- Directed by Peter Jackson
- December 10, 2001 (Odeon Leicester Square) / December 19, 2001 (US) / December 20, 2001 (New Zealand)
- Based on the 1954 novel The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Sauron seeks the One Ring in order to return to power and now nine companions must journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, where the Ring can be destroyed.
Many films try to be epic, but few can actually do that. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is one of the films that actually can. One of the things that makes this movie work is that things start quietly and simple for our hero. Frodo (Elijah Wood) is preparing to celebrate the 111th birthday of his friend and family member Bilbo (Ian Holm) whom he idolizes. But as the story progresses things get worse and worse until our hero must leave the comfort of his home and rise to the task before him.
Frodo is more of an average guy hero. He is certainly not crafted in the image of an action hero. He is not already capable of doing great deeds. As an individual he is someone who has to step up to the challenge at hand. He must rise to the occasion and be more than he has ever been before. Those are the heroes that mean the most to us as we would all like to be of such caliber in the face of great odds.
The Fellowship of the Ring is not just fantasy for spectacle, but it is also great drama. It is an engaging story from start to finish that is largely character driven. You get a sense of who and what these people are and though it is the first film in a three-part film series, at the end of the story presented here all the characters are at a different place than where they started. All the hobbits who have never really ventured beyond the Shire have matured a little bit. And the rest of those involved understand just how serious things are for not only them but their world.
While great, and this may be heretical, it is not perfect. I was always bothered by how Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) wasn’t aware that not only was his cousin’s kingdom wiped out but that it had apparently been wiped out long enough ago for spiders to build cobwebs on the skeletons of the corpses. I think it’s safe to assume that word of a wiped-out kingdom would spread. There they don’t appear to have much in the way of farming so they have to get their food from somewhere at the minimum. If your customer base is no longer there somebody would notice. That may be nitpicking, but it really bothers me. How can a civilization getting wiped out be missed?!
That aside that portion of the film lead to probably the first genuinely epic scene in this series when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) sacrifices himself. I remember it hit really hard when I saw it in theaters because by that point in the film you really liked the character and I admit I was largely unfamiliar with anything Lord of the Rings, so I was horrified that this character I liked had just died. Now it’s no big deal when I see it and to be honest I have a little trouble understanding the reactions among the characters knowing what I know. I cannot put myself in their place.
There are sweeping vistas in The Fellowship of the Ring. The camera lovingly frames the scenery-both real and created. The CGI is used sparingly yet convincingly. Perhaps that’s why in part it is all so convincing. CGI is not their default. CGI appears to be used only as necessary when what is being done cannot be done in the real world or to help improve upon other effects. What you get is a believable world. And that’s important. You need to believe what you’re watching is real even if it’s not. That suspension of disbelief pulls you further into the story.
But you also need a talented cast to bring it all to life. Besides Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, and John Rhys-Davies we have Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, and Andy Serkis. Some were known commodities prior while others stepped up and showed just how good they were. They make each character their own person from the start. You don’t have trouble differentiating them. These are not interchangeable but rather distinct. You could not switch lines and not notice.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a story about the growing shadows of war. It’s about how they have probably been growing for a long time but only now are becoming unable to be ignored. The threat has returned and there is no longer pretending it hasn’t. One could also see it touching on inevitability of war or even that sometimes it is necessary.
There are themes of loyalty and duty and regret. It touches on the weakness of the human heart and how even the best among us can be corrupted. It even touches on how the most worthy of causes are fragile things. The Fellowship is plague from the start by biases and the corruption which is being aggravated by the One Ring as it seeks to get back to the villainous Sauron.
This film took a brave step and created its own look. That’s not an easy thing to do. The Lord of the Rings lore is a rich and detailed environment in literature but to do something like that on the big screen is a whole other matter. Jackson created a look and style which has since influenced other fantasy films. The last fantasy film to do that was Conan the Barbarian. I bring this up because it takes a truly great film to create an aesthetic that others follow.
As far as action goes I found it a bit light in those moments. They are noticeable but they are few. This is a dialogue heavy film. It is dialogue to develop presented elements.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is just an amazing movie. It is a fine piece of drama on an epic scale. If you want to see great filmmaking, then check this out.