December 6, 2012 by thedavidryan
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Review
“I think there’s more to this hobbit than meets the eye.”
‘WHAT?! YOU’VE NEVER SEEN THE LORD OF THE RINGS?! KILL HIM, KILL HIM WITH FIRE!!’ – Is the usual response I get when I confess that no, up until yesterday evening, I don’t know what a hobbit is, I don’t know what an orc is nor do I know what Orlando Bloom is. However, dearest readers I now know it all! Except Orlando Bloom, no one knows what he is.
If you weren’t one of the many that contributed to the Fellowship of the Rings‘ gigantic $871,530,324 worldwide box office, then allow me to explain the story of the first entry to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Based on the first volume of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings book series, The Fellowship of the Ring is set in the fantasy land of Middle-earth, where the Dark Lord Sauron is on the hunt for the potentially dangerous One Ring. The Ring however, has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The destiny of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as the courageous hobbit of The Shire and his eight friends set out on a voyage to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring and the Dark Lord Sauron.
As stated above, whenever I’ve mentioned that I hadn’t watched this ‘must see’ trilogy the reaction I’ve been greeted with is as though I’d been caught practising witchcraft or kicked the face off a baby panda. Just to be clear I haven’t done either of those things, but I did finally get round to watching the Fellowship of the Ring and to be honest, I have a mixed opinion.
The Fellowship of the Ring starts off with a lengthy prologue setting up the story of the ring and its potential for harm if in the wrong hands. While this piece was extremely cinematic and visually gorgeous it was a little tricky to follow at times for people like me that have never turned a page in any J. R. R. Tolkien book. The constant name dropping of places and people I’d never heard of was a tough entry to the franchise and left me struggling to remember who was who and where was where. This is by no means a condemnation of the opening; I just believe the barrage of terms could be a potential turn off for people who aren’t fans of the books.
However, once I digested the essentials it was on with the story and the introduction of truly iconic characters. The ensemble cast is one of the finest assembled for a big blockbuster trilogy like this, with extremely distinguished names taking up some of the movies most important roles. Elijah Wood is perfectly cast as the diminutive hero who is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight to save all of Middle-earth. Wood turns in a believable performance as a small town hobbit that is out of his depth but refuses to give up.
Alongside Wood is the always sensational Sir Ian McKellen who gives a rousing showing as the great wizard Gandalf, fully making the role his own. It is believed that Sean Connery was approached to play the part of the much loved wizard before McKellen, which looking back would have been a preposterous decision giving how good Sir Ian is as the enigmatic character.
Christopher Lee is in sparkling form as Saruman the White, who succumbs to Lord Sauron’s will and is the villain of the piece. Watching McKellen and Lee on screen together as imposing powerful wizards is utterly brilliant and the verbal jousting between the two former friends is a joy to behold.
Other distinguished performances from Sean Bean as the conflicted Boromir, Hugo Weaving as the Elven master Elrond and the very good Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, all add to the huge acting talent on show. The strong cast absolutely moulds this fantasy world into a convincing universe that makes the viewer believe in the story and the motives behind each character. Orlando Bloom is in it too, somewhere.
The greatest aspect of the entire movie however is the jaw dropping special effects. The set pieces are outstanding and a huge amount of credit must go to Peter Jackson and his production crew for not only attempting to capture this enormous world but for doing so in such a grand and spectacular way. The action sequences are overwhelming and the prologue in particular is a standout that allows Jackson to flex his special effect muscles with outstanding results. The camera sweeps majestically between fiery mountains of fighting men and orcs and reveals the gigantic scope in which this opening war is raging.
Production for the trilogy was carried out in Jackon’s homeland of New Zealand, and for good reason too as the landscape is completely breathtaking. The remarkable hills, lakes and mountains of New Zealand which create the Lord of the Rings universe all provide that very important authentic touch to the mythical Middle-earth. The scenery is beautiful and really immerses you into the Fellowship of the Ring tale.
My main criticism of the picture is unfortunately the linear story. I can already confidently assume how the franchise will conclude and I’ve only seen one film. Frodo takes ownership of the ring and he will destroy it. Simple as that and nothing that happens between the next two movies will change that.
While that is fine and is obviously the tale in the book, it does take away the air of mystery somewhat to how the film could end. An example of this is in the recent Star Wars movies. Having seen the ending of the story in the first films and knowing that Anakin Skywalker eventually transforms into Darth Vader, it lacked a huge amount of magic when that eventual transformation occurred because the audience already knew the outcome. Hopefully I’m wrong and the story somehow veers away from the slightly predictable conclusion.
Another minor grievance I have about Fellowship of the Ring is unlike most trilogies I’ve seen, such as The Godfather or the more recent Dark Knight trilogy, the Fellowship of the Ring was very much a ‘part one of the story’ type of movie. This was unusual at first as it can be quite slow in points because it is often setting up subsequent events that will take place in the later movies. However while this approach can be sluggish at times, a positive note is it does allow plenty of opportunities to flesh out the characters and outline their individual stories before the fellowship take on the might of Mordor in the second instalment of the franchise; The Two Towers.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Conclusion
Overall the Fellowship of the Ring is a visual masterpiece that showcases genuinely stunning cinematic set pieces with staggering special effects. I’m led to believe that this is built upon in later movies, with battle scenes in particular taking great advantage of the dazzling visuals. The ensemble cast are the key ingredients that bring this make-believe universe to life with some superb performances.
Whilst the opening entry to the Lord of the Rings universe may have lagged slightly as it sets up the next two movies, the gorgeous imagery and wonderfully ambitious direction has me eagerly looking forward to seeing what is next for Frodo and the rest of the fellowship. TO MORDOR!
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