Report Card on Film One
Thumbs-up or thumbs-down is not a good way to review a film, unless its either so poor or so brilliant that no comments are necessary. Better to look at some of the various aspects and grade them, American-classroom style, A to D (with plusses or minuses), or F. (An "E" grade doesnt exist, though proverbially some will occasionally suggest an E for Effort, but that in the end means nothing.) A = superior; B= above average; C= average; D= below average; F=failure.
Howard Shores score seemed mostly fine, but didnt really have any high spots. Much better than another variation of John Williams. (Too much of his work sounds like a watered down version of his own Star Wars score, which I admit was brilliant). Enya. Well, it was Enya, and it sounded just like every other Enya song Ive ever heard. Pleasant and not irritating, but nothing more.
Visuals and Special Effects: B+
Some of the sets were like Alan Lee paintings come to life, which isnt always a good thing. The result was a somewhat washed out look, frequently too dark. Costuming was excellent. Props, excellent. Weta did for the most part a superb job. The brief glimpse of Gollum, however, was unconvincing. And while the Balrog was an interesting conception, its screen-presence was not up to the level of many of the other effects. The effect of the ring-world, a kind of wind-burn when Frodo puts on the Ring, was not entirely successfulor at the least, it was done too frequently.
Some of the casting was excellent: McKellen especially, as well as Viggo Mortenson and Sean Bean. Most other selections were pretty good, but Elrond was, for me, a complete failure, and Saruman, questionable. (Neither comment is meant to reflect poorly on the actor involved, but on their applicability for the part.)
Conception of Characters: C
Pippin and Merry were reduced to comic relief. Their roles were embarrassing. Saruman and Gandalfs battle scenes were silly. Gimli is completely one dimensional. The Ring speaking was corny, and the shrieking of the Nazgul was overdone. (Newt, Newt? How did you get to Middle-earth?). Arwen was mostly fine, but I didnt like the fact that the screenplay diminished Frodos own resolve in escaping the Black Riders, and made it necessary for Arwen to save him.
Execution of actors: B+
Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Galadriel were the best. No award-quality performances, but good solid work.
Mostly better than I had been expecting. The prologue was well done to set up the whole story, but some of the expository scenes later on werent up to the same standard. Still some real clunkers of dialogue remained: "No one tosses a dwarf." "Lets go hunt some orc." Some of the added material seemed completely unnecessary. For instance, why on earth add a second bridge scene in Moria? The screen-time could have been better utilized in Lorien or in Rivendell.
Camera work and editing: C-
Here, for me, was one of the bigger problems. At times I felt like I was watching a rough cut, before the film has shaped itself into a film. The pacing was erratic. The cave troll scene in Moria seemed to go on for ever. Some of the scenes were played excruciatingly slowly (the Mirror of Galadriel for one, and Sams near drowning), while others rushed by almost too quickly. Some transitions were simply missing (one moment the Company is under an avalanche, the next they are by a dark lake with no snow in sight). The editing of battle scenes was very choppy, with the clips too short for the viewer to gain perspective.
Faithfulness to Tolkien: D
The simple truth: it caught some of the spirit of the book, but too many details were needlessly changed.
Not the film of the year, or the film of the century. Not nearly as bad as I had feared, but not nearly as good as Id hoped.