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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship"The [...] world is divided into those who have read 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' and those who are going to read them" the Sunday Times once said about Tolkien's ingenious Ring trilogy. After the "Hobbit" had been released in 1937, the British professor for lingusitics John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) worked for more than ten years on his fantasy epic, whose first part "The Fellowship of the Rings" was first published in 1954. His trilogy has been translated into 25 languages and has been sold more than 50 million times worldwide. He's said to be the creator of modern fantasy literature, but he never wanted his books to be understood as an allegory on the events of the Second World War. And he never wanted Disney to make a film out of his books.
A long way from book to film:
NazgulBut for a long time it seemed that his story would never find its way onto the big screen, in particular after an unfinished cartoon-style version had failed at the box office in 1977. Hollywood capitulated in the face of the project's complexity and now has to witness how someone else gets the laurels. It was only Tolkien aficionado and director Peter Jackson ("Braindead", "Heavenly Creatures") who dared tackle the issue again. True to the books, however, Jackson wanted to make a film trilogy as well, causing dissent with Miramax who finally gave up the plan. But in New Line Cinema Jackson finally found a partner and he then produced all three parts within 18 months for roughly 300 million dollars. As an ideal location, Jackson chose his home country New Zealand, where he, supported by government and army, breathed live into Middle-Earth with an unparalleled love for detail.
One Ring to find them...
Caradhras mountainsThe key word for the film's success is time. It took Peter Jackson three years to prepare the filming as thoroughly as possible. But God be thanked that also the film itself takes its time - within almost three hours, we get to know the Hobbits, learn about Frodo's dangerous task and the flight from the Nazguls, get insight into Saruman's dark intentions and accompany the fellowship on their adventurous way through the Caradhras mountains, Moria and Lothlorien. At times, the film indulges in slow and placid scenes, followed by fast-paced action sequences with in part breath-taking sword fights. Naturally, Jackson was forced to make some changes here and there and it was impossible to show all aspects of the book - but all in all, these are only slight modifications that don't distort Tolkien's work.
One Ring to bring them all...
Statues of former kingsAlso every other aspect of the film gives proof of Jackson's love for detail. No effort was spared to create all the sets, costumes and make-ups that come close to the book's descriptions. The cast reads like an Who's Who: Elijah Wood (Frodo), Ian Holm (Bilbo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), Sean Bean (Boromir), and as the only female protagonists Liv Tyler (Arwen) and Cate Blanchett (Galadriel). An astonishingly Elvish complexion has Orlando Bloom (Legolas), whose archery reaches dizzying heights - thanks to computer-generated effects. The only character I would have envisioned older and more sage is Elrond who seems too young in the film. Another protagonist of the film are the great special effects that were created by Jackson's own special effects company. Often you don't even notice that a scene has been artificially enhanced, at other points the effects are overwhelming (my favourite: the formidable Balrog). And the picturesque landscape of New Zealand is the optimal scenery for the visually impressive epic.
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The One
...and in the Darkness bind them.
The One RingAlthough I was skeptical at first whether such a complex book like "The Lord of the Rings" can be adequately converted into a film version at all, my skepticism has turned out to be unfounded. The film surpassed my expectations and I don't think that a conflict between film and book will arise in the future. Unfortunately, we have to wait for one year now until the second part will hit the theatres - although all three parts have already been completetd. For the time being, we can either watch the first part once more or start reading the trilogy again.
Also the gaming sector will revive the books in electronical form. After the sloppy conversions of the Lord of the Rings (1991) and Riders of Rohan (1992), the gaming industry had dealt with the issue similar to the film industry. This December, however, Vivendi Universal acquired the exclusive rights to bring the trilogy to your home PC or console platform respectively. So far, Vivendi has announced versions for Xbox and Gameboy Advance, whether there will be a PC version remains unclear. Likewise unclear are details on how the games are going to look like, though they will be based on the contents of the trilogy. It is to be hoped that Vivendi succeeds in reviving "The Lord of the Rings" for the computer in the same way how Jackson revived it for the big canvas.
© 12-27-2001 by CE