Elijah in the Woods
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Review by Ross Anthony

Bounteously bold, gorgeous, video-game-esque battle sequences are placed like decadently rich chocolate chips in this huge sugarless cookie of a film that over bakes the pan.

Threads made of board-game rules, special effects and the backbone of Tolkien's successful Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ringbook of the same name sow this "hobbits & wizards vs. evil" yarn. Surface deep dialogue offers little for more mature audiences. And while kids may be entranced with this journey that never seems to end both figuratively and literally, they may nod off between bouts.

Forged many hundreds of years prior, a set of golden rings were given to rulers of the land; however, one ring was made in secret ... the ring to rule over all the others. A satanic like being used the ring's strength to win war after war ... but then, somehow, the ring got lost. (That gone-missing bit is rather glossed over.) Anyway, soon enough a young hobbit named Frodo from the Shire (a woodsy place of hyper-happiness) inherits the ring and its burdens already boiling near. Elijah Wood (oddly reminiscent of Michael Landon in "Little House on the Prairie") is Frodo. Then, with the spirit of the slain ring forger becoming strong enough to almost take form, the evil beings, neither dead nor living (but pretty intimidating with swords and horses) set out to nab that ring back.

Frodo, forced to journey out of the Shire, battles the bad guys (of free style evil form) with his own band of mystically medieval allies: an archer, a wizard, a warrior dwarf, etc. Occasionally taking pause to banter about strategy, half of the film displays this "fellowship of the ring" journeying about vast landscapes encountering undefeatablely evil beings and then defeating them. In fact, the 'journey, encounter evil, destroy evil' sequence loops often enough to dilute itself.

Among the onslaught of computer effects, some very impressive ones grace screen. Fireworks explode into the skeletal image of a flying dragon then dive inches over the heads of ducking hobbits, water horses create a raging river, an awesome octopus attacks, Gollum's eyes glow alluringly, a good wizard stands against a huge carbon beast on a precariously brittle bridge. These are all visually spectacular, but, like high sugar candy, won't sustain the viewer through a 2.5-hour plus production. Some substance takes hold in the ring's desire to be found by its master. Now, there's some drama. Further, while longing for the master, the ring is perfectly content to draw any wearer into the darkside of its master's reign. Hence, whenever the ridiculously innocent, pure as snow, Frodo slides the ring onto his own finger ... bam, he disappears from reality and enters the surreal world of darkness (created hauntingly well here).

It's definitely an epic undertaking, long with intermittent brazen fight scenes, sort of an "Apocalypse Now Junior." Unfortunately, and unlike Coppola's masterpiece, the most profound thing about LOTR is its length. I had to use the restroom at the two-hour mark, and frankly enjoyed the break. Nor does LOTR deliver a payoff to its patient audiences.

  • Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Copyright © 2001. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee.
  • Directed by Peter Jackson.
  • Screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson.
  • Based on the Book by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • Produced by Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Tim Sanders at New Line/WingNut.

    (WHY THE GREEN TOMATO? Many of you have been writing to rottentomatoes.com about the green tomato generated by this particular review. Without knowing my system of grading, you might think (and rightly so) a B grade should be associated with a red tomato. However, for three years now Iíve been using a three grade system: A, B, and C. (See top of page) There is no D and no F. A+ is the best, C- is the worst. Since B is my most middle grade, it makes sense that it should be equated with 50% on the tomatometer. For better or worse, 50% on the tomatometer yields a green tomato. I do hope this clears up the confusion, but if it doesnít, kindly direct any other inquiries to me and not to rottentomatoes.com. Thank you.)

Kid's Grade ......................................... B+
Adult's Grade ...................................... B-

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:05:16 PDT