THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
DECEMBER 9, 2012
J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson are both pioneers. The first time you read or see “The Lord of the Rings,” it is nothing short of a masterpiece. And that respect grows each time you visit the film or read the massive novel. How Tolkien could have had such an imagination to create an entirely new world and spin an epic adventure with new races, familiar faces, and altogether new languages is incomprehensible. How Jackson could have such a vision from these 50-year-old words is just as miraculous.
“The Fellowship of the Ring” sets the bar for the first films in a trilogy, allowing the slow play of introducing all of its title characters, including the hobbits: Bilbo (Ian Holm), Frodo (Elijah Wood), Samwise (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan), and Pippin (Billy Boyd), and their close wizard friend, Gandalf (Academy Award-nominated Ian McKellen). We become settled in with these characters in their quiet existence in Hobbiton, all while learning the lore of Middle Earth through Bilbo’s last journey, chronicled in Tolkien’s previous novel, “The Hobbit.” The looming threat of the ring and the eventual progression of the hobbits’ adventures are unmatched by any epic adventure film.
The supporting characters are just as impressive. An all-star ensemble cast fills out the Fellowship. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is the rightful heir to the throne of men and lover of Arwen the elf (Liv Tyler). Legolas (Orlando Bloom) is a bow-and-arrow expert elf, Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), the ax-wielding dwarf, and Boromir (Sean Bean), the shifty-looking prince of Gondor. They all have their part to play, and they play it wonderfully, never skipping a beat. On their adventure, they all have certain crescendo moments that bring them to light, and though we play it much slower with these characters, we get a greater sense of their involvement as the miles pass.
Sauron and Saruman (Christopher Lee) are both appropriate levels of evil to encapsulate the perfect villains for such a high level of epic adventure. Barely seeing them in this first installment is a testament to yet another perfectly executed slow play. Instead, several of the main villains’ “henchmen” are introduced, including the darkly cloaked and terrifying nine Ring-wraiths or Nazgûl, the large Orcs, and the Orcs 2.0; the Uruk-hai, tormented former elves built to destroy. Even the fan-favorite villain, Gollum (Andy Serkis), is weaved into the story slowly. All of these allow for several epic battles and creepy moments, all while never really allowing one to get too close to the actual villains, which is extremely fitting given the extensive run-time of these films and the idea of actual warfare.
The first film of “The Lord of the Rings” has the perfect arc, with everything one needs to get invested, with several epic battles, several love stories, the theme of camaraderie, heartbreaking moments, and overall a sense of moving forward into the unknown. “The Fellowship of the Ring” proves the full extent the human imagination can go, and with two more films to follow, it is baffling to imagine what the filmmakers felt when stepping up to such a massive undertaking for the first time.
The sheer mass of costumes, sets, and location scouting is insurmountable. All expertly support some of the best visual effects created for any film, some of the most creative and sweeping cinematography, and absolutely no bounds to where this series could go. From scene one, you are immersed in this new world and never taken out of it, whether it’s the two-and-a-half hours you devote to the theatrical version or the three-and-a-half you prolong into the extended cut. No matter the length of time, “The Fellowship of the Ring” is a labor of love and a feat of what it is to call oneself a filmmaker and a storyteller.
December 19, 2001
“The Fellowship of the Ring”
by J.R.R. Tolkien
New Line Cinema
(for epic battle sequences and some scary images)
Barrie M. Osborne