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The Fellowship of the Ring A heroic
film
adventure
begins


"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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There was much concern when it was announced that the classic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was going to be made into movies that it be done right. Anything less than a classic movie would be heartbreaking to the millions of readers who love Tolkein's work, let alone the smaller but very vocal crowd of the Middle Earth-obsessed.

"The Lord of the Ring: The Fellowship of the Ring" is a captivating, compelling movie that is only the first step in a journey that will take us to the eventual fate of the ring, of those who bear it and of those who seek it as well. Given the performances here, it is easy to care very much about who gets there and in what shape they are in when they arrive. It is a journey we can all take together.

Read more
 about the making of the trilogy.

Sala Baker
Sala Baker

Gandalf arrives
Gandalf arrives

Ian Holm
Ian Holm

Monaghan, Wood, Boyd, Astin
Monaghan, Wood, Boyd, Astin

Bean, Bloom, Mortensen
Bean, Bloom, Mortensen

John Rhys-Davies
John Rhys-Davies

Orlando Bloom
Orlando Bloom

Sean Bean
Sean Bean

Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler

Viggo Mortensen
Viggo Mortensen

Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett

Making of
Making-of feature
Visually, this is a stunning movie. The elven communities of Rivendell and Lothlorien are beautiful in an alien way, blending naturally with their forest environments. Hobbiton in the Shire, where Bilbo and Frodo live, looks exactly as I imagined it, calm, peaceful and rustic but with a hint of the English countryside implicit in every nook and cranny. The ruins of ancient kingdoms, statues of forgotten kings and warriors dot the journey's landscape, giving the world an old and lived-in appearance. The attention to detail in establishing each individual place in the movie, each with its own specific character and feel, is nothing short of astounding.

Jackson has an epic pallete to paint his picture, and he uses every color imaginable. The bright colors of the Shire contrast with the dark, stormy terrain of Mordor; the Elven territories are in a perpetual autumn, as their race prepares to leave Middle Earth, lending a further poignancy to the tale. Jackson obviously holds the source material in high regard, and stays as true to Tolkein's words as is possible.

Wisely, the various characters are developed slowly, becoming who they are during the course of the movie. There is not a disappointing performance throughout; Mortensen carries a quiet intensity as Aragorn, McKellan a grandfatherly presence as Gandalf. The extras are well-cast, helping set the background tone in each location; folksy and a bit comic in Hobbiton, suspicious and tense in Bree, graceful yet sad in Lorien.

What makes this so successful a movie is what I would call a sense of place throughout; the archictecture, scenery and characters all contribute to the overall mood. Middle Earth becomes a living, breathing place because of it, and the rich textures of Tolkein's world come to life before our very eyes.

Overall, this can only be called a labor of love, and that love can clearly be seen on the screen in every frame. Jaw-dropping special effects and eye-popping scenery from the wilds of New Zealand dazzle at every turn. Howard Shore's haunting score serves to enhance the film, and having Enya contribute a pair of vocalizations to the movie is a wise move; her ethereal voice is perfect for it.

THE STORY

In "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings," Middle Earth is threatened by a grave power. A prologue shows us how, thousands of years prior to this story, a wizard king named Sauron (Sala Baker) crafted a ring to dominate all the races of the land - human, elf and dwarf - and give Sauron ultimate power over Middle Earth. The bravery of Isildur (Harry Sinclair), a human king, defeats Sauron's plans; Isildur's greed, however, causes the ring to escape destruction and allow Sauron to eventually return. The ring ultimately falls into the hands of an adventuresome hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) who brings it home to Bag End, in the village of Hobbiton, where it remained dormant.

Now, it is many years later and Bilbo is readying for a massive party to celebrate his 111th birthday. His old friend Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), a powerful wizard, arrives to celebrate with a wagon chock full of wonderful fireworks, and is greeted by Bilbo's nephew, the bookish Frodo (Elijah Wood). Bilbo is worn out, although he looks much younger than his years would indicate. He wants to see the Misty Mountain again, and dwell among the elves in peace so he might finish the book he is writing of his adventures, "There and Back Again."

At the party, Frodo's friends Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), get into mischief involving Gandalf's fireworks, setting the tone for their roles in the tale. Bilbo makes a sudden and startling departure at the party's conclusion, using the ring to become invisible. The wizard immediately realizes that there is much more to Bilbo's ring than even he had realized. He confronts Bilbo and convinces his old friend to leave the ring to Frodo. Gandalf warns Frodo, "Keep it secret; keep it safe," then rides off to find out the truth of this ring.

