What The Fellowship of the Ring Means to Us
– Romona Comet
I didn’t have high hopes for The Fellowship of the Ring. I mean, I wanted to. I’d loved the Tolkien books since first reading them as a teenager AND I’d loved Peter Jackson since stumbling across a copy of Bad Taste at my local video rental place. I just wasn’t sure they were great tastes that would taste great together, you know? High octane splatstick and high fantasy didn’t seem like a slam dunk. I did have some low-level anticipation – Heavenly Creatures in particular had shown Jackson was capable of more than horror comedy – but I tried to not let myself get too invested. So when I went to the theater to see it, it wasn’t even opening night. I couldn’t bear to be disappointed on two fronts – especially that year. 2001 was… not a great year. But The Fellowship of the Ring was more than even my secret hopes could have imagined. It was beautiful and frightening and hopeful and wondrous and everything I wanted The Lord of the Rings to be and more. It lifted me up, somehow, and made a world that had gone a little mad seem more sane, just for having this fabulous film in it. To be able to go on this adventure with these friends was a gift that I still treasure. The Fellowship is still my favorite of the trilogy, and the one I’ve probably re-watched the most. Whenever I’m down or the world gets too crazy, there’s always Frodo and Gandalf and Sam and the Fellowship, waiting to take me by the hand and lead me into Middle Earth and let me forget my troubles for a few hours.
– Bob Cram
A Hobbit’s Journey
Much of what makes The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring so distinct from the other Lord of the Rings films is the relatively quaint nature of it. After the epic intro catching us all up on the necessary lore of Middle Earth and how the ever coveted one ring to rule them all finds its way into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, we spend much of the early parts of the film in The Shire. We get to see how the simple, easy-going hobbit-folk of The Shire live in their day to days.
The most exciting moments in The Shire involve a wizard coming to town and an old Baggins turning one hundred and eleven. It’s here that we learn to love Frodo and the other hobbits. The innocent nature of their being makes them incredibly easy to root for as protagonists. Their small stature makes them the obvious underdog in a world filled with enough fantastical creatures to make your head spin. Our early time in The Shire makes the triumphs, resilience, and even failures of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pin so much more encouraging later in the film.
Even when we leave The Shire and venture into the expansive, and often-times frightening lands of the rest of Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring remains relatively small in scale (especially when compared to the trilogy’s final two installments). As we traverse the great Elvish land of Rivendell, the ominous Mines of Moria, and the decaying scape of Isengard, we are given a partial sense of the epic nature of what’s to come in future films.
It’s that relative modesty that makes The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring one of the most charming films of all time.
Filming the Unfilmable
From the opening moments of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, you can feel that this film is unlike any cinematic spectacle to come before it. For decades upon decades, Lord of the Rings was held up as the golden example of a phenomenal book series that could unfortunately never translate to the big screen. Boy were we (society) wrong about that one.
Obviously in lesser hands and without the artistic or technical vision of Peter Jackson, this movie could have easily crashed and burned. Lucky for us, instead of being given one of the most legendary disasters of film history, we were gifted with one of the crowning achievements of filmmaking.
Perhaps the best creative choice made when undertaking this massive project was Peter Jackson’s decision to film much of the film in his native New Zealand. The country’s beautiful and varied landscapes serve as the perfect backdrop for the magnificent lands of Middle Earth. To this day, many of the set locations used, including Hobbiton, still stand and attract enthusiastic Lord of the Rings fans to visit.
Like many seminal and revolutionary films in the history of the industry, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was seemingly made and exactly the right time. Having come out after the rise of CGI, the film benefits from access to what was still relatively new technology at the time. However, if the film were released around 15 years later, we probably would have seen the over-reliance on CGI that plagues so many of our contemporary films.
The mix of practical and computer-based effects are perfectly blended together into what amounts to a dazzling visual treat. That, along with a deep understanding for the source material and a massive admiration for it, allowed Peter Jackson to bring to life a world that was previously thought to be unimaginable.
Assembling the Fellowship
Favorite scenes in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring are understandably varied. I’ve certainly pinpointed several different scenes as being one to stand at different times in my life. However, one scene in particular stands out as the definitive crucial moment in the film. The council of Elrond represents the moment where the fellowship is officially assembled.
Expectedly, it comes at just about the halfway point of the movie. Once our team is constructed, the action is kicked into hyperdrive. So much of the excitement in watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is seeing the different fighting styles of characters like Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir.
One of my favorite moments in the film is watching the fellowship collectively fight a cave troll. The combination of Gandalf’s staff, Gimli’s axe, Legolas’ arrows, and even the swords and daggers of the hobbits to take out the troll gets me just as excited with each subsequent viewing.
However, that moment doesn’t hit the way it doesn’t without the brilliance of the council of Elrond scene. Before the fellowship is able to come together, we are introduced to the characters and their intergroup dynamics. These dynamics inform so many of the character choices and group interactions for the remainder of the film.
In many ways, the fellowship operates like a bit of a dysfunctional family. Gandalf and Aragorn act as parental figures to the rest of the group. Gimli and Legolas are like bickering siblings who ultimately can’t help but love each other, and the whole family. Merry and Pin serve as bumbling cousins who are always getting into trouble; and Boromir as an erratic uncle, whose next move remains unpredictable.
But despite the family’s dysfunctional nature, their unwavering love for one other is all that matters at the end and is what allows them to persevere through all.
Debates about which Lord of the Rings film reigns supreme will be carried out until the end of time. Each film is special in their own ways despite also being three equal parts of the greatest film trilogy ever constructed.
More than twenty years after its release, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring remains one of the best movies of the 21st century and one of the best blockbuster films ever constructed.
The film’s impact on cinema will be felt for years to come. So many of its moments, images, and words will prove to be immortal in pantheon of movies.
Few movies are able to become true phenomena the way The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has. It’s popularity today is no less massive than it was at the time of its release. If anything, admiration for the film only continues to grow. As new related and derivative projects continue to be released, they will only remind us of the power, beauty, and magnificence of this one.
Welcome to the Canon, Lord of the Rings. We’re happy to have you.
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