie as much as I liked the first one. There are just some things that are never going to translate well from book to movie, and some of the third book really should have stayed in the book and not in the movie.


    August 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

  7. It would be interesting to see this film again in light of more modern fare, as you mentioned … fun experiment.

    Your evening sounds like an amazing experience, though!


    Mikalee Byerman

    August 23, 2011 at 9:31 am

  8. I always felt Fellowship was the best of the three.

    Options Trading Tutorial

    August 23, 2011 at 9:37 am

  9. Ah, I love those movies (and the music!). I saw them when they were in theaters again back in June. :) What’s funny is that on Sunday, I was looking at my collage of scenes from the movies (I had the day-by-day calendars and made a collage with some of the pages) and thinking what great movies they are. Of course they aren’t perfect, but Peter Jackson did a great job trying to do the epic tale justice. That’s what matters

    Cap'n Stephel

    August 23, 2011 at 10:00 am

  10. It’s been awhile, so I think it’s about time I took another look at these movies, too. I told myself a long time ago that one day I’d watch all three movies marathon style. But after some time I realized that that’s just a bit too much. I guess one movie per day or week is enough. Enjoyed the post.


    August 23, 2011 at 10:01 am

  11. Yesterday I saw this in TV.

    Toronto Squirrel Removal

    August 23, 2011 at 10:04 am

  12. my boyfriend is OBSESSED with Lord of the Rings – he’s so excited for the Hobbit now too!



    August 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

  13. I looooooooooooove lord of the rings and i can’t wait for The Hobbit.

    13 Oscars means it worth something :P

    Arjun Kay

    Arjun Kapadiya

    August 23, 2011 at 10:14 am

  14. What?? It’s been 10 years already?! Wow…still 3 of my favourite films of all time. :)

    PCC Advantage

    August 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

  15. One of the many reasons we fall in love with the “first” movie is the fact it is the FIRST movie. We learn characters, history, the look, the feel. And there is this sense of innocence we see with the Shire-folk which we long for again the whole series. Great piece!


    August 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

  16. I’m incredibly jealous of your opportunity! I was hoping to go to Ravinia for that specifically, but with the concert not being in the original Ravinia list and getting added later, I was unable to go. I do agree that LOTR is a universally watchable film for young, old, and all those in between. I didn’t get into the series until the first two of the trilogy were already out on DVD. Even so, I watch the trilogy about once a year now and have yet to not find myself emotionally drawn into the characters and the story. The first film, The Fellowship, has been my favorite of the three for the longest time. Perhaps sometime down the line I will change my mind and like one of the others more. But there’s something about getting that group together at the Council of Elrond that does it for me. I love the colors, the characters, the dialogue, the whole bit. It’s beautifully done. And it’s interesting to hear that Viggo Mortensen was considered a mis-cast. I was never aware of that. Actually, I had never heard of him until LOTR. When I watched the films, I kept thinking that he was such a fantastic actor, and wondering why I hadn’t seen him in more films. Thanks for this post! Glad to hear that it was so enjoyable. And congrats on Freshly Pressed from one fan to another.



    August 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

  17. I love these movies, and yes, the Fellowship is my favorite. I actually don’t know why Return of the King got so much attention, but it’s still a great movie. And the music is truly epic!


    August 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

  18. The big thing that impressed me for those movies was how Jackson really took the opportunity to make the DVDs as compelling value as he could. He was I think the first moviemaker to assume that some piece of information would go on a behind-the-scenes section, and the first to assume that the BTS stuff might make up the bulk of the DVD itself. Before that, it was always little junk things like movie trailers and one-screen marketing blurbs on the actors. He had hours and hours of extra information on those DVDs, and he was the first one to pioneer that. Props to him.


    August 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

  19. First, congratulations on being “pressed.”

    I read the books many moons ago and barely remembered the complete story. Still I couldn’t wait for every one of these movies to come out (and I cannot wait for the Hobbit either.) Once I had seen all the movies I went back and re-read the books. I think Peter Jackson did a fine job with these movies.

    I have all of them (extended version) and have watched the extended version at least once on all of them. By far, my favorite is “The Two Towers” and I couldn’t tell you why. LOL

    But the one I watch the most is “Fellowship” you can guarantee every time it is on, I will watch.


    August 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

  20. Nice article. Lord of the Rings is certainly allegorical (even though Tolkien denied it) and when you watch it as I do regularly you can see where the world is headed. It is a prophecy and the land is dying! AWAKEN!


    August 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

  21. after reading this post i realized i don’t have these movies on blu ray. now i will be going to my local electronics shop to buy the trilogy. nice post.


    August 23, 2011 at 10:39 am

  22. Great article. I can’t believe it’s been ten years. I think I have read the book four times and seen the films 14. The Fellowship is my favourite. I like your comment about films being markers in our lives. So true. A lot of movies mark a lot of moments in my life.
    You’veset me off, I’m going to watch Fellowship for a 15th time!
    Congratulations on being “freshly squeezed” too.


    August 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

  23. I accidentally re-watched this movie on my cable tv some nights ago and it also brought back a lot of memories. Out of the three installments, I like this one the most since in this very movie, all Tolkien’s imagination came to life while I had difficulties imagine them in my mind due to the complexity of Tolkien’s mind…

    Love the movie, love the post. :D


    August 23, 2011 at 10:48 am

  24. I can never get tired of watching ‘The Lord of the rings’ trilogy. In fact, after watching them I always thought of movies as LOTR and everything else. :D

    Prashanth Rajan

    August 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

  25. Nice article. I think a lot of people prefer Fellowship because it’s so personal; it’s a lot more character-driven than the action-packed sequels in my opinion. There’s a very reassuring and comforting quality to the film that’s hard to explain. Shore’s amazing score has a lot to do with it though. I think the extended editions strengthen the films as a trilogy, too many important scenes were left out originally.


    August 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

  26. Although this film is old now but i am still excited when i watch it again. I used to join a cosplay party about The Lord of the Ring, that’s happy.

    thiet ke noi that dep

    August 23, 2011 at 11:13 am

  27. I agree with a lot of people in that Fellowship is my favorite of the three. I also agree with you that a few scenes, such as Galadriel’s speech, were a little overdone. But, I personally loved the “slapstick” nature of the Shire, I guess because it provided such a great contrast to the darkness and intensity of so much of the rest of the story.


    August 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

  28. ha, not too long ago I re-visted The fellowship of the ring too (you can read about it here: and professed my undying love for it.
    I disagree with you on the point of evaluating the third one, since I don’t consider it to be a masterpiece at all, rather the make-up session for TTT, which left me thoroughly underwhelmed.

    I really like my comments-predecessor’s comment on the issue: “I think a lot of people prefer Fellowship because it’s so personal; it’s a lot more character-driven than the action-packed sequels “. That’s a very interesting observation, methinks, since it rings very true with me.
    Would love to see it in a cinema again….

    anyways, congratulations for being freshly pressed today!


    August 23, 2011 at 11:16 am

  29. FOTR is my favourite book out of the LOTR trilogy, and is probably my favourite movie of the trilogy too (though of course ROTK has that extended emotional denouement that is really quite special). But FOTR has a lovely “feel” to it; epic yet intimate. It has the tightest story too, which really helps it hold the attention better than some parts of TTT and ROTK, which occasionally lose focus.


    August 23, 2011 at 11:21 am

  30. I’m sorry, did you just write that you watched this film while an orchestra played the score?! That must’ve been really cool. I wish someone would do something like that over here. FOTR is my favourite LOTR film, because of the contrast of the ‘happy Shire’ and the rest of the story. After everything I’ve read in your post and in the comments, I’m not ashamed any more to admit that I ALWAYS fall asleep during TTT.


    August 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

  31. Has it really been that long since “Fellowship” came out? I remember the LOTR obsession that sprang up amongst my peers–we were teenagers at the time. I need to watch these movies again and be reminded of how awesome they still are.


    August 23, 2011 at 11:41 am

  32. Great post. I had the pleasure of seeing both the Two Towers and Return of the King on a large screen with an orchestra (I hadn’t moved to the area in time to catch The Fellowship). It is a completely different experience, and I would tell anyone who gets the chance to go.

    I think this is a movie that stands the test of time, held by acting and storytelling alone. Return of the King is my favorite, maybe because of the sense of closure, but I agree that there is something special about the first story/book that can speak volumes (pun intended).

    Porcelain Ulairi

    August 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

  33. Hi Alec, based on your short bio, we seem to have similar geographic paths and timelines from Cali to NYC! This event sounded awesome. The time Lord of the Rings came out I was also at the end of my college years. When each movie came out on DVD I would lock myself in my apartment, curtains drawn, and watch each part of the trilogy on repeat for the weekend. Storytelling through movies have certainly changed and ones that tug at your imagination seem harder to find these days. But, maybe it’s not the movies, maybe it’s us! At least we have LOTR to hold on to!


    August 23, 2011 at 11:47 am

  34. Interesting. I found LOTR as one of those classic movies that just never gets old. And like you, I did like the first more than the rest. But I’m also bit bias when it comes to the Return of the King. I love Pippin’s scenes for the third movie the most. Something about it is captivating. Most especially when he’s singing The Edge of Night. It was beautiful.
    I was still quite young when they started showing this in the theaters, sadly, and wasn’t able to appreciate it then. Your night out seems spectacular, to be envied even. Haha.


    August 23, 2011 at 12:20 pm

  35. I *love* the Lord of the Rings. It’s so amazing. Tolkien was an absolute genius!!



    August 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm

  36. With an orchestra? Oh, I’m so jealous. I read the books when I’d only just turned eight and adored them, and I liked the films too, but the music is still my favourite. Especially the music to the third film, which I think is the best score of them all.


    August 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  37. I love the movies too! Nice post! It’s always a pleasure to meet like-minded people ;)! Though I prefer the books, actually, the movies have their charm too… And the music is amazing! I could listen to it days and nights on end!
    Yet, I guess there are a lot of books, stories with the usual, ordinary already characters like kings, knights, princesses, vampires, dwarves, wizards with sharp hats, etc? We can read about them in almost every book of the genre? In the future, there should be new, unseen and unknown characters, creatures in the stories. Creatures like weightless korks, glowing, living balls, night fruit, fish-keepers, Brown faces, Fiery men, etc I use in some of my works (Tale Of The Rock Pieces, the Opposite Of Magic, etc), sound more interesting than the usual?
    I know the most important in the fantasy genre are the wisdom, good plot and writing skills but some “fresh blood” of new characters would make the fantasy books better?
    Best wishes to all fans! LET THE WONDERFUL NOISE OF THE SEA ALWAYS SOUNDS IN YOUR EARS! (a greeting of my water dragons’ hunters).


