I should be as upfront as I can be here: I'm not generally that into fantasy, so I'm never going to love the film. I should also make it clear that I haven't actually seen the thing since it was on first release, when I was just about still moonlighting as a projectionist, and I saw it when I showed it, so I probably wasn't paying particularly good attention. I seem to recall I actually fell asleep during part of it, which goes some way to explaining the nature of my problems with the film. Anyway, having encountered a couple of friends who are obsessive fans of the franchise, and who won't hear a word said against it, it looks like I'm going to have to sit through the damn thing again just to refresh my memory.
Here's what I remember: it's immensely boring, mainly because it presupposes you're already an obsessive fan of the franchise. It doesn't require you to have read the books to understand the story, that's too obvious a flaw. Rather, it requires you to accept on faith the fact that everything that's going on is meaningful and noteworthy. It's very obvious that the director loves the books and he expects you to as well. I remember incredibly thin characterisations based on fantasy tropes which may have been innovative and interesting when Tolkein wrote them, but certainly aren't now. I remember extremely long helicopter shots of New Zealand, which express the director's love for the books and the director's patriotic regard for his home country, but don't really excite viewers because we don't have any reason to care about the journey the characters are on, because the characters are so thin and colourless (one of them is actually called Gandalf the Grey, and boy, is he). The film does poorly in character description tests, in the same way that "Describe Han Solo" is an easy question to answer, whereas "Describe Qui-gon Jinn" is rather more difficult - as is "Describe Frodo".
Partly the lack of empathy with the characters is down to fairly basic structural problems - it's never really established what the ring does or why it's such a problem, and the lead character is utterly unsympathetic. I hasten to add that I don't expect feature film leads to universally consist of musclebound alpha-male heroes, but Frodo really is such a pathetic, utterly unlikeable milquetoast that it's difficult to take him seriously. In my view it's a fundamental problem with the storyline; you have someone who needs to complete a difficult task, the drama of which will be the main plot of the films, but in order to complete that task, he must lack ambition. The writing is self-contradictory and the character is boring as a result. You can't make him interesting because it would betray the core plot.
Ultimately the fact that core fantasy concepts haven't worn well is no fault of Tolkien, and as I say, wizards fighting dragons and the whole sword-and-sorcery thing has never been my thing. But I think, based on what I've seen, that The Fellowship is slack, obvious, boring, poorly written, and arrogant. I think the presumptiveness of it is what really winds me up; the idea that obviously everyone loves Lord of the Rings; if you don't, you're obviously some kind of parvenue. So, all Jackson felt he had to do was parade the scenes before the camera. The audience is simply expected to accept that these are meaningful characters because they're characters from widely-liked literature. It would be below the filmmaker to actually imbue them with character. All Jackson does is parade scenes from the novels in front of the camera, and you can almost hear his director's commentary in your head: "This is so meaningful. It just is. Accept. Accept...."
Am I the only person who feels this way?
PS - Oh, once, when I was moaning about this film, before I knew how the trilogy ended, I said "Why don't they just throw it down a volcano or something?". I was making a bad joke, attempting to highlight the way so many fantasy tropes are now so overused as to be comically unoriginal. Little did I know that I was describing the actual plot. It's so unoriginal it fulfils satire on the subject of itself...