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Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life.
Full of eye-popping special effects, and featuring a pitch-perfect cast, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring brings J.R.R. Tolkien's classic to vivid life.
All Critics (228)
| Top Critics (47)
| Fresh (208)
| Rotten (20)
| DVD (43)
Most ambitiously, this rousing adventure closes with an ending that's closer in spirit to an art-house film than a popcorn holiday romp.
An enthusiastic visionary set loose on one of the biggest playgrounds ever constructed, Jackson brings more personality to the series' first installment, The Fellowship Of The Ring, than typically seeps into a franchise of this magnitude.
The New Zealander director Peter Jackson, who wrote the screenplay with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, works with enough dramatic tension and pictorial grandeur to sustain us through long periods of complicated exposition and heavy bouts of swordplay.
If Fellowship hasn't rescued an otherwise dreadful year, it at least gives us something to look forward to -- same time, next year.
Masterfully paced, the movie builds slowly, introducing the mythology, habitats and lifestyles of Tolkien's creatures.
Against all odds in an era of machine-made spectaculars, Mr. Jackson and his collaborators have created a film epic that lives and breathes, that's swept by almost palpable weather (much of it stormy).
God, it's good.
The Fellowship of the Ring is an impressive piece of filmmaking. It is, indeed, intensely faithful to the text, although, unsurprisingly, a great deal of the story is omitted.
[Peter] Jackson's ability to maintain the universality of a story is praiseworthy. [Full Review in Spanish]
New Zealand genre film maverick Peter Jackson does the impossible: he makes a faithful, magical, thrilling, and-most importantly-compelling film version of J.R.R. Tolkein's great cult fantasy epic.
I have no serious criticisms. The film does full justice to Tolkien, who has often -- and erroneously -- been accused of escapism.
It's hard to imagine any but the most nit-picky and dogmatic being disappointed by this epic, lovingly crafted movie.
When New Line Cinema first offered a relatively unknown director a budget of $285m, to make a trilogy of films from a source that was deemed un-filmable, you could have been forgiven for assuming we would have another Heaven's Gate on our hands. Likewise, as more and more big-screen imitations have turned up and fallen short - including to some extent The Hobbit trilogy - it is easy to be cynical about The Lord of the Rings because of the legacy it has left behind. But as is so often the way with these things, it only takes a quick revisit of the trilogy for all fears to be laid to rest and for all the magic to once again take hold.
Even if the other instalments of this trilogy had never seen the light of day, The Fellowship of the Ring remains a masterpiece in its own right, an epic with substance and emotional power which rewrote the rulebook for fantasy filmmaking. Considering the enormity of the project and the ambitious scope of J. R.R. Tolkien's novel, it is something of a miracle that it was even made at all. But what is a bigger miracle is that a film this long, with this many characters and this much plot to introduce, should be so flawlessly executed that it holds up even after 40 or 50 viewings.
Part of what makes the film so magical is the sheer level of craftsmanship and attention to detail, both in the visual representation of Middle Earth and the deeply affectionate treatment of Tolkien's story. Before even the prologue has finished you are utterly convinced not only that Peter Jackson was the right choice to direct, but that every effort has been expended to do justice to the material. There are no dodgy special effects, no props which have been built down to a price, and no locations which feel like the real world is being frantically kept off screen.
When designing the film, Jackson and WETA's Richard Taylor sought to create a world and series of cultures which would expand "beyond the four corners of the screen." Everything about the film, from the hair on the hobbits' feet to the grandest building, feels completely bespoke, and in being so detailed the smallest object like a belt or a sword can come to embody and define an entire culture. Because of this level of detail, you never have that awful experience of recognising a prop or set piece. You won't find the tankards in The Prancing Pony hiding in the back of your cupboards, and the woodland communities are not simply jumped-up versions of Endor from Return of the Jedi.
But although the world of Middle Earth is rich with its own cultures, this is balanced out by a desire to be realistic in the film's depiction of characters and situations. The battle scenes may be fantasy violence, but the violence is structured realistically and logically. You don't always need to show blood to understand that people are getting hurt, and unlike the Star Wars prequels we don't end up with fights which defy the laws of physics because of an over-indulgence in CGI. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a mythic pre-history, as something that could have existed in a forgotten dark age. And that same spirit has been replicated here: we believe enough in the mechanics of the world to accept it, but there is also plenty of magic in which to lose oneself.
Fellowship is the gentlest film in the trilogy, with more focus in its first hour on Hobbiton and setting up the idyll of the Shire. On the surface this would seem like the easy part of the whole project, since it doesn't involves epic battles with a cast of thousands or scenes of enduring physical pain. In fact, this is the part of the trilogy that Jackson simply had to get right. These scenes have to demonstrate not just the idyllic and sheltered lives of hobbits, but the pure and harmonious way of life which Frodo undertakes his quest in order to preserve. And they succeed wholeheartedly, making us feel part of this community, at home with its customs and laid-back means of existence. Hence when the first elements of darkness creep in with the arrival of the Ringwraiths, we are every bit as terrified as the hobbits or inhabitants of Bree. Likewise, the first glimpse in the extended edition of the elves heading to the Grey Havens leaves us with exactly the sense of wonder which the scene demands.
