The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Review


RATING:
(4 STARS)

When New Line Cinema executives agreed to bankroll this massive project, to be filmed in New Zealand by a relatively unheralded director, they were risking their entire company. Sure, J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is beloved by many around the world, but plenty of folks in the know at the time called the books impossible to adapt. They said the scope of the project was overwhelming, and Jackson would inevitably fail, bankrupting the company and putting his own directorial career in jeopardy.

Three years later, New Line was back in business, and Jackson was one of the world’s most highly regarded directors. The three films picked up a total of 30 Oscar nominations, 17 of which were wins (including a Best Picture). They also made nearly $3 billion worldwide.

All three films are towering successes, both commercially and critically. Distinguishing between the three seems impossible because the project is more like a 10-plus-hour opus than three separate films. But if pressed, I would have to choose The Fellowship of the Ring as my favorite, simply because it introduced me to this magical world and made the next two Decembers the most anticipated months of my young movie-going life.

The Fellowship of the Ring starts out with a prologue detailing the history of the One Ring of Middle Earth, a creation of the dark Lord Sauron of Mordor, who wanted to control the other magical rings given to the elves, dwarves, and men of the land. Through the ages, the Ring passed from creature to creature, destroying all those who possessed it, until it reached Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), a hobbit of the Shire. After discovering the ring, Bilbo ceased to age and could disappear whenever putting it on. But the Ring was poisoning his soul, and with the threat of Mordor growing stronger, Bilbo knew it was time to move on.

He gives the ring to his nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and a friendly wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), eventually discovers Frodo’s ring is the One Ring. He knows it must be destroyed, so Frodo and his friend, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), leave the Shire for an adventure that will decide the fate of the world.

There are many other colorful and interesting characters along the journey. We meet Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), two other hobbits who provide most of the film’s comic relief. The four hobbits and Gandalf are part of the fellowship of nine who pledge to make it to Mordor to destroy the Ring. The other members of the fellowship are Boromir (Sean Bean), Legolas the elf, (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), who is heir to the throne of Gondor.

The Fellowship of the Ring is astounding from top to bottom and beginning to end. Technically, it’s an exceptionally beautiful film. It cost a ton of money to make, but every dime is well-spent. Even more than that, the film draws you in emotionally. You connect with the characters. Frodo’s journey is our journey. He’s innocent and hasn’t strayed much from the Shire. We want him to succeed, for he and Sam represent all that is good. Of all the characters in the three films, these two are the most pure and most likely to emotionally resonate.

The acting is tremendous. Ian McKellen was awarded with an Oscar nomination for his work as Gandalf, the wise protector of the hobbits. He’s the leader of the journey and isn’t afraid to wield his power, even in the face of some terrifying creatures. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin make us really care for Frodo and Sam. The rest of the fellowship is quite good, including Viggo Mortensen, whose role is much expanded in the subsequent films, but whose Aragorn is one of recent cinema’s greatest characters.

For many years, this was my favorite film ever (before I had become an avid film watcher), but even now, it’s still high on my list. If you are one of the maybe ten people out there that haven’t seen this film, drop what you are doing and go watch it. But make sure you have about 10 hours to spare, you won’t want to stop with just one.

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One Response to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Review

  1. Poze August 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    The reason why this first part of Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ is superior to his latter two parts is because of restraint. Jackson was restrained from over doing it with the CGI and “epic” battle sequences, which in my opinion does not make a story epic. Part of the reason was simply because Tolkien did not have very many battles in the first part of his book, which thankfully forced Jackson to focus on creating a believable world rather than a believable hack-n-slash action movie.

    I don’t find much entertainment in watching people mutilate each other, but I love it when a movie engages me in a world, and ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ does just that. Certainly the most breathtaking scenes in the movie are the moments of patient observation, when the camera pans around and captures the beautiful settings of Middle Earth. I must give Jackson credit. He did hire some very extraordinary artists that have envisioned one of the grandest interpretations of Tolkien’s world.

    There are about five particular moments that stick out in my mind and gave me that tingle of goosebumps down my spine when I saw them for the first time. The first is the introduction to Hobbiton. After the somewhat awkward prologue, I was beginning to have my doubts to whether the movie would live up to the book. But the movie surprised me. Hobbiton is perfect. The houses have flower patches and old fences, the roads look worn and made through decades of travel, and the Old Mill spins with the laziness of a quiet town. Every color is vibrant and every moment looks as through it was taken out of a picture book. Although I still don’t agree with the particular look of the Hobbits, I believe everything else in Hobbiton is worthy of Tolkien’s words.

    The second moment comes after Frodo’s awakening in Rivendell, and the third, during the exploration of the Halls of Moria. In both moments, the camera pans away from the characters and outward into a static shot of their surroundings. The moments make us feel like we’re turning our heads and gazing at the world around us just as the characters do. The golden waterfalls of the elven city mark an interesting contrast with the dark halls of the dwarfish mines, but each are inspiring in their own ways and add to feeling of being engaged in a living world.

    My other favorite moments come during the exploration of Lothlorien and the passage down the Anduin. And while I won’t go into detail about the scenes, since they really should be experienced without any prior expectations, they are monuments in imaginative cinema. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is one of those rare movies that I always wish I could reexperience for the first time. Unfortunately, Jackson turned away from exploring Middle Earth in his next two movies, and instead, turned to fighting and warfare. He seems to take a lot of pride in the love story and battle sequences he created in ‘The Two Towers’ and ‘The Return of the King,’ but it is was in his first movie when he really got it right. In ‘The Fellowship of the Ring,’ it’s okay if the characters are uninteresting and have silly dialogue. Middle Earth is the star, and the characters are the ones seeing it for the first time.

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