Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler


The Lord of the Rings novels have a mythic status for the cult they created around themselves and they have also become part of the imaginary landscape of the adolescence of millions of people, so the first question asked about the movie is: does it do justice to Tolkein’s books?

The answer is a simple ‘no’. Tolkein was a mythologiser who plundered the collective European psyche to construct his tales; the characters are archetypes as old as storytelling, and Frodo’s quest meant something to his readers. In the movie the mythic is replaced by the merely epic and the imaginative scale of Tolkein’s story is diluted in its passage to the big screen. We have a film that is Star Wars on steroids: dourly earnest heroes, implacable evil doers, and a dazzling exhibition of state-of-the-art special effects.

So it’s not Tolkein, but is it a good movie in its own right? The answer is a less simple ‘yes and no’. The film is a victim of the oeuvre the novels created and the plundering of the novels by film makers. The pointed ears of the elves and hobbits are not otherworldly now, they are merely silly; Gandalf’s battle with the balrog on the bridge spanning the chasm has been lifted from the novel and used in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, so when we see it now we think, "Oh no, not again!"

Yet as spectacle it is unbeatable. The special effects blend seamlessly with the New Zealand landscape, the design is meticulous, and forget sweeping boom shots, this movie is filmed from a swooping helicopter. Don’t expect pure Tolkein but if you want to be impressed by a well-made, imaginative adventure, see it.

Review by Chris Page

e-mail Psilocybe P. Pook: