Movie Review - Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
by Michael Elliott

Artistic Rating: 3.5 Stars
Comments: Leave the young ones at home. In this fantasy world, the bad guys are horrific.
Rated: PG-13 for epic battle sequences some scary images
Running Time: 2hr : 58min
Scripture References: 2 Corinthians 6:4-7, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, Romans 5:3-5


Harry Potter... piffle! Mere child's play. For a mature fantasy treatment, one need only have waited for J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of a planned trilogy, is an adult-oriented, allegorical tale of the struggle between good and evil set in a mythical "Middle Earth" where men, elves, and dwarves live together in a kind of tranquil harmony. The most innocuous of all races is the Hobbit. That a representative of this diminutive, hairy-footed species... one who values simple pleasures above all other pursuits... would be called upon to settle the fate of all who inhabit Middle Earth seems unlikely, but when the ring forged by the evil Lord Sauron ends up in the possession of young Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood, Deep Impact), that's exactly what happens.

This ring contains the evil essence of Sauron and will eventually corrupt whoever possesses it. Lost for many years, the ring has now resurfaced and the spirit of the disembodied Sauron has marshaled a ungodly force to regain it so he might regain his physical form and spread his evil throughout the entire world.

All that stands in his way is a brave little hobbit and his friends: the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen, X Men), fellow hobbit Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin, Deterrence), Strider aka Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen, 28 Days), and an elfish archer, Legolas (Orlando Bloom, Black Hawk Down). They, with a handful of others, set out to destroy the ring before it falls into the wrong hands. Never far behind them is a devilish force of unimaginable evil.

The intensity of the battle scenes and the depiction of evil is so vivid that the PG-13 rating seems inadequate. This is no children's fantasy. In Tolkien's world, death is real; evil is powerful and wins its fair share of battles. Director Peter Jackson's (The Frighteners) vision of the "black riders" and the undead army of Saruman is indeed the stuff of nightmares.

Another element which might dissuade parents from bringing their young ones is a nearly 3 hour running time. While LOTR fans will appreciate the time taken to include many details lifted directly from the novel, there can be no denying that it is a long sit in the theater.

Ian McKellen brings a weighted presence in his role of the wizard Gandalf. Brilliantly cast, his strongly conceived and executed characterization helps to set the tone for the fantasy adventure that lies ahead. Elijah Wood does fine work as Frodo, the pure hearted hobbit who finds himself uncomfortably at the center of a life and death struggle.

Still, it is the visual artistry which takes the focus rather than any individual performance. Tolkien's book is rich with descriptive details and Jackson has helped to give each unique part of this world its individuality. Credit Tolkien for originality but give Jackson and his team their due for realizing Tolkien's vision and putting it up on the screen. From the serenity of the Hobbit's Shire to the treetop kingdom of Lothlorien and the darkly threatening dwarfish mines of Moria, each "world" is fully realized with great care and detail.

Frodo accepts his role with hesitation and an obvious desire that the ring would never have come into his care. Gandalf teaches him: "That is not for us to decide. All we decide is what to do with the time we are given." We can't always choose the events of our lives... all we can do is choose how we will act when those events occur.

"But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." 2 Corinthians 6:4-7 (KJV)

When our trials and tribulations come, may we all acquit ourselves as valiantly and honorably as the young hobbit, Frodo.

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