I saw Lord of The Rings yesterday. It was a wonderful film that I could nitpick with for hours over non-sequitori, changes from the book that I didn't like, places I didn't like the score, and the nagging feeling Elrond was going to break into lines from The Matrix at some point. I won't nitpick; the film was great. The book is greater, but the film is great.
I am thinking about the reactions I heard and felt in the theatre at the point where Gandalf falls at the hand of the Balrog. Gandalf is the best part of the film for me. Ian McKellan is Gandalf -- kindly, wise, and powerful. The penultimate patriarch. Everyone is impressed with both his power and integrity.
But despite gauging this reactin (in myself and the other moviegoers), at the point where he falls, I was suprised at the reaction in the theatre. I could sense how shocked viewers were, and a few people were even crying. Having read the book, I know Gandalf's fate from this point, but I still felt a bit like tears. I think part of it may be compassion brought out for the other characters in the film, who rely on him to such a great degree and, especially for the hobbits, love him. But I think that's not all: somehow, the movie made the people in the theatre love him too.
The pace and action of the film don't let you dwell on that for long, much as the characters are not able to dwell on it for long. But it says something both about the strength of the character of Gandalf as fasioned by Tolkein, the strength of McKellan's performance, and the skill of the filmakers that people seemed to develop a real affection for him in two hours.