The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Much can be said about Peter Jackson's adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's novels, a rare trilogy that managed to both live up to its source material and not wear out by the third film. Amazingly, all three films were shot simultaneously in New Zealand, and then also edited there. As such, the trilogy feels very much like a single film, broken into three parts. Peter Jackson has likened it to a 'home movie' despite it's scale and budget, due to the fact that production never left New Zealand. Despite that, it manages to hold up to scrutiny two decades later, and set a new bar for film making and visual effects.

I had the rare chance to catch the 20th anniversary screening of this at the Projector, which was the theatrical version that runs for just under 3 hours. As the film progressed, I caught sight of several fellow audience members making a quick dash to the washroom, no doubt plagued by a full bladder. Alas, unlike the classic days of cinema there are no intermissions here. Unfortunately I was no taller than a Hobbit myself when this first came out in cinemas, so this was actually my first time watching it in a proper cinema.

There's been much debate over whether or not the extended version that adds another 30 minutes of screentime makes the film better. There are several scenes that are omitted from Peter Jackson's theatrical. Fans of the film are rather divided on the matter, and I am here to put a stop to that and say, perhaps it doesn't matter. Just watch the damn movie, it's long enough as it is.

The Fellowship of the Ring marks the first installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It begins with a prologue that recounts the origins of the Ring, following which we meet the Hobbits and then Gandalf. When the ring falls into the unlikely hands of one Frodo Baggins, he is burdened with the choice, and task of safekeeping and ultimately destroying it. To aid him on his quest are eight other companions who form the fellowship.

I don't think many genre epics, let alone a 3 hour fantasy, break into the mainstream market, and maintain a legacy plus level of popularity as the years go by. Technical achievements in film making aside, the film has undoubtedly left an impression on audience members and shaped the fantasy genre in film. Many a line of dialogue is quotable and iconic, with one even being memed to death. But the film is more than just the dialogue. It's the little moments and scenes, the performances working in tandem with the effects and score that create that compelling fantasy.

Howard Shore's scoring is unmistakable, a perfect partner to the sweeping wide shots of the New Zealand landscape. I would be lying if I said I didn't get hit by moments of frisson when the music came on. An epic fantasy requires epic music, one that can pull you into the film. It's an orchestra of emotions that crescendos and then leaves you reeling as it fades.

The cast have grown old and moved on, and one has passed on. But 20 years on, the film's enduring legacy is still gaining new fans.


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