Without the inventiveness and lore that J.R.R. Tolkien created in his books, there would never be something as visceral and grand in scope as The Lord of the Rings. However, it is a vibrant mythology that Peter Jackson breathed life into, and it becomes evident in the opening minutes of the Fellowship.
There is so much ground to cover as far as history and context go and Jackson sets it up beautifully with an epic prologue narrated by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) which became synonymous with this trilogy.
“But something happened then that the Ring did not intend. It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable: a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, of the Shire. For the time will soon come when hobbits will shape the fortune of all.”
Thus, begins the Fellowship of the Ring. We find ourselves in the awesomely beautiful Shire (courtesy of New Zealand) backed by an exuberant score by Howard Shore. This is the home of a now elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm) and his relation Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The backdrop is Bilbo’s Eleventy-First Birthday and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is making an appearance for his old friends birthday.
There is a lot of merriment to be had complete with Gandalf’s world famous fireworks, however, Bilbo is also preparing to say adieu, and he must finally give up the Ring. It is at this time that Gandalf is reminded of its power as it gets handed off to the unknowing Frodo. It is now this little hobbit’s task to flee everything he has ever known because 9 Black Riders sent by the evil Sauron are heading to retrieve the Ring.
By his side is the loyal gardener Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) and his two jesting friends Merry and Pippin. As for Gandalf, he must deal with some business with the head of his order Saruman (Christopher Lee).
With the Riders in hot pursuit, the hobbits stop at the Prancing Pony. By this time Gandalf has yet to return but they cross paths with a ranger named Strider (Viggo Mortensen). He agrees to lead them to the Elvin city Rivendell but before they can get their Frodo is ambushed by the Ring-Wraiths and receives a fatal wound. He survives and is reunited with Bilbo as well as Gandalf who was forced to flee Saruman who has switched his allegiance.
A decision is made to destroy the Ring in Mount Doom from whence it came and Frodo is joined by his friends, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas the elf (Orlando Bloom), Gimli the dwarf (John Rys-Davies) and Boromir (Sean Bean) the man.
They must take a treacherous path leading to the Mines of Moria which are in complete ruins. The area has been completely overrun by orcs and Gandalf must stave off an ancient demon called a Balrog so the others can escape.
They wind up in Lothlorien the home of more Elves including Galadriel who informs Frodo of what the future hold for him. Boromir is the next person to be tempted by the Ring and he tries to get it away from Frodo who starts to flee once more.
Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas take on a legion orcs and Boromir attempts to redeem himself but is struck down. Merry and Pippin get kidnapped leading the enemy away from Frodo. Ever faithful Sam follows Frodo because of the promise he made. And the three other members of the Fellowship resolve to go after the press-ganged hobbits after they pay their respects to Boromir.
It’s a cliffhanger ending, but it is packed with enough epic drama and heart to make it a worthwhile ride. Just know that this is just the beginning of a long, hard journey.
Lord of the Rings is visually magnificent and it’s absolutely mind boggling that most of the scenery and extras in the film (ie. orcs) were actually real. Thus, it seems like The Lord of the Rings is one of the last great epics in a long line of epic films. It is sad to think that this kind of “real” epic is a dying breed with the use of CGI. Human actors and real life scenery is slowly, or actually quite rapidly, getting replaced by computers.
My criticism is that computers make the world and even characters look too perfect. You can tell that it is not real and it loses some of its allure in my mind. Furthermore, if characters are being created from scratch you lose the human interaction and thus a great deal of movie magic. My hope is that these type of epics will find a resurgence because they are usually well worth it.
Another observation has to do with Howard Shore’s magnificent score. If you removed it from this film we would have a completely different movie-going experience. It would be as if a piece of the puzzle is missing, because he seemed to so perfectly personify each locale and he accented each scene so wonderfully with music. Whether it was epic choral arrangements during dark moments or the flute for the gaiety of a sunny day in the Shire.
This certainly not my first romp in Middle Earth, but I was reminded why this world was so engaging. I am excited to revisit the other installments, because the story only gets better with time, even if we already know the ending. Thank you, Peter Jackson, and thank you, J.R.R. Tolkien.