Four Torches (Out of Five)
The Hunt for Gollum doesn’t disappoint.
The fan-created Lord of the Rings prequel, available today for free viewing at DailyMotion.com, has benefited from terrific buzz, mostly due to a couple of impressive trailers released earlier this year.
Those trailers didn’t lie. This thing pretty much sings.
The events of the 40-minute film take place after The Hobbit, but directly before The Fellowship of the Ring. Gollum, who in The Hobbit loses the One Ring in a riddle encounter with Bilbo Baggins under the Misty Mountains, has left his home and gone to reclaim his former prize. “The foolish hobbit revealed his name,” Gandalf tells Aragorn, who vows to go and find the creature.
The film gets the “look” of Middle Earth remarkably similar to the films of Peter Jackson. The film was shot in locations — North Wales and Epping Forest and Hamstead Heath near London — that look almost exactly like those of the Oscar-winning movies, and it uses the same colors and tones as well.
Meanwhile, look-alike actors play the familiar characters, including Gandalf, Elrond, and Aragorn (who not only looks, but also sounds remarkably like Viggo Mortensen).
Other online fan films, most notably for Star Trek and Star Wars, have done an impressive job recreating various special effects on a low budget, but most suffer from mediocre-to-downright-horrible acting.
The Hunt for Gollum is different; it’s by far the most professionally acted to date, especially by Adrian Webster as Aragorn.
In an interview with TheTorchOnline.com, screenwriter/director Chris Bouchard talked of the difficulties portraying Gollum and orcs on a shoestring budget. Bouchard is definitely stingy with his shots of Gollum — but then, so was Peter Jackson, at least in Fellowship.
As for the orcs, Bouchard delivers the goods, big-time.
The film also has some nice hints and foreshadowing regarding Aragon’s destiny. Although it departs slightly from the events spelled out by author J.R.R. Tolkien in the books, it fits pretty seamlessly into Jackson’s films.
That said, this is definitely a fan film; it does not stand on its own, either as a story apart from the novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, or as a piece of filmmaking apart from the works of Jackson. It is an homage more than a movie, and like all homage, it is derivative.
In addition, the movie doesn’t have either the transcendent or the epic-yet-economical qualities of Jackson’s films. It might have one fight scene too many, and when a traveler tells of rumors of a “ghost-like” creature stealing fish from villagers, we immediately cut to a detailed scene of Gollum … stealing a fish from a villager.
But such criticisms seem a little petty in light of the impressive achievement these filmmakers have accomplished. The film is far more than a mere fan reenactment; it is definitely not the Halloween haunted house in your neighbor’s garage compared to Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
Chris Bouchard and company, who worked out a deal with the owners of the Rings rights to make this not-for-profit film, have raised the bar on fan films impressively high. They are indeed true fans.
Watch The Hunt for Gollum: