I avoided Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film series as a child because I saw it as competition to Harry Potter – which made complete sense to me back then. As I got older, this sense of competition left me, but I still never got around to seeing any of the films until my first year at college. With the first of these films, The Fellowship of the Ring, I was instantly swept into Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.
Perhaps the strongest part of this film is that it perfectly captures the scope of the mission at hand, through both the extravagance of the locations and the beauty of the film’s score, composed by Howard Shore. The cinematography is staggering and does a splendid job of presenting the world to us; the Fellowship travels a great distance in this film, a distance that Jackson manages to convey through the display of beautiful, vast landscapes. We travel the distance right alongside the Fellowship, and we feel the weight of Sauron’s evil along with Frodo.
In addition to all of this, the characters created are fun, lovable, and cast wonderfully. There are too many to list, but they were cast and played in a way that made me care about their fate. Three that stand out to me are Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee, and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn; though I can’t imagine any of the characters in the film as being played by other actors, these three in particular do a fantastic job of superbly embodying Tolkien’s original characters from the books. As far as creatures in the film go, the orcs are disgusting in both appearance and action, making them perfect to hate, and the looks of the elves, hobbits, and dwarves (as per Tolkien’s own spelling of the plural of “dwarf”) are very detailed in conveying specific traits found in each culture. In fact, that’s something that could also be said about this film, as well as the two that follow it: their specificity and attention to detail is astoundingly well-done.
Really, there’s not too much else to say. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring may not be a perfect film, but it’s a fantastic fantasy film and, for that matter, a fantastic film overall. It is one of the more perfect book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen, and it sets up the following two films wonderfully. There really isn’t anything negative for me to say. I can’t believe I held off watching this film for nearly 10 years!
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for epic battle sequences and some scary images
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*Note: I purchased and will be reviewing the Special Edition of Howard Shore’s score to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which features several extended and additional tracks. It is worth the extra money!
I’m a relatively new fan to Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth, but I’m familiar enough to know how fantastic Howard Shore’s scores to the original films are. As a result, I was quite excited to hear his score for the first of the three films based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit, called An Unexpected Journey, and I was right to be: Shore’s music holds just as much fantasy and adventure as it did all those years ago.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens with some familiar themes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The most prominent of these is the theme for the Shire/Bag End, heard in “My Dear Frodo,” “Old Friends,” and in a couple of other tracks throughout. Another is the theme that I associate with the One Ring, which doesn’t make an appearance until “Riddles in the Dark.” The genius of these familiar themes is that they are not exactly the same as they were in the original film trilogy; each theme is a slight variation from the way it was originally heard in The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the theme for the One Ring is teased throughout the first half of the score, all the way up to the moment it is finally revealed in “Riddles in the Dark.”
Aside from what is familiar, Shore has composed quite a bit of new material, which is altogether lighter in nature than that of The Lord of the Rings; after all, this is a younger Middle-Earth, a Middle-Earth that exists several years before the return of Sauron. Tracks such as “An Unexpected Party” and “The World Is Ahead” display this lightness, but that does not mean that darkness is not present in this score. Tracks such as “An Ancient Enemy” and “Warg-scouts,” among others, reflect this darkness and the building threat of the mission at hand.
Shore’s greatest strength is his use of choirs to convey emotion and to build upon the music in a way that instruments cannot do alone. Even in his use of choirs we hear variety, from the use of a heavy, deep men’s choir in tracks like “An Ancient Enemy,” a boys’ choir such as in “The Hidden Valley,” or a full chorus such as in “Out of the Frying Pan.” Also, his incorporation of Tolkien’s original text for songs (which he also did in The Lord of the Rings film series) is wonderful, heard in the Special Edition bonus track “Blunt the Knives” and in the main theme for the film, “Misty Mountains.” Speaking of this theme, “Misty Mountains” is heard at several points throughout the score and conveys the same sense of purpose and adventure as the his themes for the Fellowship or for Théoden King. One of my favorite moments in the score is in the track “Over Hill,” where he juxtaposes the “Misty Mountains” theme with the theme for the Shire.
I could go on and on forever talking about this score and how fantastic it is, but I’ll leave that to you to discover. Howard Shore may not have quite the track record of John Williams or Hans Zimmer, but his work on The Lord of the Rings and now on The Hobbit is unparalleled – a masterpiece in every sense of the word. While the scope of The Hobbit is not as great as the story that follows it, the score is worthy of occupying the same world, living up to every expectation Shore set for himself. Also, as I mentioned before, the Special Edition is worth the extra money, so go for it!
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
1. “My Dear Frodo” 8:03
2. “Old Friends” (Extended Version) 5:00
3. “An Unexpected Party” 4:08
4. “Blunt the Knives” (performed by The Dwarf Cast, Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:01
5. “Axe or Sword?” 5:59
6. “Misty Mountains” (performed by Richard Armitage and The Dwarf Cast) 1:42
7. “The Adventure Begins” 2:04
8. “The World is Ahead” 2:19
9. “An Ancient Enemy” 4:56
10. “Radagast the Brown” (Extended Version) 6:37
11. “The Trollshaws” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 2:08
12. “Roast Mutton” (Extended Version) 4:56
13. “A Troll-hoard” 3:38
14. “The Hill of Sorcery” 3:50
15. “Warg-scouts” 3:02
1. “The Hidden Valley” 2:49
2. “Moon Runes” (Extended Version) 3:39
3. “The Defiler” 1:14
4. “The White Council” (Extended Version) 9:40
5. “Over Hill” 3:42
6. “A Thunder Battle” 3:54
7. “Under Hill” 1:54
8. “Riddles in the Dark” 5:21
9. “Brass Buttons” 7:37
10. “Out of the Frying-Pan” 5:55
11. “A Good Omen” 5:45
12. “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (performed by Neil Finn, Extended Version) 6:00
13. “Dreaming of Bag End” 1:56
14. “A Very Respectable Hobbit” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:20
15. “Erebor” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 1:19
16. “The Dwarf Lords” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 2:01
17. “The Edge of the Wild” (Exclusive Bonus Track) 3:34
Total Length: app. 128 min.
iTunes Album Link (Special Edition)
P.S. – Read my review of the film here!
3 Comments | tags: an unexpected journey, baggins, bilbo, bilbo baggins, fellowship of the ring, frodo, frodo baggins, gandalf, Howard Shore, j. r. r. tolkien, jrr tolkien, Lord of the Rings, lotr, middle-earth, one ring, return of the king, sauron, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, two towers | posted in 5, Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews