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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson's award-winning 2001 film adaptation of the first volume of Tolkien's epic fantasy novel.

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Extraordinary and Epic, For the Most Part

  • Feb 1, 2010
The Lord of the Rings film began filming in 1997 or so, and while it took a long time to get them out there into theathers, they turned out to be well enjoyed films.  The Fellowship of the Ring dropped down near Christmas of 2001.  The marketing campaign for the entire trilogy showcased one thing: This was a big gamble.  Being based off J.R.R. Tolkein's books, there was a huge following that was already behind them.  And with the books being so amazingly well loved, The Fellowship of the Ring (as well as the rest of the trilogy) had a chance to be a make or break sort of thing.  Peter Jackson had to be very careful with it.  It's no secret that the man really REALLY loved those books, but it's also no secret that for as much love as there is for Lord of the Rings there were also a lot of people put off by J.R.R. Tolkein's style.  As a result, adapting The Fellowship of the Ring, in particular, was probably tough. 

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy begins with The Fellowship.  You all mostly know this story.  How Sauron forged the one ring to rule them all, and in a war loses it thanks to having his finger with said ring, severed.  The ring lives on, however, and falls iinto the hands of a hobbit named Smeagol, who loses it and then it falls into the hands of Bilbo Baggins.  What Bilbo doesn't know is that it IS the one ring to rule them all.  And while celebrating his birthday Bilbo decides to leave the one ring to Frodo Baggins.  It is Gandalf who discovers that it is the one ring that man failed to destroy.  It is apparent that they will have to destroy it.  It is Frodo's burden to bear as they set out to cast the ring into the fires of Mordor.  Of course, Frodo can't undertake the task alone.  He'll be joined by a strong Fellowship.  There is, of course Gandalf.  His friends Sam, Pippin and Mary as well as the Elf, Legolas, the Dwarf Gimli, the heir to the throne of Gondor Aragon and there's Boromir, a man tempted by the power of the ring. 

The characters are played by an all star cast and their parts are done really well.  Considering how well the film is done each member of the cast embodies who it is they play.  The only weak moment in the cast is that Elijah Wood as Frodo doesn't get a chance to shine... yet.  He primarily sticks around and does a lot of eye stretching, but in this first movie the range of what he can do isn't fully realized.  It's intentional, of course, because Lord of the Rings sticks very close to the Hero's Journey mythos. 

It's no secret that all the films were filmed at the same time.  The entire trilogy, and it took years to do.  But if there was anything to get out of the way right off hand, it would be that the world definitely comes alive.  Middle Earth looks as though it has been lived in.  You're being brought into this world with no qualms or questions asked.  It's incredibly majestic as a result.  Along those lines, yes, it's important to note that even the characters and the different kinds of races really come alive as well.  Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, much like the rest of the trilogy, has a pulse.  The world itself as you watch just feels like a living, breathing entity.  And because the cast does so well with their language, accents and a fine tuned script, it just makes it all the better.  If there's one thing that The Fellowship of the Ring does right... it's bring fantasy to life.  We also can't discount the array of special effects used (although the best of them come out in the next two films) or the music score either.  Everything about The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring's production values stands out and stands tall.  Even the cinematography and lighting is some of the best we've seen in film.  In 2001 we'd seen nothing quite like it before.  It's film making techniques are top notch and something that probably won't be duplicated for a long time.  There's almost no world that comes alive better than middle earth in Lord of the Rings.

As exciting as the movie is to watch, it certainly nearly as exciting to sit through.  It's a visual spectacle and a wonder in film making (fantasy film makers take note: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy ought to be your model) but The Fellowship isn't without it's own little nitpicks.  Lord of the Rings fans, don't hate me for this, but the pacing is a little wonky.  I will openly admit that I'm no fan of J.R.R. Tolkein's writing style.  The first book in particular bored the living hell out of me and the first movie isn't so different.  It's a fantastic film and deserves all the honors it gets for its film making techniques, script included, but that doesn't stop The Fellowship of the Ring from being a slow paced movie.  It's mostly in the middle, as the end and the beginning are quite interesting (especially the prologue, which will have you hooked) but about halfway it becomes a wonder of just how long the movie is.  I can only bask in how beautiful a movie is for so long.