    August 23, 2011 at 12:43 pm

  38. My husband and I just finished watching the entire trilogy again this summer. We love it, and probably always will. We introduced our grandchildren to it this summer, and at ages 6 and 4 they were enthralled. My personal favorite scene is when Borimir (Sean Bean) redeems himself in battle after scaring Frodo. There is just something so noble and believable in Bean’s performance. Gives me chills every time.

    Congrats on being FP’d.


    August 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

  39. Awesome post. I have watched LOTR infinite times over the years and not once, not a single time, have I felt that boredom creeping in that tells you ‘this is it. this is the last time you enjoyed watching it. Time to waste the reel.’ A fine masterpiece.

    Salman Latif

    August 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

  40. I wonder sometimes if movies like, Lord of the Rings, won’t be remembered as a pivotal moment in mankinds evolution. It represents a time when we could really create a world of stunning imagination on a large screen. Who knows, someday they make it again as a halograchic film that takes place around you instead of in front of you.



    August 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

  41. the return of the king is my favourite film , i love lord of the rings and peter jackson


    August 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

  42. One of my favorite movies ever!


    August 23, 2011 at 2:08 pm

  43. Maybe it’s just that I’m not big into high fantasy, but the Lord of the Rings didn’t really do anything for me. I’m sorry to say I found it a bit bland, well-executed, but bland.

    My Camera, My Friend

    August 23, 2011 at 2:18 pm

  44. I’ve visited a number of the LOTR locations in NZ… most memorable ones being Rivendale by helicopter and the shire by cheesy kiwi-sh guided tour. I need to find time to watch my beloved Frodo movies again soon. Thanks for the reminder! :)

    Heather C.J. Atkins

    August 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

  45. “You shall not pass!” = amazing, but for me, the real moments were in Two Towers, which I, as a casual Tolkien fan but a dedicated lover of narrative, have always felt to be the strongest film of the trilogy. All three movies are great, but TT is, for me, the greatest. I’ve read similar commentary across the board, for what that’s worth.

    Christopher Cocca

    August 23, 2011 at 2:52 pm

  46. love lord of the rings. good sh*t. thanks for sharing!

    Eva McCane

    August 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm

  47. Is it yet ten years since ‘LOTR Fellowship” was released? Seems just like yesterday. Me and my cousins always looked forward for any LOTR sequels. My movie buds tell me to get a collection of the whole trilogy for old times sake. and my cousins always looked forward for any LOTR sequels. My movie buds tell me to get a collection of the whole trilogy for old times sake.

  48. I’ve watched it again few days ago, I had no idea so much time has passed till it was first made. But it still makes the same impact which only shows how much value it has.

    Karmen D.

    August 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

  49. Wow, LOTR – my fave of all time. It’s amazing you got to watch the show with a full orchestra and choir! I’d love to be part of something like this! How did it work – the show was running without the soundtrack and the orchestra was playing the score live?

    Nise en Scène

    August 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm

  50. Ten years… and they’re still some of the best movies ever made. Really, truly, epic. I loved the books since I picked them up in middle school. The Hobbit was my first introduction to fantasy, and what led me to become a fantasy writer myself. I’ve always viewed the movies separate from the books though, because truly I think they’re masterfully done, even if they don’t follow the original storyline to meticulous perfection. :)

    It must have been amazing to watch it with a full orchestra and choir!

    Elli Writes

    August 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm

  51. I hope some day they will make movies like these again!
    What do you think of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe series so far?
    Congrats on being FP!


    August 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  52. where there may be too much “slapstick in the shire,” i still want to go there. this will always be a favorite movie. and book. thanks for sharing. watching the movie in chicago with a symphony sounds wonderful!

    Krysta Marie [Purple Pond]

    August 23, 2011 at 4:01 pm

  53. I cannot believe it has been ten years. I was 14 when my journey into Arda began, and it was because of the films that my love was solidified. I loved the books, but have never been an accomplished reader. The film definately gave me the inspiration to carry on with my reading. Wow, I think I’m gonna go check them out again, even though I can quote them word for word. Cannot wait for The Hobbit.

    Emma Hays

    August 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm

  54. While I am guilty of never reading the books (it’s been hovering somewhere in the middle of my to-do list for ages, now), I am an avid fan of the movies. I just curled up and watched The Fellowship of the Ring the other night and was thinking the same thing to myself: this movie still DOES look fantastic, and it’s hard to believe it came out a full 10 years ago. Even though, in the grand scheme, 10 years isn’t much, it’s incredible to see Jackson create a film that doesn’t seem outdated or straight-up old. You’re absolutely right… something about this movie speaks to everyone.

    Jessica McLavey

    August 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  55. Seeing The Fellowship the way you did sounds like an amazing experience. The closest I came to that was seeing the first Spider-Man film on the front lawn of my college, but the crows was basically there just to drink and be noisy. Not the best movie night ever.
    I would imagine that having an actual orchestra conducting the music live would be fabulous, but I can’t help but think it could be a bit noisy during dialogue scenes. How was the volume?


    August 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

  56. Wow, that is brilliant. I wish I could have seen it like that, it seems like it would feel slightly more interactive.


    August 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm

  57. Not quite sure what you mean when you say “Peter Jackson never quite figured out the right tone for his material until The Return of the King”. Were they not all filmed together?


    August 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm

  58. What an awesome experience! I’ve been thinking of getting the set in DVD, which, of course, will never compare to your special viewing, but now I am inspired. I loved Viggo Mortensen as Aragon, and Galadriel, Gandalf and his magical horse, Shadowfax, are favorite characters of mine.

    Mara Rose

    August 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm

  59. Actually, my favorite was the two towers, though I think it’s more of a nostalgia thing; watching the extras on the DVD changed the way I looked at movies and actors.


    August 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm

  60. Ten or fifty years later this movie and the whole trilogy will remain as “The” turning point in my emotional relationship with fantasy and action movies. A tolkien fan from ten years ago and forever, your post made me feel again, thanks!

    Eduardo Mendoza

    August 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

  61. I love LoTR.
    I hope Peter Jackson consider to making the prequel, times before the ring was taken by hobbit.


    August 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  62. I love Lord of the ring !!


    August 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  63. I simply cannot believe that it has been ten years since Fellowship came out. Whenever I pop in the dvd the same excitement washes over me as that first time I heard about Peter Jackson “doing that Lord of the Rings thing”. Yes, special effects have improved (thank heavens–cave troll, anyone?) but a lot of that would be impossible without LOTR having bombastically come first. I, for one, am interested to see how The Hobbit will fare both commercially, and as a stand-alone with ties to a well-loved epic.


    August 23, 2011 at 7:05 pm

  64. It sounds like it was an event I wish I could have gotten to. As far as the movies go, Tolkien himself made the Shire more than a bit slapstick, so I don’t hold Jackson’s treatment of it against him. If I had a single bone to pick, it would be how he turned Faramir from a man who could see the danger posed by bringing the Ring to Gondor into a man who lusted after the ring almost until it was too late. The strongest scene? When Theodin falls before the walls of Gondor, and Eowyn stand to defend her uncle from the Nazgul and his mount. One of my favorite scenes from the original book, and Jackson carried it off almost flawlessly.
    Now, when will “The Hobbit” be hitting the theaters…..?


    August 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm

  65. That last paragraph is one of the best written and most thoughtful summaries regarding the importance of movies that I’ve read in a long time. Well said.

    Matthew D. Ruiz, Ph.D.

    August 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

  66. Can I give a shout out to the Two Towers please? The ambush of the Riders of Rohan by the Wargs is for me the scariest and most immediate battle scene… and it interrupts a smouldering illicit love interest between Aragorn and the King’s daughter. They also brought Treebeard to life far better than the book ever did.


    August 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

  67. Excellent post. Last month, my friends decided to have a Lord of the Rings marathon. Watching the movies 10 years later made me realize how much things in my life have changed since Fellowship first came out. I didn’t read the books until after I saw the Fellowship, but seeing this beautiful fantastical world got me hooked on Tolkien. It helped me embrace my inner geek (I started “studying” Sindarin and was not ashamed to say I was doing so), and it inspired me to always seek light when the days are dark. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years, and yet when you look at what’s in theaters now, it does seem so far away. There’s still hope, I think. Maybe not in the big films, but in the little ones where the cast, crew, and director are as dedicated as the ones in LOTR.


    August 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm

  68. I just wanted to thank everyone for the great comments and good wishes. I’ve been traveling all day, which is why I haven’t had time to respond yet, but I’ll do my best to reply to some of your thoughts tonight and tomorrow. Thanks so much for visiting, and keep the insights coming!


    August 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm

  69. I’ve seen the LOTR movies a few times, and now I’m finally reading the books for the first time! we’ll see how they compare.


    August 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

  70. This was a phenomenal movie that defined a decade. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.


    August 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  71. @Nise en Scène and @Kurt:

    At the concert I saw, they screened a print of the movie minus the orchestral soundtrack, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the score simultaneously with a full choir (as well as a pair of soloists for the Enya song at the end). The music occasionally, and intentionally, overwhelmed the dialogue, which was presented with subtitles. Personally, although the orchestra was amazing, I was so caught up in the movie that I frequently forgot that the music was live.


    August 23, 2011 at 8:57 pm

  72. @Harold:

    I’ve only seen the first of the Narnia movies, and while I enjoyed it, I think LOTR is much stronger. (Although I actually prefer C.S. Lewis to Tolkien as far as their books are concerned.)


    August 23, 2011 at 8:59 pm

  73. @walkingthepattern:

    It’s true that all three movies were filmed together, but Jackson also had an extra couple of years to edit Return of the King, not to mention additional reshoots, and I think the tone of the last movie benefits enormously from the extra time. (I imagine that the tone of a lot of movies is found in the editing room.)


    August 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm

  74. I didn’t like any of the stories but could appreciate the effort. I love the genre but then even the last few Harry Potters were boring me rigid.


    August 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

  75. As a Tolkien fan, I would love to see the movie with an orchestra accompaniment. We just let our daughters watch the first two movies and they finally understand while we call them Hobbits (for the number of times they inquire about food). Very good observations of the movie…I would only add that it bothered me the way Jackson padded the character of Arwen, but I know that was to give Liv Tyler more screen time.