Even though it is the gentlest in the trilogy, the film has real darkness and builds the creeping sense of horror extremely well. In the first encounter with the Ringwraith, we see insects crawling away from the tree under which the hobbits are hiding, like the whole of creation is repulsed or terrified by the very presence of this fallen king. The scenes in Moria are deeply claustrophobic; even before the orcs and goblins turn up you feel like you are walking through the bowels of hell, on a thin path of light between two immerse darknesses. The Balrog and the Uruk-hai are terrifying, the former especially since its presence is subtly suggested through the evocative use of red light, and when revealed it is every bit as monstrous as one would have hoped.
What is really striking about The Lord of the Rings, and Fellowship especially, is how this progression of increasing darkness is counterpointed by humour. Though this aspect is less prominent in the books, it makes sense for there to be some form of comic relief amidst the gathering gloom and destruction of human souls. Jackson comes from a background in horror comedy, having made his name in the 'splatstick' horror of Bad Taste and Brain Dead. There are clear hints of this macabre humour in the battle scenes, and the comic interplay between Merry and Pippin as is much comic relief as a naïve, absurdist reaction to the strange, dark worlds ahead of them.
Tolkien likened the ring to a machine: something which is cold, clinical, calculating and by its very nature heartless. Tolkien was not a Luddite, but he was aware of the way in which technology could be used to eradicate human will. One of the delicious ironies of the story is that the enemy is both a distant concept (like 'technology') and something which must be carried with them (like a sword) - it is at once a sentient character which tempts the others and a vessel into which men pour all their existing desires. Characters are seduced by the concept or potential of the ring - Boromir believes it will help his people and save his country. But what is designed to bring victory can just as swiftly bring defeat, and just as men die upon their own swords, so the ring will destroy all who carry it.
Much of Fellowship examines the rise of industry and man's relationship with nature. The elves, who have a harmonious relationship with nature, are in the autumn of their years and are beginning to leave Middle Earth. The orcs and Uruk-hai, meanwhile, represent the march of progress, technology and modernity, exploiting and trampling on nature in the name of power. Saruman's decision to tear down his trees and replace them with machines is a symbol of civilisation advancing at the expense of the natural order, which creates competition for resources and causes humanity to turn on itself. While Sauron creates a pure, almost Aryan race in the Uruk-hai, mankind stands on a knife-edge, unsure of which direction in which they should proceed.
The film also has a breathtaking soundtrack, which contains some of Howard Shore's very best work. Because The Lord of the Rings is a deeply emotional story about worlds colliding and civilisations collapsing, it is necessary for the score to be prominent and for it to embody and encapsulate the different cultures. In this case, it fits so perfectly that you can't believe that the actors weren't mapping out their movements to it. From the tender scene between Aragorn and Arwen to the drums matching the Uruk-hai's tempo through the woods, the music never misses a beat and succeeds where so many melodramas fail, matching emotion to music without compromising the performances.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a barnstorming masterpiece, which balances its multiple stories effortlessly. Although it has an easier job than its brothers in this respect, you never feel as though characters are being ignored or getting left behind, and every performance in the ensemble has depth and conviction. The film is visually spectacular, from the ethereal beauty of Lothlorien to the gloomy depths of Moria. Its set-pieces are as intimate and thrilling as its romantic scenes, and Jackson's direction is flawless. It is the perfect start to a perfect trilogy.
I grew up on a few big franchises through the 80's, Star Wars, Indy, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. Of course LOTR was never much of a franchise as the only thing available to us (other than the actual book) was the Bakshi animated version, but I loved it. Grown out of it slightly now admittedly but still...lets soldier on.
I can't compare the animated film fairly to be honest but I must admit there was always elements of Bakshi's effort that worked so well. There are many elements of this Jackson effort I like also but as usual with so many modern films I do feel the over exaggerated hype simply forced people to adhere to the fact that this film is suppose to be epic.
The start of this film is perfect, everything we see in the Shire is just as you would expect and it looks wonderful. Straight away you can see the immense detail that has been put into the film with the interior sets inside Bilbo's little dwelling (look at the metal framing on the back of his front door). Clothing, decorations, equipment etc...everything within the Shire is warm, cozy and thoroughly inviting to the point that you just wanna up sticks and live there. I still think they took some ideas from 'Willow'.
