Movie Review: Born of Hope
Born of Hope is a fan film prequel to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it quickly transcends past amateur filmfare. After all, this movie cost as much as Clerks, The Blair Witch Project or El Mariachi. Writer/editor/director/etc. Kate Madison dumped her life savings into the film and managed to scrounge the remaining funds from donations.
The film takes place before the birth of Aragorn (played by Viggo Mortenson in the canonized trilogy) and during his young life. Instead of focusing on his youthful exploits, the film follows his parents, Arathorn and Gilraen, climaxing in a showdown with orcs.
Madison takes painstaking steps to tie this movie to Jackson's trilogy. The moods are similar. The script is consistent, and though the story is by-the-numbers, it's well-written. We are introduced to the movie with a title card that flickers into view and a detached voiceover explaining the history of Middle Earth, just as in the original films. The costumes are consistent with the originals. The Orcs are especially effective. Diffused maps glide across the background during time jumps. The film enters slow-motion during times of bravery and sacrifice. Unfortunately, Slo-mo can be expensive to film. Instead, in Born of Hope, normal speed film is slowed down, which creates a choppy effect called 'fast-motion.' I despise fast-motion unless it's used for a very deliberate reason (the beginning of Reservoir Dogs).
Born of Hope has a few more technical problems that are usually remedied with money and equipment. We sometimes can't hear characters who speak away from the microphone because Additional Voice Recordings (AVR) weren't done. Those lines are lost. The acting varies, but the two leads, Christopher Dane (Arathorn) and Kate Madison (Elgarain), are both very good. Of course, there is a conspicuous lack of crane and helicopter shots, digital color manipulation, and New Zealand locales that gave the original trilogy its epic feel. Nonetheless, Madison's efforts do much to place the film in the same world as Jackson's films.
The film actually improves on the original in one area. Orcs. Because the big bad Uruk-hai don't exist in the timeline of this film, the villains are your garden variety orc, shown as cowardly cockroaches in the original trilogy. Here, they are murderous, persistent, threatening and menacing--not to be trifled with. The film length is perfect. Because of the small budget, we aren't subjected to twenty minute action sequences that too often used to fill the running time. The battles get to the point quickly.
I enjoyed it. It was a nice, new taste of Middle Earth that fits in a realized universe without creating waves or contradictions. That is no easy feat.
Here is the full movie.