    August 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

  76. Tolkien’s magic never fails to evoke strong responses when read or when seen on Peter Jackson’s miraculous conversion of text to film. I cannot help it – I know what is coming after so many times or reading or viewing, yet I still weep at the end – it’s almost involuntary. The ‘eucatastrophe’ or the work is incredible. A Tolkien devotee for many years, I even wrote my Honours Thesis on his works.
    I believe that all 3 movies work well, for the theme that each carries, besides the overiding theme of Hope when all is dark. Knowing the books inside out as I do – and there are many who do and who agree with me – and with so much detailed material to try to include, Jackson did a remarkable job making the movies not only satisfy the die-hard Tolkien fans, but also create a continuity of narrative that would make sense to those who had never read Tolkien’s novels.
    I too can barely wait for The Hobbit movies to come out.

  77. The Fellowship of the Ring in Chicago with a live soundtrack: how incredible! It has been a long time since I’ve indulged in the Lord of the Rings films (or books, for that matter) and you just reminded me of my love, respect and awe of them. Thank you! I’ll be watching the extended versions when I go home for Christmas. Excellent discussion and a well-deserved Freshly Pressed post.



    August 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm

  78. I know the person you are speaking to the very popular movie “Lord of the Rings” films is a very interesting and compelling that I’ve seen, I like it.


    August 23, 2011 at 10:11 pm

  79. There’s something special about these fantasy epics that stay timeless and relevant (yes, relevant!) to each of us as human beings, no matter our age or when we first/last watched it. There’s magic in it, I tell you! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.


    August 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm

  80. We visited New Zealand in April and saw several locations where LOTR was filmed. We were told that LOTR fans like us from all over the world have been coming to NZ for the last ten years but even more so this year because of the two Hobbitt films being shot. We then traveled to Australia in May and discovered too late that the FOTR was being shown at the Sydney Opera House with a live orchestra — on the day we had to fly back home! So I can only imagine your experience in Chicago. Enjoyed reading your posting.


    August 24, 2011 at 12:53 am

  81. I was in high school when the first film came out. I couldn’t believe that my favorite book series at the time was being filmed. It was simply incredible. I loved all the little touches to it. What I loved about the first film were all the pastoral touches in the first act. They nailed the Shire in a way that I will not imagine it in my own way ever again.


    August 24, 2011 at 1:09 am

  82. after reading this, i suddenly miss LOTR! Legolas Greenleaf was my favorite!! c:

    Travelling Writer

    August 24, 2011 at 2:07 am

  83. this is a very well-made article.. :)


    August 24, 2011 at 4:23 am

  84. LOTR is a movie I like the background characters, a movie to make people have to wait and remember, LOTR was a success, that’s great.


    August 24, 2011 at 5:11 am

  85. Chanced upon this post oddly enough after only last night finished watching the trilogy for the very first time! Loved it!
    Nice read too

    Robert Welsh

    August 24, 2011 at 5:42 am

  86. Great write-up. Hard to believe it’s been a full decade….

    Dan Bain

    August 24, 2011 at 6:01 am

  87. Ten years ago, it made Tolkien’s works hit the bookstore charts (and still today) as well as putting New Zealand on the world map. Ten years on, my love for Lord of the Rings still live on as well as the mania around the world.


    August 24, 2011 at 6:12 am

  88. @Wakes “…and watching it on mute…”

    Why on earth were you watching a movie on mute?!

    Learner Golfer

    August 24, 2011 at 6:24 am

  89. Love LOTR! One of the best movie series of all time! :d


    August 24, 2011 at 6:26 am

  90. LOTR brings back some solid memories of the time I was pregnant with my first child. I clung to the belief system in these movies, that the burden that one carries, while seemingly so big can be borne by the littlest of people.
    I had postnatal depression after the birth of my son. I often found myself remembering the huge burden that Frodo carried – the fate of his world, the world of men and elves and all in that land – all resting on his small shoulders.
    Some of that message helped me get through my own ‘burden’. LOTR has a special place in my heart, intertwined with my precious son. These movies will be timeless, their message ready for each new generation coming through. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to see it, so I can sit with him and remember, not the times of the awful blackness of depression, but the moments of sheer joy that he’s bought since coming into this world. <3


    August 24, 2011 at 6:44 am

  91. nice movie

    Web Development Ahmedabad

    August 24, 2011 at 6:51 am

  92. I do agree…this movie has shaped a generation. I am only in my early teens but, I have watched the movie several times (I have the extended edition of all three) But I do have to say in my opinion Two Towers was the best. The Return of the King was super long, but the story line was still strong. It was nice to see all the characters you learned to love have a happy ending.


    August 24, 2011 at 7:19 am

  93. You made me think of 2 things: 1. John Eldredge “Wild at Heart” and the premise that we are all part of a grander story. We are unable to see all of the story because it is bigger than our lives. The part that we can see resembles “The Fellowship of the Ring”, maybe that’s why it’s your favorite. 2. I just realized when you said that the audience cheered, that that is what is missing from our society. When we watched movies together we found commonality regarding ideas. We knew when we had like-minded fellows because they cheered or booed at things that evoked similar responses in us. I think I’ll go watch a movie. (I haven’t since TLOTR was out!) Thank you!

