The Fellowship of the Nerds
I have betrayed my nerd roots.
For years, I celebrated my nerdiness by playing several Legend of Zelda video games (which I wrote a column about), my senior year, I became Prince of the Nerds at my high school by becoming the radio station Station Manager. My status was only elevated to King of the Nerds by the fact that I was the co-founder and President of the Simpsons Club.
My nerdiness continued into college as I started this website, schooling myself in the nerdy arts of HTML and Adobe PageMill®, for really, no good reason other than procrastination. Why couldn't I have procrastinated in a non-nerdy way, such as watching television, drinking beer, or doing something else you non-nerds do? Because I, my friend, am a nerd. My nerdiness finally culminated into the ultimate exploration of one's nerddom when last winter I purchased and began to read the nerdiest book of all time: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. To add yet another element of nerdiness to the whole situation, I purchased a 1200 page, one-volume edition of the trilogy, certain that I would love it. After all, many thousands of nerds throughout the years have loved this masterpiece of literary fantasy. I would likely be yet another one, memorizing lines and speaking Elfish to my fellow nerd friends. Huzzah for the Fellowship! Let us rejoice in the adventures of Frodo and Gandalf! Praise the efforts of Aragorn, Elrond and Gimli! We would dance about and sing traditional hobbit merrymaking songs until the sun in the shire did set!
Somewhere along the line, my nerd instincts let me down. For I read The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the trilogy. It was not the most painstaking 400 pages I have ever read, but I certainly did not enjoy it. Tolkien, God of the Nerds though he may be, carries my least favorite trait in an author: he is long-winded. And not only is Tolkien long-winded, he is extraordinarily long-winded. For those of you that saw the movie but have not yet picked up the book, be warned: the book is not all adventure and fight sequences. There is lots of irritating folk-singing (no, I'm serious), and details on every single aspect of the journey. All of the parts in the movie where you see a quick shot of the fellowship crossing beautiful landscapes are 20 page sections in the book in which Tolkien describes them crossing land for four days, what they ate and where they slept. The only good thing about this is that it fills in details that nerds hunger for so deeply (anyone that has ever played Dungeons and Dragons knows what I'm talking about. And yes, I have played Dungeons and Dragons, but only once, and it was the worst experience of my life. It was extraordinarily boring. I can honestly say that I would rather get a root canal than play Dungeons and Dragons. I have had five root canals and they are considerably less painful than Dungeons and Dragons, if nothing than for the reason that they give you novacaine and you can go out to public places and people will think that you are retarded because you're trying to order a burrito but you're drooling all over yourself. Novacaine is fun. This is the longest parenthetical phrase I have ever written, I think) but are these long, extraordinarily in-depth details necessary? This writer says no. Anyway, the point is that, try as I might, I did not enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring. As a nerd, I really wanted to enjoy it, but I could not. So now I have a three volume set of The Lord of the Rings, two-thirds of which will likely go unread because I didn't like the first third.
So when the movie came out, I was intrigued but not peeing myself to see it. My friends managed to get tickets to the midnight show on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning), so I went with them. The atmosphere rumbled as several hundred nerds packed the Cinema 12 theatre in Evanston, Illinois. There was no one dressed up as a hobbit, thank God. I sat and was hopeful. I was very hopeful that I would enjoy the movie. I was hopeful that my nerd roots had maybe just missed something in the book. I had read the preliminary reviews, one of them saying that Fellowship was better than other lauded nerd movies such as Star Wars. Many of them calling Fellowship one of the best movies of the year.
But yet again, my nerd roots betrayed me. Much as it was with the book, I really wanted to enjoy the movie. My nerd tastebuds were reaching out and saying "feed me!" but they stayed hungry instead for the second season Simpsons DVD collection and the fifth Harry Potter book. For although I enjoyed the film, I did not love it. Were I a film critic, I would not have given it four stars as many other film critics did, nor would I have put it on a ten-best list. Although, let me say this: the film was nothing short of the most visually stunning movie I have ever seen. If you are having doubts about whether you should spend three hours of your life watching The Fellowship of the Ring, I recommend that you go see it for the extraordinary cinematography and special effects. That said, I must now get into what I did not like about the movie because that is what this column is all about.
Not unlike the book, I found the movie to be too long-winded and repetitive. I think that the viewer/reader figures out that Frodo is the One chosen to bear the ring and that it is his destiny the first time Gandalf the Wizard tells him so. We do not need to be reassured of this several other times by a couple of wizard elves, Aragorn, and a whole bunch of other characters with annoying, confusing names (more on this in a moment). During the movie, I wanted to yell out, "OKAY. WE GET THE POINT. FRODO IS DESTINED. ON WITH IT. LET'S GO KILL SOME ORCS," but I would have been pummeled to a bloody death by pocket protectors and 20-sided dice.
Half of the reason I could not keep track of the book was the confusing names. Take this into consideration: Here are the names of the main characters in the book: Frodo, Bilbo, Aragorn, Boromir, Saruman, Elrond, Glimli, Gandalf and Sam. Wait, what? Sam? Did you just give up, Tolkien? Why didn't you give Sam an annoying complex name that sounds like all the other ones? Even worse is that this shows us that Tolkien is capable of using not irregular names. Indeed, he names the pony that the hobbits take on the journey "Bill." To make matters worse, the names of the places he uses are horribly confusing. One must take notes while watching this movie or reading this book to keep things straight (which is probably why nerds like it so much). Let's get things straight: Aragorn, Boromir, Elrond, Glimli, Gandalf and Frodo are all traveling to Mordor to fight the spirit of the dark lord Sauron who has overtaken the mind of a wizard, Saruman (whose name is pronounced so painstakingly similar to Sauron that it makes you want to pull your teeth out). By the end of the book, Boromir and Gandalf are dead and Frodo and Sam decide to head to Mordor while Glimli, Elrond Aragorn decide to go to Gondor. Please take note that although these places are very different from one another in the movie, they have a grand total of TWO letters difference in their names. It is even worse in the book because you get to learn about family heritage which royally fucks things up for the reader. Every time a character introduces himself, you get Frodo of the Shire son of Frido brother of Bilbo son of Fido son of Dildo. It'd be one thing if these family names came up just once, but every five pages you read something like, "I say, Frodo! Do you recall the time that Bilbo was in the caves of Minias Tirith with the Elgoblor son of Gondolohor of the North region of Gindilhor?"
Good God, Tolkien! Way to confuse the ever-living shit out
of everyone. Every one of those names has two or three vowels
and is practically palindromic. It is like having Otto, Nutu,
Pupu and Gugu travel to Muru. The worst part is the guy named
Sam which is like Tolkien sticking all of this in our face and
going "hey, look! I could use normal names but I'm
being sophisticated by creating my own language!" God damnit.
Would it really take that much away from the story to have names
and places that didn't sound exactly alike? Why couldn't Jim,
Bob, Horatio, Matthew and Gary be traveling to fucking Dallas?