The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring marks the first ambitious film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's highly praised and acclaimed series of fantasy novels. Naturally, transferring one of the world's greatest fantasy novels to the screen would subsist as a daunting undertaking. For the die-hard fans of Tolkien's legendary novels, uncertainty was always an issue when small-time New Zealand born director Peter Jackson took the reigns. Although Jackson is an accomplished director who had previously helmed such films as Heavenly Creatures and Bad Taste, no-one knew for sure if the Kiwi was up to the task. The results are absolutely outstanding: a ripping yarn of a fantasy film rich in extraordinary production values, astounding special effects and never a dull moment.
The hordes of Tolkien fans must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring thundered across cinemas worldwide and became an instant hit. The film grossed millions of dollars globally and was being met with cavalcades of acclaim including mountains of positive reviews. What's more - the film also scored 13 Oscar nominations and subsequently walked away with 4 wins. Although previous stabs at adapting Tolkien's novels to the big screen yielded embarrassing results, Jackson's prior experience and familiarity with the fantasy genre translated into a respectful, lavish, gorgeously-mounted production that breathed fresh cinematic life into Middle Earth.
This first instalment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy introduces the characters and establishes the story. An ancient ring of power was forged several centuries ago by the Dark Lord Sauron (Baker). Sauron's master ring, known as the One Ring, was filled with Sauron's sinister power and contains the capability to rule all peoples of Middle Earth. After an impressive opening montage that recaps the integral events of Middle Earth that have occurred thousands of years ago, the story then picks up at Hobbiton: a village that is largely inhabited by the Hobbit race.
After being lost for centuries, Sauron's One Ring is picked up by a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Holm). Fast forward a few decades and it's Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday. As the celebrations rage on, Bilbo should be happy but feels empty as his life is seemingly winding down and there are still a lot of things he wants to do before shuffling off. Bilbo departs Hobbiton, leaving the One Ring to be inherited by his nephew Frodo Baggins (Wood). Frodo soon learns that this ring is Sauron's master ring, and it must be immediately destroyed. Now Frodo must embark on a journey to the fires of Mount Doom. Only in the flames of that mountain can the ring be destroyed. If he fails and a resurrected Sauron reclaims the ring, he will bind the other 9 subservient rings to his will and cast a pall over the lands of Middle Earth.
The film's subtitle, The Fellowship of the Ring, is drawn from the milestone in Frodo's journey to Mount Doom that occurs: Frodo collects a band of companions who swear to aid in the quest and protect Frodo at all costs.
The film's easy-going first hour quickly transforms into a heart-stopping, exciting, powerful and violent saga that is truly difficult to find boring. Although audience reactions were mixed and many complained about the film's length, I frankly cannot imagine myself being bored.
To say that I loved this film is a gross understatement. Not only is Tolkien's novel one of the greatest books ever published, but Jackson's film adaptation now confidently places itself amongst the greatest movies of all time. This first instalment in Jackson's trilogy is a labour of love - he and his team were determined and worked endlessly to accomplish the best possible product. Jackson's first LOTR film is visually astounding, as well being outstanding in terms of audio and atmosphere.
While so many battles were created using computer technology, this is the blueprint of "epic". Over the years we've seen "big" films like Titanic and Braveheart, but this film simply dwarfs most movies in terms of sheer production size. Every facet of the movie has been done to perfection - every chair, every sword, every location. Why has it taken so many decades to finally get this ambitious project off the ground? Simply because the sheer scope and size of the production would cost far too much. Even in the age of advanced digital technology and big-budget epics, it took countless years to finish. It's refreshing to see so much determination to reach perfection. The descriptions of everything in Tolkien's novel are brilliantly matched by the ideal creative team.
Pale imitations like Harry Potter are a regularity. In the years succeeding this film's release the world was exposed to failed fantasy epics like Eragon, just to name one. The brilliance of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy will always remain unmatched. To quote a music reviewer, this film is the "blueprint for a trillion inferior facsimiles." With the aid of contemporary filmmaking technology and the diverse New Zealand landscape, the visual result is simply impossible to match.
Special recognition must go to Howard Shore for composing the music that won an Oscar! I own the soundtrack CD and can't get enough of the music. It's exciting, intense, grand, passionate and even heart-breaking at times. This is the cherry on top.
The film is astronomically elevated by the marvellous cast. Elijah Wood makes an exceptional Frodo Baggins. This is an emotionally challenging role for the youthful actor, and nevertheless he nails it perfectly. Sean Astin plays the exigent role of Samwise Gamgee. The role called for an endless assortment of diverse emotions that Astin strikes faultlessly. Ian McKellen is utterly flawless as Gandalf the Grey. McKellen was acknowledged with an Oscar nomination for playing Gandalf with equal parts of underhanded humour and shrewdness. McKellen IS Gandalf and there is no doubt about that. Viggo Mortenson convincingly pulls off the dashing Aragorn: a ranger who becomes determined to help Frodo. Credit must also go to Sean Bean. I am a great admirer of Bean, and must mention his outstanding performance. His versatility is tested with this challenging role: like many other additions to the cast, a collection of emotions are pivotal. Bean passionately pulls off the role of Boromir.
I'm not even halfway through mentioning the cast! Orlando Bloom got his big break playing the loyal elf Legolas. This is the single role that Bloom was meant to play. The character is flat and emotionless...and this describes the nature of every single Orlando Bloom performance. John Rhys-Davis is sublime as the dwarf Gimli. This is one of the veteran actors included in the cast. I couldn't imagine anyone better suited. Finally there are great portrayals from Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan as two Hobbit companions, in addition to sublime elf portrayals from such actors as Hugo Weaving and Liv Tyler. The cast is truly a wonder to behold!
Overall, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring will forever be one of my absolute favourite movies! I still recall the first time I saw this movie: it was Boxing Day 2001 and my favourite uncle dragged me along to the cinema with my brother and cousin. We had booked tickets in advance and it's a good thing we did as there was a sign outside that strictly read "LOTR sold out!" Ever since that first screening I viewed, I subsequently saw it many more times at the cinema (about 5 more times, actually) as well as watching it at marathons and in the comfort of my own bedroom where I can watch the DVD.
Peter Jackson and his creative team have achieved a cinematic marvel! Even with characters and segments of the book being removed, this will remain the definitive cinematic vision of Tolkien's novel for many decades to come. One of the most anticipated cinematic events in history has finally transpired and in my opinion it is completely worth the wait! Some will love it, some will hate it: I will always be part of the former. Critics and audiences alike will always praise this film, and who's to quibble? It's a fine movie! Winner of 4 Oscars. Later released in an extended version.
In the common tongue it reads "One Ring to Rule Them All. One Ring to Find Them. One Ring to Bring Them All and In The Darkness Bind Them."