Teasers of the Ring

Maybe JFK really did almost get us into a nuclear war with Russia over some bay filled with pigs in Cuba, but who cares? Today New Line cinema released the first theatrical trailer for Fellowship of the Rings in front of its new Costner vehicle, Thirteen Days. If you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re opposed to spoilers, please stop reading this article. If you continue to read this article, discover that you’ve read spoilers, and then spend even 10 seconds writing us a note complaining about the inclusion of spoilers, we will send someone to your house to give you the beating your parents always wanted to give you.

Earlier in the week, we ran a checklist of potential problems with the movie. It was the 10 easy steps to turning what could be a great movie into a terrible one. We suggested folks see how many of the 10 things the trailer indicated Peter Jackson would try. We are pleased to report that Jackson got a very low score, as the trailer seem to indicate that Jackson committed none of our 10 sins against Tolkiendom. Instead, the preview teases, in its under-two minute presentation, that these movies will take their subject matter very seriously.

The clip opens with a not very compelling graphic of a gold ring, with the words “One ring to rule them all” in the Black Tongue being etched into it. There’s a deeply ominous voiceover in the background translating for the idiots in the audience who can’t read the dark tongue of Mordor. Eventually we get a hand snatching the ring out of mid air, then a shot of the ring in the palm of that hand (assumedly Frodo or Bilbo’s) and then a fast-cut montage. We get a sea of Orcs marching in Mordor, Gandalf with dirt on his face, Arwen (with no dialogue!) lying on some kind of elven couch in the woods while being showered with flower petals, Aragorn hurling his torch (the shot from the Internet preview) and a couple of other superquick shots of characters from the movie.

The montage shots definitely reveal attention to the details of Tolkien. The shot with Liv Tyler as Arwen, for instance, is luminous, and everything is clean and beautiful. The shot of Ian McKellan as Gandalf shows him traveling, apparently, as he is quite dingy. Unlike cheapy fantasy films, where everything is painted with the same brush, here it looks like Jackson has made every effort to capture the sometimes mythically beautiful, often grim and dark look of Tolkien’s world.

After the montage, we get Cate Blanchett as Galadriel leaning forward and talking to Frodo — the only line of dialogue in the trailer. “Even the smallest of us can make a difference,” which is certainly Galadriel’s sentiment in her conversation with Frodo by her mirror. We then see Elijah Wood as Frodo looking up at her. It is impossible to make any qualitative judgements about this scene, as it is so brief, other than to say that Cate Blanchett certainly doesn’t look massively altered by computer effects. Instead, she looks like Cate Blanchett. And while we find Cate Blanchett quite beautiful, it is important to note that in the books she is so compellingly, amazingly beautiful that Gimli starts laying heavy-duty encomiums at her feet. This is pretty much that lady who played Queen Elizabeth talking to a hobbit. Of course, how do you use CGI to make someone beautifuller? And how does the actor in question react?

After the interchange between Elf Queen and Hobbit, we get the standard cast list and then the money shot: a scene of the entire Fellowship hiking over a hill. First we see Gandalf hobbling along gamely, followed by a very elven-looking Legolas. Then what we thought was the piece de resistance, an armored, squat, cool looking Gimli. Next up is the hobbits. We took someone who’s never read the books to see the trailer in order to get the nongeek opinion — he thought the actors playing the hobbits were just really short. In other words, the effects job of shrinking these normal-sized men into child-sized hobbits is not noticeable and, therefore, excellent. Following the hobbits (and Bill the Pony) are Boromir and Aragorn, both of whom look excellently travelworn and dingy. And, even better, Boromir does look quite bulky and dangerous. In short, the fellowship looks great, and isn’t that all we really needed to know?

Then it all ends off with the tagline “You will find adventure or adventure will find you.” At first blush, this is a terribly cheesy tagline. However, it’s really the sentiment of Tolkien’s books — particularly his poetry. The very same road that leads to Bilbo’s peaceful front door leads all the way to the wars in the East. Either you walk on that road and greet the adventure (and danger), or it will find you. Out of context, though, it’s not a great tagline.

So, while the trailer was too short for our tastes, it did get our whistles (and other parts) thoroughly wet. Our no-Tolkien-readin’ companion, though, was not as excited. “Looks like a movie, all right,” he said. While he says he’ll see it, it was not as exciting an event for him as it was for big Tolkien geeks. But on the big Tolkien geek front, we’d have to give this trailer a Hit.