on June 10, 2002
Visually, Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring might be the most impressive film ever made. Within the first ten minutes your jaw has dropped at least four or five times, and as the film progresses it never stops delivering the viewer sumptuous, imaginary worlds that feel real, even tangible.
Unlike the new Star Wars trilogy, Jackson's new trilogy seems to understand that audiences don't just need eye candy, but a combination of characters, plot, and effects that work as a whole to bring you somewhere you've never been before. And if you have read the books (which I have not), it still probably can't prepare you for just how fully realized Jackson has made Tolkien's Middle Earth. It is alternately ethereal, menacing, and best of all feasible. It looks like a real place, and it looks like it has been actually lived in. This sounds easy, but it's the failing of many sci-fi/fantasy films. Most treat their sets as either museum spaces so pristine you'd think the characters were forbidden to cough, or as futuristic garbage dumps that couldn't house a rabid dog, much less an actual person. Here, Middle Earth fascinates you, and you soon envision yourself in it.
FOTR has been described as a foundation-laying first step in the trilogy, and in that sense it is a success. Essentially a three hour chase after a ring that does some very, very nasty things, it picks up new characters as it goes along, and this is where the film has its major flaw. While the characters played by Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean, and Liv Tyler may be readily identified by Tolkien readers, they remain elusive to the series' newcomers. Those characters, and others, are barely introduced, much less fleshed out. So the events involving them can be confusing and, at times, irrelevant.
Of course, that leaves more room for the audience to become better acquainted with Elijah Wood's Frodo and Ian McKellen's Gandalf. And that's where the movies succeeds the best. The audience sees Middle Earth through Frodo's eyes, and as he travels the landscape, he conveys the same sense of wonder and fear that we go through as well. It makes the battle for the Ring feel important, and not just like a plot device. All of it feels real, and that's the ultimate compliment to any fantasy.
But there's even more to behold. CGI creatures that, at last, feel real and threatening. A villain, dark lord Sauron, who looks like the personification of brute evil. A truly astonishing fight sequence between McKellen's Gandalf and Christopher Lee's Saruman. The ominous Ringwraiths. And much more which is best unspoiled.
DVD owners may want to wait the fall out. November promises an extended, R-rated version of FOTR. While the film already is much too frightening for children, adults might appreciate a few more gory details. The extended version will also hopefully flesh out the more marginal characters in the Fellowship (and the pause button will allow weaker-willed viewers multiple bathroom breaks). Because that would serve to improve what promises to be a film classic for many years to come, perhaps surpassing the original Star Wars trilogy as the ultimate cinematic fantasy.
on January 8, 2003
This is a fantastic DVD set. The additional footage in the movie really adds to the story and brings it even closer to the book than the original theatrical release. There are commentaries by the directors, cast and other people behind the film included on the movie DVDs that are entertaining to listen to.
The Appendix DVDs (the last two discs) give you a good 7 hours of behind the scenes stuff on how the movies were made, interviews with cast members, props, special effects and the entire filming process.
Definitely worth adding to your collection.
on April 23, 2002
Peter Jackson's LOTR has become an instant classic in the fantasy film genre. It justly received wide critical acclaim for its outstanding cinematography, faithful adaptation of Tolkien's material and ensemble acting.
Those Tolkienites who gripe about changes to Tolkien's must remember that material must be re-contextualized for the time. Do Tolkien fans miss Tolkien's original dialogue? Yes. Do I, as a Tolkien fan, think that said dialogue would come off as corny and unintentionally funny onscreen? Yes. It's a different time and Jackson also has to appeal to a mass audience. I think he balanced the interests of devoted fans and Tolkien virgins beautifully.
Other character changes and story revisions, particularly Arwen, have been the center of much controversy. Again, changes need to be made in order for the story to work as a film. Remember, Tolkien included an encyclopedic amount of detail in his books - there is no room for that in a film!
Jackson's LOTR is a great movie that stands alone. The ensemble cast works together beautifully, with Oscar-nominated Ian McKellen as a standout. Jackson should have gotten a special Academy Award for the extraordinary amount of exposition condensed into a 5-minute opening sequence!
So you should definitely get the DVD. The REAL question is - should you wait? There is a Special Extended Edition coming out in November, which will include 30 extra minutes of footage, including more background on Aragorn and more footage at Lothlorien. There will also be new Special Features, although those are still in development at this time. Since the special features on the Theatrical Edition and the SPecial Extended Edition will not overlap, true LOTR die-hards may want to invest in both editions.
on February 22, 2003
For once the hype was right. Peter Jackson's first part of the collossal LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy is nothing short of a brilliant masterpiece, with incredible SFX, great characters, and staying true to J.R.R Tolkien's story while altering some of the book's elements to make it more suitable for film.
