The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)Rated PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images.
Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee.
Photo ©New Line Cinema. All rights reserved.
One of my first thoughts after seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings was, "The book can't be as exciting as this, can it?" Yes, I come from the disadvantaged position of not having read J.R.R. Tolkien's nearly 50-year-old classic. What I know about the book comes from conversations I've had with those who have read it or have attempted to read it. And, dare I say, even the biggest Tolkien fan among them has admitted that the first installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy can be a tedious read.
Thus, with the movie adaptation, director Peter Jackson and his team of miracle workers scores two big points. First, The Fellowship of the Ring is a grand, wondrous, awesome, and spectacular movie. They have taken a book thick with lore, explanation, and details and have made a rollicking heart-pounder out of it. By the time its three hours were over, I found myself out of breath. Our heroes, a band of good-hearted men from various mythical and non-mythical races (hobbits, elves, dwarves, and humans), travel on a long journey to take an evil ring to the one place in the land where it can be destroyed. They are met with peril after peril after peril. No sooner are they done being chased by ghostly "ring-wraiths," they are endangered by an avalanche, and then encounter perhaps the most dangerous cave ever conceived for film. And after that, they're still not out of the woods!
The second point Jackson and his crew scores is with the Tolkien fans -- they have met the film with their approval. The several that I have spoken to noted that there were changes made from the book to the screen, but the changes are intelligent. They agree that the screenwriters have taken some liberties to create a flow befitting an adventurous fantasy movie. The overall story remains faithful to the book, and the result is a movie which not only satisfies the most die-hard of fans but also is able to stand alone as a fantastic cinematic experience.
Contributing to this is a glorious attention to detail in art direction. The wizardry on display in this movie deserves an unending amount of praise. The sets are gorgeous, from the rustic homeland of the hobbits to the wondrous tree-dwellings of the elf city. Shots of the various mythical locations, from the villain's dark fortress to imposing snow-capped mountains, are awe-inspiring. The costumes for the characters are elegant and classic -- just the way we would imagine them. Perhaps the greatest work was done in the sizing of the characters. All the characters are played by full-size actors, yet, side-by-side, the hobbits and dwarves are only half the size of the men and the elves! The filmmakers used a technique called forced perspective to achieve this effect, and the results are triumphant.
Need I say more? The Fellowship of the Ring is the kind of movie that makes movie-going rewarding. A grand, dramatic adventure like this is the reason why movies were made in the first place. Packed with suspenseful action, wonderful heroes to root for, beautiful scenery to feast the eyes, and the age-old theme of good fighting the forces of evil, The Fellowship of the Ring has the qualities to qualify it for the best movie of the year.
And one final warning to the uninitiated: since this is part one of a trilogy, the movie does not end with the completion of the main quest. It is, however, quite enough to get audiences salivating for part two!
©Jeffrey Chen, Dec. 19, 2001