Should I Watch..? 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'
What's the big deal?
Seriously? The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring is an epic fantasy adventure film released in 2001 and is an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's first volume of his The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. It was filmed at the same time as its two sequels - The Two Towers and The Return Of The King - by Peter Jackson in his native New Zealand and is considered to be the benchmark for fantasy films and an achievement in film-making in general. Eagerly awaited by fans of the books, the film became a box office smash and secured a staggering thirteen nominations at the Academy Awards. Collectively, the three films have earned around $3 billion worldwide, making them among the most successful in cinematic history.
What's it about?
The film opens with a prologue in the Second Age of Middle Earth, depicting the Dark Lord Sauron forging a secret ring that would help bring Middle Earth to its knees. In a desperate attempt to prevent this, an army of Men and Elves march to Mount Doom to battle Sauron and his vast Orc army. During the battle, the young prince Isildur is able to separate the Ring from Sauron but due to the Ring's malevolent influence over him, Isildur keeps it for himself and fails to destroy it. With Sauron defeated, Isildur wields the Ring until he is slain by Orcs. The Ring then becomes lost for millennia until it is accidentally discovered by the creature known as Gollum. But in time, the Ring abandons him also and falls into the possession of the unlikeliest individual imaginable - the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.
Sixty years later and Bilbo is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf The Grey to part with the Ring and reluctantly, he agrees to pass it onto his nephew Frodo. By the time Frodo has it, Gandalf has learned of the Ring's true nature and is determined to see it destroyed. But Sauron's forces are everywhere - the Ring calls out to mysterious black-hooded riders while Gandalf's companion Saruman The White is revealed to be allied with Sauron. But what hope can a mere hobbit have in the face of overwhelming odds?
Gandalf The Grey
Saruman The White
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson *
Release Date (UK)
19th December, 2001
Academy Award Nominations
Best Picture, Best Actor In A Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Original Song
Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
Over the years, I can count on one hand how many times that I've sat and watched a film in something close to awe. The first time you watch The Fellowship Of The Ring (which demands to be seen on a big screen) when it opens with the first of many battle scenes, you never find yourself wondering who is computer generated or how many hours it took to get every single man, elf and orc just so. Because, in truth, none of it looks computer generated. It is as though Jackson himself was there and he throws us into the midst of battle - shields bashing, swords ringing, arrows arcing through the sky in numbers so vast that the sun disappears. It is a statement of intent by Jackson - there will be no half-measures with this adaptation. It will be pure and faithful and a sight to behold. It is, in short, intoxicating.
Of course, viewers these days take such fancy visual gimmickry for granted but I can think of few films that utilise CG better than Jackson does here. Even the Star Wars prequels or The Matrix look amateurish by comparison. But that tells only half the story. The cast, all of them universally believable in their roles, all look the part not just with their faultless costumes but even the height discrepancies are seamless. And if you aren't familiar with the story (as I wasn't when I first watched it) then prepare yourself for a truly epic voyage - betrayal, loss, redemption, loyalty and courage and this is just the first film of three! It is a rare film that, once seen, is never forgotten.
- Christopher Lee was the only member of the cast to have met Tolkien. Having been granted Tolkien's blessing to play Gandalf should a film ever be made, Lee campaigned hard for the part. But when he was offered Saruman instead, Lee accepted.
- Orlando Bloom secured the role of Legolas two days before finishing drama school.
- Viggo Mortensen was so into his character that during a conversation with the director, Peter Jackson kept calling him Aragorn for half an hour before Viggo noticed.
What's not to like?
Right, here goes. The film obviously doesn't include everything in the book as to do so would probably add on another hours worth of running time, at least. So Tolkien purists might be upset that there is no Tom Bombadil or that battles have a modern choreography and feel to them. The pace of the story is also sped up considerably from the books (not that it felt like that to me!) but again, the reasons for doing so are understandable.
The only other thing I disliked was the feeling that I felt the character of Gollum was being teased before his full appearance in the next film. His brief scenes are more like cameos and he is never shown in full light, always in shadow or obscured somehow. To make up for this, Jackson unleashes his furious Balrog but again, there is an annoying lack of clarity to this fiery beast. Maybe I'm being picky but that's all I can think of. One final thought - this is obviously the first of three films so don't expect any sort of real conclusion. You're only just getting started by the time the ending rolls around.
Should I watch it?
Even if fantasy films aren't to your taste, The Fellowship Of The Ring is a breath-taking, sweeping epic that redefines modern cinema and sets the standard for other films of this type to follow. Jackson and his army of cast and crew have delivered a magnificent picture, one that somehow managed to satisfy the rabid cravings of geeks like me the world over. It is a movie made without compromise - every scene, every shot, every detail is given nothing less than 100% attention and care and it really shows. If the words "fantasy epic" put you off then you're missing out on one of the best films for a generation.
Great For: fantasy geeks, fans of cinema, New Zealand natives, lovers of the original books
Not So Great For: fans of Harry Potter or Twilight, people with short attention spans, people without an HD TV at home
What else should I watch?
Obvious comparisons with both The Two Towers and Return Of The King are inevitable but in truth, not that valuable - each one is just as good as The Fellowship Of The Ring and as a whole, the series will remain landmark movies for years to come. It's a pity that Jackson's second Middle-Earth trilogy, The Hobbit, never quite recaptured the same magic
But what if you want to watch something different? The eight Harry Potter movies offer a more modern take on the traditional world of wizards and monsters and are surprisingly good films in their own right. Or if your attention span only lasts sixty minutes then the TV series Game Of Thrones might also fit your requirements, if it is considerably more explicit and violent. But if your idea of a fantasy film is stuff like Red Sonja or Conan The Barbarian then it's time to leave the Eighties behind and get up to speed. This is as good as it gets, end of discussion.
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© 2015 Benjamin Cox