Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2
Revised Score: I don't usually do this but it has always bothered me (after I became a fanatic fan of the Lord of the Rings movies) that I only scored this movie as a 4 star film. In retrospect this score was completely unfair and biased by my distaste for the genre. My revised score provides a more accurate quantification of my contemporary beliefs.
The fantasy genre has never been a favorite of mine. Even though it is typically bundled with all things Sci-Fi I have never really liked books, movies or TV shows about elves, wizards, dragons and such. I've never read any Tolkien so I am not a card carrying denizen of Middle Earth. I saw the cartoon version of the Hobbit when I was little and remember thinking it was boring and slow, the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny were much more entertaining. When the previews for Lord of the Rings started playing in theatres I was not particularly excited except for the fact that the special effects looked incredible. Therefore, when I actually went to see the film last year, I went into it with pretty low expectations.
After I saw the movie last December I was confused by feelings of satisfaction and joy. Something happened during those 3 magical hours. Was it possible that I just loved a movie that is the archetype of the genre I had previously despised? 3 months passed and last Monday I went to see the film again to find the answer to my question. 3 hours later I had my answer......
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a spectacular movie! The story is riveting and never slow. The special effects are on such a grand scale that the movie feels like ride. You don't really watch this film, you experience it.
To summarize in one sentence, LOTR is about a Hobbit named Frodo who inherits a magical evil ring and is tasked with destroying it to save the world. The actors in the film all do a great job. Ian McKellen was excellent in his Oscar nominated role as the good wizard Gandalf The Grey. The rest of the cast are all equally splendid in their roles.
The director, Peter Jackson, has created a masterpiece. He's come a long way since his early splatter and gore films like Dead Alive and Bad Taste (which I loved by the way.) The critically acclaimed, but seldom seen, Heavenly Creatures was probably his best film prior to Rings.
The special effects in this movie are the best money can buy and they are all put to good use without overshadowing the story itself. It is a perfect balance. The battle scenes have wide shots that encompass the thousands of combatants. The camera moves over the beautiful landscapes of Middle Earth (New Zealand) as if strapped to the belly of a hawk. And the blend of CGI effects with live action is nearly flawless.
Fellowship of the Ring is a masterpiece but it cannot stand alone. It is the first part of a trilogy and has no ending. After 3 hours the film abruptly stops like a carnival rollercoaster. Jackson filmed all three movies at the same time and then cut it into three parts to match the books. Obviously no studio is going to release a 9 hour movie, but I do believe that once all three have been released, I will consider the Lord of the Rings epic much greater even than the sum of its' excellent parts.