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Volume 4, Issue 3                                    University of Houston

First 'Lord of The Rings' installment meets expectations -- and then some

The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

****1/2 (out of five stars)
New Line Cinema

Starring: Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, Ian McKellen

By Lorrie Novosad
Breaking News Staff

Out of the multitude of fantasy writers, no one is more recognized than J.R.R. Tolkien who has almost single-handedly defined a genre. Seen as the "Father of Modern Fantasy" to some, Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings have remained the standard against which the next three decades of similar works have been measured. It is the epic fantasy series.

It's finally been turned into a big-budget live-action feature.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is the first installment of the story of nine companions representing the major races of Middle Earth who band together to help the hobbit, Frodo (Elijah Wood), destroy an evil ring that threatens to destroy life as they know it. In a year short of magic and wonder, the message of all the races of the world banding together to defeat a common evil displayed in this movie could not come at a better time.

One of the aspects that make the writings of Tolkien's adventure so memorable is the incredibly complex universe he formed overflowing with all types of creatures. Under Peter Jackson's direction, themes of fellowship and internal strength emerge on screen amongst depths of detail, history and culture. Jackson goes as far as to give life to the beautiful languages Tolkien created.

Tolkien's son Christopher, who is the "literary protector" of his father's works, said, "My own position is that The Lord of the Rings is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form." Of course readers of all ages have envisioned their own Middle Earth filled with hobbits, wizards and orcs, but on screen they are subjected to director Peter Jackson's vision -- a vision of exhilarating beauty filled with detailed cultures and costumes supplemented by realistic special effects with a story that does its best to stay faithful to the book.

Jackson does an excellent job condensing the text into a script that does not feel choppy or rushed but flows fluidly. Scenes were cut for obvious length reasons, but other aspects of the book were emphasized and embellished. For example, the Elven character, Arwen (Liv Tyler), is a figure that exists in Tolkien's pages but was chosen by Jackson to enhance a romantic angle that was lacking in Tolkien's work.

Reading the book is not necessary to understanding the movie as a brief synopsis of earlier happenings is provided in a prologue. As long as one enjoys a well-crafted adventure story with a smooth blend of comedy and action, The Fellowship will not disappoint.

People who grew up loving Tolkien's fantasy story of unlikely hobbit creatures conquering incredible odds to defeat evil looked forward to the film's opening. And if the film's early box-office success is any indicator ($154.5 million to date), they're not disappointed.

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