Jul 222004
 

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

In a small village in the Shire a young Hobbit named Frodo has been entrusted with an ancient Ring. Now he must embark on an Epic quest to the Cracks of Doom in order to destroy it.

Directed by
Peter Jackson

Genres
Fantasy, Adventure, Action

Cast
Noel Appleby, Sean Astin, Sala Baker, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Marton Csokas, Megan Edwards, Michael Elsworth, Mark Ferguson, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Lawrence Makoare

DVD

Star Wars has been dethroned. Although George Lucas’ movies are good in their own right (except for the juvenile elements he puts in to sell toys to finance the franchise), his scripts (which borrow heavily from J.R.R.Tolkien, mythology & religion) can’t compare with the brilliance of the literary trilogy `The Lord of the Rings’. Granted, Lucas took on a herculean task in writing & directing his story himself, but Tolkien’s words, along with Peter Jackson’s faithful adaptation & inspired vision, have created something no one man could equal.

Of course, it helps that Jackson insisted on at least a 2 picture deal, & New Line Cinema was brave enough to foot the bill up front for 3 movies. They spent $180 million to film all 3 simultaneously. With the New Zealand exchange rate, that equals $360 million ($90 million ea.), but since they used many of the same sets, and FX development costs were spread throughout, we’re seeing $120-$150 million on the screen. This will ensure consistency in plot, casting, tone, etc.

In 3 hours, Jackson has crammed everything essential from the first novel & then some into the film, rewriting some scenes & dialogue with lesser characters for the leads, leaving out only what there wasn’t enough time for. Basically, you have two 90 min. movies running back to back. There are no slow spots, just one climax after another. From the opening 10 min. backstory where the Dark Lord Sauron is shown on the battlefield wiping out men & elves 10 at a time with each swing of his mace, I was blown away. The romance between Aragorn, king in exile, and Arwen, daughter of the elf-lord, is played up for the “Titanic” quotient, but it’s well done.

The story, sets, costumes & FX are so rich, you’ll have to see the film several times to absorb everything. The unspoiled New Zealand locales are spectacular, providing a variety of environments to represent the different settings on the characters’ journey. The location sets are imaginative, detailed & weathered, adding to their believability, while the studio sets match them in meticulousness. The costumes are at once familiar & strange, drawing on both the medievil & the fantastic, but more important, they’re also functional & practical. The music by Howard Shore is appropriately sweeping, Celtic & folky in keeping with the novel, although it lacks the memorable themes of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith, but neither would commit a year or more to a 3 picture project. The FX are as they should be, unobtrusive & unnoticed most of the time, there only to support the story not draw attention away from it as in most Hollywood movies which try to coverup illogical plots & bad acting.

A stellar cast giving some of their best performances, visuals that deliver beyond what I imagined, a perfect mix of humor, passion & tragedy, and a feeling of grandeur, scope & impending doom. Perhaps as an ensemble piece with so many characters & the inability to concentrate on any one, it can’t be measured against some of the classic character study films, but even the casual moviegoer can grasp the ideas & not get lost As far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the greatest films of all time.

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