“The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring” is an epic undertaking by director Peter Jackson. Jackson and crew filmed adaptations of all three books of the series simultaneously, in New Zealand, over the course of 15 months. The completed films will be released each December for three films and cost a reported $270 million dollars. Due to this undertaking and the following the books has, the films are all highly anticipated.
“Fellowship” has many things going for it, but it also has some serious flaws that detract from it. I have never read the books, so I can’t begin to compare the films to the source material. I have no idea if the characters are all there or if scenes were deleted. Even at 180 minutes long, it would seem unlinkely that the film would be able to include everything from the books.
The film is stunningly beautiful to look at. The filmmakers have used a variety of locations in New Zealand to successful create Middle Earth. The lush greens and the snow capped mountains of New Zealand are used to great advantage. The Shire, where Frodo and Bilbo lives, is recreated very well and appears to be pulled right out of a children’s fairy tale. Rivendell is also very beautiful with waterfalls in the background and stunning, lush greenery throughout. In short, Jackson and his crew have created a landscape of paradise and hell which seems completely real and appropriate.
The actors are also generally very good. Elijah Wood creates the Hobbit Frodo in a way that I didn’t imagine would be possible. He seems thoughtful, introspective and heroic. In films of this sort, I always worry that these characters will end up as caricatures. That does not happen here. Ian McKellan is, as always, great. He brings Gandalf to life displaying a mixture of wisdom, forboding and caring that makes him seem like a true wizard. Viggo Mortensen is also very good as Strider. He portrays the heroism and conflict of the character convincingly. Less successful is Sean Bean. Frankly, we can figure out pretty much everything about his character very early on. Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving pop up in smaller, supporting roles. It is difficult to accurately access these performances. I hope that their characters will return in the next films and that their characters will become larger and more important. But based on this film, these characters don’t really advance the story much.
I certainly wasn’t bored during the film. The action moves at a fast and furious clip. Just as things slow down a little, another evil beast (or beasts) shows up to try to prevent the Fellowship from proceeding. But in a way, this becomes monotonous. Too many of these scenes are composed of creatures created by CGI and look too similar. I saw the film with a group of people and the comment was made that they wished the film was more “painterly and less ‘The Mummy’”. The battle scenes definitely have similarities to the excess of “The Mummy Returns” and this detracts from the otherwise gorgeous production values exhibited throughout the rest of the film.
Also, I had questions about certain things which weren’t answered and this always creates a problem for me. Again, perhaps these questions will be addressed in later films, but that doesn’t help “Fellowship” as a stand-alone film. My biggest question is: Why did Saruman become evil? Yes, I understand he was seduced by the power, but if he was initially an ally of Gandalf, it seems as though this seduction would be a long time coming, yet it appears to hit Gandalf with a lot of surprise. Again, maybe this will be addressed in one of the two remaining films, but it does leave a hole.
I think “Fellowship” shows that the series holds great promise, but as a stand-alone film, it falls a bit short.