Greatest Show on Middle-Earth
07 December 2001
By Joe Merret
It has taken £200 million to bring Tolkien's magical world to life in an awe inspiring movie trilogy. But as I sat back and watched the first part of the spectacle unfold before me yesterday, I knew it had been worth every penny. As one of the first people in Britain to see the Fellowship of the Ring, I felt as though I had been scooped up and carried away on the most incredible journey of the imagination. Peter Jackson has turned a literary epic into a feast for the eyes and mind, bringing picturesque Hobbiton to life with each hand crafted house down to each blade of grass and tulip, every frame is visibly overwhelming.
But mythical Middle-earth has its share of violence and ugliness too. Within the landscapes are the most horrible characters - evil creatures. Nor is the blood and gore understated. Arrows pierce eyeballs and black blood squelches out as slimy creatures are decapitated. It's not for the very young or faint hearted. (here the critic lays out the usual plot details here that are cut) On his journey, Frodo and friends are pursued by nine black riders, sent to capture him. It is not long before Frodo is embroiled in a series of vicious, bloody battles that, unlike the Harry Potter film, are definately aimed at the older audience. I found much of this part truly terrifying. At one point they were surrounded by a swirling mist so realistic that I could feel a chill on the back of my neck. And the ferocious orcs are even more terrifying on screen. They are grey, wrinkly, slime coloured creatures that will play a part in many nightmares in the coming weeks. The orcs, together with the Uruk-Hai warriors and a cave troll, attack Frodo and the fellowship in the mines of Moria, blah blah, (usual story telling bit cut here )
The story realy works as a film, and like the tales themselves, has an appeal that's hard to beat. Sadly for JK Rowling, Harry Potter does not have it on the same grand scale. There is a real sense of drama and urgency as you find yourself being drawn into this world of good versus evil, where passion and morality are the supreme forces. The movie touches the audience with real emotion and fear, setting it apart from any other of its type that I have seen. When young Frodo was scared, I could feel my muscle tensing for him. The famous faces woven into the story are masterful. As gandalf, Sir Iam MacKellen is the most wizardly wizard imaginable, with wispy beard and pointed hat. And veteran star Christopher Lee is chillingly evil as Saruman. The beautiful Cate Blanchett is a shimmering vision of goodness in her role, while Sean Bean is as sexy and surly as ever as Boromir. When Liv Tyler appears in a stunning, cream coloured dress that sets off her dark hair, she makes you gasp at her beauty. As Arwen, she performs brilliantly, particulary as she speaks in Elf talk accompanied by subtitles.
Jacksons camera work keeps the film moving swiftly and is perfect for the rapid action battle sequences. To all those people who have been turned off by the prospect of Tolkien, viewing his tales as simply wierd stuff about trolls and elves, I say: Do go and see this film. Its is gritty and scary in a down to earth yet mystical way that makes you feel like there is a little bit of hobbit in everyone. Despite its PG certificate, I really would not recomment taking young children to see this. It's far to gory for that. But to anyone else, The Fellowship of the Ring will prove irresistable. It is a hugely satisfying watch and a chance for a little escapism for a few hours. I cannot wait to see the next two films and get another helping of that magical Middle-Earth.
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