The Fellowship of The Ring
Holy crap, just LOOK at this thing.
It's beautifully done.
I've never read these books, and most of my friends say that when you boil down the story, it's good and interesting, but Tolkien is so annoyingly wordy and pointlessly verbose at times that it's almost impossible to get through them. I'll also take their word for it that this film is much better than the book if for no other reason than it cuts out a character called "Tom Bombodill" or something. Whatever.
This film is a compelling story about a dastardly villain named Sauron what whipped up magic rings for lots of people, then made one bad-ass ring that can control them and kept it for himself, whippin' all sorts of elf, human and dwarf ass with his orcs and creepy-crawly bastardly things. Dude hacks off his hand somehow, gets the ring, gets all corrupted by it, gets killed because of it and the ring disappears. It's dug up later by somethin' named Gollum and he loses it to a little hobbit sucka named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). He leaves it to his nephew Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), who is then charged with destroying the little hunk of evil by charging into Sauron's home and chucking it into the fires of Mount Doom. Rather ominously named, that.
Luckily for him, he knows a ass-kickin' wizard named Gandalf, who hooks him up with some other badasses that are game to help the little goober and his goober friends do the job in order to save Middle Earth. I wonder if there's an Upper Earth... or perhaps a Left Earth. Anyway, off they go and grand adventure is had.
It's an incredibly beautiful and imaginatively designed film, and there's never a moment where there isn't something interesting to look at. Although there were so many characters with nonsensical fantasy names that it was hard to catch them all and keep track of them, it doesn't stop them from being interesting - so much so that you pay more attention because you WANT to know more. So I saw it twice to make it stick more clearly.
Ian McKellen is always fantabulous anyway, and he makes a perfect Gandalf, at times wise and Jedi-like and other times snappy and curt, perfectly exemplified by his encouraging speech to Frodo and then his last words before cutting out being "Run, you fools!" I love that kinda crap. Elijah Wood also makes a good Frodo, although that wide-eyed stare of his occasionally walks a fine line between brooding and vapid. Sean Astin plays the simply devoted Samwise Gamgee, which should always be said in its entirety - no nicknames allowed. Viggo Mortensen is appropriately earnest yet kickass, Orlando Bloom has a couple of smoothly efficient warrior moments as Legolas the archer that I really liked, and Boromir was bitchin' because he looks kinda like professional wrestler HHH, and I find that cool for some reason.
Boromir, as I understand it, was also a vast improvement from the book simply because he was made into a sympathetic character rather than the total asshole he was when Tolkien wrote him. I liked his whole arc in this film and I'm pissed he won't be back for the next one. I can only hope for Kenobi-ghost images.
The main point of contention I have with the film, and it's a weak point, admittedly, is that... well... at least "Star Wars" had a big, satisfying BANG at the end. YES, I know it's part of a trilogy. YES, I know George Lucas had no idea if he was going to be able to make the next two flicks, and thus needed to make his first one a stand-alone deal, and Peter Jackson had no such constraints for this film. But STILL, some sort of satisfying resolution would have made me feel a bit better. As it is, it's just a complete cliffhanger that I have to wait for next year to see continued. Gah. It wasn't designed to stand alone, but the fact that it doesn't seems a bit troublesome.
Other than that, though, pretty goddamn cool. It took its subject matter seriously, there was no cheeky "we know we're in a movie about elves 'n' shit" moments, and if Lucas doesn't get his act together, his status as golden idol of dorks everywhere is in serious jeopardy. Like the love between me and Greg Kihn.