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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings

Directed By Peter Jackson

Main Cast:
Frodo Baggins - Elijah Wood
Gandalf the Grey - Ian McKellen 
Bilbo Baggins - Ian Holm
Samwise "Sam" Gamgee - Sean Astin
Aragorn/Strider - Dominic Monaghan 
Saruman the White - Christopher Lee
Boromir - Sean Bean
Peregrin "Pippin" Took - Billy Boyd
Meriadoc 'Merry' Brandybuck - Viggo Mortensen
Arwen Undomiel - Liv Tyler
Galadriel - Cate Blanchett
Gimli - John Rhys-Davies 
Legolas Greenleaf - Orlando Bloom
Lord Elrond - Hugo Weaving 

Rated: PG-13 


To sum up: A Middle Earth hero's journey to get some really bad jewelry back to the manufacturer so that it and the mold can be broken.

"Welcome to Rivendell, Mr. Anderson."

     George Lucas is in real trouble. Here is a movie that is so creative, so full of visuals that actually had me in awe of their scale and beauty, with a story and characters that actually had some depth and meaning to them, that it made his Phantom Menace seem positively amateurish by comparison. Finally, a movie that has lived up to its anticipation.

     Now right away I can hear you screaming, "No fair! Lord of the Rings is based on a great literary masterpiece written by J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, books of the twentieth century. It's obviously going to be richer than his Star Wars."

     That is all true, but also true is that when Star Wars came out it raised the bar and set the standard for eye popping sci-fi/fantasy visual extravaganzas. And now that Lucas has tossed his hat back into the arena, he must put up or will go down in history as the out-of-touch creator of a movie series that should have ended with the first trilogy and not become a tired parody of itself like the James Bond film series.

     Allow me to say that the creativity and sheer wondrous variety of people, places and things that Director Peter Jackson and his creative team have conceived are so well done that more than once this viewer was taken aback in awe. And that's not easy to do. Recently, I've been more impressed by the technology of putting a yellow line on the field of during football game broadcasts. But this film has reawakened the sense of wonderment in me. We are treated to one scenic environment after another and one would think that the filmmakers would run out of ideas. My personal favorite is the two giant statues that stand on either side of great cliffs as our heroes boat downriver between them.

     Now, I must declare that when it comes to Tolkien of "The Lord of the Rings", I'm a total virgin. Except for a few moments from the cartoon film and a friend from college whom we called Bilbo (because he was short, had furry feet, and was named Bill), I know about as much as Sgt. Shultz watching Hogan and the crew come up from under the bunk beds. I know nothing. But be assured that I've spoken to people who have read the books and they are as impressed as I am if not more so.

     The story concerns a magical ring, an all-powerful ring. Many years ago, the Dark Lord Sauron forged a group of rings. They all had various powers and were given to the races of Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Why these people would trust a guy with the words Dark Lord in front of his name is beyond me though. Anyway, unknown to anyone, Sauron forged another ring. So powerful it was that it controlled all the other rings and with it on his hand, Sauron attempted to conquer Middle Earth. A great army was formed and moved to stop him. Moments from victory, Sauron was barely defeated. Eventually, the ring disappeared from view when it ended up in the hands of a small Hobbit named Bilbo (Ian Holm).

     Bilbo lives in a peaceful village called The Shire. It is peaceful, green, with clear blue skies and idyllic. How do I know this? Not from the visual clues that were described above, but because the soundtrack contained a wooden flute that is always used to present all primitive, peaceful idyllic towns.

     Soon it is discovered that Sauron is still alive and he seeks the ring so that he can rise to power once again. The ring has been passed on to Bilbo's nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf, the wise wizard played by Ian McKellan, discovers the true nature of the ring. The solution? The ring must be taken back to Mount Doom where it was forged and only there, it can be destroyed.

     But enough about the plot. It's based on the mythical fantasy universe that has existed for years but as Bram Stoker did with vampires, so too, Tolkien did with this. The question is whether or not the film is a faithful adaptation to the book, and that I cannot really answer, having never read it. But again, as I've said, those that I've spoken to that have read it say it's pretty darn good. I can speak for the film and say that it does have depth, evolution of characters and a strong development for the journey of an individual and not just a lot of visuals with no meanings.

     All of the actors are well cast and play their parts with a depth that isn't often presented by what they have to do on the screen. This may be due to the fact that there is more to their characters on the written page than what could be presented on film. It is a technique that worked well for James Cameron in Aliens, for example. For his supporting players he gave the characters back-stories and it was this that helped the actors bring out a fuller, richer performance. I suspect that the same thing occurred here for this film.

     Elijah Wood makes a very good Hobbit, except for those feet. Ugh! But the Hobbits in this film are far more appealing than the ones in the cartoons. Elijah's Frodo is presented as na´ve but very capable when it comes to finding within himself the courage that is necessary to face the challenges that are presented to him. Unlike a lot of young heroes, he wasn't looking nor dreaming of adventure. He was quite content and enjoyed the "small town" life that he had in his village. You would never hear him whine, "But, Uncle Bilbo, I was going to The Shire to pick up some vegetables!"

     Ian McKellen portrays Gandalf with the traditional majestic nobility that wizards are supposed to carry. He comes across as a salty old wizard, as when he appears to be above performing simple tricks for the entertainment of some Hobbit children. But at his core he's a caring, loving, friendly man. And it is a tribute to the film that it is not above pulling a few jokes at the old man's expense. 

     Are there flaws to this film? Sure. A few of the characters are underwritten; such as Cate Blanchett's Galadriel and especially John Rhys-Davies' Gimli. And Legolas Greenleaf, the elf played by Orlando Bloom seems to have an endless number of arrows that reminded me of the old westerns when the guns would always had more than six shots.

     Go see this one kiddies. It's an incredible visual adventure. Three hours fly by and you'll leave saying, "That's it? I gotta wait a year to see what happens?" In the meantime, just leave the theater and get right back in line to see this again.

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