The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens & Peter Jackson

Back in 2001, I was a young boy getting ready to enter High School and was too concerned with the fantasy worlds of Harry Potter to involve myself in another such world in the form of the Lord of the Rings. Yet, I can remember seeing the series of films upon their release, but all I can remember from them is that I saw them. Now ten years have passed, the series has concluded, and each of the three films won Oscars and now ranks in the Top 50 Best Films of All Time based on IMDb. Oh, and The Hobbit is also now in production, complete with its own outrageous fanboy following. I think the time has come for a revisit of the series, so here is the first of the three Lord of the Rings films: The Fellowship of the Ring.

First, let me say that the viewing circumstances were not ideal. I saw it on a smallish screen and in two separate sittings (I’m looking at you Stephanie). Second, let me say that none of that seemed to matter because what I was able to discern from the minute characters on screen and in the two days it took to watch the film was a masterpiece unlike anything else I have seen. The films are of course based on the equally famous books by J.R.R. Tolkien and the story is nothing short of perhaps the most epic of all time. Everything is there: a long, noble quest by a main character; a vast cast of supporting characters that range from friend to foe to somewhere in between; lofty themes and symbolism; a long runtime (nearing 3 hours); and of course the amazing technical achievements.

If you don’t know the story by now, shame on you, but here is the shortest synopsis I can think of: Frodo (Elijah Wood) inheirits the “Ring to rule everything” from Bilbo (Ian Holm). He then begins to be hunted by evil wizards and Orcs and, at the encouragement of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) sets off to save himself. He meets various people along the way and once he arrives at the Elvish city of Rivendale, a “Fellowship” is created to aid Frodo in the quest to return the ring to the place of its creation, Mt. Doom, thereby destroying it. The story ends mid-journey as this is a three part series. The fact that the shortest synopsis is that longs seems to indicate that there is plenty to take in here. And I assure you, it is all worth the while.

Without just gushing over everything, where do I begin? Well, the cinematography of course. I am a visual guy and love looking at films that are shot beautifully and this film is one of the best. The lushness of the colors which pop of the screen, to the masterful angles and camera movements that mean everything to what director Peter Jackson is trying to convey, everything about it seems to be perfect for the story. And who better a director than Peter Jackson to deliver it. He is known for great special effects and this film takes it to a new level, creating massive armies and wonderful worlds in which the story is able to unfold. Along with it, the costume design and makeup are astoundingly creative and seemless to the visuals and story. All around, seeing this on a small screen makes me dream, not only of a bigger one, but of a Blu ray experience, as I am sure it would blow my socks off.

Then of course you have the great cast of characters, headed by Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, the bearer of the ring. Wood has not shown up in too many other big roles or performances, but here he seems perfect as Frodo. But to aid him, of course, are the wonderful screen presence of veterans Ian McKellan, Ian Holm, Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett and Sean Bean. Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Orlando Bloom round out what is one of the best ensemble performances I have seen in a while.

Everything about the film seems peerless and perfect. But the fact remains that it is just part one of a three part series, which may explain the only quip with the entire film: I was not entirely won over by the story. Perhaps because the story is not complete, much like part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was unable to fully appreciate what is going on. Certainly this can be a self contained film, but the bigger picture remains that the story is not yet over. I am confident that when I complete the other films, I will be able to look back on this film and appreciate the entire story and this film’s part all the more.

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