Deeply rooted in the fantasy genre, Fellowship of the Rings sees a young Hobbit Frodo Baggins inherit a powerful mystical ring from his cousin Bilbo Baggins. The ring, worn by the Dark Lord Sauron, has been passed down through many people until it reaches Bilbo. The mighty wizard Gandalf and a troop of dwarfes, elves and hobbits set out on a journey to destroy the dangerous ring by casting it back into the lava of Mt. Doom. But of course, there are bad guys, in the form of Saruman the White, played with relish by the brilliant Christopher Lee and his army of Orcs and Ringwaiths.
Director Peter Jackson (The Frighteners) has taken Tolkein's story and molded it into the perfect fantasy adventure. Some characters that were ciphers in the novel have been elevated to main characters, and while some purists may be upset over the loss of some characters, Jackson does do service to the story's originality. And the result? In a Hollywood summer of dissapointments, Fellowship was the standout, one of those rare films that come along like THE MATRIX that remind us of why we like movies in the first place. In comparison to that other cinema-changing trilogy known as STAR WARS, this is possibly the biggest competition George has ever come against. This, more than the recent SW prequels, wins out for it's action and acting. The fantastic casting of Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood are inspired. It's a sign that the actors have done their job when you stop saying Ian McKellen and start calling him Gandalf. As to wether the next chapter, THE TWO TOWERS will be even better is debatable, but since the whole trilogy was filmed as one big movie, the stunning film-making should continue and for once, an event rare these days, the sequel looks better than this one.
In a film as ambitious as this, all the key elements are in place, the masterful storytelling, Jackson's brilliant visionary direction, superb acting (especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Elijah Wood as Frodo), incredible visual effects and the wealth of imagination from Tolkien's extraordinary tome. The supporting cast is great too, with John Rhys- Davies as Gimli the dwarf, Sean Bean as Boromir and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. The best facet about the whole thing is that it's so real that you really think that all this happened long ago. And that, more than anything else is a bonifide sign that this is not only one of the greatest cinema acheivements ever, but it's now entered into the cultural zeitgeist.
The film takes us where we've never been before, Tolkein's world of Wizards, elves, ringwaiths, orcs and all the other imaginative creatures on display are a thrill to watch. For such a huge scale, the use of CG is of course neccesary, and like STAR WARS, every incredible vista is truly breath-taking and the visuals are incredible, utilising state-of-the-art technology to create entire landscapes, creatures and battles. The most outstanding scene, where our intrepid fellowship travels into the mines of Mordor is a fantastic tour-de-force of incredible movie magic. The seamless blend of FX and amazing cinematography is absolutly breath-taking. Howard Shore's brooding score adds another layer of excellence to the myraid of adventurous escapism. There are problems; the film may not sit well with purists and the ending feels somewhat of an anti- climax after the climactic Mordor, but we all know that the real battles are yet to come. This is a film that takes you far beyond your imagination. What lies ahead for THE TWO TOWERS will no doubt be even more amazing and draw the millions of eager fans out once again to witness the second part to one of the most amazing films ever made.
For people who managed to hold off the temptation to but the first DVD release, this platinum series "extended" edition is worth the wait. Discs 1 and 2 have a unique version of LOTR with over 30 minutes of cut footage incorporated into the film and new music scored by Howard Shore. The extended scenes range from breath-taking ( More views of Lothlorien) to perfuctonary (Bilbo's introduction). But for the most part, the added half hour is fascinating stuff for affeciandos, and while the re-instated scenes slow the pace sometimes, it fills in the gaps and makes for an even more fascinating experience. Also included are four feature-length audio commentaries by director and writers, the design team, the production team, and the cast featuring more than 30 participants.
Discs 3 and 4 contain some of the most comprehensive extra material ever on DVD. Disc 3 has the doco "From Book to Vision": Adapting the book into a screenplay & planning the film, Designing and building Middle-earth, storyboards to pre-visualization, Weta Workshop visit including creatures and miniatures from the film, an awesome interactive map of Middle-earth tracing the journey of the Fellowship, an interactive map of New Zealand (yay!) highlighting the location scouting process, galleries of art and slideshows with commentaries by the artists, guided tour of the wardrobe department footage from early meetings, moving storyboards and pre-visualization reels.
