Baby’s First Watch of The Extended Fellowship of the Ring (Since She Was a Baby)
With so many new Lord of the Rings projects coming out, my Fellowship lovin’ friends have been having a heyday. However, I guess they must have assumed I was more hip to this franchise than I actually am, because we had a moment a couple weeks ago:
Friend: Haha look at this Ralph Bakshi meme!
Me: Lol yeah, man I still need to see this movie.
Friend: You haven’t seen it? I thought this would totally be your wheelhouse.
Me: Bro I haven’t even seen the original films all the way through, unless you count the times I tried as a little kid. I always ended up falling asleep anyways.
So we decided to get together, nerdy boyfriends and all, and make a movie night of it. You know, to cleanse me of my sin of never seeing the original Lord of the Rings extended cut all the way through. We made a cheese board, opened some stouts, and got right down to business.
And you know what? She was right to be pissed. I really did miss out on a major cultural landmark for so many of my formative years, to the point where I’m wondering what kind of person I’d have been if I, too, could recite line-for-line every obscure director’s cut scene. This article isn’t a review of the movie as much as it is my pretentious, lazy ass admitting that yes, this trilogy is very fun, and I’m excited to watch the rest of it with my friends.
For now, let’s start with The Fellowship of the Ring.
When Baby was a Baby
As a child, I was very used to my family putting on the trilogy during the holidays. I’d try my damnedest to follow along, but ultimately, I had a hard time. The tonal shifts from scene to scene confused the shit out of me—one minute, Gandalf is smoking a fatty with his bro Bilbo, and the next he’s invoking the wrath of storms inside his bro’s own house. I couldn’t understand which characters were “good” and which were “bad.” You’re telling me we like Galadriel? But she yelled at Frodo! Why is she kissing his forehead now??? I’m gonna watch Barbie and the Nutcracker instead.
I also felt so uncomfortable watching Frodo do literally anything, because he always seemed frreeaaaaked OUT by everything going on. As a kid, I couldn’t understand that he was technically doing everything of his own volition. It felt like these Fellowship jerks were dragging around this blue-eyed baby against his will, and my god, he was having a bad time of it. He was constantly either getting stabbed or falling victim to the Bad Guy Voices in the Bad Guy Ring. It got to the point where I’d actually hate seeing Frodo on-screen; if I woke up and saw we were getting a Frodo-heavy scene, I’d dip immediately. No Hobbit torture porn for me, thanks.
Finally, there were the monsters. I’d grit my teeth and try my very hardest to be cool with all the orcs and shit. I savored every scene with a horse in it, even if they were Bad Horses. But I think I definitively called it quits the first time I saw the Cave Troll in Balin’s Tomb. That scene was so loud, nasty, and ballistic, I’m pretty sure I cried and hightailed it out of the room. What’s worse is my dad got an action figure of the troll as a gift, so for months, I was afraid to go into his office. He had to get an Ent doll to balance it out. I don’t know why I thought the Ents were any better; maybe because I was an Animal Planet kid and I liked trees? I have a vague memory of playing Barbies and giving my favorite doll an Ent boyfriend.
…What? I dunno, he was kinda cute. Shut up.
In any case, my negative baby opinion of The Lord of the Rings soured me of any fantasy content whatsoever for many, many years. I’d see elves and immediately want to gag. Blegh! Stupid! I’d clutch my Star Wars DVDs and act so superior. “Who cares?” I’d say, as though I wasn’t a massive dork with a lightsaber from Disney Land in my closet. It took until I played Dragon Age: Origins, a video game heavily influenced by Tolkien, in the 6th grade for me to realize that fantasy was actually cool as hell, and what do you know, so are elves.
For the rest of my teens, and into early adulthood, elves, magic, and fantasy in general were my bread and butter. I even wrote some essays about the intersections of race and fantasy in college! Somehow Tolkien became a point of fascination for me, while that childhood mental block kept me from actually watching the films again (or reading the books, for that matter). Most of my friends had some sort of emotional connection to his works, yet for me, the connection was an abstract thing.
Thankfully, it’s less abstract now.
Rewatch of a 25-Year-Old Baby
There’s so much I could say about this one film alone. The narrative structure was fast-paced, yet it worked; I don’t know that you could make a film like this these days, with such a long, ambling plot, designed in a way that keeps your interest regardless. I was utterly delighted scene by scene, both in how the story was told and in how the actors carried their characters.
In particular, I finally understood why Gandalf is so highly regarded amongst the wizard fan community. I know, I know, I wrote a whole article about Gandalf and his fantastic rack, so I’m outing myself as a poser here. But I do genuinely get it now: he’s such a fascinating character, pulled by so many motivations and executed in such a compelling way. I love the fact that he isn’t some generic “Wise Wizard.” Gandalf is a petty, mercurial bitch, and every scene where he picks on Pippin genuinely made me laugh. I know Ian McKellen didn’t love filming this role initially, but I gotta say, he did a fantastic job nonetheless.
What I also found delightful was how tender the relationships between the men are. There are a lot of touching, loving gazes, reassuring glances, and just so much love in the little gestures between each member of the Fellowship. Even Boromir, that cow, had some really sweet moments with Pippin and Merry in particular. And oh, god, Pippin and Merry, Sam and Frodo, the Hobbits in general. I’m excited to see some other relationships and characters explored in the next two films, particularly Legolas and Gimli.
And yes, I know, it probably seems silly that I’m talking about this two-decades-old franchise like it’s new and getting weekly releases, but for me this is genuinely new and exciting! I like that I get the hype now, and that I can finally share more with all of you that Tolkieny love. Feel free to share your own thoughts on this franchise in the comments, I’d love to hear your experiences with it too!
(Featured Image: New Line Cinema)
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