LOTR Review - Oregonian

The 'Ring' of a classic 12/19/01 



It is great -- make that insanely great.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the first installment of director Peter Jackson's three films of J.R.R. Tolkien's Ring trilogy, is here, and it immediately takes a place alongside the finest epics ever made: "Star Wars," "Lawrence of Arabia," "The Wizard of Oz," "Ran," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Apocalypse Now," you name it.

The picture evinces a mastery of every crucial aspect of the filmmaker's art -- photography, decor, music, drama, special effects, pacing, working with actors, manipulation of tone, motion, sound and color: the whole lot.

Storywise, "Fellowship" adheres closely to the first third of Tolkien's trilogy: A prologue has been added, some episodes have been trimmed and at least one excised. But the gist of the tale is all there: the creation of a ring that will give the dark lord Sauron the power to rule Middle-earth; the rise of an evil army to further that foul purpose; the discovery of the ring by the wizard Gandalf the Grey among the effects of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins; the assignation to Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's nephew, of the task of carrying the ring to a safe haven; and the formation of a fellowship of nine stalwarts to bring the ring to the land of evil, Mordor, so as to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, whence it came.

Jackson, known for a cult zombie movie ("Dead Alive"), an arty suspense thriller ("Heavenly Creatures") and a comic horror film ("The Frighteners"), will now certainly be acclaimed by a huge global audience as a director of the very first rank. Next to him, Chris Columbus, the obedient drudge hired by J.K. Rowling to film her "Harry Potter" books, seems less a moviemaker than a day-care provider.

The comparison is more than just a gratuitous swipe: Both men had sacred texts to bring to the screen, and Jackson has been just as faithful to his (even more revered) source material as was Columbus; yet Jackson has managed to convey cinematically the wonder, strangeness, pathos, wit, horror and imagination of Tolkien's work -- he doesn't just literally film it; he gives it life.

"The Fellowship of the Ring" is a great, great movie, but it does have one major fault: It will just kill you when you emerge from the theater and realize that it will be a whole year until the next installment in Jackson's Tolkien trilogy appears.

Grade: A 


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