Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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One would think that in preparation to write a review for one of the biggest movies opening this year, one would have prepared a little. Perhaps one would have read the book that said movie is based upon. Or, given that there wasn't enough time to read the book, one may have done a little research to make up for one's ignorance on the subject. Perhaps one could have investigated the deep and expansive mythology which the book grounds itself in, and which has so captivated millions of readers all over the world for the last several decades... But I have never read The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, or any other book by J.R.R. Tolkien for that matter. Chances are, I never will.

Contrary to what one may think, my literary ignorance of Mr. Tolkien's work is not out of any lack of appreciation for the man's writing ability. After all, I do consider myself to be a well read individual, with a varied taste in the literary arts. But to quote a coffee mug I once saw displayed in a bookstore, "So many books, so little time." Yes, time. Unlike the elves who inhabit the mythical world of J.R.R. Tolkien, I do not have a thousand years to live, to read, to learn, to love... I am but a mere mortal. My time on this world is short. And to be quite honest, I have bigger bugs to squash. So yes, when it comes to all things related to The Lord of the Rings, I am quite ignorant. For my ignorance, I do apologize. However, there is one thing that I do pride myself in. What is that, you ask? Well, it is my appreciation of film (and thanks for asking). And now that one of the most well known literary trilogies is about to make its way into a cinema near you, I'd like to think that I could make up for my ignorance a little. I may not be an expert when it comes to J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, but since I was put in the privileged position of being able to see The Fellowship of the Ring movie a few days before it opened nationwide, I thought the least I could do was tell you a little bit about what I saw, and what I thought...

As one might expect from a filmic adaptation of one of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a sweeping and epic journey into the realm of fantasy and imagination. For those unfamiliar with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extensive prologue which introduces the film will quickly, and satisfactorily establish the mythological world one is about to enter. Director Peter Jackson does not hold back any punches. Not even five minutes into the film, and we are already bombarded by stunning cinematic compositions that will leave you breathless. The key to any fantasy movie is the ability to transport the viewer from one's non-filmic reality, to the reality of the film. Ideally, there must be no self-awareness while viewing the fantasy film. Despite the seemingly fantastical story and imagery before one's eyes, one must accept what one's eyes sees, or one cannot fully achieve the vicarious connection with the projected filmic world which should be inherent in any cinematic experience. The Fellowship of the Ring not only successfully achieves this transportation of film viewer into the filmic world, but does so with an almost fluidic ease.

Before the title of the film even crosses the screen, the viewer will have already left behind their modern world of cold technology and scientific reasoning and entered a world full of great and powerful wizards, preternaturally beautiful elves, and little creatures known as Hobbits. Furthermore, despite the ostensibly calien" inhabitants and landscapes which abundantly fill The Fellowship of the Ring, we cannot help but actually accept these characters and images with open arms and hold onto them. Largely due in part to some fine performances from the film's actors, the characters of The Fellowship of the Ring do not come off as one dimensional caricatures as is quite common in effects-laden pictures. Surprisingly, the viewer is presented with well rounded characters who are not only emotionally expressive, but whose interactions with the other characters in the film actually seem sincere and genuine.

Yet, despite the stunning visuals and an interesting group of characters, The Fellowship of the Ring does have its failings. However, these failings are probably more intrinsic to the original source material than the actual film itself. Narratively and thematically speaking, The Fellowship of the Ring could be criticized as being somewhat overtly linear. Basically a moral tale of how a group of very different beings (hobbit, human, elf, and dwarf) must band together to overcome a singular supreme evil, The Fellowship of the Rings has much in common with many other fantasy movies which have thematically grounded themselves in the realm of myth. But The Fellowship of the Ring is just that - a myth. And as is inherent in stories which are to be classified as myth, the narrative will commonly embody popular or widely-held notions. In other words, the core theme to be found in The Fellowship of the Ring, is one which is probably as old as time and one that has appeared in many different works cross-culturally.

With that said, it should still be pointed out that the narrative structure of The Fellowship of the Ring is still very straightforward and at times tedious. Clocking in at almost three hours, there are certain scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring which seem almost superfluous. It almost appears that these seemingly excessive scenes may have been left in the final cut of the picture to appease hardcore Tolkien fans. So yes, perhaps there will be a few moments where the viewer's mind may wander, or be confused by the densely packed narrative, but on a whole, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a breathtaking journey into a beautiful, yet frightful fantasy world filled with both extremes of good and evil.

Tags: The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen

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