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:: Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring

Very few films in recent years have lived up to the hype that has preceded them, to the point where the more hype a film has, the more one would be advised to avoid it, films like pearl Harbour and The Phantom Menace spring to mind. The first instalment of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy has changed all that. This film deserves its publicity and then some.

Having read the books over a decade ago I can’t comment on its adherence to JRR Tolkien’s cult fantasy novel. It all seemed pretty right to me, from the Elvish spoken intermittently to the hairy hobbit feet. The world Peter Jackson has brought to life is as vivid and as real as the best period films, and if the Tolkien obsessives who have lived in this fantasy world and scrutinised everything about the production that they could get their hands on, complain, then they will be in the minority.

An old-fashioned quest film, it concerns a world before our own called Middle Earth, inhabited by many disparate and waning races, Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits, and the fledgling race of man. There is a dark force rising and it seeks the one ring that will allow it to rule Middle Earth. The ring’s destruction is entrusted to a fellowship of nine: four Hobbits, an Elf, two men and a Dwarf as well as the wizard, Gandalf.

The casting was spot on, with performances uniformly terrific, particularly Elijah Wood as the young Hobbit Frodo Baggins, who is the bearer of the Ring. He looks so fresh and innocent it is hard to believe he is not from another time. Shot entirely in New Zealand, with a predominantly New Zealand crew and international cast, that includes Australians Cate Blanchett as the Elf Queen, Galadriel and Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Lord of the Rings is a Hollywood film better than Hollywood has made them in some time. Peter Jackson is the perfect director, able to handle the effects, the darkness and the humour, as he has done with all his previous films, including The Frighteners and Heavenly Creatures, without overwhelming the story and the characters.

I could not fault the costumes, the make up, the effects, in what must have been a mammoth exercise in organisation and imagination. The fight sequences are thrilling, the chases nail biting, the Orcs, the Wraiths, the Goblins, are terrifying. It is the kind of film that transports you to another world and does not let you go until it is done. It is not just a film for children or fantasy buffs. It is a heroic journey that we do not see enough of on the screen. An old-fashioned serial cliffhanger ending ensures a large audience for the second film. I left the cinema wanting to see it now, now, now. A final piece of advice. At nearly three hours in length, go to the bathroom first, and don’t take any drinks in with you. You’ll regret it.

Screening on general release