We’ve all heard of wizards, elves and mystical adventures, but we may not all be familiar with hobbits. Look no further to J.R. Tolkien’s magnificent series “The Lord of the Rings,” and all your questions about hobbits shall be answered.
“The Lord of the Rings” has been one of the most popular fantasy series for decades. The prelude to the LOTR trilogy, “The Hobbit” was first published in 1937. “The Hobbit” tells the tale of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who is summoned by wizard Gandalf the Grey to go on a quest with 13 dwarves to reclaim their lost treasure. The LOTR trilogy tells the aftermath of “The Hobbit” 60 years later, beginning with “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
Before I go any further, I’ll warn you that there will be spoilers in this review, and no, I have not read the books (yet).
“The Fellowship of the Ring” starts with the residents of The Shire preparing to celebrate Bilbo’s 111th birthday. It’s an ordinary celebration until Bilbo suddenly vanishes from the party. Unknown to everyone except Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo has decided to leave The Shire and embark on adventures of his own again. He leaves everything to his heir, his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood), including a ring with a mysterious power.
Seventeen years have passed since Bilbo’s leave when Gandalf reappears at Frodo’s estate in a panic. He has discovered that the ring Bilbo gave Frodo is the life force of Sauron (Sala Baker), the Dark Lord of Mordor and the Lord of the Rings. Frodo discovers he and the ring arebeing chased by the Nine Ringwraiths, once great kings who fell to the power of the ring and became slaves to Sauron’s will. Gandalf tells Frodo the only way to defeat Sauron is by destroying the ring in the fires of Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, where the ring came from. With his gardener Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), Frodo embarks on the long journey to Mordor to destroy “the One Ring to rule them all.”
As someone who had no prior experience or knowledge of the LOTR trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring” was an exciting beginning to the long-awaited quest ahead of me.
“The Fellowship of the Ring” introduces the majority of the main characters in the series, including Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Merry (Dominic Monaghan), Pippin (Billy Boyd), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Gimli (John Rhys-Davies), Boromir (Sean Bean), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee) and Sauron. While the fellowship is many, this is only a mere glimpse into the fanatical characters of Middle Earth.
The first movie in the series is what I would imagine to be a typical quest. Frodo, the ring-bearer, travels with his companions across vast lands and into strange places where they meet and defeat many foes, including orcs, goblins and even a demon. Not only is there plenty of action, interaction between characters and story development, the scenery in the movie is outright gorgeous, a running theme throughout all three movies.
The entire LOTR series was filmed in New Zealand, the birthplace of the film’s director Peter Jackson. This film is filled with majestic mountains, flowing streams and lush forests that mesmerize the audience. Including the natural parts of the films, Jackson’s depictions of the many locations in Middle Earth are impressive. Every set is a treat for the viewers’ eyes.
Another notable aspect of the film is how Jackson managed to create huge armies and battle scenes. Massive, the software used to simulate the film’s battles, was actually developed specifically for the LOTR series.
This technology was a huge innovation for the film industry, allowing the series to take home the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects three years in a row. Plus, it made for some epic fight scenes the film industry hadn’t seen at the time. Not only was I engaged, but I was even gasping out of shock sometimes because of what was happening on-screen.
The online cultural impact of the first film is also noteworthy. The memes that came out of “The Fellowship of the Ring” are exceptional. Many people are probably familiar with the “One does not simply walk into Mordor” meme that was popular in the early 2000s. Another meme I remember from my childhood is the Gandalf Sax Guy, which now has a 10-hour version on YouTube. Some of the earliest viral memes on the internet originated from this movie, and these two are just a fraction of them. .
“The Fellowship of the Ring,” was a good introduction to the franchise. While the pacing drags at times, I appreciated that the plot was relatively easy to follow with no prior knowledge of the series, besides “The Hobbit,” of course. I don’t normally enjoy the fantasy genre, but I felt invested in the lives of all the hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards and dark lords and found the story exciting. I give this one an eight out of 10.
If you enjoyed this review, tune in next week for my review of the second installment, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”