LOTR Review - Evening Times

Magic masterpiece is Lord of the Oscars 

5 stars

Andy Dougan

THIS has been a dismal year for film-making. Only the other day I was lamenting the fate of the Academy when it comes to making their end-of-year choices for the Oscars

Fortunately, their problems have been solved. All they need to do is give Lord of the Rings every Oscar for which it is eligible and save ourselves a lot of guesswork next March. 

This is the most audacious, exciting, spectacular, breathtaking, imaginative and flat-out entertaining film I have seen in quite some time. 

I'm not much of a Tolkien fan. Like so many other fortysomethings I struggled with the books as a teenager and threw them away. 

The film happily requires no foreknowledge of Elvish lore or the history of middle Earth. This is simply a stunning achievement which contains all of the things so many films lack - vision, scale, passion, intelligence, spectacle and a genuine epic sweep. 

Director Peter Jackson has created an oxymoron, an instant classic. This is the benchmark against which all other films in this genre will be measured. 

Jackson and his screenwriters have brought Tolkien's cumbersome prose vividly to life in the first episode of a trilogy which leaves you desperate to see the other two. 

Tolkien took the best part of 1000 pages to tell his story, Jackson has three installments of three hours and proceeds with commendable economy.

Tolkien purists may quibble about omission but I never felt the film lacked for anything. 

This first installment - The Fellowship of the Ring - is the story of Frodo Baggins, a simple Hobbit who is charged with destroying a magical ring of immense power. The various species and races of middle Earth each send a representative to help and protect him.

Guided by the wise wizard Gandalf, the nine of them set off on their task. Watching from afar is the evil Lord Saruman, who is anxious to get his hands on the ring and sends armies of hideous Orcs to seize control of it. 

Jackson co-wrote the screenplay, which is a masterpiece of clarity. The elegant structure allows the story to continually move forward while cleverly acknowledging the huge amount of material in the back-story. 

But it is the cast which really shines. Elijah Wood is a fine Frodo but Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee as the wizard protagonists Gandalf and Saruman are magnificent. 

The Fellowship all acquit themselves well, with Sean Bean and especially Viggo Mortensen as the warriors Boromir and Aragorn particularly good. 

The supporting cast is flawlessly filled out with actors of the calibre of Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Liv Tyler. 

The special effects are jaw-dropping and it would take too long to list them all. One particular highlight is a nosebleed-inducing zoom from the top of Saruman's tower to the bottom of the Orcs subterranean inferno. 

And the really good news? You only have a year to wait for the next installment. 

The Lord of the Rings opens in Glasgow, Wednesday. 


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