The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Movie Review - Extended Edition
Peter Jackson managed what was thought impossible, by adapting Tolkien’s fantasy novels into an epic trilogy. A legendary quest begins!
Genre: Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving & Ian Holm.
Theatrical Run Time: 178 min.
Extended Edition Run Time: 208 min.
US Release: 19 December 2001
UK Release: 19 December 2001
German Release: 19 December 2001
Welcome to my Throwback Thursday Review: Fantasy Edition! It’s the first of December, which means pre-Christmas time, perfect for some fantasy blockbusters. So, I decided to do something long overdue and review The Lord of the Rings trilogy, not the theatrical releases but the extended editions, which in my opinion is the ultimate way to experience Tolkien’s work on the visual scale. The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001, with Peter Jackson setting up what would become one of the best trilogies in cinematic history, as well as adapting what was said to be impossible on screen!
The Lord of the Ring trilogy is an absolute watch for me during Christmas! I was 14 years old when The Fellowship of the Ring was released in cinemas, taking my little sister with me to watch it. It not only impacted my take on filmmaking plus movies overall, it also re-sparked my interest in the genre of fantasy, as it did with a lot of people.
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
An ancient ring, thought to have been lost centuries ago, found its way through a strange twist of fate, into the hands of a gentle Hobbit from the Shire, named Frodo. When Gandalf discovers that it is the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, Frodo must make a quest through Middle Earth, accompanied by eight legendary heroes, to destroy the Ruling Ring forever. Yet danger lurks in every corner and not even the companions can be fully trusted.
Peter Jackson was back then renowned for his splatter flicks. However, the director was always a fan of the fantasy genre, especially Tolkien’s book series, with many of his previous premises containing effects, puppets and characters that have that slight genre touch. After finishing The Frighteners, he wanted to go back to producing a fantasy picture, asking himself why no one managed to date, to create a good live-action adaptation of Tolkien’s work. Early development stages were challenging; Jackson intended to make a trilogy incorporating “The Hobbit” as the first film.
Unfortunately, the rights to “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of The Rings” lay in two different hands. Jackson, who had been under contract at Miramax at the time, pitched the concept to Harvey Weinstein, asking for help to obtain the rights. Weinstein could only attain the rights to “The Lord of the Rings”, but convinced the regisseur to focus on making two movies out of the entity, postponing “The Hobbit” as a potential prequel.
During production, disagreements on how to handle the project created some friction between Jackson and the Weinstein brothers, leading to the director taking his project in search of a new studio to produce. New Line finally picked up the scripts, asking Jackson if he could make three films out of it. Jackson enthusiastically got to work with colleagues Walsh and Boyens.
The main objective was to bring the book to a cinematic audience, which meant diluting some of Tolkien’s segments in the books. The goal of The Fellowship of the Ring was to set up the trilogy, introducing all the main characters. This meant focusing on Frodo’s mission to bring the ring to Rivendell first, which was the backbone of the book series. Several moments from the books were compressed so that the pacing wouldn’t screech to a halt. Those were events such as the opening sequence, or Gandalf searching for information on the ring.
The extended edition added thirty minutes of runtime, focusing more on the Hobbits at the beginning, fleshing out the main four characters even more. Scenes, that would become important in the later instalments, are implemented to add more gravitas to those segments. Then there are sweet inclusions that are not important to the plot, but pay homage to the books and their fanbase; scenes like the Wood Elves leaving for the Undying Lands, or the Hobbits camping by the trolls that turned into stone in “The Hobbit”.
The cast is huge! Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies had fantastic chemistry, becoming the friendly, yet bickering duo, we saw on screen. Playing Legolas and Gimli respectively, both try to constantly outmatch each other in battle, with their unlikely friendship deepening. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, as the secondary Hobbits Merry and Pippin were also brilliant together, getting constantly into fun trouble.
Elijah Wood was cast perfectly as Frodo, giving the character a youthful charm and naivety about life. Frodo lives safely shielded in a bubble in the Shire. When he is told by Gandalf that he will need to take the Ring to Rivendell, his eyes widen at the thought of stepping into his uncles' shoes, experiencing an adventure of his own. Sean Astin, who plays Sam, is another great addition to the cast, bringing an extreme likeness to the character, selling the bromance between Sam and Frodo.
Viggo Mortensen was only approached, as shooting had begun. He immediately became a favourite among the crew, patching up his costume, as well as carrying his sword around with him, off camera. He also gave the character of Aragorn good physic, especially during the sword battles. Aragorn would not have been the same, without Mortensen’s input. As for the character himself, he is heir to the throne of Gondor, just like a direct descendant of Isildur, who defeated Sauron during the Siege of Barad-dûr, though fell victim to the Ring. Afraid to have inherited that weakness, Aragorn leads a nomad life.
Ian McKellen is amazing as Gandalf the Grey! His laughter, the spark in the actor’s eyes just feels real. It is simply a joy to see him as the wise wizard, who enjoys some of the pleasures of men, such as smoking a pipe. Gandalf himself is also a very likeable character, with a big heart. It is hard not to be immediately emotionally attached to him.
The cinematography is out of this world. The beautiful wides of New Zealand, feel like something out of a fantasy world. The battle sequences are magnificently choreographed and captured on camera, using wide shots plus impactful close-ups. Jackson doesn’t shy away to show decapitation or other graphic battle wounds. Lighting plus shadow is perfectly balanced, used to full effect!
The director hired longtime collaborator Richard Taylor, who is the founder of Weta Worksop - a special effects and props company. Weta designed the creatures, the armour, weapons, prosthetics/make-up, just like miniatures. The majority of effects, as well as the sets, are practical, looking incredibly realistic. Special effects are also amazing to date, the scale doubles of the Hobbits and Gimli are unrecognisable, though, the Balrog is my favourite computer-animated creature. That said, there are scenes where the green screen is plainly visible.
The feature's score was composed by Howard Shore, containing very different musical styles, all reflecting different areas of Middle Earth. Shore used orchestras, soloists and choirs to bring the atmosphere of that world to life. This is an epical score that will take one immediately back to Middle Earth.
Verdict: What can I say that hasn’t been talked already to death about this first instalment of the Lord of the Ring trilogy? Peter Jackson managed to pull off what most considered undoable. He trimmed down unnecessary side arcs, focusing solely on the mission given to Frodo. The Extended edition adds half an hour more, fleshing out the Hobbits, as well as adding a few extras from the books. The pacing is immaculate, even though there are areas that drag a little. The cast is magnificent, especially Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen and Ian McKellen. The cinematography is out of this world, with the music setting the fantasy mood! Every shot looks as if a page of the book would have come to life. The practical sets, armour, costume plus make-up designs look realistic. There are scenes, where it is obvious that the actors stood in front of a green screen, however, that is forgivable. The Fellowship of the Ring is a fantastic first introduction, deserving a 9.0 out of 10!
Do you agree with my review? I simply love this trilogy! Leave a comment below to let me know. Thank you for reading!