“You’re late,” says Frodo Baggins. Gandalf the Gray replies, “A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”
I wasn’t really familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien or his Lord of the Rings novels when the first film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was released in theaters 15 years ago. In fact, I first became aware of the films after visiting a Peter Jackson fan website to check out the section on his 1996 film The Frighteners. It was when I stumbled upon the section for his upcoming projects that I became aware of the Lord of the Rings films. My curiosity about the films remained even as the first film was finally released in December 2001. I finally had a chance to see The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen roughly a month after it came out. I found the film so captivating that I went to see it a second time a few weeks later (it was the first time I’d seen a film on the big screen more than once). I would get to see it on the big screen for a third time at Radio City Musical Hall in the Fall of 2009 (the score was performed live by an orchestra and chorus). This review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is my entry in the Beyond the Cover: Books To Film Blogathon hosted by Now Voyaging & Speakeasy.
2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring follows a young hobbit in Middle-Earth who inherits a powerful, magical ring and, after learning of the danger that it poses, sets off on a quest with three additional hobbits, an elf, a dwarf, two human men, and a wizard to destroy it before dark forces reclaim the ring. Jackson assembled an incredible ensemble that includes Elijah Wood (as Frodo Baggins), Ian McKellan (as Gandalf the Grey), Viggo Mortensen (as Aragorn), John Rhys-Davies (as Gimli), Sean Bean (as Boromir), Orlando Bloom (as Legolas), Sean Astin (as Samwise Gamgee), Billy Boyd (as Pippin), Dominic Monaghan (as Merry), Ian Holm (as Bilbo Baggins), Christopher Lee (as Saruman), Hugo Weaving (as Elrond), Liv Tyler (as Arwen), Cate Blanchett (as Galadriel), Andy Serkis (as Gollum), Marton Csokas (as Cereborn), Lawrence Makoare (as Lurtz), Craig Parker (as Haldir), and Harry Sinclair (as Isildur). The entire cast shines, especially Wood, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee McKellan, Mortensen, and Astin.
Best Director Oscar nominee Jackson succeeds in bringing Middle-Earth to life, co-writing the screenplay with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (and earning a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nod in the process). In adapting the first book in Tolkien’s trilogy, a number of events and characters were condensed and/or deleted for pacing issues. Certain time frames were sped up to increase suspense and some changes/additions were made to certain characters for stronger character development. The first chapter of the next book, The Two Towers, is even used as the climax to the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring due to the book not having an actual climax. Jackson and company did add some new and extended scenes back in for the extended version of the film, which runs a half hour longer. Andrew Lesnie’s Oscar-winning cinematography is at times eerie and others gorgeous but always timeless-looking while the Oscar-nominated production design by Grant Major and Dan Hennah creates an authentic-looking Middle-Earth (I especially loved the Shire and Rivendell). The Oscar-winning special effects by Richard Taylor, Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, and Mark Stetson make great use of digital and practical effects in addition to a further mix of miniatures and forced perspective.
The Oscar-winning makeup design by Taylor and Peter Owen creates a variety of creatures for Middle-Earth (hobbits, dwarves, elves, goblins, orcs, Uruk-hai, etc.) and the Oscar-nominated costume designs by Taylor and Ngila Dickson cover a variety of Middle-Earth cultures (I appreciated the great efforts made to give the costumes lived-in looks). The Oscar-nominated sound mixing by Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Gethin Creagh, and Hammond Peek is incredible, as is John Gilbert’s Oscar-nominated editing (which moves the film along at a great pace and keeps it exciting throughout its three-hour running time). The Oscar-nominated song “May It Be” by Enya and Roma Ryan is quite memorable, and Howard Shore delivers an Oscar-winning score that is rich with multiple motifs, highlighting the drama and action. Peter Jackson’s Best Picture Oscar nominee The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a visual masterpiece and an excellent adaptation of Tolkien’s novel. It’s one of the finest fantasy films ever produced, full of humor and adventure, and leaves you eager to see the next installment (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).