THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001)
HUGE THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING (5 out of 5 Rating)!
There are few stories that truly reach people on fundamental levels and empower the story with such a deep vision and breadth that it sweeps the viewer off their feet. Lord of the Rings is such a book and while no film can ever completely capture everything the book offers, it can make it worthwhile. Director Peter Jackson’s rendition of The Fellowship of the Ring is both a worthy big screen movie and a grandiose film version of fantasy literature’s most famous tale.
The Fellowship of the Ring is merely the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (to be followed by The Two Towers in 2002 and Return of the King in 2003). Set in the mythical world of Middle Earth, the story is a true fantasy tale. Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit has finally decided to retire. In his absence he leaves his fortune and a magical ring to Frodo Baggins. No later does family friend Gandalf the Wizard arrive to tell Frodo of the magic ring’s true nature: the most powerful evil weapon ever created. The ring belongs to a terrible creature named Sauron, the Dark Lord. Defeated thousands of years ago, the ring’s discovery has awakened his spirit…and his desire for conquest. Frodo is reluctantly forced to undertake a journey to destroy the one ring, but only by casting it into the fires from which it was forged. With a fellowship of men, elves and dwarves to aid him, Frodo must contend with darkness from without and within in a desperate quest that will hold the fate of the entire world in the actions of one small person.
So much more is part of the richly detailed Lord of the Rings that a simple synopsis doesn’t do the book, or the film, justice. From the very start, relayed in a language that the late J.R.R. Tolkien actually created, it is clear this story contains detail and depth beyond most others. Peter Jackson made many clever decisions for the first film. Not least of which was substituting a simplified yet engrossing narrative for the aggravatingly slow first quarter of Tolkien’s original work. While some modifications will no doubt breed controversy, all adjustments ultimately work for the film rather than detract.
On its own merits, The Fellowship of the Ring is a fine film. Parallels made to Star Wars are well deserved, with this sweeping fantasy fable actually reaching heights the former lacks. The movie is richly detailed, filled with interesting characters, fine performances, excellent settings, and remarkable special effects. The emotion within the film is no less impressive, a tribute to both director and actors. Truly remarkable is that all this masterful movie-making maintains focus and composure despite the incredible three hour length. You’ll be glued to your seat the entire time as the next turn around a hill or run through the forest brings another peril or mystery.
Without a doubt one of the Fellowship’s greatest strengths is suspension of disbelief. Traditionally, fantasy stories (and especially fantasy films) have failed to present an air of believability. This film makes the fantastic seem everyday. So in tune are the characters, costumes, sets, and special effects that one must remind themselves this is a fictional world.
Casting for the film is flawless. Ian Mckellen improves upon his considerable talent displayed in last year’s X-Men, perfectly executing Gandalf in all his many moods. Elijah Wood fits right into the mold of Frodo the hobbit. Sean Bean simply IS Boromir, a powerful performance which includes a clever, easily missed scene handling a broken sword which pays homage to Bean’s work as Richard Sharpe in the 1993 Sharpe television series. Other performances continue the trend of fine work including Viggo Mortensen’s sufficently scruffy Aragorn to Christopher Lee’s brooding, twisted Saruman. Even Liv Tyler surprises with a moving portrayl of the immortal elf Arwen.
Among the shadows of Fellowship also lie some evils. Peter Jackson seems entranced by that which is dark. A nearly Matrix-esque oil covers the film at times. While certainly trendy and only an advantage for realism, it is heavy-handed in use. In particular, Frodo’s injury by the Ring Wraiths and Galadriel’s test. Both are presented with much darkness, more than is present in the books. If aware of such trends, the transgression can be understood and dismissed. Others might find it far too typical of most modern works to easily succumb to darkness as an excuse for lack of originality.
In spite of any minor quibbles, the film appeals to both hardcore fantasy fans and those just looking for fine entertainment. None of Tolkien’s efforts are lost in the film adaptation. Every battle is a desperate struggle and ever tear is a heart-wrenching loss. On film, more is added to the mix. Sight-stealing panoramic scenes and wonderful helicopter shots fill the entire experience with wonder and glory. Aside from some altered scenes in any book-to-film transition, and some excessive indulgence for trends, Fellowship of the Rings is film making at its finest. With amazing special effects that meld into the film rather than divide it and strong performances combined with woven music, this is the film to see. I’ve seen it with non-genre fans, movie skeptics, family members, and good friends. Everyone has walked away satisfied.
A truly deserving adaptation of Tolkien’s literary masterpiece. My highest recommendation given to both book and film.