Let’s Talk About…’The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)

Film #12 in FilmExodus’ AFI 100 Movies

Every Tuesday FilmExodus does a review/analysis of a different cinematic masterpiece from AFI’s 100 Movies 2007 updated list. For a complete overview and how you can participate, click here.

In 2001 Peter Jackson made many Tolkien fan’s ultimate dream come true:  he presented the first film in a live-action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive epic, The Lord of the Rings.

No doubt it was a tremendous undertaking.  George Lucas himself is rumored to have declared the trilogy unfilmable.  Countless fans of the books had fantasized about what a faithful adaptation of the masterpiece of high fantasy might look like.  Most realists, myself included, never thought it would be done.  Thankfully, Jackson and his cast and crew proved us wrong.

The Fellowship of the Ring begins the story of a band of heroes who are tasked with destroying the One Ring, a powerful object created, lost, and now sought after by the dark lord Sauron. Because Sauron imbued the ring with much of his power, it corrupts any mortal who dares to wield it.  Therefore, it must be destroyed rather than used as a weapon against Sauron.

Jackson’s film, though not a literal adaptation of the book’s every detail, remains faithful to the spirit of Tolkien’s work.  It’s difficult to separate an adaptation like this from its source material, but taken by itself it’s big time movie entertainment unlike anything else in the early part of the current millennium.  In addition to using Tolkien’s texts to guide him, Jackson used famed artists Alan Lee and John Howe, who themselves had produced much Tolkien-related work, to provide guidance in making Middle Earth a real world.  It is here where The Fellowship of the Ring truly excels.

The Fellowship of the Ring has some tremendous performances as well, with Sir Ian McKellen’s portrayal of Gandalf the Grey chief among them.  Elijah Wood shines as a near-flawless Frodo, and this is the film that put Viggo Mortensen on the map.  Even supporting players such as Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett deliver rock-solid performances.  While there are certainly things that fans of the books could complain about in the adaptation (what’s left out and what was changed) nobody can doubt that Jackson delivers a serious fantasy epic that never falls into self-parody.  Fellowship of the Ring delivers exciting action set-pieces as well as intimate character moments. Gandalf and Frodo’s conversation in Moria about Gollum, mercy, and what lies ahead stands out as an example of the latter.

Take a look at the links below and then join the discussion.  What do you think of the first in Jackson’s trilogy?  Is it as good as its reputation?  Or are you a Tolkien purist and think it missed the mark?

No discussion of this film would be complete without bringing up some of the changes from the source material: