Apr 3, 2015

[Movies] The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

It's a Friday, and that means digging up older movies to review in order to add them to this blog's archives. It's kind of funny whenever I encounter a movie that I liked a lot that hasn't been reviewed here, but it just goes to show how many movies one can potentially watch in a lifetime. And since this blog only began its life in 2006, there's still a heck of a lot of movies that came before that certainly deserve some "air time" here.

When The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out, it felt like quite the landmark movie even similar to when Star Wars was first released. It was a massive movie undertaking, especially for a genre fiction title and we had yet to see a movie of this scale for something as "silly" as a fantasy novel. And given it was the first of a full trilogy of movies, the full effects of this geeky masterpiece was not immediately apparent.

Looking back, even just how the movies were released made those Decembers feel like such a special time. The joy of having a new LOTR movie to look forward to every year was perhaps one of the hallmarks of the geeky times that we live in today.

Synopsis: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of a trilogy of epic fantasy movies written and directed by Peter Jackson together with fellow screenplay writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. The movie was based on The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. It goes without saying that this movie received a good number of awards from different award-giving bodies.

The movie starts with the rather epic prologue that tells the story of the rings of power and the Dark Lord Sauron (Sala Baker) who crafted the One Ring that exerted dominion over all others. He sought to conquer Middle-earth and the armies of Elves and Men banded together to stop his armies from taking over the land. During the battle, Isildur (Harry Sinclair) managed to cut Sauron's finger, thus stripping the Dark Lord of the power of the One Ring. However Sauron's life was bound to the ring and the only true way to kill him meant destroying it - something Isildur was unable to do because of the Ring's corrupting influence. The Ring passes from person to person over time until it ends up in the hands of a young hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.

60 years later Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) leaves his magic ring for his nephew Frodo and their friend the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) reveals that this ring may very well be the One Ring of legend. He urges Frodo and his friend Samwise Gangee (Sean Astin) to flee the Shire before the Nazgûl find them and the Ring. He promises to rejoin them later once he had sought counsel from the head of his order, Saruman the White at Isengard. And thus Frodo's adventure begins as he bears the One Ring and tries to keep it safe.

Where to begin with this movie? I suppose we could start on a pretty basic level and talk about just how gosh-darned pretty it is. This is the movie franchise that launched a whole new tourism campaign for New Zealand given all the beauty shots of the countryside down to the details of everyone's costumes and props. Peter Jackson really immersed himself in this experience and put a lot of work in bringing almost every aspect of the books to life in one form or another. His attention to detail was evident all throughout and he made great use of his special effects to really bring this movie to life. Sure, not all book elements could make it to the final cut, but the resulting movie is still quite the visual masterpiece.

Tie this together with the award-winning musical score and the movie really does well in manipulating your emotions with highly appropriate music. All rising and falling action is matched with brilliant musical cues that swells during triumphant moments and ebbs when things get rather dark or perhaps just serious in a rather grim way.

Casting was great - or at the very least it's hard to imagine any of the characters as being played by anyone else anymore. We have quite the who's-who of talent involved in this production and each managed their scenes quite masterfully. I don't think I can single out anyone's performance as being particularly better - as an ensemble they all just worked together so well. And that can only be the result of good casting and great direction from Jackson in order to bring out the best in each and every member of the team.

To be fair, these movies are freakishly long. It was the only way to capture so much of the book's material and the director's cuts get even crazier. As it stands, the movie still managed to embellish certain moments or even drew from the appendices and other Tolkien source material to flesh out a few scenes and add in new ones. There will always be a difference of opinion among fans whether such changes or some of the omissions were the best things for the movie, but ultimately we still ended up with a film that truly deserves the description "epic". Some may argue the movie was too long but frankly I was a little surprised when we got to the end of things.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a singular movie experience and key milestone in movie history. And while many movies have attempted to capture the same scope and majesty as this one, no one really comes close. Thus the movie gets a perfect 5 modest moments of powerful magic out of a possible 5.

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