Friday, December 14, 2012

"The Fellowship of the Ring" Still a Great Start

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Running time: 178 minutes (2 hours, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for epic battle sequences and some scary images
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson
WRITERS: Frances Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson (based upon the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien)
PRODUCERS: Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Tim Sanders, and Fran Walsh
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie
EDITOR: John Gilbert
COMPOSER: Howard Shore
Academy Award winner

FANTASY/ADVENTURE/ACTION/DRAMA

Starring: Elijah Woods, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchette, Sala Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Ian Holm, Craig Parker, Andy Serkis, and (voice) Alan Howard

The subject of this movie review is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, a 2001 fantasy film from director Peter Jackson. The film is the first of three movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s three-novel cycle, The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), specifically the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954).

In the adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkein’s novel The Fellowship of the Ring, a hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood, The Ice Storm) inherits a ring from his famous uncle Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm, The Sweet Hereafter). When a wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen, X-Men and Gods and Monsters), who is a friend of the family, discovers that the ring is in fact the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, the ring must be taken to the place of its creation, the Cracks of Doom, the only place where the ring can be destroyed. That task falls upon the shoulders of Frodo.

Three fellow hobbits join Frodo on his quest, including one who becomes very close to him, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee (Sean Astin, Rudy). Before long the group becomes nine, a Fellowship to take the ring to the Cracks of Doom so that Frodo can destroy it. However, great evil besets them in the form of Gandalf’s mentor Saruman the White (the great Christopher Lee), who is now on the side of darkness, and his army of mighty Orcs, who serve the rings original dark owner, Sauron (voice of Sala Baker). Obstacles, great dangers, horribly evils, and death confront the Fellowship every step of their quest.

Directed by Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners), The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three films each released a year apart that will comprise the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even within budget constraints, Jackson has always proved himself to be an inventive and imaginative director. Like a painter, his canvases are well planned and constructed, and he does not waste shots; every frame seems important to the larger work.

He previous experience in dark fantasy, horror, and the weird made him an ideal choice to direct a film version of Tolkein’s sprawling epic, and Jackson delivers a nearly three hour film that is both visceral and subdued. An epic as good as any every delivered by a Hollywood studio, it captures the imagination while keeping the viewer nearly unawares of its length.

Nearly, that is. It’s a bit of hubris on Jackson and on New Line Cinema, Lord’s studio, to assume that an audience will tolerate Fellowship’s abrupt ending simply because the story is “to be continued” next year. The beginning, middle, and end of LOTR’s story are actually three separate films, not one film. It isn’t that FOTR’s ending is bad, just presumptuous of our patience and acceptance that this movie is like a serial. We will have to wait over two years to get the entire story.

These are certainly minor complaints in light of what Jackson delivers. He has a fine cast of actors, and the characters that he took from the novel he has made into excellent cinematic characters. The work of his SFX group creates nearly flawless special effects shots. Using New Zealand as the Middle Earth location of the stories is a wonderful choice. Between special effects and creative camera work, Jackson has created a world that is itself a character. Jackson and his fellow screenwriters Frances Walsh (a frequent collaborator of Jackson’s) and Philippa Boyens have created an excellent script makes the battle of good and evil unambiguous and quite compelling. Although the characters’ desires and personalities may occasionally straddle a gray area, what is right is clearly defined from what is wrong. That’s always the case regardless of character motivations and goals; moral relativism is kicked to the curb.

While he has made it highly emotional and thoughtful at its heart, Jackson has also managed to make a war and action movie. He juggles genres like fantasy, comedy, drama, and war and weaves them into an epic. The movie, both its back-story and the main story, spans time, has multiple locations and environments, and has a wealth of characters. Visually pleasing and intellectual thoughtful, it is one of the best films in recent memories, a grand fantasy that captures the imagination on a deeper level (than say The Phantom Menace) like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We can only hope that the two follow-ups are this good.

Go see this film.

9 of 10
A+

NOTES:
2002 Academy Awards: 4 wins: “Best Cinematography” (Andrew Lesnie), “Best Effects, Visual Effects” (Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Richard Taylor, and Mark Stetson), “Best Makeup” (Peter Owen and Richard Taylor), and “Best Music, Original Score” (Howard Shore); 9 nominations: “Best Picture” (Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, and Fran Walsh), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ian McKellen), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Grant Major-art director and Dan Hennah-set decorator), “Best Costume Design” (Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor), “Best Director” (Peter Jackson), “Best Film Editing” (John Gilbert), “Best Music, Original Song” (Enya, Nicky Ryan, Roma Ryan for the song "May It Be"), “Best Sound” (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Gethin Creagh, and Hammond Peek), “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson)

2002 BAFTA Awards: 5 wins: “Best Film” (Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, and Tim Sanders), “Audience Award,” “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Jim Rygiel, Richard Taylor, Alex Funke, Randall William Cook, and Mark Stetson), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Peter Owen, Peter King and Richard Taylor), “David Lean Award for Direction” (Peter Jackson); 9 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Howard Shore), “BAFTA Children's Award Best Feature Film” (Peter Jackson, Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, and Tim Sanders), “Best Cinematography” (Andrew Lesnie), “Best Costume Design” (Ngila Dickson), “Best Editing” (John Gilbert), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Ian McKellen), “Best Production Design’ (Grant Major), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson), “Best Sound” (David Farmer, Hammond Peek, Christopher Boyes, Gethin Creagh, Michael Semanick, Ethan Van der Ryn, and Mike Hopkins)

2002 Golden Globes, USA: 4 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Peter Jackson), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Howard Shore), and “Best Original Song - Motion Picture (Enya for the song "May It Be")


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