The Lord of the Rings. Just the title of this impressive work by J. R. R. Tolkien deserves respect. Originally published in 1954, it’s made up of three books, each one more beautiful than the other and it was just a matter of time for somebody to bring it to the big screen. Ralph Bakshi tried in 1978, but problems similar to those experienced by David Lynch with his 1984 Dune led to an incomplete result that can be at best be defined as a cult movie (and I actually like it a lot).
And then at the beginning of the 21st century Peter Jackson tried and… he succeeded. And this post is dedicated to the first of his three films based on the Tolkien saga, The Fellowship of the Ring, released in cinemas all over the world in 2001. I still remember perfectly where and with whom I saw it (in a cinema in Pisa with my girlfriend at the time) and the sensations I felt. Basically, one: that of having never experienced such a thing before.
Jackson managed to create a beautiful fantasy world, faithful to the work on which it was based, and alive, dynamic, real. It wasn’t an easy task, but for once the Hollywood producers had courage and the mountain of money invested in the Pukuera Bay director’s trilogy (about 300 million dollars, not counting the marketing) gave results above all expectations (it grossed ten times its budget at the box office).
Some time ago, I bought myself a splendid box of 36 Blurays containing the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, that of The Hobbit, and dozens of hours of special content. And I finally started watching all this stuff! It goes without saying that the Blurays contain the extended cuts of the movies, in fact each of them is divided into two Blurays with segments of just under two hours each.
And after this long preamble, let’s talk about The Fellowship of the Ring. Let me introduce the plot in a few words. Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) celebrates his 111th birthday in style and retires to private life leaving his possessions, including a mysterious ring, to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood). Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) reveals to him that Sauron, the Lord of Evil, is regaining power and needs that ring to dominate Middle-Earth…
The first part of the film (one hour and forty-five minutes!) is dedicated to developing this part of the plot showing on the one hand the hobbits and their peaceful Shire under attack by the Black Knights of Mordor, and on the other the clash between Gandalf and Saruman (Christopher Lee), allied with Sauron. Many characters are introduced and all characterized without too many dialogues or explanatory monologues also thanks to an excellent casting. For instance, it’s sufficient to have a look at the four hobbits of the Company to understand what to expect from them! Elijah Wood with his cute big eyes, chubby Sean Astin, and unstoppable Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are just perfect. But the same can be said of the beautiful Arwen interpreted by Liv Tyler, and, moving on to the second part that sees the Company in action, also Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, Sean Bean’s Boromir and, of course, Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn are all just perfect!
Jackson immediately plays the card of the legitimate heir to the throne of Gondor (especially in many scenes that were cut for the version that came out in theaters in 2001, I think, but now it’s hard for me to say), and decides to barely hint at the future epic battles, leaving only the thrilling descent to Moria at the center of the action. In many instances this movie makes the same choices made before by Bakshi like the introduction with Isildur defeating Sauron centuries before the events of the film, and also in various scenes (think of the first meeting with the Black Knight, or at the inn of Bree).
The thing that fascinates me most about this film is undoubtedly the Howard Shore soundtrack. Unlike most of today’s soundtracks, it’s organized in themes dedicated to the various characters: the hobbits, Gandalf, Saruman, the Nazguls, the Rivendell elves… and the result is remarkable! A bit like John Williams’s Imperial March which immediately makes us all think of Darth Vader, the various tracks of Shore’s score have the power to evoke the images of the film and its great characters. I often listen to the soundtrack: it’s epic and very dynamic, with songs that vary in intensity, rhythm and atmosphere.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a very successful film that stages a classic fantasy giving it a personality of its own, and it’s enjoyable even in its extended version which is really very long (hard to see it in a single evening!). Of course, there are things that I don’t like too much (like Sam drowning in the already quite dramatic ending due to Boromir’s death), some special effects whose CGI nature is noticeable twenty years later, but very few. And there are infidelities to Tolkien, it can’t be denied, but they are minimal and functional to the plot that rightly wants to give a more marked role to the various Aragorn, Arwen and Gandalf. And this is only the beginning! Ciao!