LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
Film Review © 2001 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Peter Jackson; Screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens from the book by J.R.R. Tolkien; Produced by Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osbourne, Tim Sanders, and Fran Walsh; Executive Produced by Michael Lynne, Mark Ordesky, Robert Shaye, Bob Weinstein, and Harvey Weinstein.
Starring Elijah Wood (as the ring-carrying Hobbit, Frodo Baggins), Ian McKellen (as the master wizard, Gandalf), Ian Holm (as Frodo's friend and guardian, Bilbo Baggins), Viggo Mortensen (as the human warrior, Aragorn), Sean Bean (as the human warrior, Boromir), Sean Astin (as Frodo's Hobbit friend, Samwise Gamgee), Dominic Monaghan (as Frodo's Hobbit friend, Merry), John Rhys-Davies (as petulant Dwarf warrior, Gimli), Billy Boyd (as Frodo's Hobbit friend, Pippin), Cate Blanchett (as the beautiful and mystical, Queen Galadriel), Liv Tyler (as the beautiful and mystical Elf princess, Arwen), Orlando Bloom (as never-runs-out-of-arrows Elf archer, Legolas), Hugo Weaving (as Princess Arwen's father, Elrond), Christopher Lee (as the wonderfully evil wizard, Saruman), and Sala Baker (as the evil, Sauron).
Film is too long in exposition (setup), paced laboriously, and too short in story development. Plus, and this is most annoying, beginning with the opening scene film pretentiously presents itself as an epic but with absolutely no justification. Clearly, it's appropriate to consider J.R.R. Tolkien's book an epic, but this first chapter in the film franchise hasn't earned the right.
For those not familiar with Tolkien's work, film follows the book in presenting the exploits of Frodo, a Hobbit (a dwarf-like humanoid from medieval "Middle-Earth"). Frodo and his "fellowship" of adventurers are engaged in a perilous journey to return and subsequently destroy an all-powerful ring to Mount Doom, in Mordor, the lair of an extremely evil and all-powerful villain for whom it was created - and only place where it can be destroyed. Joining Frodo in his quest and battles against all kinds of demons are his fellow Hobbit friends Sam, Merry and Pippin; human warriors Aragorn and Boromir; Elf archer Legolas, Dwarf warrior Gimli, and everyman's sage and powerful wizard, Gandalf, played perfectly by Ian McKellen. McKellan's presence as the "good" wizard gives the film believability, as does the presence of his nemesis, Christopher Lee, as the "bad" wizard, Saruman. Film does not suffer from bad acting, all players are truly first class. However, the script should have been tighter, and without as many picturesque "establishing shots" of mountains and valleys and rivers and fields and so forth and so on. Director Peter Jackson and editor John Gilbert should have taken better control of the film's pacing. Plus, although the special effects were slick, they were not up to par. For example, in relationship to all other humanoids the Hobbits are supposed to be small people, but film does not consistently maintain the proper ratio between the Hobbits, warriors, and elfs. Hopefully, the special effects team will acquire a better slide-rule for the sequels.
Frankly, "Jason and the Argonauts," from 1963 is a better quest movie. The special effects in "Argonauts" (state-of-the-art for 1963 but obviously not as slick as evolved technology in 2003) are far more efficient than "Ring," and the story centered on the healing properties of a Golden Fleece (instead of an evil "Ring") is more compelling. Plus, "Argonauts" presented its entire epic story in 104 minutes, considerably less than "Rings" 165 minutes - and this is just the first chapter of the film trilogy.
Hopefully, the next installments, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," will be improvements.
Film is directed laboriously and episodically by Peter Jackson, and should have been trimmed by at least 30 minutes.
Film has a very laborious and uneven running length of 165 minutes.
Recommendation: The visual scope of this movie requires seeing it in a movie theatre and not on DVD, VHS or television. However, see it as a matinee, not at the full price!