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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen
Director: Peter Jackson
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 178 Minutes
Release Date: December 2001
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Kevin Conway, Martin Csokas, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis

Review by AlexI
3½ stars out of 4

"One Ring to Rule them all; One Ring to find them; One Ring to bring them all; And in the darkness bind them..."

"The Lord of the Rings" is a phenomenon. Even if you haven't read the books, you have certainly heard about them. The fascination of the lord of fantasy has swept over the world. The books have inspired people from all walks of life, young and old, since its publication in 1954. The inspiration turned into excitement, excitement turned into expectations, expectations turned into hysteria, and hysteria turned into insanity. You almost expect the hand of Good Lord Himself to raise the curtain. However it's imperative to note that adapting "Lord of the Rings" to the big screen is as bold and impossible as the Old Testament. The material is simply too extensive, too complex. However it is hard to not be influenced by this mass hysteria, and it's impossible to not have expectations after reading the books. And yet even my wildest dreams and expectations were blown to pieces at the very first second of the movie, exceeding my every possible anticipation.

There are certain moments in this film that are so beautiful, so thrilling and so powerful that they are beyond words to describe, surpassing my wildest imagination. There are times when I sat with my jaw on my lap, out of breath, staring at the screen in utter and sheer amazement, not believing that what I see is real or possible. It is clearly a movie that has to be experienced more than once, because I found myself in silent shock after certain scenes and, floating through the next couple of minutes barely comprehending them. It reminded me of Shakespeare's "Henry V" with the poetic dialogues and comparable theme, reincarnating the legends of the Middle Age with its chivalry and epic grandeur. The world of the norse sagas of old are brought to life, and the feeling of magic and fascination never leaves you.

In a world long ago, when the Middle Earth was divided by the immortal elves, enduring dwarves, the hardened men, and the wilfully ignorant hobbits, a dark shadow starts to sweep over the lands, covering everything in darkness. Whisper about the Dark Lord Sauron is spreading, reaching even the quiet Shire -- the only peaceful corner of the world, where small ignorant hobbits live oblivious of the danger that is closing in. The merry hobbit Bilbo Baggins of Bag End (Ian Holm) is celebrating his 111th birthday, inviting the entire Hobbitun. Among the guests are Bilbo's young heir, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and his closest friend, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan), who informs him that the time has come for him to leave Bag End and go on a journey. To Frodo, he leaves his home and his most beloved possession - a mysterious golden ring, which has some strange and unknown powers... It is the One Ring, forged by Sauron, which is corrupting its wearer, slowly sucking all goodness out of him and turning him over to darkness. Sauron's servants, the Ring Wraiths - frightening shadows on black steeds, are searching all the Middle Earth for it. When the ring is returned to their master, the Middle Earth will be covered in a second darkness, where evil reins uncontrollably. All of the world is about to be plunged into war, and the only way to stop the evil will be to destroy the ring by casting it into the fire where it was forged - in Mordor, on the Dark Lord's doorstep. That unenviable task falls to Frodo, the ring bearer. Frodo starts his journey in the company of three other hobbits - his faithful servant, Sam (Sean Astin), and his cousins, Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd). As the four friends travel through the dangerous lands and the dangers mount around them, others join his company: Aragorn, the wandering heir of a defeated King (Viggo Mortensen), Boromir the warrior of Gondor (Sean Bean), the wizard Gandalf, the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). Together, these nine individuals must unite in order to succeed and face unspeakable danger and temptation on their way into darkness. Thus begins the first of three cinematic chapters of "The Lord of the Ring"...

