The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship
Of The Rings
Banish those Harry Potter comparisons from your brain. Peter Jacksons long awaited movie adaptation of The Fellowship Of The Ring may be based on a hugely popular book and involve wizards, magic, monsters and special effects galore, but it has as much to do with Potter as The Famous Five has with Saving Private Ryan. In fact, given both its atmosphere of impending doom and all the limb-hacking and bone-cracking on display, its amazing that Fellowship managed to scrape a PG-rating (albeit one with a special note to warn its too heavy for under-eights). This isnt some happy, kid-friendly adventure -its the story of how an entire world is plunged into war.
Well, to be precise, its the story of how that war starts, focusing on the first stage of unassuming hobbit Frodos (Elijah Wood) quest to take down the dark lord Sauron by lobbing his magic ring into the fires of bad guy stronghold Mount Doom. On the way we meet a wide array of supporting characters, including fiery tempered dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), fiesty she-elf Arwen (Liv Tyler), rugged, heroic ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and powerful wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen).
Sadly, though, in true first-part-of-series
fashion, we dont really have time to get to know many of
them properly, despite the hefty, three-hour running time.
This, though, is The Fellowship Of The Rings only weakness; if you havent already read the book, then the whirl of fantastic names, references and brief introductions will leave you a little confused. However, this isnt to say Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have botched the adaptation. Far from it - its hard to see how anyone could have better condensed JRR Tolkiens text, with Jackson and the others keeping the dialogue true to the book without it sounding overly theatrical or campy. Its just that theres so much to take in, those who arent Tolkien-savvy will have problems catching some of it on the first bounce.
Of course, chances are youll be so swept away by Jacksons ambitious realisation of Tolkiens world, you wont be bothered too much by missing the odd plot detail. This isnt the pristine, obviously digitised universe of The Phantom Menace, but something grittier, darker and far more immersive. Effects house Weta seamlessly blends the beautiful New Zealand landscapes with some Oscar-beckoning virtual creations, and shows admirable restraint with CGI, relying more on more traditional make-up effects when pixels arent really needed.
Then theres Jacksons deft handling of the action, keeping things pacey despite several rest-stops, and delivering some feverish, frenetic swordplaying set-pieces. Most notable is the Mines Of Moria sequence, which is surely up there with Gladiators chariot battle and The Matrixs lobby shoot-out in terms of action movie high points. With its scurrying goblin army, roaring cave troll and the towering, flame-whipping Balrog, itll jam your heart in your gob and hold it there, beating wildly, for a good half-hour.
But as too many plopbusters have reminded us, great effects simply arent enough. So you can thank the gods that Jackson has assembled a strong, spark-striking cast, who do far more than simply stand in front of a blue screen and drone their lines at a spot slightly to the left of a yet-to-be-conjured CG image. Wood, in particular, handles Frodos descent from happy-go-lucky adventurer to tragedy-courting hero with subtlety and sensitivity, while the relatively unknown Mortensen perfectly captures Aragorns rugged charisma and mystique. But its McKellens Gandalf who really stands tall. It must be hard to play someone who youre told brims with power without making it too hammy, but McKellen manages it effortlessly. Gandalf may be a fearsome, spell-slinging wizard, but, thanks to McKellen, hes easily the most accessible and 'human character portrayed.
Pointed hats off to Jackson, then, for delivering
on his promise to stay faithful to the book and produce a movie
thatll make the hairs on your feet tingle, rather than unleashing
another horrendous sword-and-sorcery clag-beast. George Lucas
and Chris Columbus should take notes, because this is fantasy
film-making at its spine-shivering best. Roll on The Two Towers...
Breath-snatching beauty, blood-chilling terror, orc-slicing action... Its all here. In bucketloads. Would undoubtedly have made Total Films Top Five films of 2001 if wed only seen it in time.
Total Film Rating: 5 Stars
User Rating: 5 Stars
the Total Film website
Return to Lord of the Rings Review Archive
Return to Lord of the Rings Main Page
Return to Films and TV
Return to The Compleat Sean Bean