The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings

 

Well, finally, one of the most anticipated films of the year, Lord Of The Rings has arrived. The wait has not been in vain either as Peter Jackson has really outdone himself. For the uninitiated, the original books were written back in 1937 and are not light reading to say the least. An animated version was made in 1978 but was not a hit by any stretch of the imagination and was created using roto-scoping (originally filmed with actors then animated over). Another animated version, this time, The Return Of The King was made in 1980's but using normal cel animation techniques. With this latest offering, Jackson has spent nearly six years of his life bringing this masterpiece to the screen and it is definitely time not wasted.

The problem for Jackson was simple - how to please the legions of fans, some of whom have waited many many years to see their favourite work of literature put to film. Well for a start you get some of the best actors and actresses together, form your own special effects house and cancel all appointment for the next few years. Very straight forward when you think about it.

The Lord Of The Rings is the first part of a trilogy of books that occur 60 years after The Hobbit. The story begins with the forging of a set of golden rings; each was given in turn to the rulers of the land. One ring was made in secret, a ring to rule all of the other rings, a ring of evil, which corrupts all who wear it. This ring is lost and many hundreds of years later is then found by a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (hero of the original 'The Hobbit' book). Through a series of events, his nephew, Frodo Baggins, inherits the ring and the burden that comes with it. After being advised by wizard, Gandalf The Grey, and accompanied by three hobbit friends, Frodo leaves the Shire (happy hobbit land) and embarks on a quest to get the ring as far away as possible from his land. In the meanwhile Gandalf seeks the council from the head of his wizard order Saruman.

Unfortunately, the Dark Lord Sauron (not to be confused with the wizard Saruman), the original owner of the ring, seeks the ring and if he finds it will use the instrument of absolute power to rule all of Middle-earth, enslaving its people in the process. Sauron's forces, in the guise of Ringwraiths (black cloaked figures riding black steeds) are right behind Frodo and his friends, as they race to meet Gandalf at the kingdom of the Elves. Along the way his is helped by a ranger, Strider and an elf Arwen Undómiel (an underused Liv Tyler).

Meanwhile it transpires that Saruman has also been enslaved by the dark forces and is creating and army for Sauron. Gandalf escapes his clutches and meets with Frodo. After much debating between the rulers of the lands Frodo embarks on a quest to destroy the ring, which can only be destroyed in Mordor where it was created. A fellowship travels with Frodo to protect him, obviously called the Fellowship Of The Ring. Within this band of nine is obviously Frodo, his three Hobbit friends, Gandalf, the ranger Strider, Boromir (a human), Gimli (a dwarf) and Legolas (an elf).

The film then focuses on the fellowships journey to Mordor, and the legions of Orcs and other evil forces of Sauron. As with all good adventures, the fellowship must battle the evil within as well as cutting swathes through the external evil forces.

The acting is top notch but that comes as no surprise when you have a look at the cast. Ian McKellen IS Gandalf, no other actor could have played him so well. Elijah Wood is excellent as Frodo, and its interesting to see his change from happy little hobbit to darker and more brooding as the film progresses (at the rate he's going, by the end of the third film he'll probably be a gothic teenager!). His hobbit chums are played much for laughs by Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd and Sean Astin. Astin plays Samwisegamgee a hobbit dedicated to Frodo with outstanding conviction. Sean Bean is Boromir with just one little slip into Sheffield accent, but good overall. Christopher Lee's portrayal of Saruman is evil personified (He has been busy, as he is also Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode 2 Attack of the Clones - guess being evil is fun). Orlando Bloom is very dignified as the elf Legolas, but the outstanding Lord Of The Rings acting award must go to Viggo Mortensen. His portrayal of Strider is brilliant, a real career high for this accomplished actor and hopefully he can keep the intense performance up through the next two films.

Everyone knew that this trilogy would have good special effects, but they are outstanding - from the subtle to the full-on mass battles. The subtle being just creating the size differences between the dwarfs, hobbits and other normal sized actors and other effects such as lighting the torch effects of Gandalf's staff. The mass battles beat anything seen before, and yes, that includes Star Wars: Episode 1 and definitely the shoddy work done on The Mummy Returns. Other outstanding FX scenes are the cave troll attacking the Fellowship whilst in the Mines (take note FX team on Harry Potter - this is how to do a troll properly) and the shear magnitude of Middle-earth's backgrounds with towers and lava filled pits. The seamless joint between the live action and the CGI is very impressive, especially during the battles. Peter Jackson really directed well and it shows.

Now for some bad points (and you thought there were none!), the film is very lengthy and quite slow at times. Adults/fans might not mind so much but there were a few kiddies nodding off during these in-between the action bits. Speaking of kiddies, here in the UK the film is rated PG with a Not Suitable For Under Eights tag (no, its nothing to do with chocolate, that's After Eights), but there were a couple of kiddies who were escorted out by dutiful parents during the more violent battles. This is not a movie geared towards kids, its more 'grown-up' than The Mummy Returns. Fans will probably understand that the ending is abrupt and will fester in anticipation, but the average movie goer will be drooling in suspense-filled agony for the next film. These are however just mood points.

Peter Jackson can rest easier at night now, knowing that he has done Tolkien proud, giving the audience the best adaptation of the authors work. This is film-making at its peak, and if this trilogy continues as well as it has started than we are all in for a rare treat. The story of the next two films should prove easier by virtue of less exposition needed to set up the saga, but second part The Two Towers is noted for being the weakest of the trilogy. We shall, unfortunately, just have to wait and see.

Score : 10/10 (yes it really is that good)

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