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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:31 a.m., Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Movie Review
'Lord of the Rings' is vivid, imaginative stunner

'Lord of the Rings' may not appeal to littlest 'Harry Potter' fans

By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service

Peter Jackson's vivid and imaginative retelling of the first part of the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy trilogy about a young Hobbit who tries to save Middle Earth by destroying an all-powerful ring of evil. Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen co-star. New Line, 178 mins. The movie opens tomorrow at theaters in Hawai'i and around the country.

Associated Press

Nearly a half-century after "The Lord of the Rings" fantasies sprung into J.R.R. Tolkien's mind, the magic is on screen. Film technology finally caught up with Tolkien's vivid imagination.

Brought to life are the quaint Hobbits in their lovely shire, legions of frightful, dark warriors, giant mountain-top castles, assorted elves, gnomes, dwarfs and wizards, and romantic encounters in sun-lit forest clearings that seem to come directly out of Maxfield Parrish paintings.

It helps that a director — New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson — had the vision and passion to tackle the challenging, long-discussed project, and then cast the right talent to bring the myriad characters of Middle Earth to life.

Starring in "The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" are fresh-faced Elijah Wood as the indefatigable Frodo Baggins and Ian McKellen as the courageous wizard Gandalf.

The first of the three films of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy arrives in time for this holiday movie rush — while the second ("The Two Towers") and third ("Return of the King") are scheduled for Christmas 2002 and 2003, respectively. All three parts were made over an expansive year-and-a-half production schedule.

New Line is gambling with three, long film epics to market — instead of one — and the second and third segments are clearly dependent on the success of the first.

And viewers of "The Fellowship of the Ring" will be challenged with the most open-ended finale since "The Empire Strikes Back."

Frodo's famous quest is nowhere near completed when the credits roll, even though nearly three hours have passed. Fortunately, "The Fellowship of the Ring" is so artful and adventuresome, you'll wish you could just take a 10-minute bathroom break when it's done, and move directly into part two. In "Lord of the Rings," an amiable Hobbit named Frodo (Wood) has inherited an ancient ring that originally belonged to an evil lord who wants it back. Advised by the wizard Gandalf, Frodo must destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, where it was forged — or else it will unleash an all-consuming evil power on the world.

The great plot trick of "Lord of the Rings" is that the evil ring is also an object of great temptation for anyone who comes near it. The attraction of power is undeniable. Thus, Frodo must constantly fight the temptation to use the ring, and not just carry it.

To help Frodo, an alliance is made with a variety of creatures — two daring human warriors (Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean), a gruff and tough dwarf (John Rhys-Davies), three other Hobbits (Sean Austin, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan), and an elf who's an expert archer (Orlando Bloom).

Two ethereal elves (Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett) also provide inspiration and support.

Together, they're the Fellowship of the Ring, and the first film follows their exploits, helping Frodo move across mountains and kingdoms on his mission to unload the deadly ring.

Opposing them is a frightful, living-dead army of giant warriors, led by Saruman (this saga's variation of Darth Vader, played perfectly by Christopher Lee).

Jackson's direction expertly blends energy, wit, and exciting action, and the film hardly ever flags, despite its 178 minutes. The special effects are often stunning, with subtle but distinctive differences marking all the different sorts of mythical woodland creatures. The height difference between the short Hobbits and the taller humans, for example, is carefully maintained.

The digital backgrounds and set designs enrich the already-beautiful New Zealand countryside, creating a distinct fantasy-world that seems somehow real. Howard Shore's lush orchestral score with slight Celtic flavors is a perfect fit.

The success of "The Fellowship of the Ring" on the heels of "Harry Potter" means that filmgoers in 2001 have been blessed with two superb renderings of fables.

If you throw the delightful "Shrek" into the mix — and why not — then you can count three top-shelf movie fables. Lord knows, this year can use all the magic and wonder it can get.

Rated PG-13, with strong violence and fearful villains.