DISC 4 has the doco "From Vision to Reality": Bringing the characters to life, "A day in the life of a hobbit", principal photography: Stories from the set, scale: Creating the illusion of size, galleries of behind-the-scenes photographs and personal cast photos, editorial and visual effects multi-angle progressions and sound design demonstration. One could point out that perhaps there are one too many different releases of LOTR on DVD, but fans love the extra-extra stuff. One of the best, if not THE best DVD releases ever! One wonders what's in store for THE TWO TOWERS DVD...
on January 30, 2012
The Fellowship of the King, Extended Edition is a classic movie that is well worth the watching. It is loaded with action, full of fun, and emotionally draining from start to finish in a most delightful way. Peter Jackson's talent as a director shows through with characters who portray their parts brilliantly as Tolkien himself had created. Nothing is lost in the extended version and we become more acquainted with the actors in the 2 added Appendices filmed during the movie creation. What a great movie! Two thumbs way up!!!
on July 27, 2006
This first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy has surpassed expectations and silenced all but the harshest of critics. The director, Peter Jackson, has taken a book that many said was unfilmable and produced a masterpiece. The Fellowship of the Ring follows the journey of Frodo Baggins and his companions in a quest to destroy the One Ring, the evil ring created by Sauron in order for him to rule Middle Earth.
Although there are some well known names in the cast, none of them are so famous that their fame intrudes on the character. Sir Ian McKellan plays Gandalf the Grey as if born to the part as does Viggo Mortenson as the ranger Aragorn. Sean Bean plays Boromir, representative of men, Ian Holm is the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and Christopher Lee plays a suitably evil wizard, Saruman, ally of Sauron. Legolas is played by Orlando Bloom who, although unknown at that time, was catapulted to stardom by his sensitive portrayal of the young Elven prince.
This four disc DVD features an extended edition of the film which is over two discs and also two discs of extra features. The additional scenes are seamlessly inserted into the movie and they certainly add to the viewing experience by explaining some things that were left out of the theatrical release. The extras on discs 3 & 4 are too numerous to mention but include several featurettes, artwork, costumes, weaponry and characters to name but a few. This is sure to become one of the greatest movie experiences of modern times and this extended edition is a 'must' for any fan of Lord of the Rings.
on June 2, 2002
Though he was robbed of an Oscar and the movie was robbed for Best Picture (who couldn't see that train wreck coming?) Peter Jackson has done J.R.R. Tolkien, his fans, and Ralph Bakshi a service in creating this film. Though far from accurate this adaption is good enough to earn the praise of those who have never read the book to those like myself who have read it numerous times and keep two versions for when one gets worn out. Though it clocks in at over three hours, and some people I have gone to see it with complain that they thought it dragged at times, everyone agreed walking out of the theatre that it was engaging and grabbed thier attention whenever they started to wander. Those who are unfamiliar with the story will be slightly disappointed at the cliffhanger ending and the Obi-Wan like reappearance of one of the characters, it is a trilogy, be patient.
I won't rehash the story or even summarize aside to say that it is good against evil with insurmountable odds to overcome. There are a few flaws, no Tom Bombadil which of course means no barrows. I also wasn't a big fan of Arwen saving Frodo or Elrond despising humans, his brother after all was human and a distant ancestor of Aragorn. The changing of Frodo's disappearance and the omission of the seventeen years difference between the two Baggins' departures was minor and not too troublesome. Any other changes are not worth mentioning.
The movie is visually stunning and the opening sequence should have earned Jackson the Oscar just in itself. As for the acting, on a whole it is above average. However, Viggo Mortensen did a fantastic job and Ian McKellan was superb in what certainly was the best performance I have seen in some time probably since Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. Hanks also inexplicably lost out in the Oscar race. I can't wait for the next installment and see if it can be as good as the first. As The Two Towers was my favorite of the books it should be a real treat.
The special features on the DVD look interesting, I caught the Sci-Fi documentary and I can say it was rather entertaining. As for the rest of it I guess it's wait and see.
on November 6, 2002
My wife and I won tickets to see this on the Big Screen via a contest, so we got to see it a week before the DVD release.
The added scenes really help flesh out the story. By and large, there are few really extended scenes, more like seconds or tops minutes are added to scenes already in the film. Granted there are enough of these to tally up to an extra half hour.
Things that helped flesh out the story are a better background on Hobbits, more depth for Borimir, and a better understanding of Aragorn and his relationships.
The only downside of seeing this on the big screen is that my wife and I noticed some of the "new" special effects stuck out pretty bad. Granted we saw it on a 54 foot tall by 96 food wide screen, which is a tad bigger than even the biggest home theater display. (If you have larger, drop me a line, because we're coming over to watch movies at your place.) We were a little closer to the screen than we usually sit in the theaters and it was also Digitally Projected, so those could have also helped highlight any imperfections that are normally hidden by film and our normal seating distance.
The added features will put this over the top in regards of value.
A cinematic version of Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS ranks up with the hope that Lucas will indeed make another Star Wars Trilogy, and, I think I can safely say, this is one of the most anticipated films in the movie industry's long and checkered history. You would think it's movie paradise, considering Lucas has been in the midst of another Star Wars trilogy and LORD OF THE RINGS has finally got a cinema deal (live action!), but PHANTOM MENACE proved something of a disappointment (Mesa Jar Jar Binks!), and I think quite a few people will enter into the theatre with a certain amount of trepidation.