    Carmon Thomas

    August 24, 2011 at 7:56 am

  94. Interesting post. I was a high school senior when the first movie came out and was in awe of it. I had never seen anything quite like it before. In recent years I have begun to read Tolkien’s works and can see how some of the movie’s ‘adjustments’ leave odd gaps and suck the depth from some of the most fun and fascinating characters. That being said, there is still something monumental about Jackson’s interpretations that seem to stand the test of time and the movies, even with their various flaws, are full of a careful attention to detail, a type of jollity, and a respect for the complex story, characters, and fans that adaptions of other works (particularly the recent Chronicles of Narnia movies) seem to sadly and sorely lack.


    August 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

  95. I like movies


    August 24, 2011 at 9:26 am

  96. Oddly enough, This was the part of Tolkein’s work that I’ve always enjoyed most. I think that’s because it seems more innocent, simpler, in contrast to the other parts of the book and the movie series. The hobbits don’t yet understand the full power of the ring, and they haven’t been touched by tragedy, particularly in the earlier stages.

    As they progress on their journey and reach their triumphant end, of course there is a cost, in many ways: in loss of lives, in betrayal, in seeing the passage of old days and ways of life. There’s a tinge of sadness that colors even the triumphant return of the king. I suppose it’s no different from real life…we lose people and illusions throughout life, even if we’re fortunate enough to have mostly successful lives.

    Thanks for your post! I would love to see this with an orchestra!
    And congrats on acquiring a mortgage!



    August 24, 2011 at 9:28 am

  97. This is my favorite movie! Great post!


    August 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

  98. My sisters and I spent entire winters snowboarding *just* like Legolas. Thanks for the memories!

    Jen Letts

    August 24, 2011 at 9:39 am

  99. I said it upon exiting the theater after having seen the last of the LOTR trilogy, and I’ll say it again:

    What Wagner’s Ring Cycle was to music and opera in the 19th Century, the LOTR/Jackson films are to the 20th Century…. and it’s only now, after ten years post 9/11, that we are beginning to understand how prescient Tolkien was, and now amazing the score to the only ‘unsung’ opera I’ve ever witnessed is, in being the ‘voice’ to that Vision.

    “For the Shire, and the West!”

    Fr. John+

    August 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

  100. I agree the 1st movie had the best story & for me was the most fufilling cinematically. I sometimes struggle to re-watch the last two but if the 1st movie is on TV I always end up watching it!


    August 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

  101. Wow.. it’s been 10 years already??!! LotR Trilogy is at the top of my favorite list.. among the best movies I’ve ever seen (so far.. but I guess, it will still be ^_^). I also remember watching it for the first time, the time when Betamax was still “in” here in our country (haha). I was a high school freshman then. Those were the times. I still enjoy watching it over and over :D


    August 24, 2011 at 11:00 am

  102. Great perspective…LOVE the trilogy also…thanks for writing

    Steven Crutchfield

    August 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

  103. I can’t believe it’s been ten years since The Fellowship of The Ring. I was nine when it came out, and now I’m a sophomore in college. I’ve seen the movies more times than I can count, and I love all three so much because they are so timeless. In another ten years I will (possibly) be sitting down with my kids to watch this, just like my mom did with me.

    I wish Hollywood would make more epic films like this. Movies- or trilogy in this case- that you take the whole day off to watch. Order pizza, forget getting dressed, just sit down and drift off to another world on an adventure. I can’t remember the last movie that took me away the same way that Lord of The Rings did.


    August 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

  104. Fantastic writing and thought process. Looking forward to continuing reading this blog.
    I’m off to watch the Fellowship =D


    August 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm

  105. Yeah, the third movie is definitely my favorite out of them, but they are quite a lot of fun to watch. And it sounds like checking out the movies with the Orchestra in the background and all of the huge fans was so much fun too.


    August 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

  106. I can watch the Lord of the Rings movies over and over again, and so can my daughter! They’re great movies for any age!


    August 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm

  107. I remember it well. I felt it was the best movie of 2001. Good to see it still generates buzz to this day.

    Jon The Blogcentric

    August 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm

  108. Glad to see that I’m not the only kid on the block who liked TTT the best of the three.


    August 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm

  109. Forgot to say that the arrival of the elf army and Gollum’s debate with himself were high points of TTT.


    August 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm

  110. I remember when that first came out, all the hype over it. It’s always nice to find out that even after the freshness of a movie has died down, people are still getting excited about it.
    As for the orchestra, that is just amazing.


    August 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

  111. Out of all the films I have seen the LotR trilogy is one that will stand out the most. The Fellowship, in particular, was extraordinary. Aside from cinematography and graphics…Jackson, in my opinion, does a phenomenal job capturing the characters and you, as the audience, can’t help but connect with them. And then, in Return of the King, when it all ends you can’t help but feel completely emotional. Truly brilliant work. And I so look forward to The Hobbit….one of my most favorite books of all time.


    August 24, 2011 at 3:28 pm

  112. I remember thinking, as I stood in line for The Fellowship of the Ring, that I had been waiting alomost a quarter century (since first reading the novel) to see a big screen adaptation. I used to read the book once a year. I find it ironic that I haven’t read it since 2001 and I’ve no interest in doing so.

    Dan McCormick

    August 24, 2011 at 3:48 pm

  113. LOTR is one of the great masterpieces of cinema ever made and its powerful message is eternal. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a Catholic and the trilogy is a great expression of Christian values and tradition.

    For example, the ring that everyone lusts after is a ring of power. St. Augustine calls this “Libido Dominandi,” or the lust to dominate, seen in the Original Sin. The ring is a great metaphor for sin, at the center of which is nothing. So, innocent and child-like Frodo journeys to Mount Doom like a lamb to the slaughter, going in to the very heart of evil in Mordor to destroy the ring.