It feels like it takes forever for the Fellowship to actually begin their quest.  It feels like it takes forever for them to get through Moria.  Many portions of the movie just feel lengthy and padded out.  The extended DVD didn't exactly help The Fellowship of the Ring much in this regard (though I loved that it really expanded on the characters).  In spite of all it's film making techniques, one has to remember that the entire trilogy is really one giant movie split into three parts.  Being the first part, The Fellowship of the Ring is filled with more backstory than anything else.  We're introduced to the characters, learn what their role in the quest must be and, in sticking with the mythos of the hero's journey, ultimately watch as the fellowship becomes separated.  Some people really enjoy this a lot.  And I can enjoy it too... just not for three hours.  As such, while I love the Fellowship of the Ring... I can't get over the fact that in subsequent views I tend to fall asleep because I get the feeling that as I'm watching... nothing is happening for a long time.

That may in part be because of the book that's it is based off of.  And while Peter Jackson made many changes, much of them came because of how the film medium works as opposed to simply making artistic differences.  For example in the book Gandalf takes around seventeen years or so to discover that the ring Frodo has inherited is the one ring.  In film... you can't really take that much time to get the story going.  I'm sure you all wouldn't want to sit in the theater watching as Gandalf pours over text and whatnot for seventeen years.  The time restraints of film just wouldn't allow Jackson to do something like that and so he had to change it.  In a book you can take as long as you need with something like that... but during a movie you've got to hit the ground running.  So many moments that were rather long in Tolkein's book were shortened when it came to the film due primarily to the differences between the mediums (in this case time restraints) more so than Peter Jackson deciding he was going to butcher the book.  Depending on who you talk to the changes Peter Jackson made are either horrible and godawful and he should be burned at the stake, or they're welcome.  There's obviously much more than just things dealing with time.  Some of it really was just Peter Jackson interpretiing what Tolkein wrote differently.  Depending on who you talk to the films are either an abomination (Tolkein's family supposedly REALLY hated those movies but I don't know if that's true or not) or they're incredible.

I lean on the side that the films are incredible because in terms of being films, they're absolutely astounding.  Very few films grab the reigns of film making technique and run with them in quite the manner that the Lord of the Rings trilogy did.  It's hard to admit but while the books are genuinely influential there were just some things about that couldn't be adapted to the big screen (and were they adapted would've made for horrible films... what works well in literature doesn't always work well in film).

As an adaptation I can't speak too strongly because you're listening to someone who didn't particularly enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring book and found the Fellowship of the Ring movie to be a slow paced ride. 

But this review is about how GOOD the movie is not about how much I like it and it certainly isn't about how close to the book it is.  It's about its merits as a film.  And it's hard to deny the stellar acting, the fine tuned script, the incredible cinematography, the remarkable editing techniques (save for that car you can see in the theatrical cut), the incredible music score, etc.  All of it is done and presented really well.  So while I find the movie to be a little boring in the middle so much so that I often use the film as a cure for my insomnia, it's hard not to respect the absurd amount of work that went into the film and the results that come from it.  As a result of this I could easily give it a horrible rating simply based on the fact that I just found it boring and monotnous in the middle.  But that would be ignoring all the fine stuff the film does well, and I totally can't do that.  Credit has to be given where it's due.  And while I find the movie so boring that I use it to get to sleep on those nights when I can't, I do enjoy all the incredible film techniques that Peter Jackson utilizes.  Besides that, it's the first of what essentially is a really long movie that was simply divided into three parts.  The Fellowship is far from the best but it's only the first act in a three act extravaganza that in the end, turned out to be worth the price of admission for all three acts.