There's a reason for that. Three animated Tolkien films have been released with very problematic results. The 1978 Bakshi release is just embarrassing; the film is both incoherent and confusing.
Rankin & Bass's two movies are fine for little kids; those two films are Tolkien for Saturday Morning cartoons. They proved my introduction to Tolkien and for that I am thankful, but the movies still fail to capture the grandeur of Tolkien's imagination.
There are two things to consider here about a work of literature. Although all good literature has a polarization effect on its readers, this work has a gigantic legion of followers which are extremely dedicated to Tolkien's vision (I count myself a member of this camp). The other camp cannot figure out what the big fuss is about and why they should care about the novel.
Now, there's a reason why all this is relevant to the film: had Peter Jackson gone to far either way the film would have fallen apart. Appeal to much to the fan-base and you loose the general movie-goer. Appeal to much to the movie-goer, and you'll lose the fan-base.
So when the fan base learned of Peter Jackson's decision to film all three films at once, an unprecedented move in movie history, most of us really wanted it to be good but were just simply afraid. We've already been burnt. Would it be so bad that it would alienate both fan base and those who are just looking for a good movie?
Not only does Peter Jackson's film work, it's glorious, beautiful, has all the myth and grandeur of the book. Jackson, a Tolkien fanatic, could have gotten so involved with bringing out the extremely detailed world Tolkien gave us that the pacing would suffer or we'd lose patience with all these obscure details which would alienate the regular movie goer. Not only does he not alienate the general movie goer, but he entices the fan base so much they can't help but fall in love with his vision of Tolkien's world.
The only real flaw is how rushed first section of the movie is. Although I can understand cutting the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil, the way they handled getting the hobbits out of the Shire was unacceptable. There is not that sense of camaraderie between the Hobbits that there is in the book, there is no "conspiracy," and Merry and Pippin just join without any questioning from Sam and Frodo. While Jackson does a good job at building the Hobbits' characters and establishing their personalities, I couldn't come up with a good reason why Frodo and Sam would just let Merry and Pippin join them.
The Prancing Pony is worst. There is no questioning from the Hobbits about Aragorn proving himself, there is no scene about him asking them to trust him, and the whole sequence feels much too rushed. Sam only questions Aragorn while they're actually out of the inn and traveling.
Thankfully, however, that is the only real flaw. The rest of the things the script changed (tightening Elrond's council, the expansion of Arwen, cutting Sam from the Galadriel mirror sequence, tempting Aragorn with the ring, etc) I can see why they did it for dramatic tension. I also liked the way they handled Elrond's council, because that could have ruined the movie like it did with Bakshi's. They had established and covered much of the material in that chapter elsewhere by means of voice-over prologue and actually showing the viewer what is happening (especially with the Isengard sequences), and as a result lessened the screentime of that scene and helping with the dramatics of it.
As for the controversial expansion of Arwen, I tend to agree with the film makers in their decision to enlarge her role. By making her part of the Ford sequence it introduces the character and establishes her in the viewer's mind, and the relationship between Arwen and Aragorn is more fully explored. As for their romantic interlude in Rivendell, not only do I agree with that but think it should have been done in the book. Tolkien did not know who Strider was when he was first writing FELLOWSHIP, and did not go back and change the scenes to further explain the romance between Arwen and Aragorn, and by not including a scene in Rivendell to establish their love for one another lessens by far the impact of their union in Part III, and (for once) this romantic scene is actually an improvement on the book. As for her role in the Flight at the Ford, for the movie they made the right choice though the book is still preferable.
In achieving the balance between fan base and the more causal fan, this film is a spectacular success. Making a movie out of a book the size of Fellowship, the fact is you will have to condense, tighten, rearrange, and make changes for dramatic tensions. The mediums are different, and you cannot have a direct translation from a book to a film. Despite of what they cut, the movie still clocks in at three hours, which is very generous. The real problem with this film, as others noted, is it's going to be a full two years before we finally get to watch THE RETURN OF THE KING.
In the end, we get a movie that stays true to the SPIRIT of the book. This is what we Tolkien fans have long been waiting for. Thank you so much Peter Jackson and your cast and crew.
on July 19, 2004
Without repeating the reviews of the rest listed here....I can say that the extended editions add more texture to the story and the documentary DVD's give you more background and understanding of the story.
It made me want to read the books to see what the films couldn't touch upon ...the poetry and descriptions of middle earth are very much on target. I really hope that Jackson gets the chance to do the Hobbit. It would be a crime if it wasn't adapted by him in the very near future. All I have to say to the film makers is ..Lets see the Hobbit before the actors become unavailable to produce the film!