Certain changes and additions actually improve the original material. Particularly the beautiful (and much feared) love story between the immortal elf Arwen (Tyler) and Aragorn. It is poetic, magical and completely unsentimental, which truly makes it memorable. Although a lot of the elements of the book are gone, lacking small doses of the immense depth of Tolkien's masterpiece, Jackson has preserved both the magic and intelligence of his source. People who are dismissing this as a simple fantasy are sorely mistaken. It is about the meaning of true friendship, love, courage, the corruption by evil, the power and importance of unity -- the most important elements in life. The description of the hobbits is kept almost unspoiled and is one of the films main themes. These creatures are living in a peaceful corner of the earth, amidst green fields, mushrooms and little rivers. Around the Shire, the world is boiling, Men and Elves are dying in battle against the dark forces. And yet the hobbits live merrily, not asking any questions and not travelling anywhere -- being naive and willfully oblivious. Their philosophy is that as long as they don't do anyone any harm, nobody is going to harm them. However we soon find out that they are sorely mistaken. The hobbits can thus represent most of us in the real world, living out our lives, having the possibilities, but not using them, being wilfully passive, which ultimately leads to our own distraction. The structure of the good and evil forces are equally spectacular and the evil's seductive side is portrayed in all its lure and monstrosity. The importance of unity is likewise shown and underlined as the fellowship goes own and starts to break and falter as the perils and fear rise, and greed overcomes them. Compared to the best of what the modern fantasy genre has to offer, including "Star Wars" (for the new generation) and the recent "Harry Potter", Jackson's epic shines brightly as the most colorful and meaningful of its predecessors.

Both casting and acting is very solid, particularly from Ian McKellan who manages to capture the essence and complexity of the old wizard who has the undesirable role of the unwanted and unheard prophet. Sir Ian Holm is also magnificent, portraying a merry hobbit almost driven to insanity by the dark power of the ring. Cate Blanchet and Liv Tyler prove to be sensational elves, and John Rhys-Davies is a wonderfully colorful dwarf. The rest of the cast, including Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, Sean Astin are all solid, but not even in the same league as the actors mentioned above.

Dino De Laurentius once said that two types of directors; the ones that make a movie like a script, and the directors that make a day-by-day movie. Peter Jackson ("Heavenly Creatures") clearly belongs to the second category, which separates the great directors from the merely good ones. Making three movies simultaneously, he manages to somehow reinvent every scene, create an atmosphere of wonder and an eerie sense of danger that constantly hangs over our heads. He is like a magician that dazzles us with his magic that simply has never been seen on the silver screen before, reminding us that entertainment does not have to be brainless or primitive. If anyone (in a time filled with stupid cliches and predictable "brainkillers") were doubting that film making is art, "Fellowship" reconfirms this beyond doubt. The technical aspect of the movie is sensational. Andrew Lesnie's camera is swooping and plunging into breathtaking scenes of beauty, darkness, blood and destruction. Grant Major's sets and Ngila Dickenson's costumes are absolutely flawless, creating an absolutely real, organic world, easily being the best achievements of the year. However one element rises beyond perfection -- sound. The enchanting cling of elvish water, the eerie voice of Gollum, the frightening duality of Galadriel's voice in one of the scenes, the autumn leaves whispering in the Shire -- it is beyond comparison and beyond praise. And though Howard Shore's music tends to be a little to heroic at certain times, most often proves to underscore the story, adding an extra layer to the atmosphere rather than distracting us (like Williams' score in "Harry Potter"). As for visual effects, they are rougher and darker than what we have seen from ILM, but seem somehow more appropriate here than Dennis Mureen's polished, smooth work.

The story so full and so involving that three hours float by like a couple of seconds and I kept wishing that the movie would go on, and on and on. And that is also the film's greatest problem. In order to capture the essence of the story, Jackson seems to constantly hurry, and several times you can almost feel the "cuts", ruining some of the float in the film and considerable amount of depth of the material, particularly concerning the characters. Although Gandalf, Boromir, Gimly, Galadriel and Bilbo are well developed, the rest of the characters seem to float in mystery. Aragorn is not fully utilized the way he could be and Legolas is hardly present at all. But the most unexpected change is that the hobbits are moved into the background. Frodo, who is stands in the center of events, is poorly developed and the friendship between him, Sam, Merry and Pippin hardly exists at all. However it is important to note that it's only the beginning, only the first part of an extensive trilogy, which I think will enhance these characters.

"Fellowship of the Ring" has clear flaws and it falters several times along the way, and without a doubt it could have been more. But I would rather salute a movie that boldly ventures into perilous lands, a movie that tries to achieve the impossible, that tries to reach the stars, than a perfectly made mediocrity. The only real regret that I had, walking out of the movie theater was that it is an entire year before I can hope to feel like this again.

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Lord of the Rings
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