VOICE: Mr. Thomas, it has come to our attention that you write fan film reviews, and yet you still haven’t seen The Hunt for Gollum.
JAKE: Uh, I may have alluded to that in a previous article. Who are you?
VOICE: We’re gonna be your best friends in about forty minutes. Buckle your seatbelt.
(A giant COMPUTER SCREEN glows to life.)
VOICE: It is time for you to watch one of the classics. One of . . . The Essentials!
The Hunt for Gollum was released in 2009, adapted from the J.R.R. Tolkien appendices, and directed by Chris Bouchard. It quickly became a world-wide phenomenon and a new standard by which fan films were judged. LOTR had found its Troops and Batman: Dead End. Go ahead and watch it now before you read any further, as there are SPOILERS AHEAD.
The film opens with the picturesque New Zealand travelogue and Gandalf (Patrick O’Connor) reminding us that Sauron reeeeeeally wants that ring and reeeeeeally can’t be allowed to find it. Otherwise, we’re hosed. So, at the Prancing Pony in Bree, which I’ve come to realize is the cop bar for Rangers of the North, the grey wizard tasks Strider/Aragorn (Adrian Webster) with finding Gollum (voice of Gareth Brough) in order to secure the secret of its location in the Shire.
So, off rides Aragorn to begin . . . the hunt for Gollum. Cue music. Roll that beautiful ring footage.
First, to the gap of Rohan! That’s just south of the Misty Mountains for those of you who didn’t constantly turn to the map in the back of the book while you were reading it in study hall. Man, thank goodness for those maps. I tell you, my copy of LOTR had a separate sheet of paper that unfolded into a parchment approximately 18” by 18” with detailed landmarks and distances all mapped across Middle-earth. I needed that baby just to keep track of the action. You’ve got battles across the Riddermark, black ships approaching up the Anduin, spies in Ithilien, spiders in Cirith Ungol, etc.
Aragorn meets up with Arithir (Arin Alldridge), another Ranger, but one with whom he has never met before. A stranger Ranger. Is he a danger? They trade information. Arithir has the low down on The Enemy’s gathering forces in the area. He also speaks of a Ghost that steels raw fish from farmer’s homes. Hmm, sounds familiar. Looks like we are on the right track. Cut to a cute, little scene where Gollum nicks a fish from a window like hot apple pie in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. That’s the secret to preparing good, raw fish. You set it on the windowsill to let it cool down before you take a nice bite so juicy sweet.
Montage time. Aragorn takes to the beautiful scenery beside cloud-covered rocks and deep, green streams. He pinches grass. He tests the wind. He reaches the green with a seven iron. Smeagol must be close.
However, Aragorn soon happens upon -- holy crap, those are honest to goodness orcs! Like, real made-up and legit hideous orcs, not backyard Halloween costumes. They cast actual orcs in this movie. Aragorn takes the first one out Nolan Batman style, then stabs the other through the heart so hard it spits out motor oil. But, these aren’t the last of the enemy troops. The neighborhood orcs in turn hunt after Aragorn. Time is running out to find Gollum, and we’re only fifteen minutes in!
No fear -- there’s Gollum! He’s fishing. Let’s grab bait. Aragorn lines a trail of fishy giblets right into a trap. Gollum approaches. He creeps closer. The trap is sprung! A burlap sack snatches him. This traps the creature and saves costs in animating a CG character.
Now Aragorn unties the sack. All right. The moment of truth. We’re all thinking, “How’s this gonna look? How’s this gonna look? Come on, come on. The movie’s got three shades of awesome for the elf kings under the sky, seven for the dwarves in their halls of stone, nine for the mortal men doomed to die, and now we need this last shade of awesome to take the throne!” Oh, never mind. Gollum’s just gonna stay in the bag. Okay. Nineteen shades of awesome is still pretty awesome.
Mission accomplished! Aragorn nabbed Gollum. Roll credits and -- hey, they still need to make it back to Gandalf in one piece. Is this gonna turn into a fun, buddy road movie? “When a by-the-book Ranger has to deliver his toughest bounty yet, these two misfits might find exactly what they really were looking for . . . each other. Aragorn and Gollum are The Two Bro-wers.” Nope. Nevermind.
Oh no! Black Rider alert! And, just as we were getting started on the Middle-earth version of Midnight Run. Luckily, no One Ring means no heightened Nazgul senses of smell, so away it goes.
Cue orc fight! Aragorn has had premonitions of an attacking legion of troops, and now they come true. The action choreography takes center stage. He takes them all out until it’s just down to him and a rather stubborn orc with a horrible goiter on the side of his neck. It’s basically a nice, giant target for a sword. Stab there, Aragorn. That thing gushes. Oh, does it gush. Bad news, too -- Aragorn got scratched by a drugged blade. He won the battle, but he might lose the war if he can’t find some kingsfoil weed to heal the wound.
The drugged blade gives way to a trippy Rivendell hallucination. Arwen (Rita Ramnani) comes to Aragorn in a dream. Or a memory. Or an Inception limbo-combination of dreams and memories. So, while they are both waiting for a train, she encourages him with the voice-over powers of Morgan Freeman to revive and keep on keepin’ on. He is the heir of Elendil. His fate is not yet over.
Aragorn revives, but Gollum is gone! It’s time for Act III!
Aragorn pursues him well into the night, and this is where it gets a little hard to see the action. Maybe my monitor brightness is off. Gollum’s in a tree, the Nazgul returns, there’s a sword fight, and Aragorn escapes by the skin of his teeth. Then, the elves of Mirkwood show up. They’ve seized Gollum.
Wait, were we near Mirkwood? Was I not paying attention? Let me get out the old 18” by 18". Yeah, I guess he took a left at Fangorn and followed the Great River north to Beorn’s front yard and took a shortcut east. Mirkwood. Gandalf plays good cop to the Mirkwood elves’ bad cop and gets the info he needs. Sauron knows of the Ring in the Shire. They need to get Frodo out of there. It’s time to do some Fellowshipping.
And, hey, it’s cool that we got some faraway glimpses of Gollum in shadows. Even though there -- holy crap! They saved the FX money shot close up of Gollum for the end! Sweet! One final shade of awesome to rule them all! Roll credits.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT
Just do it. It’s the real deal, y’all. This is a real movie.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT
The Hunt for Gollum is available at www.thehuntforgollum.com.