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Lord of the Rings

The Fellowship of the Ring

The journey is the destination. We can celebrate birthdays and deathdays year in and year out but what keeps people's interest piqued is the journey of one's life. When the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins of Bag End plunged into the great unknown, like a rock thrown in a lake, he would unleash a catalyst of events that would ripple for generations to come.

The Fellowship of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien's first book of his famed trilogy Lord of the Rings, continues the story of the small Hobbits plunge into the world known as "Middle-earth" and which director Peter Jackson has adapted at enormous cost and ingenuity for the big screen. For those who have yet to read the books, think BIG, REALLY BIG, larger than Phantom Menace BIG, think of the last ripple of a rock thrown in a lake and times that by ten and then you might have the scope in which the film version of The Fellowship of the Rings plays out.

As readers of the trilogy already know, the setting is Tolkien's imaginary, but oh so wantonly real, world of "Middle-earth" that starts out small, real small, think Andy Griffith Mayberry small in a patch of land well tucked away in Middle-earth called the Shire which is inhabited by really small Hobbits of which Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holms) is the most famous. Bilbo is celebrating his eleventy-first birthday and unbeknownst to the residents of Hobbiton, he will soon embark on another journey never to return. Bilbo has taken as his heir his cousin Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and has bequeathed him, after much haggling with Gandalf the Wizard (Ian McKellen) his secret golden ring. Frodo has unwittingly inherited an evil ring that corrupts all who wear it and when Gandalf discovers the true nature of the ring, they both embark on a journey to rid Middle-earth of its evil.

Of course in the book these events occur over a matter of decades and Jackson deserves a lot of credit for compressing years into a matter of minutes but more importantly Jackson stays in tune with Tolkien's imagery of starting with a small setting only to enlarge it as the journey unfolds. The opening scenes of Bag End are more snapshots than the grand sweeping shots that unfold along Frodo's journey. At one point, when Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) and Frodo are at the boundaries of the Shire, Sam declares, "if I take one more step, it will be the farthest I've ever been away from home!"

As with any epic, accomplishing a feat isn't a stroll through the shire as Frodo and Sam quickly learn when the nine Ringwraiths begin to search for the ring so that they may return it to their master Sauron (Sala Baker). It's the departure from the shire that begins Frodo's journey and keeps the wheels moving in the film. As with the book, origins and destinations are plotted along paths and rivers that rely on a great scope to maneuver in. Tolkien had the luxury and insight to use a map he created of Middle-earth to help write the trilogy and readers have the opportunity to view the map in the book but the film audience relies heavily on the vision of the director Peter Jackson who uses a lot of digital animation to produce grand sweeping shots to give a sense of the land being covered. The closet thing to describe it as is digital topography.

And what would be a journey if you didn't meet such cool people along the way? After Pippins (Billy Boyd) euphoric moment of discovering beer served in pint-sized glasses, he squeals, "they come in pints!" (after all, Hobbits seem to be a drinking type of species) they encounter Aragon (Viggo Mortensen) who takes the Hobbits under their wings and when Frodo is stabbed it's Aragon's girlfriend Arwen Undomiel (Liv Tyler) who kicks ass to save his life. The film is littered with such a talented cast that each performance will hopefully have a larger dynamic in two following sequels. Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) hopefully will be seen more, while Ian Mckellen's portrayal of Gandalf the Wizard will be a timeless figure that will be remembered for generations to come.

Jackson's Fellowship is much tighter at the seams than Bakshi's version, which starts tight but melts away towards the end. Jackson's version will leave viewers on the edge of the seats asking themselves "how many days till Christmas 2002?" Answer: 365 long anticipated days.


Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Rated PG-13
2 hours 22 minutes

Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Bill Boyd
Sean Astin
Ian Holm