Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Sean Astin as Sam Gamgee
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn
Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
Sean Bean as Boromir
Orlando Bloom as Legolas
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli
Liv Tyler as Arwen
Billy Boyd as Pippin Took
Dominic Monaghan as Merry Brandybuck
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Lawrence Makoare as Lurtz*
In anticipation of what is most likely the last Peter Jackson movie about the J.R.R. Tolkien books, I have decided to do a bunch of reviews of The Lord of Rings movies and games. We begin with the beginning of Jackson’s first trilogy. Once thought impossible because of the scope of the story, Jackson pulled it off because he was afforded a giant project. Not only would many resources be granted, he would do three movies, each of which lasting three hours. The result of this is nothing less than fantastic!
You probably already know, but the story is about Frodo Baggins who is entrusted with a magic ring acquired by his now-retired uncle, Bilbo, on one of his adventures. Unfortunately, the ring turns out to be the evil lord Sauron’s One Ring that is the key to his existence. This ring can only be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom in which it was made, so Frodo has to carry it. He must also resist its allure, an obvious play on the corruption of power. What’s more, Frodo is of the three feet tall, simple and mild-mannered hobbit race, making him quite the underdog, at least as much of an underdog as an upperclassman can be. Perhaps that’s why he is assisted by Sam, his blue-collar gardener and friend.
But other companions come with time. Eventually, everybody reaches the elven city, Rivendell, to regroup and plan the journey to Mount Doom. By that point, this group numbers nine people. The other recruits (named in the above cast) are two other hobbit friends of Frodo, a man of the woods, a wizard, a lord of men, and elf, and a dwarf. They are The Fellowship of the Ring.
The acting is remarkably strong. There are too many characters to get into, so I’ll say that everybody understands their parts and plays them excellently.
One character that may come as a bit of a surprise is Arwen. She appears very briefly in the books and requires an appendix to explain her. In this movie, though, she replaces Glorfindel and helps the Fellowship to Rivendell. The reason is obviously to build up the romance between her and Aragorn. Also, the wizard Saruman, played by Christopher Lee, is a supporting character in this movie, whereas he was barely even seen in the books. He plots, betrays Gandalf, and has his orcs create an army of mutant man/orc crossbreeds known as uruk-hai. Because after all, this is a movie, not a book.
Actually, the way Tolkien springs Arwen on you in the books shows that despite having created the fantasy genre of books, he was an eccentric person. He actually wrote the books as a bit of a doodle (this was not the case with The Hobbit, a children’s story). This is why so many appendixes were needed in the first place. So it’s no surprise that The Lord of the Rings doesn’t translate perfectly to film.
In fact, Tolkien was often rather vague about what people and things were supposed to look like. Still, Jackson probably comes reasonably close to what Tolkien meant.
As far as filmaking goes, it’s also top-notch. The atmosphere, dialogue, and character interactions are always just right. I favor story and characters over design when it comes to movies, but i have to admit, everything looks amazing! I still remember The Shire looking how I had always pictured it. I mean in a vivid sense.
Yes, the trilogy that The Fellowship of the Ring started was the three most hyped-up movies of the 2000’s, but for once it was deserved. Not only is it a solid adaptation, it’s even better as a standalone fantasy film. Just be aware that it’s only part one, so plan on seeing the sequels if you want any closure.
Overall: 9 out of 10
*I don’t believe this character is ever referred to by name in the actual film, but he is in the credits. He’s the leader of the uruk-hai.