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A.J.'s Rating: 5 Stars - The Fellowship Rings True!
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Directed By:  Peter Jackson
Written By:  J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)  Frances Walsh / Philippa Boyens / Peter Jackson (screenplay)
Starring:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler,
Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominc Monaghan, Orlando Bloom,
Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis
Rated:  PG-13 (Violence)
Running Time:  178 Min.
    Well, as amazing as it may seem, the impossible has happened.  A movie has actually lived up to and even surpassed it's pre-release hype!  The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of three Lord of the Rings films, has achieved this incredible feat with fantastic style and grace.
    Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring follows the adventures of Frodo Baggins, a young hobbit, played by Elijah Wood.  He has been given the great task of destroying a ring which can bestow absolute power upon it's wearer.  As has oft been said, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!  The only way to destroy the ring is to journey to the Cracks of Mount Doom to throw it back into the fires from which it had been forged, while battling those who desire the ring's powers of ultimate evil.  Showing courage far beyond that of the average hobbit, Frodo, along with a small band of warriors and protectors, has embarked upon this great odyssey.  Those who have read Tolkien's novels already know the finer details of the story, and those who haven't should go see this movie, then read the novels!
    As far as adaptation is concerned, this is about as good a translation of Tolkien's novel as anyone could possibly hope for!  Sure, some characters are missing and some events are different, but the overall storytelling is spot-on.  A perfect adaptation could conceivably be made of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but that would also run inconceivably long, with much of the time invested in the development of secondary characters, as well as with lengthy internal monologue.  This is just fine for a book, but movies have to move.  That's why they're called that!  Director Peter Jackson wisely keeps up the pace without losing sight of the central story or risking the loss of mass appeal, a great accomplishment considering Fellowship of the Ring's many characters and three hour running time! 
    Visually, Jackson has succeeded in bringing Tolkien's imaginings of Middle Earth to life with stunning brilliance.  Nothing I write here can do justice to the incredible settings of this film, but I will say that the backgrounds, miniatures, and CGI landscapes created by WETA rival anything yet seen from ILM!  Either George Lucas should get his people into gear to stay on top, or perhaps he should just decide to hire away everyone from WETA! 
    Perfect casting is also one of Fellowship of the Ring's many triumphs.  Every character is played with flawless authenticity and conviction, making the creation of that very fragile 'suspension of disbelief' appear easy.  Highlights include Ian McKellen as Gandolf the Grey, Viggo Mortensen as the mysterious Strider, and Elijah Wood as Frodo, the small hobbit with great inner strength.  Wonderful performances are given by all involved, and combined with the settings and overall tone of the movie, the results are truly magical.
    I'm going to make an early prediction here. The Fellowship of the Ring will be nominated for Academy Awards for best director, best cinematography, best visual effects, best costume design, and best picture, and it will most likely win in at least two of those categories.  (The competition: Moulin Rouge!)
    So, as if you couldn't guess, I'm recommending The Fellowship of the Ring.  It's one of the best movies of 2001.  The only problem is that we'll all have to wait until the winter of 2003 to see how it ends.  This is a trilogy, you know!

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Review published
December 22, 2001
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Fellowship rings true!
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