    B2B Social Networking

    August 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm

  114. This summer my friends and I watched all the extended editon of all three Lord of the Rings…I had never seen them before and I absolutely loved them!


    August 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm

  115. The LOTR movie series is one of my favorite!


    August 24, 2011 at 5:23 pm

  116. Nice! I love that film


    August 24, 2011 at 5:42 pm

  117. Seeing this post Freshly Pressed made my day. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy and watch the extended editions every month. ROTK is my favourite, though, but I get and agree with the points you raised regarding FOTR. ^_^

    Optimus the Ninja

    August 24, 2011 at 5:53 pm

  118. i stumbled on your article here perusing recently updated blogs on the wp homepage. i was at the concert at ravinia too! (i went to the friday show). i just finished reading the book yesterday and i was on the el train screwing my face up trying not to cry at the last page. it’s a journey every time. i have a facebook group for chicago area tolkien fans at would love to have you contribute your thoughts on our page!

    Susie Jendro

    August 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

  119. I remember standing in line for each of the LotR-films in order to get a ticket for the first showing – not so surprising that I haven’t forgotten, since I’m not senile (yet), and because it was bloody freezing (Swedish winters, what can you say?). Haven’t done that for any movie since. Sure, I’ve anticipated other films – a great deal too – but not in the same way. I’d definitely do it again, had Guillermo (for example) gotten to direct At the Mountains of Madness. Oh well.

    Have to say I think Fellowship is the strongest of the three, though, followed by The Two Towers and then The Return of the King at the bottom. Mind you, it’s a bottom way above the average flick, but each time I re-watch the trilogy, part III sinks a little further down compared to the other two, just as Two Towers do against Fellowship.


    August 24, 2011 at 6:44 pm

  120. My great grandfather knew Tolkien well so I always feel a surge of pride when I see any of the films. I often walk around Moseley Bog and The Lickey Hills which he drew inspiration from. As children we used to pretend we were in the shire when playing there, happy memories!


    August 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm

  121. @Susie: It’s nice to meet a fellow Midwesterner! And I like your Facebook page. I’ll be sure to drop by again…


    August 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

  122. I am a die hard fan of LOTR.. I have read the books atleast 15 times each! :D
    great post!


    August 24, 2011 at 7:44 pm

  123. “Watching the film again with an audience, for the first time in almost a decade, reminded me of how movies serve as markers in our own lives. When I first saw Fellowship of the Ring, I was a college senior; now I’m married and about to get my first mortgage.” I thought the same thing when I saw the title of your post. I watched it for the first time with my then girlfriend and her family. Now I am married to that girl with a young child of our own.


    August 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm

  124. Loved the movie don’t get me wrong, but some of Jacksons re-characterizations really ticked me off. Writing Arwen into the story was an acceptable evil considering moden moviemaking I guess, but the needless changing of characters personalities ticked me off. Denethor and Theoden were bad enough and the whole “trick the Ents into the war” bit was an eyeroller, but I think that Faramirs “rebranding” was particularly loathsome.


    August 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm

  125. I can’t believe it’s been ten years. I’m so excited for the Hobbit films!


    August 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

  126. I saw the fist episode when I was in university, and now i have been worked for 4 years.
    Like the all of the Rings.


    August 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm

  127. My introduction to J R R Tolkien was via BBC Radio’s dramatisation of ‘The Hobbit’ in 1968. I was ten-going-eleven and was transfixed. I bought and read the book, and then read the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Having done that I read everything I could get my hands on by Tolkien – ‘Farmer Giles of Hamm’, ‘Tree and Leaf’, anything! Then in 1981 came another masterpiece by BBC Radio – their dramatisation of ‘Lord of the Rings’ with a cast of famous names from British drama. Interestingly Frodo was played by Ian Holm who of course went on to play Bilbo in the later films.

    This brings me on to what I guess is the point I want to make – considering the word ‘old-fashioned’. I wonder if our definition of old-fashioned is too easily governed by the technology used? Certainly a movie with Harryhausen animation looks clunky when compared with CGI, but much more than technical innovation makes up the merit of a movie. Rather than contrast the ‘old-fashioned’ with the ‘new-fangled’, I feel we should, as with any art form, ask ourself “What stays fresh?”

    I believe Lord of the Rings will outlast Harry Potter, if only for the acting. In HP again there is a fine array of British acting talent, but by and large they ham it up. The average HP film has more ham than a bacon factory! You can single out Rupert Grint – he’s the kid with the real charisma, even if his lines seem to consist of nothing more than saying “Bloody Hell!” very loudly every five minutes. You can single out Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) who acts the rest of the cast right off the screen, but his character is relatively minor. Contrast it with ‘Rings’. Elijah Wood is central and perfect. He is fragile. Och let’s face it, he’s bloody well FRODO, end of conversation. I know what you mean about Orlando Bloom’s relentlessly intense Legolas, but that’s all part of the pseudo-Nordic-Medievalist chic of the movie. We move past Sam Gamgee’s natural accent (American) which occasionally intrudes, we move past Boromir’s accent (pure and relentless Sheffield), we move past Pippin’s accent (pure and relentless Glasgow), we move past nudging each other when Merry comes on the screen and saying ‘Look, it’s the lad out of ‘Hetty Wainthrop'”, we move past wishing that Aragron would wash his hair… we move past all that and become totally engrossed. That’s the shelf-life of the movie. That’s the relevant thing, not its place in the ‘old-fahsioned to new-fangled’ vector, its freshness.

