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Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

I'm glad I waited a while to write this review.

I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the second day it was released. I then shirked duty and went on holiday for a week or so, figuring anyone who needed me to tell them to see the movie was probably more apt to submit to How High or Joe Somebody, and far be it for me to keep them from their personal Hell.

Funny thing about The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, either you want to see it, or you don't understand what everyone is fussing over. Isn't this just Dungeons and Dragons with a bigger budget?

No, it's not.

If I had written this review right away, I would have told you about how I felt mildly disappointed. The film is long. Let me rephrase that. It is rump-numbingly LONG. I left the theater having enjoyed the film, but feeling unsatisfied.

But then I figured out why. See, I read the books over 10 years ago, and frankly, I barely remember them. Something about a Hobbit, a Wizard and some jewelry. But I had an exact memory of when the first book ends. And when that point came in the movie, I expected the movie to be over. When it didn't end for another 45 minutes, I felt like something had been added, dragged or otherwise stretched. Turns out, I was just plain wrong. The first book does not end where I was certain that it ended, my memory was simply playing tricks on me, turning me into the idiotic jackass that I am.

Now when I look back on the movie, that sense of dissatisfaction is gone, and I realize that this is one damn fine movie.

The Lord of the Rings is a 3-book series that defines the word 'epic.' The Fellowship of the Ring is the first book. A bunch of people team up to carry a ring across the lands of Middle Earth to eventually destroy it. This is the first third of that journey. Bad guys hunt them at every turn, magic is everywhere, monsters roam the land, they explore forests, mountains, caverns, temples, ruins. Kick ass.

When you turn a book into a movie, things get lost. This is no exception. But the book is like a zillion pages long, and the movie clocks in at over 3 hours- trust me, your favorite scene from the book may be missing, but there's plenty of stuff in this baby for all to enjoy.

The film is amazing. Have I said that? Keep in mind that five of the nine members of the Fellowship are each about 3 or 4 feet high, yet played by normal sized actors. And you never notice. It's done with CGI, yes, but also with camera angles, oversized props and sets and just plain good acting. The monsters of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination come to life in horrific and wonderful ways. This is a story of good vs. evil, with evil being all-powerful and good being generally 3 feet tall with hairy feet.

The movie is full of computer effects, but that's not what makes this movie great. In the end, the filmmakers have taken a very intellectual book and made a surprisingly intellectual movie. And they even managed to pump up the women's roles. Which is nice because Tolkien tended to describe and use female characters just a bit less than he'd describe and use a wagon wheel or an especially nice chair.

To really understand the greatness of this film, compare it to the film Dungeons and Dragons. Both movies involve wizards, dwarves, swords, monsters and other things found at Ren. Fairs across the world. Both movies cast serious actors, (Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch in D&D, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Cate Blanchett and others in Lord of the Rings). Both movies revolve around a powerful, evil wizard. Both movies have towers in them.

However, with the exact same elements, Dungeons and Dragons stank to high heaven and The Lord of the Rings didn't. The acting in D&D would have shamed a student film, while Lord of the Rings boasts incredible performances across the board. The script for D&D would have been better written by 100 blind monkeys whereas Lord of the Rings started with a masterpiece, and did a decent job of sticking with it. Put simply, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons, once their eternal torment of having flaming hot pokers shoved continuously through every orifice on their body has run its course, should watch Lord of the Rings and write a five-hundred page essay entitled "What we did wrong that Lord of the Rings did right." And if they dare jump out and say "Hey! Lord of the Rings had a whole bunch more money than we did!" they can then be slapped silly across the cheeks and told in no uncertain terms "Lord of the Ring's script didn't suck."

You can spend as much money as you want, but if we don't care about your characters, your world, or your story, you've made a bad movie. Just look at Jurassic Park 3.

This film is to fantasy what Star Wars is to Science Fiction: The standard bearer. Be prepared to sit for a while, but it is a rewarding ride that will leave you wanting more. Which is a good thing, since there are 2 more movies on the way.

I grant The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 4 4/5 Babylons. I'd give it 5, but it IS amazingly long, and you simply don't get 5 Babylons unless you come in under 3 hours, some of us have poor circulation in our legs and ass.

Editor's Note:

The SMC told me he had a long "lunch meeting" on December 20th. Bastard!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Rated: PG-13
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee and any other British actor who wasn't already doing Harry Potter.

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