When Gandalf returns to Bag End it to urge Frodo to flee. Nine ghastly riders, the nazghul, have been dispatched to retrieve the ring, which by Gandalf has determined to be THE ring. Frodo's friend, gardener Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) overhears some of the discussion and is confronted by Gandalf, who asks what he heard.

"N-nothing important. That is, I heard a good deal about a ring, and a dark lord, and something about the end of the world, but please, Mr. Gandalf, sir, don't hurt me. Don't turn me into anything... unnatural."

Sam is sent to accompany Frodo.

The hobbits run into Merry and Pippin, who are pilfering vegetables from a farmer. The reunion, however, is brief; the hobbits are nearly discovered by one of the terrifying and mysterious riders — the nazghul.

In the human town of Bree, they meet he ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), who saves them from a disturbing attack from the nazghul, and sets out to lead them for the elven settlement of Rivendell. However, the nazghul catch up to them at Weathertop, an ancient fortress, where Frodo is stabbed with a poisoned blade. Aragorn drives off the nazghul and steps up the pace to go to Rivendll, desperate to save Frodo. They are met along the way by Arwen (Liv Tyler), an elven princess and daughter of Elrond, who puts Frodo on her horse and rides a thrilling race against the murderous nazghul. Gandalf, in the meantime, has been imprisoned by Saruman (Christopher Lee), head of his order, whom he had gone to consult. Saruman, believing that Mordor cannot be defeated, has decided to ally himself with Sauron. Gandalf finally manages to escape, using a giant eagle to fly from Isengard, the wizard's tower which is Saruman's base, but not before learning that Saruman is breeding an army of urukhai, a crossbreed of orc and goblin that have none of the weaknesses of either race and many of the strengths.

Elrond calls a council to determine the fate of the ring, and after some deliberation, decides to send a small party to Mordor, to Mount Doom itself, to destroy the ring. This despite the objections of Boromir (Sean Bean), son of the Steward of Gondor, the ruler of that land in the stead of a king who is lost - a king who turns out to be Aragorn, who doesn't want the job.

There is much arguing and distrust among the races as to who will bear the ring, but finally Frodo speaks up and declares that he will carry the ring to Mordor, though he doesn't know the way. Gandalf pledges to assist him, as does Aragorn and Boromir, as well as an elven prince named Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and a dwarven warrior named Gimli (John Rhys-Davies). Sam, Merry and Pippin also proclaim that they are going wherever Frodo goes. Thus is formed the Fellowship of the Ring.

On the eve of their departing, Arwen presents Aragorn with a token of her love; Aragorn begs her not to give it to him, knowing she would give up her immortality for his love, but she gives it to him nonetheless. The fellowship then departs for Mordor.

The way is hard. In a snowy mountain pass, Saruman attacks them magically, forcing them to go the one way Gandalf didn't want to travel; underground, through the mines of Moria, where Gimli's cousin rules.

After surviving the attack of a hideous kraken at the gates of the mines, the Fellowship travels into Moria, and it becomes obvious that the entire dwarven colony has been massacred. They are attacked just then by orcs, goblins and a massive cave troll and when it appears they will be surrounded, something frightens the thousands of orcs and goblins off; it turns out to be a balrog, a fire demon from the depths of the earth. Gandalf fights off the balrog, but then is yanked off a precipice, and is lost to the Fellowship.

Disheartened, the survivors of the fellowship make their way into Lothlorien, stronghold of the high elves, where they are greeted by King Celeborn (Martin Csokas) and the ethereal Queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), who allow the weary travelers rest. After receiving gifts of elven cloaks, waybread and other items, the Fellowship resumes its journey, now by river.

At camp they are ambushed by the Urukhai, Boromir is confronted by his own weakness, and the Fellowship is broken, with one member giving his life in battle.

AT HOME OR AT A THEATER?

This calls out for a big screen presentation; if a local movie house presents it for you, by all means go and see it there. If not, there are three different versions available on DVD; the theatrical release, an extended release and a special extended release. I recommend the extended release for all three movies; while the special extended release has an additional disc (which is a National Geographic special on the making of the movie) and a wonderful statue, it is pricey and the fifth disc adds very little. The extended footage and special features are well worth the added expense of the extended version, which is very affordable.

Note from John Orr: My family bought the special extended sets and have enjoyed having the statues that came with them. A small extra price for what we consider collector's items.


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Buy the extended edition DVD gift set at Amazon.com.

See cast, credit and other details about "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings" at Internet Movie Data Base.