starring: Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen & Christopher Lee
In truth,Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring merits a much longer review than I'm going to give it here. But I've tried to write a review twice now in the last two weeks, and I've just sounded like a typical, slobbering AICN fanboy each time, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet, and hopefully retain my dignity. Here we go.
For anyone who doesn't know, FOTR is the first of three films which chronicle the quest of 9 heroes who've been charged with destroying a powerful magic ring which, in the wrong hands, could bring doom to their entire world. FOTR sports a huge, distinguished cast, brilliant special effects (thanks to New Zealand effects house, WETA), and is directed by the Frighteners' Peter Jackson.
The film is wonderful. A lot of folks are comparing it to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, ostensibly because both films have wizards in them. But, truthfully, that is where the similarities stop - comparing these two is like comparing apples and muskrats. FOTR is a beast more along the lines of Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan. It is a grand and sweeping epic, filled with engaging characters who weather beating after horrible beating in pursuit of a noble cause. Where Harry Potter tells the story of a boy raised in horrible conditions who finally gets a chance to prove himself in idyllic, magical surroundings, LOTR tells the story of a boy (Frodo Baggins, played with wide-eyed wonder by Elijah Wood) who has grown up in idyllic surroundings, and is suddenly thrust into a horrifying nightmare which appears to have no good end.
Also unlike Harry Potter, LOTR:FOTR does veer somewhat from its source material, JRR Tolkien's original book. Many large chunks are removed, and minor (and some major) plotlines are bundled together to become more audience friendly. In the end, it is a good thing - Potter suffered as a film from its "stick to the book" mentality, getting slow and soft and sometimes boring as the end approached. The LOTR writers weave the events of the wonderful (but often somewhat dry) book into a dizzyingly exciting story, and even manage to punch up a female role (Arwen, played by Liv Tyler) to give the cast a little more balance. I was a little disappointed with Jackson's interpretation of the Wizard's duel, but I could not think of a better way to present it myself, so I'm willing to let that go, especially in light of the rest of the incredible film.
The movie is wonderful, as I've said - engaging, sad, scary and exciting all at once. Acting is superb, especially from Sean Astin (Sam Gamgee), Sean Bean (Boromir), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Ian McKellan (Gandalf). Writing is tight and smooth (as I wrote earlier), the fight scenes (and there are quite a lot of them) are awesome, and the special effects are amazing. I won't dwell too much on them, but I will say that ILM finally has a real competitor in WETA. The effects in this make Potter and even Phantom Menace look like, well, poop.
If you haven't already, go see Fellowship of the Ring. I've yet to talk to anyone who didn't enjoy it, and most loved it. Even my Mom, not one to relish the Swords and Sorcery stuff, thought it was great - she cried after Moria and at the death at the end, and jumped straight out of her seat at Bilbo's greedy grab and the Cave Troll. What more can I say without embarrassing myself? Go see it. Go, see it. Go.