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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring

Fantasy Action Adventure / English / 2001

For the Action Movie Countdown.

One ring to reassess them all.

"It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing."

Horses, Pigs, Goats, Parrots, Sheep, Chicken, Dogs, Cats, Ferrets, Moths, and Birthdays.

What I said of Indiana Jones holds true here as well; the worst part of the any of these movies is the animals, particularly the horses, they involve in the production. It's a common problem with fantasy novels as well, but it's worse when the concept is taken to screen. Actual horses have been seriously injured and killed in the making of these movies and while it's unfortunate that anyone should die for entertainment, it's unforgivable when the deaths occur to those who haven't a choice to their inclusion in the movie.

With that said I will once again be judging this movie according to my own desensitized perspective. Realistically, I should feel entirely divorced from these characters for the roles they assert over other animals, but it is a crushing weakness of mine to empathize even in an anthropocentric echo chamber.

BUT ENOUGH, even I get tired of talking about this stuff. So WHAT'S the deal with Fellowship?

Well, it's kinda ****ing awesome.

As the epic film adaption of the books from which modern fantasy tropes have been stolen hand and foot, this near 3-hour nerdgasm finally brings to the screen unlike any before the breadth and scope of low-magic grand fantasy novels, from their world-building lore, to their cavalcade of characters, to their near-superhuman mass conflicts which have so inspired Dungeons & Dragons.

Despite the staggering length, or perhaps because of the staggering length, Fellowship excels in one of the most important areas it could: pacing. There's so much going on in this movie, but it never quite stoops to flat exposition while the action and suspense rolls in carefully regulated waves of intensity. It keeps you interested and this is also due in no small part to the conservative delivery of the story which never really lingers overlong in any one place.

I will admit that the first third of this movie, while good, doesn't match the heights of it's second and third act, and resultingly can feel like a bit of a slog to sit through to get to the really good stuff. The beginning of the story in fantasy novels are never really the highlight anyway, they're all about getting the hero out the door and while there's great interplay between Gandalf and Bilbo in regards to the temptation of the ring it still doesn't meet the heights that it will leave you at by the end.

The characters are fantastic too, though Legolas and Gimli have little to contribute and Merry and Pippin are at worst burdens on the company, Frodo develops well enough and even though his interaction with Sam is rather limited, you get a strong sense of friendship between them by the end you really don't want to see break up.

Meanwhile Aragorn is earning badass points left and right and Sean Bean is off getting himself killed, but not without redeeming his troubling character with a pretty badass death sequence in it's own right.

Gandalf easily cements himself as a good guy from square one, but it's pleasing that he can be an intimidating mother****er when he means to as well. His death sequence is justifiably emotional and the whole movie is a pretty solid tearjerker by the end.

I could credit that to editing, but it would be a disservice not to mention the phenomenal backing music which carries a couple core leitmotifs throughout the journey to great effect, rightly emulating Northern European folk music (that Irish stuff is potent!).

The scope and design are incredible too with only the scant moment of obvious CG stunts. The orcs look great, ugly as they may be.

If I'm to make any narrative criticisms it'd be two:

Firstly, the romance between Aragorn and Arwen starts here and as it will continue to be throughout the series, it's generally two people unemotionally coddling each other talking about Arwen giving up her immortality for some reason. Their relationship is THOROUGHLY uninteresting and this subplot about Arwen's immortality being contingent upon her... virginity? Affection? Vows? I dunno, I don't think it's ever explained and even if it were it's still an incredibly weak plotbeat.

Other than that I would be remiss not to question why Arwen cries over Frodo? Is it just his crippled desiccating body that brings her to tears? Is this her over-sensitive elven empathy (do I have that)? I dunno either, she's shared mere minutes of screentime with him and suddenly she's choking up over him dying.

You haven't even had the chance to get attached to him yet, what's the deal?

I would consider this one of those series that not only does the books justice, but does them better. The books can be a right chore to read, but this is a very digestable adaption that doesn't trim anything it needs and even rewards readers with easter eggs.

Anyway, I'd mark this down on that list that'd earn a 5 from me IF ONLY...

Final Verdict:
[Pretty Good]