Starring Elijah Wood (The Ice Storm), Ian McKellen (X-Men) and Viggo Mortensen (A Perfect Murder), the almost 3 hour Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (referred hence as FotR) is a dream come true. Based upon the first story (the other two parts are also coming to theaters) in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, it is hard to believe how well director Peter Jackson has personified the book onto the screen. Several side things were taken out from the book and minor player development does not flesh out as well as in the book, but overall Jackson stayed true to the source material.
FotR is the story of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and his adventures with the Fellowship, a group of 9 people sworn to protect Frodo on his journey. Frodo inherits the One Ring from his uncle, Bilbo Baggins. Trouble is this One Ring is very dangerous. The evil Sauron created the ring to rule over all of Middle Earth and to control all the other rings (9 went to men, 7 to dwarves, 3 to elves). The elves escaped the power of the One Ring and the dwarves were not affected. The nine men however became slaves to Sauron.
Sauron and his Orc army are eventually defeated. The ring spends most of its time since that battle with Gollum, who calls it his "precious". One day Bilbo finds the ring on the ground after Gollum dropped it and he becomes the possessor of the ring. Bilbo's adventures are chronicled in The Hobbit, a precursor to this movie and introductory story into the people of Middle-Earth. At the time of FotR Bilbo has decided that his adventuring days are over and that he must entrust the Ring and his other possessions to Frodo. He has a hard time handing over the Ring because of its power over him, but Gandalf (Ian McKellan) the wizard helps him hand them to Frodo. And this is where Frodo's journey begins.
Sauron is busy being physically reincarnated on Mount Doom as Frodo begins his journey. The nine men with the rings have been sent out to hunt down the person who has the One Ring. They are considered the Ringwraiths now, forever hunting the Ring down for their master Sauron. Frodo and his friends Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin), Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) and Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) leave the Hobbit Shire after the Ringwraiths trash Bilbo's place looking for the Ring. During the escape, the ring falls onto Frodo's finger and he is transported to the shadow world. There the Eye of Sauron sees him and now knows who the Ringwraiths have to look for. The Ringwraiths hunt Frodo down, but are saved by Strider (Viggo Mortensen), a mysterious man who wants to help Frodo on his journey.
They make their way toward Rivendell, the capital of the Elf kingdom. The Ringwraiths chase them and actually stab Frodo. Then (in the biggest book to movie translation guffaw) Arwen, the elvish love of Strider, comes to Frodo's aid and brings him to Rivendell. Frodo meets up with Bilbo again. Bilbo gives him a sword, Sting, which glows blue when Orcs are around. It is also here that we are introduced to the other four members of the Fellowship: Aragon (who is Strider and also heir to the human throne), The elvish prince Legolas (Orlando Bloom), the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and the human Boromir (Sean Bean). These four, along with Frodo, Gandalf, Sam, Pippin and Merry make up the nine people sworn to protect the ring and Frodo himself from Sauron and his forces. Frodo decides he wants to go to Mount Doom and destroy the ring, the only place this can be done. This means going into the heart of where Sauron is. The rest of the movie is made up of puzzles and battles between the Fellowship and the Ringwraiths/Orcs as they journey toward Mordor and Mount Doom.
Be warned for those that have not read any of the books. This movie ends on an uplifting note, but truly has no real end. The other two chapters, The Two Towers and Return of the King are scheduled to be out Christmas 2002 and Christmas 2003 respectively. New Line took a big chance with greenlighting all 3 movies to be shot back-to-back-to-back for over $500 million. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was the last deal New Line ever struck for movies over $100 million. They are now into the budget-friendly movies thanks to the failures of things like Lost in Space. The 3 movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy were shot over 18 months in New Zealand. Do not be dismayed that there is no true end in this movie, there is more Lord of the Ring goodness coming.
The single greatest thing that amazed me about this movie is how I knew there were computer graphic effects being done on scenes, but they were seamlessly put into the movie that everything seemed like it was really there and not computer generated. WETA Digital, which director Peter Jackson co-founded, did the effects. They have come a long way since Heavenly Creatures, that's for sure. I've been amazed by what Industrial Light and Magic has done, but WETA just brought things to a whole new level. Rivendell looked like it actually existed here. Looking at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone effects and the ones presented here and it's obvious that FotR is on a higher level. They are both good movies, but FotR makes it look so real.
The look of the hobbits, who are the shortest of the races on Middle Earth, is done very well in this movie. They had Elijah Wood walking in trenches in many of the close shots to make it appear he was half the stature of Gandalf. In far away shots it looks like some digital voodoo was done to make their legs seem shorter than they really were. All in all the characters were given great justice in how they were presented in this film. Jackson certainly went the extra mile to keep things on the up and up with book.
Final Thoughts: I highly recommend going to see Fellowship of the Ring. Whether you've read the books or not, this movie is well worth your hard earned cash. If you see one movie, see this one. It truly is a landmark achievement in effects and faithfully brings a much-loved book to life. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has had a long past with Hollywood and it's good to see that it's finally get the treatment the stories have always deserved. Since all 3 movies were filmed in 18 months (the special effects take the time), it's nice to see that we will have 3 consecutive years for the Lord of the Rings.
I haven't seen all the Christmas movies yet (where the majority of Oscar contenders come from), but I have a hard time not saying that Fellowship of the Ring was the best movie from the year 2001. There were other great films, but this tops them all. Do not bring your children to this movie, although it is rated PG-13 there were some parts where it was pushing that rating. The movie is 3 hours long, so be sure you don't have to use the facilities at any time for you may miss something.
DVD Note: New Line has said that this will be out in August 2002 with a trailer for the next chapter, The Two Towers. There is also expected to be about 30-40 min. extra for the movie on the DVD that did not make the final 3 hour cut to film.