Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
5 stars

by Stephen Notley

So, after all the waiting and the anticipation, all the breathless conversations, all the oohing and ahhing over the trailers, after all that, it turns out that Lord of the Rings is just a movie.

A five star movie, to be sure. A breathtaking, unbelievable panorama of huge effects and subtle moments, completely. A new standard in epic, fearless moviemaking, absolutely.

But if you were a total freak, just insane for the movie, hoping that it would crush you into a bleeding, crying pulp in your chair... be warned that it may not happen.

In a way, it's a valuable lesson in not investing too much of yourself in anything. So if you're the Dark Lord Sauron, for instance, and you've dumped all your power into the One Ring, then if somebody comes along and chops off all your fingers, well, you're boned. And if you're a hapless movie reviewer waiting for the One Film to come along and redeem not just a year full of crappy movies but your own soul, well, you may just feel a twinge of disappointment.

But that's what Lord of the Rings is all about. It's *sad*, this film. It's dark, and lonely in its way, and it speaks of a tarnished world where the high glory is long gone, and all there are left are frightened mortals just struggling with little hope against a fate that seems certain to crush them all.

This is a full, full movie, just so damn rich with detail and incident you'd be a fool not to go out and see it at the earliest opportunity. There are so many great parts, so many awesome moments, I can't bear to talk about any of them. Everybody's favorite bits will be different, and it's a testament to director Peter Jackson's achievement that many of the best parts are the small ones, the little touches that zing through your eyes straight into your heart.

Not that the big bits aren't freakin' awesome as well. By now, if you've heard anything about the movie, you probably know there's a Cave Troll sequence. Man, is there ever a Cave Troll sequence. And there's the chase across the bridge, and the Balrog, and Legolas's bow, and the terrifying visions of armies of darkness... it just goes on. There's so much. It's three hours, and there's no flab anywhere. 

Performances. Everybody's talking about how great Ian McKellan is as Gandalf, and it's true. He's Gandalf. Old, weary, powerful, tender, wise, all at once and at different times, he's the playful sprit and fearless heart of the film. He's so great he makes you want to cry, and some of you will.

But even McKellan is eclipsed by Ian Holm as Bilbo, the original owner of the ring before he passed it on to Frodo. The whole movie's magic, but the scenes with Bilbo -- they're a special kind of magic I simply can't describe. You just have to see it.

But praising these two makes it sound like there's something lacking in the others, and that's not true either. Elijah Wood as Frodo, the wide-eyed innocent carrying the whole world on a chain round his neck, simply perfect for the role. Sean Astin as Sam, Frodo's truest companion, the very soul of loyalty. Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, the lost king who must face the terrible destiny that history has made for him, endlessly watchable. Sean Bean as Boromir, the troubled warrior, heartbreaking. And all the incredible things they go through in this film, that's just the warmup for what's to come in the next two instalments. Unbelievable.

Damn, damn, damn, this movie is good. What the hell was I talking about earlier, disappointment? The more the film sinks in as I write this, the crazier that stuff sounds. I can't wait to see it again, and again, and probably again and again on top. Go see it. Go see it now.