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

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 12/22/01 20:24:44

"Finally, a film in the Fantasy genre that doesn't suck"
5 stars (Awesome)

The first installment in the LOTR trilogy is a milestone for the Fantasy genre and filmmaking in general, in that it marks the return of the truly "EPIC" film. Granted, I still think those fucking retards who camped out in front of the theaters a year in advance just to see the teaser for this should be hit with a firehose when they line up for a peek for the next installment -yet I can't deny that it's an awesome film.

I have no idea how fans of the novels will react, since I never managed to get to the source material. On my first (and last) attempt to read a Tolkein novel, at the erudite age of fourteen, I found it excruciatingly slow and tedious, with way too many breaks for musical numbers. Granted, I was reading too much of Robert E. Howard's original "Conan, The Barbarian" series at the time. Maybe Tolkein wasn't really that bad, but all I knew is that there was no gore and no naked chicks, so I wasn't interested.

Nevertheless, I imagine that the true fans will be pleased. Perhaps the most die-hard geeks will nitpick some little detail or other that was lost in the translation, to which I will reply, "GET A FUCKIN' LIFE, YOU YO-YO'S". I, however, found it to be a solidly entertaining (albeit a tad over-long) saga complete with excellent acting, fantastic visuals, good pacing, and excellent direction from a talented director, Peter Jackson ("The Frighteners", "Heavenly Creatures"). And, best of all, enough graphic violence (including dismemberment and decapitations) and beautifully coreographed action to make Robert E. Howard shudder in his grave with delight.

The story, in a nutshell, is that some dark lord dude named Sauron made this powerful ring, which was lost for many generations after Sauron was narrowly defeated by an army of humans and elves. A short Hobbit named Bilbo (Ian Holm, looking much shorter than I remember) finds it and passes it to his nephew. The ring, it seems, must be destroyed, lest it fall back into the dark lord's hands. The nephew, Frodo (Elijah Wood, also looking shorther than I remember thanks to forced perspective and, I'm sure, some digital trickery) embarks on a quest to destroy the ring in the fires from whence it was forged, aided by the wizard Gandalf (Ian Mckellan) and some other hobbits (who are often as much of a hindrance as a help). Also joining them is an Elven archer named Legalos (Orlando Bloom, who has become the heartthrob poster boy for geek girls everywhere). Legalos is a one-man version of the English army at Agincourt, firing arrows with mechanical precision and rapidity. He strikes up a friendship with Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) a pissed off dwarf who likes to go for the knees with a wicked battle-axe. They are led by a pair of human warriors, Strider (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean), who also kick much ass. Together this fellowship traverses many lands, endures many perils, and kicks much of the aforementioned ass. The vistas are amazing, as they come across towering ancient cities, immense monolithic statues, and massive, tumbled ruins. In their travels they fight all manners of monsters and demons as they draw closer to the place where the ring can be destroyed.

All of the cast do an exceptional job, with extra props to Mckellan, Mortensen, and Wood. But the bulk of thanks should really go to Peter Jackson, who has obviously lavished much love on this project with respect for the source material.

ADDENDUM: 3/21/02

Well, I finally managed to get through the first book in the trilogy, and I can attest that this is one of those rare instances where the film is FAR BETTER than the source material. Jackson has done a superb job of gleaning and enhancing only the best parts, and leaving behind a ton of dreck in the form of superfluous characters, like that idiot Tom Bombadil who breaks out in song every five minutes - and speaking of singing, thank God he decided to not make a fucking musical out of it, cutting out all of the book's overlong and pretentious song lyrics. In addition, he got rid of a lot of very dry dialogue, tedious exposition, confusing back-history, and countless descriptions of the landscape (how many fucking times do we have to hear about the clouds, the trees, the rivers - YAWN). In addition, Jackson took what precious few fight scenes existed in the book, and expanded on them, also adding a climactic battle which was missing in the book (making for a very un-climactic ending). Although a few earlier fight scenes (like the one with the pack of werewolves), and some bits of humorous dialouge were clipped that should have perhaps been left in, Jackson's finished product is, so far, superior to that which inspired it.

After so many watered down, schlocky B-movie fantasy films we've been subjected to over the years ("Kull the Conqueror", "Beastmaster", etc.), it's nice to find one that not only doesn't suck, but actually excels. Thankfully the three films were shot all at once, so we won't have to wait too long for the next installments.

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