Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson; based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Hugo Weaving, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, and Jon Rhys-Davies
Length: 2 hours and 58 minutes
Genre: Adventure, drama, fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Description from IMDB:
“A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.”
Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), an unassuming Hobbit from the Shire, is thrust into a world of danger when his uncle (Ian Holm) passes down a ring of power; a weapon used by the dark lord Sauron thousands of years ago in an attempt to rule the world. He is aided by the wizard, Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and fellow Hobbits Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Merry (Dominic Monaghan), and Pippin (Billy Boyd) as they try to take the ring into safe hands. After side-adventures and trials, they arrive at the court of Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving) in Rivendell where it is decided that a fellowship of the free peoples will try to take the ring back into Mordor to destroy it. The other members of the Fellowship are the ranger Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), captain of Gondor, Boromir (Sean Bean), the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the dwarf Gimli (Jon Rhys-Davies). The group sets off on an adventure that will challenge them as and this installment is only beginning.
The prologue of the film gives exposition and world building to bring audience up to speed, including the events of The Hobbit and how Bilbo came to have the One Ring. However, the story does take a bit of time to get off of the ground since the relationships between characters need to be established and the world must be built. Being the first film of a trilogy, this can be forgiven since the audience has to become invested in the characters before events that cause considerable change, occur.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a story of friendship and camaraderie overcoming the lust for power. The Hobbits all start as a little more than acquaintances and end up becoming closer through their shared hardship. The fractured relationship between Aragorn and Boromir is mended in the end, though at a mortal cost. Legolas and Gimli begin with prejudices against each other, but come to respect one another as the journey continues. The story has some heavy implications in the actions of the Fellowship, so it is necessary that the Hobbits bring comic relief at times, and it this done in a way that doesn’t undercut the darker content of the film.
The special effects used in the film still hold up well by today’s standards. The film makes great use of forced perspectives in order to take advantage of having two characters on screen of vastly different size (Frodo and Gandalf, for example) and using the camera’s angle, sight-lines, and distance to create the illusion. CGI is used, but often to augment miniatures in the form of aerial shots of Barad-dûr and Lothlórien. The lovely costume and set design of the film also speaks to the detail put into the visuals that help to create the credibility of Middle Earth. Each culture has its own unique pallet and style; the Hobbits wear earthy tones and live an agrarian lifestyle, the elves use leaf motifs and flowing lines, while the dwarf halls contain rigid and rectangular masonry that is mirrored in their armor. Howard Shore really doesn’t get enough credit for the amazing work he did with the motifs in the soundtrack. I still get chills when hearing the Shire’s theme and the way the musical references weave throughout the background imparts the importance of sound in film. Both music and sound-effects themselves carry this load, such as the how The One Ring, which would normally make a light, clinking sound, falls with a heavy thud to demonstrate the burden it is upon the bearer.
This was my first time watching the standard edition of the film in over six years, so it seemed to fly by since I am used to the extended cut. There isn’t too much lost from the extended edition, but what was left out is easily missed while watching the theatrical version. There is character development that was cut in favor of progressing the plot forward, and though it isn’t as big of a case in the first film as it is in the sequels, it still made me wish for the longer cut. I actually didn’t see the first film until months after its release (even going so far as to skip the part of a friend’s birthday party where they went and saw it in theaters because I was an easily frightened child); however, I soon became enamored with the world and the quality of the film, seeing the following two movies in theaters and watching them more times than I can count. As an adaptation, I think The Fellowship of the Ring is successful in its ability to bring new fans into the franchise (I definitely wanted to read the books after seeing the movies, though that wasn’t accomplished until my early twenties).
Verdict: 4 close-ups of Frodo fondling the One Ring out of 5
Recommended for: Those who like golden rings, those who enjoy film adaptations, those who didn’t like the Hobbit movies, fans of the Lord of the Rings series of books, those who enjoy fantasy films, and those who like walking.
Not recommended for: Fans of Tom Bombadil, Tolkien purists, those who loved the Hobbit movies, or those who dislike walking.