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The Fellowship of the Ring The Two Towers The Return of the King
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
picture from The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring 9 out of 109 out of 109 out of 109 out of 109 out of 10
Rated: PG-13
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Current Voter Rating: 9.027 (707 votes)
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I haven't read the book. But John Trenaman has! He has read the entire The-Lord-of-the-Rings trilogy (plus its predecessor, The Hobbit) three times! So when this colossal trilogy made its entrance onto the silver screen, I knew just who I wanted sitting beside me. And this proved quite helpful, as John was able to give me a little background just before it started, as well as to whisper little explanations throughout the film.

Thus, as is always the case, those who have read the book have a distinct advantage over those who haven't. For it is they who have had the benefit of author J. R. R. Tolkien's vivid descriptions and character developments. They have read about the different types of creatures, places, and things. They had time to take it all in and to fully understand where they were, what was happening, and to whom it was happening. It is for this reason, that I vow to read Tolkien's The Hobbit (which is briefly alluded to in flashback fashion towards the beginning of the film). I will then read the book from which this movie has been adapted, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And then I will start on the second of the trilogy, The Two Towers. And I'll have a little less than a year to get these three books read before the movie version of The Two Towers comes out next year. That's right, New Line Cinema and director Peter Jackson are taking on the daunting task of not only producing this trilogy in movie form, but doing it in one-year intervals. This means that they have to simultaneously produce the three films, as opposed to completing one before starting the other: a feat that has never even been attempted in the movie industry. Finally, to complete the trilogy, I will have to read The Return of the King, for which the movie should be released in December, 2003.

Now you may be asking yourself, "Why do you want to read the books since you already have your friend John to explain things to you? Is it because you do not like John and want to avoid seeing the rest of the films with him?" On the contrary! John is my hero! Anyway, knowledge and understanding are always better when they are acquired rather than leased. At least that's my philosophy. And this time next year, John and I (and Tammy and Brett and Elizabeth) will be able to experience the next installment in all its glory with unbridled anticipation.

"So how was the movie, anyway, Patrick? You know, this is supposed to be a review, not a personal confession of your ignorance." OK. Fine. The movie was awesome. Awesome! I have only one negative comment, which I'll save for later. Let me ask you this, "What makes a great movie?" Here would be my checklist:

  • It must be visually stunning.
  • It must have an interesting story.
  • It must have great and memorable characters, and capable actors who can bring them to life.
  • It must move us emotionally.
  • It must teach us an important truth about ourselves.
  • It must have a musical score which intensifies our emotions.
I am happy to report that The Fellowship of the Ring more than satisfies all of the above. So let's explore these points, shall we? First of all, the visual effects really blew me away. All of the wonderful places in what is called Middle Earth (such as the town seen below where the Hobbits live) were quite breathtaking. The villains, the wizardry, and the magic of this intriguing world that Tolkien envisioned were simply captivating to watch on the big screen. What was equally impressive was the fact that the actors who portrayed the Hobbits were able to be shrunk down on screen in order to fit their requisite four-foot tall frames. And not once did I question or notice that somehow these people were not really four feet tall.

picture from The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring

Of course, basing the film on one of the most popular and critically-acclaimed books of all time doesn't hurt when it comes to providing an interesting story. In this case, the story is more than interesting; it is fantastic. The characters are unlike any other; we are drawn to them. At the center of our attention is Frodo Baggins, played by Elijah Wood. Frodo is a Hobbit who seems to be the only being on Earth who is able to resist the evil contained in the One Ring: the same ring which his uncle, Bilbo Baggins, discovered nearly 60 years ago, and which its original and evil owner will stop at nothing to reclaim. We are also mystified by the wise and powerful Gandalf (played perfectly by Ian McKellen), a wizard who has befriended the Hobbits and who vows to aid Frodo in destroying the One Ring. Other characters who enchant us while on screen are the near-immortal and stunningly beautiful Elves, such as Arwen (Liv Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, a strange cast decision, but one most likely made for physical beauty) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom, who is a beautiful man, I guess). Then there are those like Strider (Viggo Mortensen, whom you may remember from G. I. Jane), one of a few men in Middle Earth among the wild array of anthropomorphic creatures. Mortensen's Strider demands your attention while on screen. And last but not least are the tiny Hobbits, whose small stature belies their abilities. One such Hobbit (other than Frodo and Bilbo) is Samwise Gamgee (played by Sean Astin who was Mikey in Goonies - it is good to see him again).

A great movie must move us emotionally. While I was not moved to tears, or overfilled with joy, I was very much in tune to the feeling of the movie and its story. It was exciting, breathtaking, adventuresome, and enchanting, and I felt all of those things.

And what I came away with from this movie were two real points. First of all, I learned the wisdom of avoiding an evil temptation which cannot be overcome. I've learned this in life too that prevention is always much easier than rectification, which is often impossible. Gandalf brings this point right home when a fearful Frodo tries to pass on his responsibility for bearing the One Ring. He rebukes Frodo when he is offered the ring by shouting, "DO NOT TEMPT ME!" (and if I only had the book I could recount more of his wise words). Gandalf and Frodo are pictured below. The second lesson that this movie offers is that "Great things can be accomplished by even the smallest of persons," which is more or less what the Elven Queen, Galadriel, says to Frodo towards the end of the film.

picture from The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring

And as for the music, I was totally impressed. It is in this final category where I can be most critical, and where most movies that are available today usually fail. Enya actually wrote most of the songs and musical themes for the film, while Howard Shore fleshed out the score. My hat must be tipped toward both of them. My favorite musical theme is that which accompanies the evil wizard, Saruman. It brings forth emotions of fear and offers a sense of a dark and evil power.

And while I am at it, I'd like to comment on Saruman, played by the accomplished Christopher Lee (whom we will all be watching again in about 5 months when Star Wars: Episode II is released). Saruman was once Gandalf's wise and trusted friend who becomes corrupted by the power of evil. The film's first meeting and fight between the wizards Saruman and Gandalf is no doubt the best scene in the entire movie.

Now for an unusual comparison: that of Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings. Both movies, based on the first in a series of books, have just been released. Both feature powerful wizards, both good and evil. Both contain a frightening scene in which the main characters are attacked by a troll (which looks almost identical in both films). Both are written by British authors who prefer to be known by their first initials, and moreover whose very first initial is "J." Actually, what I really came away with was how much J. K. Rowling has benefited by drawing many of her ideas from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Finally, I would like to comment on the ending. This is the one point that I was quite disappointed with. I got the sense that we were just cut off due to time constraints (and I know now that this is how the book ended, but that doesn't make the ending any better). It really leads us into the next story, but we are never given the satisfaction of experiencing a climax during The Fellowship of the Ring. This just left me frustrated as could be. Compare this trilogy with any other, such as Star Wars or even Harry Potter, and you will see right away what is missing. In Star Wars, each movie had its own exciting ending which wraps up the current film, but leaves the door open for more to come. With this film, it seems that nothing is accomplished. All that has happened is that one-third of their journey has been completed. And it is for this lack of accomplishment that I must withhold my highest rating.

picture from The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring

thumbs up!This movie is AWESOME, and I simply can't wait for the next two! Luckily, we won't have to wait for too long.

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