The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (DVD) (WS)
In the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, a shy young hobbit named Frodo Baggins inherits a simple gold ring. He knows the ring has power, but not that he alone holds the secret to the survival--or enslavement--of the entire world. Now Frodo, accompanied by a wizard, an elf, a dwarf, two men and three loyal hobbit friends, must become the greatest hero the world has ever known to save the land and the people he loves.]]>
As the triumphant start of a trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring leaves you begging for more. By necessity, Peter Jackson's ambitious epic compresses J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings, but this robust adaptation maintains reverent allegiance to Tolkien's creation, instantly qualifying as one of the greatest fantasy films ever made. At 178 minutes, it's long enough to establish the myriad inhabitants of Middle-earth, the legendary Rings of Power, and the fellowship of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and humans--led by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the brave hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood)--who must battle terrifying forces of evil on their perilous journey to destroy the One Ring in the land of Mordor. Superbly paced, the film is both epic and intimate, offering astonishing special effects and production design while emphasizing the emotional intensity of Frodo's adventure. Ending on a perfect note of heroic loyalty and rich anticipation, this wondrous fantasy continues in The Two Towers (2002). --Jeff ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
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You may nevertheless have some issues with the translation. (That’s inevitable, given that we often take personally things we have first read.) For me, the feel was a bit off over certain sections — for instance, initially, it’s too twee — and I don't care for some of Elijah Wood’s performance or, in fairness, what may have been Jackson’s directions to Wood. (In the book, Frodo was one tough nut. Here, he shows less resilience.) And the Middle Earth I saw in my head when I read the book does not always correspond to Jackson’s vision. For instance, I didn’t see Moria as an open-architecture mine and some of Lothlorien feels manufactured.
But none of this prevents me from enjoying the film again and again without notable effort. Sometimes I stream it for background noise when I’m working (we also have a free copy from Google Movies) and then find myself watching more than working.
Then I stop working entirely and settle in for the long haul.
After a prologue giving us insights into how the Ring came to be and how it came into Bilbo's hands, we get to see the exquisite village of Hobbiton and glimpses of the hobbits' peaceful existance, where the angelic wizard (by angelic I mean he really is, not that he acts like one) Gandalf arrives for Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday party. Bilbo's party goes off with a few hitches -- the most major of which is when he uses his magical Ring to vanish from the party. Gandalf manages to convince Bilbo -- whose personality is being swamped by the Ring -- to leave it in young cousin Frodo's keeping.
He becomes convinced that it is the One Ring, the pure evil force of the Dark Lord Sauron. And now the Nazgul (Black Riders) arrive in the Shire, hunting for the hobbit carrying the Ring. Frodo leaves the Shire with his faithful gardener and friend Samwise Gamgee, and they also end up picking up his cousins Merry and Pippin along the way. But fun and games are not in the workings for the hobbits -- Frodo is nearly killed in a confrontation with the Black Riders, on their way to Bree. In the inn there, they encounter a mysterious stranger named Strider.
Strider takes them to the Elvish citadel of Rivendell, where it is decided that the Ring must be destroyed in the distant, hellish land of Mordor. Frodo volunteers to take the Ring -- but he has only the faintest idea of the dangers, both from the evil creatures and from within the Fellowship that accompanies, that he will have to face...
The special effects are overwhelming - an avalanche, a horde of hideously realistic orcs, the rock-faced cave troll that almost squishes Sam, the slippery tentacles of the Watcher in the Water, the "fiery letters" reflected on Frodo's face, Gandalf's horrific confrontation with the monstrous "fire and darkness" Balrog, as the bridge collapses under them. Not all the special effects show -- the hobbits are shrunken down to about four feet tall using special effects, as is Gimli the dwarf. But it's all integral to the plot. Gollum is glimpsed only briefly, but creepily. Only a few of the FX fall flat, like Gwahir the eagle; and the weird swoop-in scene to Saruman on Isengard. Also one shot of Legolas leaping from off of the cave troll.
Elijah Wood appears to just EMBODY Frodo, with his wide eyes and slenderer build than the other hobbits; his luminous face will make your heart bleed or your eyes glow, depending on what is happening to Frodo. Sean Astin looks solid and dependable, just how Sam should look; he manages to make Sam loyal and caring for Frodo without making him look dumb or servile. Pippin and Merry star as mild comic relief; by the end of the movie, they are somewhat more mature.
Ian McKellen is astoundingly good as Gandalf, mixing Gandalf's sternness and latent power with a sense of humor and a tendency to bump his head; Christopher Lee throws everything into the sinister Saruman. I groaned when I heard that Viggo Mortenson would play Aragorn and Liv Tyler would play Arwen, but they both throw their hearts into it, including the most romantic scene I have ever seen in a movie. You cannot go wrong with John Rhys-Davies, who plays the endearingly crabby Gimli. Sean Bean takes the breath away as Boromir, a man tormented with love for his city and his people, and the desire to use the Ring to save them. His final scene is one of the most touching ones ever shot on film. Orlando Bloom is in a breakout role as elven archer-prince Legolas, where he embodies the right masculine elvishness for the role mingled with some of the best fight scenes since "Phantom Menace."
The lighting is astounding good -- sinister and darker for scenes with evil creatures, gritty for travelling scenes, warm for scenes in the Shire, paler and luminous for scenes in Lothlorian. The costumes are great -- mudstained and worn for Aragorn, simple and comfy for the hobbits, fancier but serviceable for Boromir and Legolas (well, they ARE princes!) and more floaty-looking, gauzy gowns for Arwen and Galadriel, as well as Arwen's sleek, immaculate riding outfit. Sets are also great, from the simple earthy stuff of the Shire to the elegant sleekness of the Elves' places, to the decaying former splendor of Moria.
The script varies in places from the books, sometimes to provide humor (like Aragorn whacking Pippin in the head with an apple). But this human is often dampened with a follow-up of grimness or fear. For all the fuss about Arwen and orc sidekick Lurtz, neither is really on for long. And often an addition is made to the preexisting material: Frodo's frequent glimpses of the Eye, for example.
This is NOT a movie to take children to. Though there is one very low-key kiss and no profanity, there is plenty of violence (very little blood); also, there are some hair-raising scenes, including Galadriel and Bilbo's temptations, Frodo's brushes with the Eye of Sauron, glimpses of torture (but not what happens), and seeing the Ringwraiths both with their black cloaks -- and without. And even when the violence is mild, it can still be disturbing: We don't see Frodo stabbed by a Nazgul, but his agonized expression, choked up "Sam..." and the following scenes where he struggles to survive are very affecting.
Peter Jackson clearly poured heart and soul into this film. It is perhaps one of the best ever made. See it. Now.