Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 12/19/01
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, John Rhys-Davies, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett

HOLY SHIT!!! J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece finally gets the treatment it deserves in this first installment of "The Lord Of The Rings". After seeing the amazing "Braindead" (1992), I had full confidence in director Peter Jackson helming this project, and even so, the results were far beyond my wildest expectations. Simply amazing. After a somewhat lengthy summary of "The Hobbit" to get the audience up to speed, Bilbo Baggins retires and bequeaths his magical ring to Frodo Baggins, whose fateful quest is to destroy it in the fires of Mt. Doom. With the Ringwraiths constantly at their heels, hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin make it to the elvish city of Rivendale and add Strider the human, Legolas the elf, and Gimli the dwarf to their ranks before heading off to Mordor. Very much like the phenomenal "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), the majority of the film is one giant flight from persecution, fraught with countless dangers and deadly encounters. The ridiculously outnumbered good guys take quite a beating and the entire tone of the film is full of dread and hopelessness. What a ride!

First of all, the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at, and the breath-taking scenery and fantastic cinematography kept me weeping throughout the entire movie. Jackson has literally recreated Middle Earth down to every last astonishing detail. Marvelous! Second, the casting is wonderful. Hobbits look like hobbits, elves look like elves, and dwarves look like dwarves. Ian McKellen as Gandalf is utterly fabulous! The acting is top notch and everyone feels like they belong to their particular race and to the magical world in which they live. Wonderful! The music is superb and appropriately dramatic, and the battle scenes are violent, heroic, and terrifying. One of the creepiest things about the movie is that it captures the look of Middle Earth based on Tolkien's incredibly intricate descriptions so well, that seeing the film immediately sparks memories of passages from the book - just as I had envisioned them when I had read the book nearly twenty years ago! A big hurrah for everyone involved in this film, and I anxiously look forward to the next installments.