The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Directed by Peter Jackson
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Today, another franchise was born. Well, not born really, but introduced to the public. Just a few weeks after the release of the first Harry Potter film, the even longer-awaited first installment of The Lord of the Rings is now in theatres. J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy about the inhabitants of Middle Earth was the more complex, adult-oriented version of today's Harry Potter anthology. It also featured a magical world of wizards and various mythical creatures, but there are no happy memories of school days here.
The film's prologue brings the audience up to speed with the environment of Middle Earth (which was first described in Tolkien's novel The Hobbit) and the origin of the Ring of Sauron. After many centuries, the powerful ring ends up in the possession of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a hobbit type of halfling. His wizard friend, Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen) tells him that the ring has evil powers and that it must be taken to the elf village of Rivendale for safe keeping.
Once there, Frodo and a gang of his hobbit friends learn that the ring is not even safe in Rivendale. The evil spirit of Sauron wants to regain physical form, and his ork minions are coming for the ring. A fellowship led by Gandalf go from there on a quest to return the ring to Mount Doom, where the hot magma can destroy it. Among the fellowship are Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) the heir apparent to the human throne, Boromir (Sean Bean) the ranger, Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) the dwarf, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) the elf, and of course Frodo, who is the ringbearer, as nobody else can be trusted with its tempting evil power -- not even Gandalf.
I don't know how much of that last sentence you read after the part about John Rhys-Davies playing a dwarf. What, you say? That huge guy from Raiders of the Lost Ark and "Sliders"? Yes; he, like many other actors in this film, has been covered in prosthetic make-up and shot in ways to make him look short. Sometimes it is done with clever camera angles or split-screen effects, but sometimes it is obvious that an actual dwarf is playing Gimli or even Frodo in a wide shot.
However, most of the special effects in The Fellowship of the Ring are absolutely brilliant. Every other shot in the film contains some sort of effect and/or set that looks incredibly expensive. For nearly three hours, the audience is treated to a parade of visual wonders, accompanied by a plot that is very light on character and story.
The Lord of the Rings has been described as a series of "milieu" novels. The purpose was not the story or the characters, but to give the reader a rich sense of Middle Earth. When this is translated to film, the purpose is lost since the environment is completely visualized for you. All the audience can do is sit back and watch without any need for imagination.
The remaining films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King have already been shot. Only a long process of post-production is ahead for director Peter Jackson. So, not much can be done to change those films, but I hope that they are edited to enhance the story. In the process, they can save a few bucks on computer effects. Of course, we're also a third of the way into the story, so it's a little early to ask for something climactic. For now, you can enjoy the eye-candy exposition.
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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan