Move over Harry, there's a new blockbuster in the Ring
By Hugh Davies
AOL Time Warner, still counting the vast box office grosses of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was last night preparing for another cinematic windfall.
Newsweek assessed its adaptation of J R R Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring as another blockbuster - and far more imaginative.
The makers gave the magazine's film critic, David Ansen, the first glimpse, ahead of "junkets" for other reviewers prior to the London premiere on Monday.
Ansen wrote: "This review is coming to you from a Tolkien-free zone. I went into Peter Jackson's movie with no preconceptions. I came out, three hours later, sorry I'd have to wait a year to see what happens next in Frodo Baggins's battle against the Dark Lord, Sauron."
He spoke of the film's passion, emotion, terror and "a tactile sense of evil that is missing in that other movie dealing with wizards, wonders and wickedness".
The only drawback could be that it may be too violent for many children. The British Board of Film Classification has ruled that the PG-rated film must carry a warning that children under eight may find it disturbing.
However, there seems to be serendipity in the Dec 19 release date. The timing looks exquisite.
All of a sudden, the Potter film, after taking £157 million in 17 days at American cinemas, is fading. Box office receipts dropped 58 per cent at the weekend.
Having spent £210 million filming the whole Hobbit epic for gradual release over the next two years, New Line, owned by AOL, is obviously relieved by Ansen's assessment. His opinion reflects a feeling among some critics that the Potter film, while a worthy adaptation, adhered too strictly to the original text. Ansen said that Jackson used his camera to "fly like a hawk, swooping and plunging into breathtaking scenes of blood and destruction".
The movie took risks, wearing its heart on a "muddy, blood-soaked sleeve". Jackson had characters utter oaths to one another in a "quasi-Shakespearean language" that could have sounded ludicrous "were it not for the utter conviction which which it is played".
The critic spoke of a "stunning" depiction of landscapes, architecture and creatures of evil. The "goodies", such as Cate Blanchett's golden-locked elven queen, lapsed into art nouveau kitsch.
However he noted that "you can almost smell the dark forests" of the mythic tale, with Sir Ian McKellen "playfully magisterial" as the wizard Gandalf, and Sean Bean "most passionate" as the warrior Boromir.
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