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Matt's Fellowship of the Ring Review
I am a huge Tolkien fan, and it’s just no good pretending any different. I grew up with the series, and when Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters I was there on opening night to see it. What I’ve found is that there are three types of people watching and reviewing Lord of the Rings – Tolkien fans watched and despite minor quibbles about this or that, enjoyed the films, non-Tolkien fans who came in cold to the film and “got it”, and of course, there are always people who just don’t “get it”. Happily my parents have good taste in entertainment, and they had the good sense to expose me to Tolkien at a young age, so by the time I went into that theater in 2001, I knew exactly what to expect, and was not disappointed. Lord of the Rings as a novel is perhaps the benchmark work in the genre – there’s hardly a fantasy series written since LOTR was published that doesn’t owe a certain debt – and committing Lord of the Rings to film is a huge achievement that was pulled off magnificently. Each of the three films are instant masterpieces in their own rights, but Fellowship of the Ring, I feel, is and always will be my favorite of the lot.
- This is a work of Fantasy, you will see Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Hobbits, Wizards and more creatures besides, and this isn’t even to mention the magic rings, magic swords and…. Really, I could go on and on. There’s Harry Potter and then there’s this. The point is, when it comes to Fantasy there is hardly any middle ground to speak of. You’re either a fan, or you’re not. You either get it or you don’t. If you are a fan, I’ll lay odds that you’ll LOVE this movie. If you’re not, then you should watch something else.
- Fellowship of the ring does not adhere to the novel page by page. Peter Jackson and his team made certain strategic changes to streamline the plot just a bit and raise the momentum and the tension. Despite the theatrical cut’s 3 hour length, this film moves along at quite a clip. Not so fast so characterization is left behind, but fast enough so that you won’t feel the running time so acutely. I won’t run through and micro-analyze the changes they made, but I will say that the most key scenes, elements, and lines of dialogue I wanted included were included.
- Arwen/Glorfindel – I want to talk briefly about one big change that was made to the character of Arwen. The women in Tolkien had a tendency to be somewhat untouchable, unspeakably beautiful and powerful. One of the changes they made to the character of Arwen was to merge her with another character from the book named Glorfindel. This allowed them to get Arwen into the story a bit more, giving her the opportunity to get her hands dirty. The result is, she becomes a character who is much easier to root for – and that’s important because she is Aragorn’s love interest.
- The Extended Edition – released sometime after the theatrical cuts of each film, the extended cuts are considered by many fans to be superior to the theatrical. I include myself in that number with one exception to the rule: If you are watching this for the first time, the Theatrical Editions are a better place to start. The theatrical cuts are 3 hours apiece as it is, the extended cuts are even longer, with Fellowship of the Ring clocking in at a full 208 minutes – that’s 3.5 hours, and the sequels are both longer than Fellowship. I should be clear on the fact that these movies are in no way too long, and I urge anyone reading this review who might be new to LOTR not to be intimidated by the long runtime. Some of the best movies ever made are 3 hours or longer, and as Gene Siskel used to say: “a great movie is never too long”. The extended editions are my go-to versions of all three films.
Now this section could literally go on for pages, because there is a rather large cast of characters in Lord of the Rings, and the performances are impeccable. What I will do is point out a couple of the stand-out performers in this particular installment of the series.
- Ian McKellen plays Gandalf to absolute perfection. As a fan of Tolkien, McKellen’s performance was everything I could have hoped for and more. Perfect casting. Aside from embodying one of the most important characters in Tolkien, McKellen had the challenge of explaining much of the history of The One Ring and what’s at stake.
- Sean Bean plays Boromir, who is quite possibly the most complex character in Lord of the Rings. He plays him with simmering darkness and a lot of emotional baggage. He’s a man caught between his father’s wishes and doing what he knows to be right. This is one of the most emotionally wrenching performances I’ve ever seen.
Music, Cinematography and Special Effects
- Howard Shore does a masterful job on the score, adding another level of emotion and grandiose to the picture. This is probably the best score of the 2000s decade, and Enya rounds out the album with “May It Be”, which is a great song for the end credits.
- The Cinematography is unbelievable. Lord of the Rings was shot in New Zealand, and Tolkien’s world offers ample opportunities for jaw-dropping sights. Between the Mines of Moria, Rivendell, and Lothlorien, viewers could potentially watch this film for the scenery alone. It is for that reason that I recommend watching Lord of the Rings on the biggest screen you can find.
The Special Effects in this film are amazing, I guarantee you will see a few things in this film you have never seen before. I’d also like to mention the fact that the make-up department had a tough job with this film, and they pulled it off seamlessly.
The Bottom Line
There is no getting around how awesome this film is. As a general rule, I don’t like to throw the word masterpiece around too much. As a decade the 2000s have produced precious few masterpieces, in my opinion, but Lord of the Rings would definitely be one of them. Fellowship of the Ring is the best of the series, going from the impossibly charming Hobbiton to the depths of Moria, no other film in the Lord of the Rings series offers such a wide range of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll jump, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up, your jaw will drop and you may even cry at the end. Most importantly you’ll escape into the world of Middle Earth, even if only for a short while. Fellowship of the Ring constitutes all the best traditions in filmmaking and storytelling, and it’s about as close to flawless as movies get. 10/10