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

Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” is an amazing film to behold. Consider that the movie, the first in a trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien books, is probably the most ambitious filmmaking project in the history of film, and that it took 2 years and $300 million to make, and you know you’re dealing with someone with guts. Besides being shot back-to-back-to-back, “LOTR” looks gorgeous, which bodes well for its two sequels, to be released in the next two years, with one movie per year.

“LOTR” follows Frodo (Elijah Wood), a young hobbit (a race of beings about half the size of man) who has just inherited a plain-looking but extremely powerful (and evil) ring from another, much-older hobbit name Bilbo (Ian Holm). The ring was forged by and belongs to an evil entity called Sauron, a “dark Lord” who attempted to take over Middle Earth (the movie’s name for its world) thousands of years ago, only to be foiled by a joint army of elves and humans. The ring was lost, and has now resurfaced thousands of years later in the hands of Bilbo. And now poor Frodo, who dreams of adventure and leaving his hobbit home to discover the world outside, suddenly finds himself way over his head, as the long-dead Sauron begins to show signs of re-emergence and sends a group of black-cloaked horsemen called the Ring Wraiths to find his ring. What’s a Hobbit to do?

Luckily Frodo has friends. Powerful, and knowledgeable friends. With the wise advice and mentoring of Gandalf the Wizard (Ian McKellen), Frodo must journey to the place of the ring’s creation and destroy it before Sauron can get his evil hands on it again and doom Middle Earth. Talk about pressure!

As you might have guessed, the movie is rife with long archaic-sounding names of places and grandiose character titles. Everyone’s a King, a Queen, some kind of Lord this, Lord that — you get the idea. It’s fantasy, folks, and that means some guy name J.R.R. Tolkien spent a lot of time coming up with goofy names for people, places, and long-winded titles for both. Despite all the hubbub surrounding the fine points about persons and places, the movie’s world is richly detailed, and under Jackson’s skilled hands, the world of “LOTR” comes alive in vibrant colors. This movie is just breathtaking to behold.

It can’t be said enough how stunning the world of “LOTR” is, from the plain vanilla (but quaint) look of the hobbit’s Shire town to the majestic and magical aura of Rivendell, the home of the elves. Even the shortest transition scene is filled with richly-detailed CGI. There is no doubt that Jackson has lavished as much passion and money into every little (and seemingly insignificant) shot. As the saying goes, “All the money is on the screen.”

“LOTR” is ambitious in everything it does — from the look to the acting to the writing to the sheer concept of a 3-part film to be released a year apart. True to form, the ending comes quite unexpectedly — or at least, unexpected for anyone who hasn’t read the book (as I haven’t). Which leaves me with my only quibble with the film. Not having read the books, I came to “LOTR” Part One with an open slate, ready to be entertained, and was shocked by the sudden ending — which, of course, is supposed to easily move into Part Two, “The Two Towers.” Of course, I didn’t know this, and was caught off guard. Because of that, I was a little bothered that I had paid full price to see an unfinished film. Yes, everything was perfect up to that point, and even full price seemed worth it, but I couldn’t help feeling…cheated.

The acting in “LOTR” is quite exceptional. Liv Tyler shows up as Arwen, an elf who helps Frodo escape the Ring Wraiths. Arwen is also the love interest for Strider (Viggo Mortensen), who, I believe, is some kind of King on a self-imposed exile (don’t ask, I didn’t quite catch what he was). Mortensen’s Strider is a brooding but excellent warrior, and becomes a leader on the journey to destroy the ring — the “fellowship” of the title. There are enough characters in “LOTR” with speaking lines and important roles in the trilogy’s scheme, but there’s so many that it’s impossible to list them all. They all have very individual personalities, but I wouldn’t presume to remember them all — or at least, their names.

Regardless, “LOTR” is a spectacular and breathtaking film. It’s a wild adventure filled with action, cutting edge CGI, animation, and brilliant set designs. I just wish someone had told me the film would just suddenly end after 3 hours. Is that so much to ask?

Peter Jackson (director) / J.R.R. Tolkien (novel), Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson (screenplay)
CAST: Elijah Wood …. Frodo
Ian McKellen …. Gandalf
Billy Boyd …. Pippin
Dominic Monaghan …. Merry
Viggo Mortensen …. Aragorn
Sean Astin …. Sam
Liv Tyler …. Arwen Undomiel

Buy Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD