December 30, 2012

Queer Review: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Based upon the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Harry Sinclair, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving

Note: It's been a long time since I've seen the theatrical cuts of any of The Lord of the Rings films. Therefore, this review technically only applies to the Extended Edition.

Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring represented the first live action motion picture of Tolkien's fantasy epic to be brought to the big screen. It was a rousing success that has not been equaled or surpassed since.

When lost ring of Sauron, created for the purpose of dominating Middle Earth, comes into the possession of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), the young hobbit must flee for his life. At the start of his journey he his accompanied by three other hobbits, his gardener Samwise (Sean Astin) and the inseparable mischief makers Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). As the danger grows, they are joined by others. When it is decided during the council of Elrond (Hugo Weaving) that the one ring must be destroyed, the Fellowship of the Ring is formed. Comprised of Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Boromir (Sean Bean) and the four hobbits, the fellowship sets off to brave the dangers of Morodor. Meanwhile, the treacherus Sarumon (Chris Lee) plots with Sauron as they prepare for an all out war to reclaim the one ring.

The Queering
Given that this film is over ten years old and how nearly every critic out there has already praised Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and how this widely regarded one of the greatest cinematic accomplishments ever and how, along with the success of the Harry Potter films, they caused the fantasy genre to suddenly be uber-respected, yada, yada, yada, I'm just going to skip the part where I sound like a frothing at the mouth fanboy and jump right into talking about the subtexts.

To start one must wonder what exactly Tolkien thought of traditional marriage given that his ultimate symbol of evil is a gold ring that rules over and binds all of the other rings together. Of course, with the ring, that's not the only subtext possible. As I already mentioned in my review of The Hobbit: A Not So Unexpected Gambit to Force Tolkien Fans to Buy More Tickets By Overstretching the Material Into Three Films Sauron's One Ring can be compared to the development of nuclear power during World War II or to the Ring of Gyges which is discussed in Plato's Republic.

As I also mentioned in the prior review, the dwarves can be seen as representing the Jewish population, which gave me a new perspective on the Mines of Moria scenes. For it was in the mines of Moria where Gimli discovers that an entire host of his kin was destroyed by a Balrog, one of the darkest and oldest evils in Middle Earth.

Of course, I can't forget the treasure trove of queer subtexts dangling all over the place now could I? With a couple of exceptions, this is pretty much a boys only endeavor. There are relatively few female characters of note that Tolkien created in the books. The role of Arwen was beefed up for the films in order to provide a little girl power and amp up the romance between her and Aragorn. Speaking of straight romances, the only two male characters who ever express any interest in females are Aragorn and Samwise.

Now there isn't really enough room for me to document all of the male bonding that takes place, all I can really do is document the highlights. There's the relationship between Frodo and Sam (which has been discussed in depth elsewhere). In Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring we see Sam, in spite of the fact that hobbits supposedly hate boats and water, willing to risk death and drowning rather than face separation from Frodo.

Then there is the relationship between Merry and Pippin, the unseperable comic relief duo. Frenemies Gimli and Legolas haven't gotten past their differences by the end of Fellowship, but will be best buds by the end of The Two Towers. However, the other frenemie couple Aragorn and Boromir do get a touching scene at the end of this film, during which they hold hands and swear undying allegiance to each other.

There are several scenes where other characters ask Frodo to give them the one ring or where Frodo offers it up to them (Galadriel, Aragorn, Boromir, Gandalf) and I couldn't help but think "Gee, don't these sound a lot like marriage proposals? Shouldn't he be down on one knee?" Of course, given the apparent ratio of males to females in Middle Earth, Frodo is offering the ring up most of the time to a male character (Galadriel represents a brief bi-curious phase I guess).

One may not simply walk into Mordor, but it certainly would be worth braving that desolate land to see this film.

The Rating
**** out of ****


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