Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, January 30, 2009


LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (2002). Director: Peter Jackson.

In the first installment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, young Frodo (Elijah Wood) takes possession of the all-important ring from Bilbo Baggins, and sets off with a number of comrades – hobbits, dwarfs, and so on, as well as the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) – to deliver the sinister ring (which can bring out the very worst in people) to a place of safety. Along the way he must enter the creepy underground domain of the dwarfs where he's almost snatched away by a tentacled monster in a lake, and then he and his comrades must battle a horde of bloodthirsty Orcs – not to mention the overpowering evil influence of the ring itself (which once belonged to the dark nemesis Sauron, who is about to rise again, plunging all of “middle-earth” into chaos). This film probably brings Tolkien's imaginative and atmospheric story to life better than previous versions, but let's face it – Shakespeare it ain't. Some people will greatly admire the often stunning visual quality of the film – awe-inspiring settings and designs – while others will find it all too silly and trivial for words. Watching the movie it's easy to forget that all this comic book-ish stuff actually pre-dates comic books, and it all seems over-familiar because of all the writers, filmmakers and others who over the decades have “borrowed” Tolkien's basic ideas in their own works of popular culture. Nevertheless, no amount of money or high-class production values can quite do away with its generally juvenile tone. As a director, Jackson is only so so – the battle scenes aren't put together with any great skill and he even relies several times on that hoariest of devices, slow motion. The film is slow starting, but rather entertaining once it gets going. The actors are so good, especially a perfectly cast Elijah Wood and an exemplary McKellan, that they manage to steal attention from the well-done special effects (the aforementioned octopus monster is a pip!]. [And it's a pleasure to see Christopher Lee in a major supporting role as a Sauron advocate.] Howard Shore's musical score is only acceptable. {This review is based on the extended DVD version.}

Verdict: Tolkien fans jump in -- all others beware. ***.

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