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February 02, 2010
A wonderful review of a wonderful movie. I've only watched it seven or eight times. It's probably time to pull it off the shelf again!
More The Lord of the Rings: The Fel... reviews
review by . November 30, 2010
I just recently saw this movie, and have not yet seen the second or third, but I absolutely love this. This is a pretty much perfect film. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, it's everything done right. The acting, the story, the visuals, the score, and the epic battle sequences. It's as simple as that.      The performances were all great, especially Elijah Wood as Frodo, Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey, and Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The other cast did incredibly …
Quick Tip by . May 03, 2011
Still speechless, I've seen THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING four times now. The film is cinemagic. Its scope is epic. Its delivery is perfect. The acting is unforgettable, and the story is timeless. Director Peter Jackson has created a singular masterpiece that, like CITIZEN KANE, CASABLANCA, and STAR WARS, will inspire hundreds -- if not thousands -- of creative minds to pursue interests in film and writing. His adaptation of the book (note: not a literal translation like …
Quick Tip by . April 22, 2011
Makes me want to be a ranger, or perhaps a hobbit, although their virtues really come out in the later segments.
review by . October 13, 2010
One of the best stories and movies of all time. Just make sure you get the extended edition DVD. The "extra" material should never have been left out of these. Rarely does a movie live up to a book, especially a book which is one of the best of all time. Fellowship of the Ring delivers! Great version of a great story!
review by . June 29, 2010
The first in the epic film trilogy based on Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, this Fellowship of the Ring is a masterful adaptation of one of the greatest fantasy tales of all time. Lengthy by movie standards, the 2+ hour feature is far too short to offer viewers the full wonder of Tolkien's universe. While this is a fantastic adaptation, nothing can compare to the book itself. Fans should definitely read it.      That being said, there are a few moments when Peter Jackson …
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
One of the greatest adventure films of all time.. it has every great element
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
the director is a big lord of the rings fan and int shows in his movie adaptions.
review by . February 04, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
When I went to see this movie with my son I thought I was in for a long snooze. How wrong I was. This movie grabbed me from the start. With amazing cinematography, special effects, acting, and a storyline that is compelling beyond imagining! All this and a group of characters who are kind of like The Justice League of the comics. Don't let the three hours daunt you as it is the easiest three hours you will ever spend! The hardest thing about seeing this movie was that I had to wait almost a year …
review by . August 13, 2002
In the devided land of middle earth, a new force breath's life. A ring of pure power is uncovered. A journey of epic grandeur is begun. You all know and love Lord of the Rings. And how exciting to know in your lifetime we get them brought to life. Filmed within the gorgeous land of New Zealand, no less. Fellowship of the Rings kick's off the trilogy, and sets a new standard for all fantasy films that come in the future. (Sharing that position with Mr. Potter, in my little book of course.) Peter …
review by . August 08, 2002
It is always difficult to translate the Big Screen to the small screen (no matter how good your TV and stereo are) but, in the opinion of this reviewer, the drama of the movie comes across well. Much has been said about the merits of Peter Jackson's adaptation -- and Tolkien fans will be arguing those points for many years to come. But the presentation of this DVD set is just tremendous. The bonus material just whets one's appetite for both the Director's Cut and the next movie.I have one friend …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a 2001 fantasy drama film directed by Peter Jackson based on the similarly titled first volume of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Set in Middle-earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron (Sala Baker), who is seeking the One Ring (Alan Howard voice). The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions form the Fellowship of the Ring, and journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor: the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Released on December 19, 2001, the film was highly acclaimed by critics and fans alike, especially as many of the latter judged it to be sufficiently faithful to the original story. It was a box office success, earning over $870 million worldwide, and the second highest grossing film of 2001 in the U.S. and worldwide (behind Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) which made it the 5th highest grossing film ever at the time. Today it is the 15th highest-grossing worldwide film of all time. It won four Academy Awards and five BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Director BAFTA awards. The Special Extended DVD Edition was released on November 12, 2002. In 2007, The Fellowship of the Ring was voted number 50 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest American films. The AFI also voted it the second greatest fantasy film of all time during their AFI's 10 Top 10 ...
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Director: Peter Jackson
Genre: Adventure, Classics, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: December 19, 2001
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Peter Jackson
DVD Release Date: August 6, 2002
Runtime: 2hrs 45min
Studio: New Line Cinema, Wingnut Films
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