Main cast: Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf the Grey), Viggo Mortensen (Strider/Aragorn), Sean Astin (Samwise ‘Sam’ Gamgee), Liv Tyler (Arwen Undómiel), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Billy Boyd (Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took), Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck), Orlando Bloom (Legolas Greenleaf), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Sean Bean (Boromir), Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins), Andy Serkis (Sméagol/Gollum), and Christopher Lee (Saruman the White)
Director: Peter Jackson
Wow. Phew. The first installment of the adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy of the same name surpasses my expectations and more. It has been a long time since I watched a movie that I never wanted it to end, and this one is it. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is pure spectacle and prime entertainment.
The story? Let’s see. It’s about this ring, created by the evil big bad named Sauron, that helped its wearer rule all the kingdoms in the world of Middle Earth. Thousands of years ago, Sauron was defeated and the ring was lost. Until now. A hobbit – think of dwarf stumpies minus the beard and bad temper – named Bilbo Baggins found it in an adventure that took place off-screen this movie. Now, Bilbo decides to leave his house and everything in it – including the ring – to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood sporting the thickest neck this side of tree trunks).
Gandalf the Grey, a wise human wizard that is also the friend of the hobbits, soon discover the true nature of the ring. He and Frodo and three other dumb hobbits soon embark on a perilous quest to destroy the ring. They are joined by an elf named Legolas, a dwarf named Gimli, and two humans, a chieftain named Boromir and the exiled prince Aragorn. Together, they are the Fellowship of the Ring. Danger ensues, with lots of adventures, steep droops, and five horrid horsemen of Sauron wanting to kill everybody.
If all this sounds like tired fantasy staple to you, please remember: this is the story that spawned all those cheap AD&D/Dragonlance/whatever imitations that saturate the fantasy genre today. Every Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman owe his or her inspiration to Mr Tolkien’s vivid world of Middle Earth. Yes, yes, I’m biased, because I love the books Mr Tolkien inspired, but at the same time, I expect to hate the movie because of this reason (I found Mr Tolkien’s books a chore to read). Instead, I am enthralled for the entire three hours.
Okay, two hours. The movie starts slow, and I always never like the slow start of the story in the book anyway. It’s like a clumsy attempt to find a pace or rhythm to me, and the movie follows the book faithfully.
Then, the adventure begins, and oh!
The real stars of this movie are Ian McKellen, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, and Viggo Mortensen. Mr McKellen plays Gandalf with an amazing mix of campy glee and sober wisdom, and he is a commanding presence. The bitter tension between Aragorn and Boromir culminate in a tragic show of heroism that actually have me weeping, despite me knowing how the story will turn out, and Mr Mortensen and Bean put on amazing performances that bring their otherwise stock characters to life. And I love Orlando Bloom’s understated portrayal of the elf Legolas, but can someone tell me how he can keep his quiver stocked up with arrows all the time? Meanwhile, Christopher Lee makes a hammy bad guy named Saruman the White, orc groupie and Sauron’s new henchman. He sure gives Gandalf a mean shove in the… well, he knows how to use his staff well, that’s for sure.
The cinematography is awe-inspiring, from the breathtaking battle scene in the first few minutes to the lush panoramic scenery to the icy mountains all the way to the cascading waterfalls of the grand finale. Yes, this is an adventure fantasy tailored more towards young adults, but at the same time, the movie succeeds in conveying the sense of wonder and magic of Mr Tolkien’s story.
If I have complains, it is the three hobbits. Okay, two. Sam is Frodo’s friend, fair enough. But the other two? They are for comic effects, fair enough, but when every danger is caused by their stupidity, that is when I really wish that Gandalf will barbecue them for dinner. It’s their fault too that Gandalf… well, sigh. I hate those two hobbits, I never did like them even in the books.
Elijah Wood’s wide-eyed stare can get irritating after the first hour, but he acquits himself beautifully in the final leg of the movie. By then, all is forgiven.
It is also amusing to note that the female characters in this story are symbols of beauty and warmth and nothing more. Liv Tyler appear very briefly as Aragorn’s elf love who gives up her immortality for his love, while Galadriel is a sleepwalking elf who is supposed to be powerful but looks like Cate Blanchett overdosed on sedatives instead. When Liv Tyler acts better than Cate Blanchett, something is definitely wrong, yes?
Still, whatever its fault, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is pure magic. It is going to a long wait until next year for the sequel. Oh, and yes, just to remind people who have never read the book, yes, this movie doesn’t end here. This is only part one, you hear? Go watch it, then read the books, and wait impatiently for the follow-up movies.