The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
"Don't be fooled by the PG certificate."

This is a journey. A journey into evil. Don't be fooled by the PG certificate. What J R R Tolkien was dealing with in the books and what Peter Jackson covers in the first of the three films is the concept that there is a force of darkness in the world capable of total domination.

A child fears the night, because what lurks there is real. Mummy and daddy say, "Don't be silly," and turn on the light. But the child knows that the creatures of the dark are too cunning to be caught like that. They wait. And when the light goes out, they creep closer.

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The hobbits are small, peaceful and friendly folk. They live in The Shire. The wizard Gandalf is a friend of Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) from the days when he adventured into the wilder world and discovered the One Ring Above All in Gollum's cave and brought it home with him, unaware that its power could change everything.

The Shire is the nursery. The hobbits are the children. The creatures of the dark are the black riders who come to steal the ring and return it to Mordor, where the great evil grows ever stronger. Only Gandalf knows what is about to happen and how to circumvent it. But Gandalf does not know everything, as he discovers when he travels to seek advice from Saruman (Christopher Lee), his lord and master. Already, the shadows fall deep across Middle Earth. Can Bilbo's fresh-faced nephew, Frodo, save them?

The scope of the story is as wide as imagination. The filmmakers have done an extraordinary job in encapsulating the essence of Tolkien's monumental saga without confusing the audience with too much history, or too many strange beings. They have lost none of the excitement, while retaining the poetic quality of the quest. Sword and sorcery movies seldom create recognisable nation states, or attempt an understanding of the true nature of chivalry. How many times have you been to Camelot and thought, how phony?

Jackson has brought The Lord Of The Rings to New Zealand and delivered Tolkien's world in all its beauty and horror. The scriptwriters have carved a path through the complexities of the plot with infinite care. The American and Australian actors speak with English accents, retaining conformity, unlike in Amadeus.

On Galdalf's advice, Bilbo gives the ring to Frodo, who must take it to Mount Doom in Mordor and hurl it into the fiery furnace. He goes with Gandalf, three friends from The Shire and a collection of lords and warriors who make up The Fellowship. Against them are the fearful orcs and their creatures. The journey is terrible, their courage stretched to breaking point. Battles are fought, underground caverns traversed, mountain ranges crossed. Everywhere lurks danger. There is no light at the end of this tunnel, only the blood of heroes and the severed limbs of hybrid monsters. Frodo stops being afraid and recognises the truth of his predicament. However much he says he wishes he had never set eyes on the ring, he knows that he cannot turn away. If ever there was a rite of passage, this is it.

At three hours, the film is too long. Also, there are moments when you are reminded of Kurtz's last words in Apocalypse Now: "The horror! The horror!" Jackson started his career making gore flicks and he has learnt a lot since then. The armies of darkness are indeed creatures from nightmares and whoever thought PG was suitable must have been blind.

The hobbits are almost dwarfs, they are so small, and somehow Jackson has made medium-sized actors shrink next to slightly taller actors. It's a clever illusion. Elijah Wood, as Frodo, has a difficult task. As the hero, he must be strong and forceful, but inhabitants of The Shire aren't like that. As a hobbit, he must be inconspicuous and non-confrontational. Mostly he responds with the wide-eyed stare of a goose looking down a gun barrel.

Ian McKellan's Galdalf is masterly. He conveys the wisdom of ages with the humour of an imp. He is not so clever that he can't be wrong, nor as wizardly that every danger is a sport. His presence lifts the film to a level beyond computer generated violence, where performance has a richness, like fine wine.

Viggo Mortensen, as Strider, and Sean Bean, as Boromir, are the dashing knights of The Fellowship, while Liv Tyler, as the beautiful Arwen, and Cate Blanchett, as the beguiling Galadriel, provide a promise of romance. And yet there is no time. The journey continues. This land is as real as the dreams of childhood, fearful and stupendous in its grandeur.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2001
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Frodo Baggins and his friends must destroy a powerful, malevolent ring before it falls into the wrong hands.
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Jennie Kermode ****1/2

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien

Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee

Year: 2001

Runtime: 178 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: New Zealand/US


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