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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring DVD Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

September 4, 2003

Director: Peter Jackson,
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davis, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis,

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DVD Review

After watching Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Daz is convinced he is a hobbit, he may have the shabby clothes and really bad foot odour but his six foot plus frame suggests otherwise.

Every once in a while a film comes along that redefines everything that has gone before. Benchmarks in excellence if you will. Star Wars, Jurassic Park and now The Lord of the Rings fall firmly into that category.

Many decreed that Tolkien’s trilogy was un-filmable, and to attempt such lunacy would result in unequivocal failure. However the little round Kiwi chap known as Peter Jackson did more than just try. He breathed life, energy and anything else that his talent could muster into what has become one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.

Over two thousand years before the events of this film, a dark lord named Sauron forged a ring that housed all of his evil. This ring gave him the power to enslave all Middle Earth. The Elves and Man joined together to form a mighty army to defend Middle Earth against Sauron’s power. A ferocious battle saw Sauron defeated and the ring lost for centuries. It has now been found by a Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. The ring gives its owner immortality, and corrupts their hearts with its evil. No one is able to wield this ring without becoming a tool for its power, as it answers to only one master; Sauron.

Only Frodo Baggins appears immune to the ring’s power, but even he shows signs of weakness at times. For the sake of all Middle Earth the ring must be destroyed, and a ring with that much power can only be destroyed the same way in which it was created – by being cast into the fires that forged it. For this task the fellowship is formed: Gandalf the Wizard, Frodo Baggins and his friends Sam, Pippin and Merry, Aragon the warrior, Boromir the soldier, Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf; the fellowship of nine.

With a tale as iconic as this, one which basically gave birth to modern fantasy, the scope for disappointing people was immense. How do you make a film of a story that is known and loved by so many people? The first to thing to note is that you can’t compare the films to the books. When you read a passage of a book, no matter how vividly and in how much detail something has been described, the way in which it is visualised by the reader is always different. Therefore when the same event is produced on screen you’re seeing someone else’s visual interpretation of the passage, not your own.

That said, it’s unlikely that anyone could have any grievances with Peter Jackson’s version, no matter how imaginative they may have been whilst reading Tolkien’s work.

The characters, locales and effects are so richly recreated that this film genuinely feels like a blockbuster, unlike so many others of recent years. Upon seeing this three hour experience it leaves you with one thought, and one thought alone. ‘I want to see The Two Towers, now’. As the trilogy of movies was shot simultaneously surely that’s not an unreasonable request? I wish I’d waited until December before watching this, so that I could run straight out to the cinema and see the second part.

No review of this film would be worth its salt if it didn’t mention the effects present therein. Wow! That about sums it up. Imagine a dungeon full of orks, battling it out with an Elf, a Wizard, a Dwarf and a Warrior. Then a giant cave troll enters and starts swatting wildly at anything that moves. These scenes have never existed outside of some Dungeons and Dragons gamer’s mind until they were brought to beard stroking life in Lord of the Rings.

This film also requires no prior knowledge of Tolkien, or The Lord of the Rings books from the viewer. It only asks that you wish to be entertained. But if you are a fan, even if it’s just of fantasy, you’ll be overwhelmed.

Unfortunately this great film is somewhat let down by a series of features that serve as no more that a taster for the extended edition release this November. The short featurettes from LordoftheRings.net are interesting enough as they feature on set interviews and are themed around a specific subject each time, such as Wizards and Language.

The rudimentary theatrical trailers and TV spots serve to get you excited once more before watching the film, and the Enya music video shows that she has broken her curse of killing movies.

Annoyingly enough the best features on this release are adverts for the extended DVD and for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. These feature intimate interviews with Peter Jackson as he gives information on his ideas and thinking behind the films. For example, the Extended edition is not a director’s cut. This would have implied that the version released in cinemas was not his preferred edit. That’s not true, it was. Instead the extended edition features an extra thirty minutes that was cut out for pacing purposes. It features scenes from the book that were filmed and not used, and even scenes that were filmed specifically for the DVD. Something Mr. Lucas has also picked up on.

I don’t know yet whether the Extended edition will give you a seamless branching option of watching either version, if not then this release is the only one that contains the theatrical version.

The preview of The Two Towers further whets an appetite that has already been given a thorough dowsing by The Fellowship of the Ring. We are treated to some spectacular battle sequence footage using models and intelligent computer generated characters. Thousands of warriors are created using a computer programme and then they are set off to fight as they see fit. No animation is required as the ‘self aware’ CGI actors make their own decisions. Technology is indeed a wondrous thing.

Be warned though, if you’ve not read the books and are coming into these films cold then the Two Towers preview does give away information that you may rather not know.

While these features are interesting enough, the documentaries ‘Welcome to Middle-earth’ and ‘Quest for the Ring’ are among the worst kind of Americanised garbage ever made. Everything else about this DVD captures the spirit of the books and the film, the passion and fantasy that has been generated. These documentaries drone on about how great the films are, how great Tolkien was and how great generally everything is. They should not be on this DVD, instead they should be on some Sly Stallone churn ’em out action flick. I refuse to discuss them further.

Obviously the main special feature that we really want is the director’s commentary, and that’s been saved for the extended edition. If you’re a feature mad DVD collector, and can wait three months then you should probably do so. If however the film is the be all and end all, and you’ve not seen The Lord of the Rings yet, do so now. Don’t wait to read the end of this review, go buy it now.

Actually you didn’t miss anything, we’re finished.

Darren has enjoyed an interest in film for many years, studying the subject at Newport Film School where he worked on the film ‘Cop on the Edge IX: Prelude to Justice‘ in a directing and acting capacity. The official site can be enjoyed here. Darren setup WhatDVD.Net in 2003 to further his love of films and to write passionately about the movies he enjoys, and about those that he doesn’t.

Although his day-to-day activities mean that he now has less time to review movies than he would ideally prefer, he still tries to review new releases, and DVDs from his extensive collection, whenever possible.
view all DVD reviews by Darren Jamieson

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Rating: 94%

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