The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring was released nearly 16 years ago in December 2001. It was the first big budget, live action adaptation of the book, and I remember people waiting excitedly just to the see the film. I remember standing in line to be one of the first to see it. And it was glorious.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) inherits a ring from his uncle, Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). Bilbo found the ring about 60 years prior to the events in this film (his adventures finding it are chronicled in the first Hobbit film). After some research, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) determines the ring is the One Ring, forged 3000 years before by the evil Sauron. At the Council of Elrond, Frodo, Sam (Sean Astin), and Gandalf are joined by several others in a quest to destroy the One Ring.
Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens did an amazing job with the screenplay. I am almost always a proponent of the book being better than film, but in this case, The Fellowship of the Ring is equal to the book. I could not ask for a more faithful interpretation of the book and have it be as high in quality as this film. That they absolutely loved the book showed through in how well they crafted the screenplay.
In addition to the actors already mentioned, I could spend paragraphs going over how well cast they this film. I can’t imagine anyone ever playing Aragorn so well as did Viggo Mortensen. He became Aragorn. Orlando Bloom, who hadn’t been in much else prior to this film, was perfect as Legolas. John Rhys-Davies, despite being far too tall to be an actual dwarf, was spot on as Ghimli. And then we come to Pippin and Merry, played to the hilt by Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan. It was like the casting director was channeling Tolkien.
The soundtrack by Howard Shore has been one of my favorites since it was released. I’ve listened to it for countless hours, reliving The Fellowship of the Ring in my mind through every melody and chord. Shore absolutely deserved all the awards he received for it. The score made an already excellent film into one of the best films of all time. It fit the film like a fine elven glove.
Speaking of gloves, Richard Taylor Weta set a new standard for excellence in costuming in this film. Attention was paid to every detail, from the way the armor fit together to different styles for the different races (and even for different groups with each race). The makeup and makeup effects were superb as well. With so many latex ears, faces, hand pieces, and wigs, that crew working on The Fellowship of the Ringhit the ground running and never let up until filming was complete.
Then there are the special effects. Even 16 years later, they hold up surprisingly well. Many films, after that amount of time, would show that age more, but the folks at Weta outdid themselves here as well. One of my favorite effects was the use of the new (at the time) crowd engine, MASSIVE. Through using it, the filmmakers were able to create huge armies that looked very real. This film (out of the trilogy) used it the least, but it was still very impressive.
I will continue watching The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring regularly. I get so much enjoyment out of it, and my wife loves it to. At some point, we’ll introduce it to our kids, too. I can’t recommend this film strongly enough. If you haven’t seen it yet (and where have you been hiding, if that’s the case?), I highly recommend finding a copy and watching it now.
Release Date: December 19, 2001 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some pipe smoking, some social drinking)
Language: 1 (occasional, brief)
Sexuality: 0 (brief kissing seen from a distance)
Violence: 4 (fantasy battle scenes, some brutal violence, a lot of death, some torture)