We all knew what to expect with the look of the characters before hand but you still can't fail to be impressed with the quality of simple things like wigs and little items of clothing such as waistcoats. The plot trundles along nicely and like the 78 animated version its pretty similar in styles and visuals. The journey to Bree and incidents within [i]The Prancing Pony[/i] all look great and have that perfect olde English atmosphere with much ale drinking amongst shady figures.
I enjoyed pretty much everything up to the point where the heroes meet up with the Elves Galadriel and Celeborn. At this point I found myself getting bored, the sequences here were heavy going and pretty dull frankly. Not that I expected anything else but I just felt the plot and interest slip away from me. From this point I was disappointed with what I saw, the film seems to lose a lot of its genuine old world atmosphere, the orcs and especially Uruk-hai looked pretty dreadful and the fight sequences become extremely repetitive.
We know the heroes don't die so you know they will be slicing down the bad guys left right and centre but the fights looked pretty badly choreographed to me with obvious fake fisticuffs going on. The orcs just keep on coming one after another whilst the main heroes merely glance at them with a sword or look at them and they go flying to the ground in screams of agony...hmmm.
I never liked the designs for the orcs either really. They always looked like something from a bad Star Trek episode with silly fake contacts, silly fake teeth and the odd scar across the face. They are a random bunch so the odd one looked OK but I must side with the Bakshi film for this. I always loved how the orcs were in the shadows, faces obscured by darkness only allowing their eerie red eyes to glow through. The 78 animated film was much darker in tone with violence and the orc hordes, Jackson's film never captured that spooky essence for me a tall with either.
This leads me to the effects which a lot was done with CGI. Now this was to be expected of course, you can't really make a film about this fairytale without it. Back in the day CGI was blooming was used in everything but unfortunately it hadn't been fine tuned yet. The result for this film being somewhat sketchy to say the least. Upon release everyone barked on about how great the effects were, I never saw this, to me they were always pretty bad and naturally to this day now look even worse.
You can't be negative about effects on old films but like I said even when I saw this at the cinema it looked dire to me. Where it worked was landscapes, skylines and armies, there are some glorious village/kingdom shots in this film, the odd building/ruin/relic also looked good but the problem came with over the top action set pieces and creatures.
Alongside tonnes of hideously bad bluescreen effects some of the CGI is damn ropy to be honest. Sequences inside the Mines of Moria are easily the worst in the film and look awful, the huge troll the team must fight and the Balrog demon always looked fake. The orc pits surrounding Saruman's castle were another badly realised concept, looking back they really do look like PS2 sequences.
A lot of the action always did look like videogame sequences to me, much like the army battles at the start of the film and in the following sequels. The same issue that CGI had and still does really is the effects tend to look plastic and obvious.
One of the films main assets if you ask me is the attention to detail on errr everything! Jackson has tried to cover all aspects right down to the smallest detail which has to be applauded. The other main asset must be the real location shoots used for various parts of Middle Earth. Far be it from me to say but at times the film felt more of a tourist advert for New Zealand than a film, yep that's me being cynical, but honestly the location work really did expand the Tolkien universe to new heights. Much like Star Wars did with their locations.
Cast wise, well I can't fault this really, every character is well cast and every actor does a good job, nuff said. Hell even the extras for the elves looked perfect just standing there saying nothing but looking so...elf-like.
Something the Bakshi film lacked but this film had was a beautifully smooth ethereal spirituality to it. Jackson captures the mythical almost semi religious tones of the story (mainly through sequences involving the elves and their folklore) and really makes it feel historically believable. All the while you are accompanied by gentle heavenly sounds and the type of music you expect from Clannad or Tangerine Dream, it is in fact Enya on occasion.
I still prefer the Bakshi version for certain aspects but I like this version for others. I don't think this film was quite dark or foreboding enough in various sequences, huge missed chances with the Ringwraiths methinks, and merely having screaming ugly drooling orcs isn't really enough to say its dark n scary. I also loved how the Bakshi film didn't cower away from showing lots of blood, something this film lacked.
First half of the film I love but from the midway point I don't like, simple as that really. It seems to go from a beautiful fable to a daft videogame mashup, think 'Legend' at the start then Conan from the midway point.
I can't rant on about the semi reasonable effects or lack of the odd bits and pieces here and there lets be frank, the film is much more than that. Even though its not a perfect adaptation of the classic tale its pretty darn close and manages to encompass enough adventure and excitement with just the right amount of emotion to thrill. I do think it has been over hyped terribly which is a common problem these days but it is still a solid film, just not as epic as you're led to believe.
No one should ignore the Bakshi animated film either I must say, a glorious piece of work that really does offer a damn good alternative to this film.
A great start to one of the greatest film adventures of our time, 'The Fellowship of the Ring' sets a high standard for the rest of the saga. Taking great strides in character development and the story line, the first installment of the series proves to be well made, beautifully shot, and filled with exhilarating action pieces.
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