Reviewing each film in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings Trilogy individually or picking a favourite out of the three is actually not an easy task. They're pretty indispensable to each other but let's try and single this one out for now regardless.
This is where it all began: The Fellowship Of The Ring.
You know the plot, bearded dude shows up on some old Hobbit's doorstep, sends his nephew on some huge, crazy suicide mission involving a ring of power that could potentially destroy everything good on Middle Earth through some big orange angry vagina eye on top of a scary tower. Preposterous? Yes. But in J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson's hands: magic. No fantasy epic has even come close before or since to reaching the scale and sheer grandeur of this trilogy and doing it this well (sorry Narnia), these are big far-out stories involving elves, dwarves and goblins and yet it feels important: you're invested. Not an easy thing to achieve. Back in the 80's you had some terrific fantasy flicks, I'm thinking The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth or The NeverEnding Story, but although they did a fab job of immersing you into these strange worlds they never went as far as they could with it. They left you wanting more. Here, you're finally delivered the epic fix you'd been craving for so long.
Incidentally, this first instalment is the most tame of all three.
It's not so much about big-ass battles (that comes later) but rather about bringing all the characters together, staying as faithful to the book as possible without missing anything too critical out and developing each and every character there just enough to make you want to see them continue on their journey. There were elements I wasn't too much of a fan of back in the day, watching it for the first time. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) were insufferable, the movie's Jar Jar Binks (x2), the whole Shire I found to be pretty annoying altogether and the lack of a big battle really felt anti-climactic. I still think these are valid gripes but they make sense in the grand scheme of things. It is meant to be an anti-climactic first part, the movie isn't about getting together and busting shit up (see The Two Towers) or a full-on war (Return Of The King), it's about The Fellowship and how the ring not only brings it together but tears it apart also. Yes The Shire is overly happy and Merry and Pippin are irritating as hell but this is exactly why they weren't actually picked to go on this mission and besides, yes The Shire is a chilled-out place but look at Bilbo: he's the scariest dude in this entire movie! As for Merry and Pippin, well, they do grow up a little by the end of the trilogy so be patient.
I guess I understand the movie more now than I did back then :S
In terms of the plot I do think that a hell of a lot is not necessary, you'd think Gandalf (a spot-on Ian McKellen) could just bring Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Bilbo (Ian Holm) together to Rivendell but no. He has to go off and trust CLEAR villain Saruman (Christopher Lee), get stalled for ages while the hobbits freak out and hire the help of Aragorn (an awesome Viggo Mortensen) and Arwen (a less awesome but acceptable Liv Tyler). But all that stuff's in the book so you gotta have it in there! Then again, the whole giant eagle thing, which the books go into, is never explained so if you're uninitiated to the novels, why is Gandalf riding an eagle? That's just... surreal. It's not a perfect film but it does keep getting better and better as it goes on. The whole Misty Mountains bit where Gandalf is left behind is really dramatic, Sean Bean's Boromir is a fun character and by the end the film leaves you really hyped up to see what happens next.
Plus you get to see two old bearded men fight, slide and spin around, and that's just GOLD.
The Fellowship Of The Ring feels like the start of something big and promises a lot. Already you've encountered amazing locations, unique, memorable characters and the, actually pretty straight-forward, plot is really easy to get into. Perfect cast, amazing score, impressive visuals, gripping stuff.
So it begins...