Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
My brother Scott has long been bemoaning the absence of any truly great fantasy movie. Well not anymore. The first installment of The Lord Of The Rings is quite simply brilliant. I can't think of anyone who would not enjoy this epic adventure. It is grand in scale yet intimate in character development and absolutely spellbinding throughout.
The legendary story of hobbit's and elves, wizards and dwarves, valiant men and incredibly evil orcs is all here displayed in a visual style that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Peter Jackson's direction is flawless. The cast is amazing. As you can see I can't stop gushing about how great this movie is.
Whether you are a longtime fan of the books or completely ignorant of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants you will be absolutely won over by this triumphant and magical motion picture.
Cate Blanchett in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
I could sum up my review of this movie in one word and that one word is 'Wow!' I could sum it up in one sentence and that one sentence would be, 'If Fellowship of the Ring doesn't win the Best Picture award at this Oscar ceremony, than there is no justice.' This is a great, great, great movie.
As Patrick mentioned, I've been waiting all my life for a traditional Sword & Sorcery type Fantasy movie that could truly be deemed a classic. That overly long wait is now over. Peter Jackson's interpretation of the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien's master work, The Lord of the Rings is that classic. It is also a masterpiece of movie-making and blueprint of how books should be turned into screenplays. It surpasses its genre to become not just a Fantasy Classic, but a Film Classic.
I use the word interpretation to describe this adaptation of the movie because, unlike the recent Harry Potter film, this movie does not strictly adhere to the details of the book's plot. It retains the main plot, but in the details it varies in both minor and major ways. The good news is, the changes help the movie and actually improve on the story in some instances.
The plot of the movie, as well as the book, is the story of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who comes into possession of a magic ring. Not just any ring, but the one ring, created by the evil lord Sauron, which in the hands of the powerful could grant complete mastery of Middle-Earth. Making the decision that the ring should be destroyed, Frodo sets out on the long quest to see the ring destroyed in the land of Mordor where it was first created. Aiding him on this quest is the Ranger Strider, the wizard Gandalf, Legolas the elf, Gimli the dwarf, Boromir the warrior, and three other hobbits; Pippin, Merry, and Sam. Together they set out to destroy the ring. The first part of the books, of which this movie covers, tells the beginning of their quest and ends with the breaking of their fellowship.
How the movie differs from the book, I don't really want to go into, lest I give away too much. I will just say that the differences are often done to save time, filming this book exactly as written would have made it twelve hours long at least, and several scenes have been condensed. These are actually the least of the changes. Other changes include how characters behave, which character does or says what, and even the end, involving the breaking of the Fellowship is handled differently in a subtle but quite important way. Having read the books more times than I care to count, I was, prior to seeing the movie, worried over how Peter Jackson would change the movie, what he would leave out and how he would change the characters. Take it from me, an avid and once worshipful fan of these books, there is nothing to worry about. Changes there are, but none of them are disappointing.
On the note of changes, I must add one thing. In the books, Saruman is responsible for the creation of a half-breed of Orcs, stronger than ordinary orcs, who can travel in sunlight, and are just generally more powerful. In the movie, it is the same, but quite a bit of screen time is given to their creation. This is one of two changes where something is given more detail in the movie than it was given in the book. The other being the love story between Aragorn and Arwen. In the book, we are simply told that Saruman has created these orcs, no details are really given. The only reason I bring it up at all is, unless used more in the next two movies, I didn't really see the reasoning behind this extra detail. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the scenes depicting their creation, I enjoyed every scene of this movie, I just haven't figured out why they were included.
Like any fan, I had my own images of how I thought the characters would look. Not all of the actors matched my images. However, that said, while I may not envision these actors when it comes time for me to reread the books, they do embody the screen-version of the characters perfectly. That is to say, since this movie is an interpretation of the books, for this interpretation, these actors are all perfect. For example, in the book, Frodo is described as much older than the Frodo in the movie, so I would have trouble envisioning Elijah Wood when reading the book, but the movie Frodo is supposed to be younger, and so Elijah is perfect in the part.
No matter how great the cast, and they are all great in this movie, the credit for this movie has to lie with it's director Peter Jackson. I don't think I've ever seen any of the other movies he's directed, and I don't know that I will run out and rent them. It's quite possible these three Lord of the Rings movies may be his one and only masterpiece. But that doesn't really matter, his making of this film was the stroke of genius necessary for this long-overdue Fantasy Classic to come to the screen.
Will non-fans of the books, or those who never read the books, enjoy this movie? If they have any taste at all, they will.
Elijah Wood in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
When in my youth I imagined the world of Middle Earth. What exactly was a Balrog and how high are those statues? So detailed were Tolkien's descriptions that it was all so wondrous. The history and the landscape were so very much a part of the story. The characters, although very fantastical, were also very real and human in weakness.
So with trembling pleasure I can tell you my wondering has been laid to rest. Peter Jackson has expertly and faithfully directed this film. So many sword and sorcery films have been made, but only a few were good. Conan: The Barbarian and Ladyhawke are the only ones I can think of. Now, with The Fellowship Of The Ring, a sword and sorcery film masterpiece has been made.
The movie starts in the quiet village of peaceful Hobbits. The movie takes little time in building to a tense and quickening plot. With the guidance of the wizard Gandalf, 4 hobbits take the ring of power on a journey to destroy it before it can fall into the wrong hands. They are being pursued by black cloaked riders and snarling hoards of orcs. They get help from humans, elves and a dwarf, thus the fellowship.
The movie is so visually full that your eyes may grow weary trying to take so much in. Some battles are simply filmed outside with little to no special effects, like the battle on the hill near the end of the movie. Then there are scenes where special effects dominate the screen, such as when Gandalf fights the demon in the mines of Moria.
Being that I had read this book I knew what was going to happen before it did. However, the director knows the most important rule of fantasy film making; You treat the characters as real people and never ham it up. I felt for the characters and was emotionally taken into the film. So where as I knew what was to happen I still felt the tension and fear. That is a sure sign of great film making.
The film, the fantasy has been made. Drop your kids off at Harry Potter, let your wife see Kate and Leopold, then run to The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. Enter the world of Middle Earth. Its a place you will never forget.
Photos © Copyright New Line Cinema (2001)