    Who could argue that ‘The Big Country’ is not fresh all these years after it was made? Who could argue that ‘The Maltese Falcon’ is not fresh? It is totally identifiable to its period, and its monochrome and its claustrophobic sets are the lowest of low-tech, but it is a work of genius and my favourite movie of all time. Who could say ‘The Third Man’ isn’t fresh? The imagination behind the simplest piece of camerawork is breathtaking – contrast that with the unimaginative reliance on CGI in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels. The final shot of ‘The Third Man’ – Anna walking towards the camera with the music of Anton Karas playing, Holly’s final cigarette as he leans back – is a masterpiece of direction.

    It is freshness which makes us want to listen to Mozart as much as to Dave Grohl, makes us want to read Jane Austen as much as a modern Booker winner.

    Sorry for the ramble, and greetings from Scotland.

    Marie Marshall


    August 25, 2011 at 2:57 am

  128. best trillogy ever

    canvas printing

    August 25, 2011 at 3:35 am

  129. Has it really been 10 years?


    August 25, 2011 at 4:53 am

  130. I was there, too!

    Allison O'Mara

    August 25, 2011 at 7:14 am

  131. @Dayle: Thanks for sharing. That’s a very touching story, and I’m glad you can look back on those times with a happier heart.

    @Marie: Nicely put. The last shot of The Third Man is one of my favorites as well!


    August 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

  132. Excellent review overall, but I still say the second movie was my favorite – maybe it’s because I liked that book so much and could never get over it. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    J Riley Johnson

    August 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

  133. The heart of the film is a good story well told. Special effects can only go so far, and it always comes back to the audience having an interest in what happens to the characters. This true for movies, TV shows and books. I recently saw a movie with terrific special effects, and I could have walked out part way through without caring what happened. People often lament the scattered and short attention spans of our connected society leading to an uninterest in a long involved story. However, something like Harry Potter comes along, proving we still crave to be drawn into a story. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy. Thanks for reminding me of them.

    The Artful Scribbler

    August 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm

  134. Great post. I love these films, honestly don’t know how many times I have seen them, probably too many. I remember reading the books and being gripped from start to finish.


    August 26, 2011 at 5:32 am

  135. I remember watching these movies in my family’s home theatre. It was such an incredible experience. We no longer have the theatre, but my little brother (who wasn’t alive when the movies came out) is OBSESSED with all three movies. He’ll only watch certain segments of each one (chiefly the battle scene onward in The Return of the King). It’s still great to just sit down and watch these wonderfully crafted pieces of cinematography.


    August 26, 2011 at 10:29 am

  136. Now that the flow of traffic has slackened, I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to drop by, and apologize that I didn’t have a chance to reply to your comments individually. Thanks so much for your insight and kind words, and I hope to see some of you again!


    August 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm

  137. It’s been ten years?!?!


    August 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm

  138. Well, nine years, eight months, and sixteen days. But who’s counting?


    August 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

  139. The pleasure was all ours, nevalee. :)


    August 27, 2011 at 12:17 am

  140. Great piece. I had the pleasure of introducing this series to my then-girlfriend (now wife :-)) a couple of years ago. We watched the entire trilogy on the Special Edition boxed sets – which was my first time really watching those special edition versions. actually posted an article about how the LotR trilogy is often forgotten when film critics review the best films from 2000-2010:


    August 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

  141. Thanks for the link! My best guess about the trilogy’s neglect in these lists is that it seems less like a product of its own era than a throwback to a classic style of moviemaking, so it’s more likely to be named one of the best films of all time—as in the recent AFI 100 list—than best of the decade, if that makes any sense. (I also think that if the first movie had been released in 2007 instead of 2001, it would have been fresher in critics’ minds.)


    August 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm

  142. my one of the favourite movie…!


    August 29, 2011 at 10:31 am

  143. Alec: I came to “sit awhile” and read your well-written post on the Lord of the Rings (I’m a musician and a humorous storyteller), but I was so impressed with your blog site, I subscribed to your news feed so that I could get updates on the publication of your first book (not counting the one from your childhood that only has one copy left :>). Judging from your blog, you’re a fabulous writer, and I want to make sure that I am one of the first to support your first book. The premise sounds intriguing and fresh. Congratulations on getting published. May the Hemmingway spirit (the prosperous years) be your portion in the years to come.


    September 3, 2011 at 11:09 am

  144. @etomczyk: Thanks so much! Glad you liked the site—you’ve got a nice little blog going there yourself. Looking forward to seeing more of you!


    September 3, 2011 at 11:56 am

  145. I loved seeing the Shire on the big screen, and can’t wait to go to New Zealand one day. Prob going to be an anniversary trip, since we’re planning a LOTR wedding. And, of course, can’t wait to see the Hobbit films! ^.^


    September 3, 2011 at 1:54 pm

  146. @Allison: I’m looking forward to The Hobbit, too—even faithfully watching Peter Jackson’s online production diaries. I guess I’m just a fanboy after all…


    September 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm

  147. Your website is really cool!

    Promote your website here:


    September 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

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