1 Year, 100 Movies: #50 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

The Lord of the Rings could not be any more epic. Like other similar films, it is large in scale and scope, the heroic characters perform all but impossible deeds and it offers life lessons for the viewer. In this series however, J.R.R Tolkein’s created mythology could offer a problem introducing the story with all of the background, created languages, and histories. However, the explanation feels natural – due in part to the screenwriters Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens and also to the writer/director Peter Jackson. They streamline the information and make it refreshing with the opening birthday party for Bilbo (Ian Holm). Gandalf (Ian McKellan) introduces the background of the ring- the one ring to rule them all, to our hero, Frodo (Elijah Wood).  With the revelation from Gandalf that the ring must be destroyed, Frodo sets out to Rivendell, accompanied by fellow Hobbits, best friend Sam (Sean Astin), and Pippin (Billy Boyd), and Merry (Dominic Monaghan). This is just the beginning of the film, and they overcome tasks no one would have thought a Hobbit could accomplish, and reach Rivendell for the council to decide how to deal with the ring.

Frodo can see things are getting out of hand, so he volunteers to take the ring to be destroyed himself. The scale of the film is growing and the characters are ballooning. The location shots, set design and costume design are so incredible. Here the Fellowship of the Ring is created to take the ring to be destroyed, and our little band grows to include Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), the ranger and hidden King of Gondor; Legolas (Orlando Bloom,) an elven warrior; Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), a proud, axe-wielding dwarf; and Boromir (Sean Bean), the son of the steward of Gondor. The shot of them all walking single file on the mountain as they set out on their journey still gives me goosebumps.

As ‘Fellowship’ is the first of three movies in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, our heros don’t reach the end destination yet, not even close. But as with Tolkien’s books, we reach the end of the journey that is being told in the first book, and we get two life lessons instead of one. First, don’t judge people too quickly or harshly, and the other is that we must decide what to do with the time we are given. These themes dominate the film, and indeed, the entire trilogy. Although these characters range from men to hobbits, dwarves to elves, and beyond- they are presenting a very human struggle of frailty and courage.

Although there are many amazing special effects- and even simple ones, like forced perspective, there are solid acting performances in this film that give more weight to what makes this film great. Using the forced perspective method allows the actors to be in the same shots together so they can interact in real time. It is amazing how much of this film does not rely on special effects. Only one character is entirely CG- Gollum (Andy Serkis). The soundtracks to all of the films are incredible- I use the background of ‘Fellowship’ while working consistently and love it. ‘Fellowship’ was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Best Sound, Best Picture, Best Music, Original Song, Best Film Editing, Best Director, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and won for Best Music, Original Score, Best Makeup, Best Effects, and Best Cinematography. It’s a crying shame they didn’t win all categories.

The unbelievable ‘hugeness’ of undertaking such a beloved series of books and developing and adapting them into a trilogy of films that are so solid and true to the books is breathtaking. The feat that Peter Jackson and his team was able to accomplish is fantastic- ‘Fellowship’ definitely earns it’s position on the Top 100 list with the others that are more ‘time tested’. If you haven’t seen these films – or indeed read the books, I would recommend either or both very highly.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

5star

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