This is a monumental year for pop culture. It’s the 20-year anniversary of several beloved film franchises. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Fast and the Furious, Shrek, and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring all came out in 2001. For a lot of us, we first viewed the films at a pivotal time in our lives—either during our teen years or early adulthood. The impact of the franchises can be not overstated; each one has led to a dedicated following and plenty of memes.
That is especially true for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, of which screengrabs and GIFs of the film are still regularly used on social media. Although the anniversary of the first installment of the fantasy epic that follows hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) on a journey to destroy the One Ring is on Dec. 19, a few of us at the Daily Dot decided to rewatch the film early. We’re still in a pandemic, so what else are we going to do?! Below is our full discussion on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. We have varying knowledge about the intricate world that author J.R.R. Tolkien created, but all of us had previously watched the film. We watched the theatrical cut, which is currently available to stream, along with the rest of the trilogy, on HBO Max.
First thoughts or impressions?
Anna María, social media editor: me, kicking down the door: THE EXTENDED EDITION IS SO MUCH BETTER. I truly adore every iteration of these films, but so much texture and depth is lost without the little moments excluded from the theatrical cut.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, staff writer: GREAT film. Gorgeous production design and world-building. One of the best page-to-screen adaptations ever. Also, the casting is legendarily good. And it still feels really refreshing compared to most fantasy films because it’s so sincere and emotional instead of leaning really heavily into grittiness and violence. There’s surprisingly little action in the first LOTR!
Michelle Jaworski, staff writer: I was surprised at both how well it flowed and how immersive it is. You have the seven-minute prologue voiced by Cate Blanchett that gives you an info-dump but never overwhelms. You spend so much time just getting to know the Shire, setting up just what’s at stake for all of the Hobbit characters.
Tiffany Kelly, culture editor: Power-hungry human men really suck.
Audra Schroeder, senior staff writer: The first time I watched the movies I’m pretty sure I was on painkillers from getting my wisdom teeth out so this was pretty much my first proper time, and it was thoroughly enjoyable!
Our last movie discussion was about Avatar, which did not hold up well. Does the first LOTR movie still hold up 20 years later?
Anna María: Fellowship aged immaculately. Peter Jackson & co. put in a lot of effort to make sure that viewers would lay down their lives for the Shire before the action really began; you really fall in love with Middle-earth, and its ancient loveliness, before you realize that it’s doomed to fade.
Audra: I know it got an Oscar for it, but the CGI and special effects still hold up, which is not the case for a lot of 20-year-old movies.
Gavia: Yes, LOTR holds up super well, particularly in terms of special effects!! I watch dozens of blockbusters each year and the CG effects are ROUTINELY worse than all the stuff in LOTR.
Tiffany: Nothing seems embarrassing or outdated in the film, which is rare!
Anna María: LOTR doesn’t have any weird, edgy humor—it’s utterly faithful to the serene goodness of Tolkien’s text. There is no “modern” touch tainting the worldbuilding; Fellowship and its characters are timeless, and WETA’s dedication to practical effects make the setting timeless also.
Michelle: It’s an incredibly well-done adaptation, and off the top of my head, I’m not sure of one that’s gotten it so right (while also making a ton of changes) since. You could also as easily pin what was going on in the early 2000s onto the films as you could with what’s happening now. For instance, Saruman joining Sauron for his own benefit and tearing down an entire forest to fuel his own army.
Audra: Having properly watched it now, I definitely got some Thor: Ragnarok vibes, what with Cate Blanchett and Karl Urban. [Both actors appear in the LOTR trilogy.]
What if anything, now appears problematic about ‘LOTR’?
Audra: It is very white and male was my first thought.
Anna María: Deep breath. Okay, so. This is such a big question because the problematic aspects of Fellowship manifest twofold. First of all, you have the creative team’s own biases, which largely manifest in casting and the coding of the orcs. Then, you have Tolkien’s own racism, which permeates literally every aspect of his racial worldbuilding. And his own misogyny, which like—I suppose he was quite progressive for his time, and there are some BADASS women in the Silmarillion, but the gender disparity in Rings speaks for itself.
Gavia: The one thing that wouldn’t happen now is the completely all-white cast, which is now NOT happening with this type of fantasy adaptation, i.e. The Witcher, the new LOTR adaptation, and Amazon’s Wheel of Time series. But in the context of this film, it doesn’t feel as egregious. (The actually egregious stuff, to me, comes later with the Easterlings and some of the orcs in the next two movies.
Audra: The women (are there only two?) were very quiet. Like I had to turn my TV waaay up.
Michelle: I don’t remember the lack of women in LOTR bothering me all that much when I was a teenager, but it’s definitely a noticeable factor. Then again, when you try to course-correct this by adding a Strong Female Character with minimal effort, you get Turiel from the Hobbit movies.
Tiffany: Most of the women in the first LOTR are elf goddesses, not super relatable to an awkward teen girl. I wish there were more “normal” girl characters in the first one.
Gavia: Speak for yourselves! I completely relate to a superhuman elf goddess.
And we have to talk about the food.
Michelle: There are a lot of meal scenes in this movie.
Gavia: The key difference between sci-fi and fantasy is that people in fantasy LOVE to have a hearty slab of bread and a mug of ale, whereas people in sci-fi don’t have a digestive tract. In sci-fi, everyone’s like, “give me a shot of whisky and a Soylent sachet to go, i gotta jump on my laserbike,” which is no way to live. I love all those hobbit breakfasts.
