As the Middle Earth Saga comes to a close, it seems appropriate to review the movie that started it all – ‘The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship to the Ring’. Based off of the first volume of the best selling book ‘The Lord of the Rings’, the film adaptation has become one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed in history. The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning four and is currently ranked as the 50th greatest film by the American Film Institute.
The film was beautifully brought to life by Peter Jackson, creating an epic film that is truly a modern classic. ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ is one of the greatest fantasy films ever created and has inspired the imaginations of millions all over the world.
The film begins with a prologue narrated by the character Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) that is designed to bring the viewer up to date on the events surround Middle Earth. It explains that the elves, dwarves and men are given rings that are designed to bring them under the control of the dark lord Sauron who in secret created a master Ring. A massive war culminates in a battle in Sauron’s domain, Mordor. The battle ends with the Ring being cut from Sauron’s finger and his demise. The Ring endures and will play a role in the Hobbit book and films until it falls into the hands of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) which begins our journey to destroy the Ring.
The battle that takes place in this prologue is one of my favorite scenes from the movie because it is so epic. I wish that I could watch the whole thing unfold but maybe it would be too much of a good thing. I also think that Cate Blanchett’s narration as the elf Galadriel is the perfect touch for these scenes because she sounds so divine and her character always struck me as a God-like character so it makes sense that she would have seen all of this and be able to tell its tale.
Once this is over, our story begins in Hobbiton, an area of Middle Earth inhabited by Hobbits who are human like creatures except half the height and with very large and hairy feet. It shows the series pivotal character, Frodo, meeting up with the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). They are all gathered in Hobbiton for the 111th birthday of Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) who plays a huge role in the events of ‘The Hobbit’ book and films.
At this party, Bilbo disappears and Gandalf confronts him about the ring he has had since the events of ‘The Hobbit’. It is eventually revealed that the ring is the same one that Sauron used to almost take over Middle Earth. This revelation causes Gandalf to send Frodo and fellow Hobbit Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) off to the town of Bree where he will meet them later. On their journey, they add two other hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) and meet eventual fellowship member, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen).
During this part of journey, we are introduced to the Nine. Also known as the Ring Wraiths, they are nine hooded figures who were corrupted by the rings of power given to men. This sounds bad but the bad guys are always so much cooler looking than the good guys. You can always tell when one of these guys are around because they let out these screeches that the first time you hear them, it chills you to your core. They are one of the coolest villains, of any movie, ever!
One particular scene that they are featured heavily in is the skirmish at Weathertop. The Nine track down the Hobbits to a ruined watch tower and try to take the ring from Frodo. The leader of the Nine stabs Frodo with a mogul blade but Aragorn arrives to defend the company and prevent them from taking the Ring. With Frodo on the brink of death, the group meets the elven princess and Aragorn’s love interest, Arwen (Liv Tyler). She takes Frodo and travels to Rivendell but is pursued by the Nine.
The quest to destroy the Ring begins in when a fellowship is formed by Elrond (Hugo Weaving), lord of Rivendell and Arwen’s father, to take the ring to Mordor so that it can be destroyed in the only place it can, Mount Doom. The fellowship consists of Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gandalf, Aragorn and newcomers Boromir (Sean Bean), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies).
On their journey, they meet many foes but I think the my favorite series of scenes are the ones that occur in the Dwarf kingdom of Moria. Gimli convinces the company to travel through Moria after the wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) causes an avalanche that nearly kills them. When they arrive, they are expecting roaring fires, drink and a welcome that is synonymous with the dwarves but they get the exact opposite. They find the dwarves have all been killed by goblins and that the mines look to have been abandoned long ago. The following scenes are full of darkness, epic battles, and lose.
My favorite scene is when the fellowship is being chased by goblins through this great hall and just when you think the goblins have them, a low rumble is heard from deep in the mines, causing the goblins to scramble. This rumble is from a creature that Gandalf had hoped not to encounter and is the reason he didn’t want to travel through Moria in the first place. Described as “a demon of the ancient world,” the Balrog is a creature that is wreathed in flames that was awoken by the dwarves greed.
