Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Rings

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

LORD OF THE RINGS – THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

7/10

USA/NZ 2001
director : Peter Jackson
script : Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, based on novel by John (JRR) Tolkien
producers include : Jackson, Walsh, Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Robert Shaye
cinematography : Andrew Lesnie
editing : John Gilbert
music : Howard Shore
lead actors : Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin
with : Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies,
Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving
178 minutes

A Hobbit named Frodo (Wood) inherits a magical ring from his cousin Bilbo (Holm). Wizard Gandalf (McKellen) realises that the ring must be destroyed before it can be reclaimed by its maker, satanic Lord Sauron, and that this can only happen in Saurons kingdom, Mordor. The pair set off, accompanied by hobbits Sam (Astin), Merry (Monaghan) and Pippin (Boyd), dwarf Gimli (Rhys-Davies), human warriors Boromir (Bean) and Aragorn (Mortensen), and elf-archer Legolas (Bloom). Trouble ensues.

Fellowship is three hours of persuasive, exciting, heart-pounding, eye-popping, spectacular nonsense but its nonsense all the same. Theres nothing wrong with epic entertainment, of course, though was it really worth lavishing so much time, money, talent and effort on the fatuous doodlings of a 1950s Oxford don? Jackson pulls off some impressive visual feats, aided by the amazing sets crafted by his collaborators and the New Zealand countryside crafted by God. But that doesn’t make him a visual stylist: he’s more of a crazed enthusiast than any kind of cinematic visionary, and his movies have always been closer to the rough edges of Kevin Smiths Dogma than, say, the loopy surrealism of David Lynchs Dune.

And its painful to watch the classically-trained McKellen, Holm and Bean treating this dopey dialogue like Shakespearean battle poetry, when Fellowship is really no deeper than Harry Potter – which, whatever its faults, never took itself this seriously. Jacksons rollercoaster provides many more thrills along the way, from the prologues battle against Sauron to and the climactic confrontation with the demon Balrog – but if its the truly great film some have hailed, shouldn’t Fellowship do as much for the mind as it does for the eyes and the nerves?

25th December, 2001
(seen Dec-20-01, Odeon, Mansfield)

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by Neil Young