Michelle: Hobbits normally eat like 6-9 meals a day and they’re sticking to their comfort guns. Even at the end of the world, admirable.
So, everyone probably had a fan favorite or crush when they first watched it as a teen. Did your ‘LOTR’ crush change? Or were you always an Aragorn girl/Galadriel girl ??
Gavia: ARAGORN. Also, every time Arwen came onscreen I was like, “she’s the most beautiful person and absolutely a REAL ELF.” But yes: Aragorn.
Audra: Aragorn is def the Hunk. But I also had a crush on Elijah Wood.
Anna María: As a kid, I was IN LOVE with Aragorn. But then as I grew older (and I’m talking teenage years here) I got so deeply invested in Aragorn and Arwen (particularly as a mirror of Beren and Luthien), that I made a conscious decision to shift my focus from Aragorn to Legolas. I took my fantasy crushes VERY seriously. I wasn’t about to homewreck!!!
Michelle: Just about everyone in these movies is hot. I was friends with a very pro-Legolas group of friends in middle school/high school, so I probably had a soft spot on him. Definitely more into Aragorn—the dirtier the better—and Faramir now. But I loved the Hobbit characters, and my crush on Dominic Monaghan as a 14-year-old is a big reason why I started watching Lost.
Tiffany: I admit I was a basic Legolas bitch. But, of course, NOW I recognize Aragorn is way better.
Gavia: If you were around 10-15 when the films came out, so many girls were split into Aragorns vs. Legolases (or the actors), so like Orlando Bloom was the boyband shallow option whereas Viggo Mortensen was the edgier option.
Amazon is working on a ‘LOTR’ prequel TV show. What do you hope it will show? Or do you have any hopes for the show at all?
Gavia: I think it will be sexier than the LOTR films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be full Game of Thrones. (Obviously, that’s the worst-case scenario, but at this point, we have no reason to fully be pessimistic.) The casting is interesting. they’ve announced dozens of actors (a comparatively diverse cast) but haven’t attached roles to most of the names yet.
Anna María: I have quite a few hopes, actually. I think a lot of the anxiety has come more from fandom hysteria than anything else; but I do kind of worry that Amazon will go the “gritty” GOT route (and I don’t even mean nudity) rather than stay true to the languid, somber beauty of Tolkien’s texts. However, they’ve got a lot of diehard fans on the creative team and they know damn well the responsibility they hold. I’m honestly more afraid that there will be more and more Tolkien adaptations until there’s like, a TCU, but what can you do. I’m excited that there will be like, 13% more nonwhite people. I hope they’re more mindful of coding than Jackson was.
Michelle: I’m glad that the show is being much more inclusive about the casting itself. But also, given that the show happens in the years/centuries before LOTR and the Silmarillion is a launch point, I hope that it doesn’t fall into the prequel traps of trying to over-explain answers to questions nobody asked.
Last year, all the ‘LOTR’ and ‘Hobbit’ movies became available to stream on HBO Max. Do you see any noticeable impact on culture/memes since they all become available to stream?
Anna María: It’s actually funny how utterly unequipped I am to answer this question because I am almost always consuming Tolkien content, one way or another.
Gavia: I didn’t notice any big uptick in memes, etc. LOTR already feels so embedded in the cultural consciousness, and a lot of the biggest ones are like 15+ years old.
Michelle: I think the memes have always been there. LOTR fandom was such a big part of the early 2000s internet for me and even early Tumblr.
Audra: I now get the “Here comes Balrog” TikTok reference.
What is the most memorable line/scene from this movie? Don’t think too hard; name the first thing that comes to mind!
Gavia: Aragorn sitting in that bar glowering at people like a grungepunk cottagecore babe. Honestly, it’s wild how many moments in this film feel genuinely, no-exaggeration, “iconic.” There are like 20 scenes with that status.
Audra: When they say the name of the movie in the movie. Also, the Balrog scene.
Michelle: I was mouthing the “You shall not pass” scene as I watched it.
Tiffany: I still like the scene of them deciding to create the fellowship, there’s just so many great lines.
Anna María: Boromir’s death. No contest, for me. Absolutely one of the most devastating and well-executed (ha) deaths in fantasy history—Jackson actually improved upon the book in this regard.
Michelle: On a sillier note, Pippin’s explanation of Second Breakfast.
Anna Maria: ICONIC. A CULTURAL RESET.
Closing thoughts? Anything else you want to say about ‘LOTR’?
Anna María: This has been said time and time again, but I don’t think we’ll ever see anything quite like Lord of the Rings ever again. Of course it isn’t perfect, but its unique origin story from Tolkien’s pen to Jackson’s camera has created such a timeless and unique (and mostly airtight) phenomenon that I really consider myself lucky to be a part of.
Gavia: It’s an absolute miracle of casting. Every single actor in these movies is an incredible choice and totally iconic in their roles!! Very rare to see that happen.
Michelle: It’s an incredible piece of filmmaking. It emotionally resonates, it’s visually stunning, it doesn’t get caught in too many narrative hangups, every element just works, and there are so many points of fascination over the so-called miracle of it all coming together.
Gavia: And the wigs are good.