Lord of the Rings-The Fellowship of the Ring

Stars:   Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, John Rhys-Davies Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee
Director:    Peter Jackson
Writers:   Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, based on the book by J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien created a vivid mythical realm called Middle Earth filled with an amazing assortment of creatures from wizards, elves, dwarves, hobbits and, of course, their counterparts, the wicked demons and shadows derived from the depths of evil. This world is richly realized by director Peter Jackson and his crew of film magicians, the makeup artists, costumers and special effects geniuses who have all conspired to create a visual extravaganza of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

A powerful ring, which contains an evil wizard’s “cruelty, his malice and his will to dominate all life,” must be returned to the fire Pits of Mordor on Mount Doom from where it was forged in order for it to be destroyed. The ring is so powerful, it tempts all who would come in contact with it to take up its evil cause.

After thousands of years of dormancy, the ring comes into the possession of an elderly hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (the wonderful Ian Holm) who relishes his good find. But when his friend, the kindly wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) visits him on his 111th birthday, the ring is recognized for the evil instrument that it is. Gandalf convinces Bilbo to get rid of it and Bilbo entrusts the ring to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). Even Gandalf, despite all his magnificence, is terrified of the ring’s temptations, but for some reason, the innocent Frodo is immune to its power.

The quest to return the ring is fraught with dangers brought on by the forces of Sauron, the evil wizard who created the Ring, and his strongest ally, another wizard named Saruman (Christopher Lee). Frodo is joined by a band of protectors that include three other hobbits, best friend Sam (Sean Astin) and the ridiculous duo of Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Merry (Dominic Monaghan), wizard Gandalf; and a group of warriors: the humans Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean), an angry disheveled dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and the beauteous elf archer Legolas (Armando Bloom). They form the “Fellowship” of the ring.

Their quest is filled with tortuous battles and horribly wicked demons. We grieve for the group’s losses and come to respect little Frodo’s great sacrifices and heroism thanks to the lovely care Elijah Wood has given his character. The casting is superb. Ian McKellen is magnificent as Gandalf; his voice alone is as compelling as his presence. Sean Astin is sympathetic as the honorable Sam and Viggo Mortensen makes for a particularly trustworthy compatriot. Although the parts are much smaller for the women, Cate Blanchett is effective as the luminescent Elf queen Galadriel and Liv Tyler as elf princess) Arwen is downright magical.

Visually, the film is stunning in its depiction of the marvels of Middle Earth, from the lush pastures and tiny hillside homes of the hobbits to the frosted mountains and sparkling rivers and on to the deep fiery mines where Sauron’s dark powers are unleashed. One formidable scene shows a wave of water formed into magnificent white steeds cascading upon the group’s enemies.

Lotta says: Some of the perspective between the diminutive hobbits and the giant wizards are inconsistent. Gandalf seems overly huge in the hobbit house but when seen dancing with a group of them, he’s not all that big. Pippin, the film’s comic relief in annoying in his gross stupidity but thankfully those scenes are short and we can forgive his use in this capacity. A reminder to all – this is the first of a trilogy. You’ll have to wait a whole year before the second installment. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a fantastic film achievement.

Reviewed 12/19/01