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   LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2001) 

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CAST
Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Viggo Mortensen
Sean Astin
Ian Holm
Liv Tyler
Orlando Bloom
John Rhys-Davies
Billy Boyd
Dominic Monaghan
Cate Blanchett
Hugo Weaving
Sean Bean

DIRECTED BY
Peter Jackson

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack



Novel




Time: 178 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy

Won Academy Awards for Cinematography, Score, Visual Effects and Makeup. Nominated in nine other categories including Best Picture.


I'm not a huge fan of fantasy films, nor have I read the novels on which this film is based. However, I could not resist the lure of such a powerful story, the chance to be enchanted by a whole different world. With such a talented cast and director, I knew I was in for a big holiday treat. I've been a big fan of Peter Jackson's since watching the stunningly brutal HEAVENLY CREATURES and the humorously creepy THE FRIGHTENERS. Neither were hugely popular, but both have a visual style and unrelenting energy that make their potentially ho-hum stories arrestingly unforgettable. I was cautious upon entering the theater, wondering if Jackson could effectively condense such a complicated work into a film audiences would understand, as well as enjoy. I'm sure fans of the novels have many problems with this adaptation, but I for one am floored by the experience.

Unlike HARRY POTTER, RINGS has a pretty good flow, allowing the story to develop and evolve. Though the characters are on a quest, it rarely feels rushed, taking time out to explore the emotional aspects of the tale as Frodo and his gang of unhappy men try to survive one bad predicament after another. When dealing with an epic battle of good and evil, it's usually pretty clear who wears the white hats and who wears the black. This film is no exception. Unfortunately, the only creatures we get to know at all are Frodo (Wood) and Gandolf (McKellen). It makes sense since they're the leads, but it doesn't make you feel much when certain people die or are captured. Sure, a bloody painful death is hard to ignore, but it would mean more if our knowledge was more than superficial. Alas, that's the limitation of film over literature.

That being said, the acting was superb by all, even Liv Tyler, which is saying something. Wood as the brave and honorable Frodo, McKellen as the wise and powerful Gandolf, Christopher Lee as the evil Saruman, Ian Holm as the weak-willed Bilbo, and Viggo Mortensen as the brooding protector Aragorn/Strider give the most involving performances. Perhaps that's because they have the most screen time. We'll see if this stays true in the following installments. The right actor in the right role is half the battle. That and an intelligent, engaging plot. Though we don't get to know them very well, our heroes are kept quite busy trying to stay alive while keeping the infamous ring from the wrong hands.

Broken down simply, if the ring is returned to its' original owner, an evil warlord named Sauren, who forged it in order to have power over the world, all the creatures of Middle Earth will be destroyed. The ring has been dormant for thousands of years, but it has been awakened by Sauren's rising power and will stop at nothing to be reunited with its true owner. The ring corrupts anyone who dares try to use its' power...except for Frodo, a simple, honest hobbit. He seems to be the only creature able to resist its' call. Though he longed for adventure, a chance to see the world outside the Shire, he gets far more than he bargained for when he's given the ring by his cousin Bilbo. Sauren's minions will stop at nothing to get it and it falls to Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring – nine men from various races bound to his protection – to return it to the fiery pit of Mt. Doom where it can finally be destroyed forever.


"Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."

Their path is not an easy one. They are set upon by various creatures, as they wander up mountains, across rivers, through caverns, all in an effort to get closer to Mordor and stay in one piece. Frodo faces death several times, but somehow manages to miraculously survive. Some of his companions are not so lucky. In the end, after encountering many fantastical creatures and learning much about himself, Frodo realizes his is a road best travelled alone. What makes this film truly magical besides the stellar performances, are the special effects and art direction. Jackson, et al, create a whole new reality, enhancing the natural wonder of New Zealand and bringing Tolkin's world alive. You've never seen anything like it. Sure, some of the effects are fairly obvious, but they still manage to wow.

The fight scene between Gandolf and Saruman is jaw-dropping. There have been better battle scenes and sword fights, but the ones between Aragorn, Boromir and the Orks gets the job done. The sequence where Arwen (Tyler) rides like the wind to escape the Ringwraiths and save Frodo's life is one of the best horse chases to ever be captured on film. It's exciting and beautiful. I've heard they changed her character to be more warrior-like to appeal to the ladies. Thinking that we needed a female character to relate to or we wouldn't want to see the movie. I hate that way of thinking. It usually dilutes a good plot, forcing it to incorporate elements that shouldn't be there. In the case of this film, since her role is so small, I don't think it hurt the story. We'll see what happens with the sequels.

Regardless of my issues with the film, I was completely enchanted. Before I knew it, the film was half over, something you don't find very often in 3 hour films. I also found I didn't want it to end. Something else that's a rarity these days. If you're looking for a magical experience at the cineplex, forget HARRY POTTER and rush out to see LORD OF THE RINGS. It may not be the most faithful of adaptations, but it's a wonderful film. My calendar's already marked for next Christmas. By the way, I found some of the images somewhat disturbing, so I'd be careful about bringing young children. It may be PG-13, but this is a very adult tale.



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