The Balrog sets them on the run again until Gandalf faces down the demon and delivers the now iconic line “you shall not pass”. Even 14 years later, the special effects done for this creature are still as realistic as the day you first saw them back in 2001. Like I previously said, the villains in this movie are the best of almost any movie in my opinion in terms of aesthetic.
In his battle with the Balrog, Gandalf is dragged off of the bridge and is presumed dead at this point in the story.
The fellowship then travels to the elven realm of Lothlorien where the characters meet Galadriel. Then one last battle occurs in the film after they leave which claims the life of Boromir (Sean Bean dies in yet another movie, shocking, I know), Pippin and Merry are taken captive by orcs, and Frodo and Sam set out for Mordor on their own. The fellowship is broken until the end of the third movie when they reunite.
One of the most amazing feats of this film is the special effects. Even more than a decade later, these films are unrivaled when it comes to special effects. As a small child watching these movies when they were first released, I could have totally believed that everything I was seeing was real and that this was a documentary. Everything is just done so beautifully and appears very organic. This is something I wish they have brought along when they did ‘The Hobbit’ films because a lot of the orcs and Azog in particular look cartoonish. The Academy Awards would honor the film with 3 consecutive Oscars for achievement in Visual Effects. Well deserved in mine and many other’s opinion.
In addition to the visual effects that help the film achieve its massive scope, the shooting landscapes didn’t hurt either. The film was shot almost exclusively in New Zealand and captures the country’s landscape so beautifully. Some of the landscapes that you see in the movie make you think that they are definitely VFX because of how grand they are but then you watch behind the scenes footage, you see that it all actually exists. This and the other films ended up transforming New Zealand’s tourist industry and inspired many people to make the trek to the small, but beautiful nation.
As I have mentioned several time and am about to talk about again, the villains in this film are FAN-TA-STIC! I mean, a great deal of the credit goes to J.R.R. Tolkien who actually created them but just as much credit goes to Peter Jackson who put them on screen. In the films, Sauron takes the form of a lidless eye that is covered in fire at the top of a tower in Mordor. It looks so real and so awesome! I mean, I would serve a flaming eye, no questions asked.
Also the voice given to Sauron is so sinister. You can hear him speak whenever Frodo puts on the ring or we are being shown something especially evil such as the eye. It is a very low voice that is exactly how you would imagine Satan would sound like. That, coupled with the language Black Speech and you have a villain who’s voice is enough to make you want to surrender.
Another aspect that makes this film so great is the acting. Many times these big franchises dazzle you with effects but lack in the acting department but that is not the case with this film. Each actor gives an amazing performance and really inhabits their character perfectly. As a matter of fact, Ian McKellen received his second Oscar nomination for this film when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. McKellen’s portrayal of Gandalf has transformed the character into one of the most iconic wizards in cinematic history and was able to stand out in a year when another very famous wizard made his screen debut. This other wizard is of course Albus Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ who was portrayed by legendary British actor Richard Harris.
With all of these things taken into consideration, I think it is safe to say that this film is a classic. I think it is important to dispel the rumor that if a film was released in the 2000’s, it cannot be a classic. Just because a film didn’t come out of the Golden Age of Hollywood or in the late 1900’s doesn’t mean that it isn’t cinematic perfection and deserving of being a classic. A classic should be able to inspire its viewer to be creative and instill wonder. This series is a part of a group that I refer to as ‘Nick’s Holy Trinity’. Along with the Star Wars and Harry Potter films, The Lord of the Rings has taken my imagination to places I would have never expected and I truly believe that films like these shaped my childhood and made me the person I am today.
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ was released on December 19, 2001 and stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Dominic Monaghan, Liv Tyler and John Rhys-Davies. The film is directed by Peter Jackson.