Barely ever hearing of The Lord of the Rings, I went in to see this film in theaters the consecutive Friday it was released, to not only be flabbergasted at its greatness, but wanting more! Since then, I devoted myself to seeing the following two films on the first day of release -- a promise I kept.
Peter Jackson's take on Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece not only carries a great deal of the text to full film fruition, but shows the power of film, and proving that nothing is impossible. Jackson's vision is continuous, and never seems to loose grasp of the story that is being told. Using the artistry of John Howe and Alan Lee, The Fellowship of the Ring gleams with a beautiful and dark atmosphere, a length of detail that makes it seem like everyone and everything has its own history, and full of wondrous images one could never imagine.
The acting is superb. With a complex script, each actor has transformed these characters into 3-D people with deep back-story, and people that we feel compassion for. This is one extraordinary ensemble cast. Each actor IS that character, making it seem impossible to imagine anyone else fill that person's shoe in their stead. Viggo Mortensen IS Aragorn. Sir Ian McKellen IS Gandalf the Grey. Elijah Wood IS Frodo Baggins. One could weep with our heroes should one fall, or feel inspired when they achieve victory. A fantasy with this much emotion just seems surreal, but it's completely believable.
Never losing pace, the writing and direction is flawless, making for one enthralling introduction into Middle-earth. The voice over prologue fills even the most uneducated audience member with all the necessary knowledge they need to know in order to understand our heroes' and villains' motives. Some things of course have been omitted for pacing reasons. While not present in the theatrical cut, we do see the passing of the Grey Elves, and get a brief tale of Beren and Luthien. The barrow-wights and their story is no where to be seen (as interesting as it is in the book, there really is no place for it in this film) and Tom Bombadil is absent as well, but thankfully to the ingeniousness of the writers, in the Extended Edition of The Two Towers a little homage is paid to the character. Omissions and changes are always part of adapting a book to film, and the ones made by Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh are justifiable in every way.
The action scenes are spaced out thoroughly enough for breathing room, plot advancement, and ever-continuing character development. Each action scene is its own, be it the flight to the Fjords of Bruinen, the Mines of Moria, or the showdown at Amon Hen near the end of the film. All are greatly choreographed, each stunt member and actor is full of energy and ambition as they wield deadly weapons at each others' heads and limbs. It really is a sight to behold.
The special effects are mesmerizing. The use of CGI, miniatures/bigatures, and even clever camera angles blend to make one ideal image after the other. The soaring images of Barad-dur or Orthanc seem real when in fact, they only stand so many feet high. The Argonath, two figures of enormous height standing before the Anduin River seem like 300 foot creations, when in fact they are about only several feet off the ground. Simply jaw-dropping imagery.
Howard Shore's score for The Fellowship of the Ring is a beautiful, epic, and complex piece of work that makes one feel like they have been entranced. Even when some of the text seems omitted from the screen, it can be heard through the powerful instrumentation conducted and created by this composer. The use of leitmotifs to symbolize a country, race, or character is stunning.
Overall, The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring is a visionary masterpiece, allowing the world to see what seems like actual history with fantastic elements, equaling the greatness of Hollywood's earlier classics. As the first of three, one who has not seen these films can await the next several hours of their lives to be changed for ever.