To complete my backward journey through my favorite movie of all-time, we arrive at the first installment: The Fellowship of the Ring. One of my favorite theater experience of all time was seeing this on opening night. My friends and I were such Tolkien geeks that we bought out about half of the theater, and I got to see my favorite movie begin (I really consider LOTR one film with two intermissions) with most of the people I held dear at the time. It was probably one of the best nights of my life.
One of the things we were all excited about going into the film was the Balrog. They’d kept it out of the trailers and we couldn’t wait to see what this thing was going to look like. It gets a fantastic slow-almost Jaws like-dread approach as we see thousands of goblins scatter like flies just from hearing its footsteps, the Fellowship (all 9 together for the last time) making a harrowing journey down the stairs to this slim, bare Bridge of Khazad-dum (yes I know where to put the accent marks, fellow Tolkienites but I’m too lazy to figure out where they are on the keyboard). Whatever expectation I had; whatever prior mental picture I had of the Balrog, was blown away when it bursts through a wall of stone; shadow and flame. The confrontation between Gandalf and the Balrog is one of the defining scenes, not only of LOTR, but of the last twenty years of cinema. It never fails to thrill me, nor tear me apart when Gandalf falls (or rather lets go, so as not to expose the rest of the company to incoming fire while trying to rescue him on a collapsing bridge). It’s my favorite scene in Fellowship and one of my favorite movie moments of all-time.