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Review: At 3 hours, too short

Director Peter Jackson's 2001 version of the Lord of the Rings is an exciting, gripping, three-hour homage to a book that has enchanted generations of fans.
Those who have read John Ronald Reuen Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, which was first published in 1949, need not fear an insult to their imaginations. Orcs and elves, ringwraiths and hobbits are portrayed in obedient and fascinating detail. The story unfolds virtually as expected (with minor concessions to film) and one is left panting for more.
I would have gladly stuck around for another six hours if the rest of the trilogy - The Two Towers and Return of the King - were available. Alas, that won't be for a year or so.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(Pán Prsteňov: Spoločenstvo prsteňa)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Ian Holm, Liv Tyler
Rating: 10 out of 10
See page 11 for movie times in Slovakia


The One Ring
photo: Courtesy of Continental Film

Director Peter Jackson's 2001 version of the Lord of the Rings is an exciting, gripping, three-hour homage to a book that has enchanted generations of fans.

Those who have read John Ronald Reuen Tolkien's fantasy trilogy, which was first published in 1949, need not fear an insult to their imaginations. Orcs and elves, ringwraiths and hobbits are portrayed in obedient and fascinating detail. The story unfolds virtually as expected (with minor concessions to film) and one is left panting for more.

I would have gladly stuck around for another six hours if the rest of the trilogy - The Two Towers and Return of the King - were available. Alas, that won't be for a year or so.

But what Jackson provides is enough to be going on. Sauron, the dark lord of Mordor, used to have power over 20 rings, but the most powerful of them all has fallen into the possession of a Hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). Frodo is alerted to the import of his ring by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and sets off with a few companions to destroy the Ring at the place it was forged (Mount Doom) and prevent Middle Earth falling under Sauron's tyranny.

Jackson, known as the action-fantasy-horror director of The Frighteners (1996) and Contact (1997), shot The Lord of the Rings in his native New Zealand. Spanning millennia, his version of the story accomplishes the difficult task of making the tale understandable to audiences which may not have read the book.

Along the way, as the toiling Hobbits are trailed from the Shire by the Dark Lord's servants, Jackson litters the film with various details that make us forget we are watching fantasy.


For special effects the first half hour of the film is tough to beat.
photo: Courtesy of Continental Film

We get close-ups of Frodo's dirty and bitten nails, visions of the ulcerous hooves of the black riders' horses. They fit perfectly into the narrative, and while halting the action they give Tolkien's fantasy a human shape it might not otherwise have had without the book's exhaustive treatment of each character.

For all that the director clearly tried to do justice to the story, Tokien readers will notice the absence of some characters (Tom Bombadil) and scenes (the passage of the Hobbits through the Old Forest).

I felt also that Jackson's Hobbits were somewhat overshadowed by the other characters, for all that they were the stars of the show in the book.

It's possible, however, that Hobbits aren't cut out for action movies, which in the end is what the Lord of the Rings is. As in previous Jackson works, the influence of Matrix-style techniques is clear, and may make this Tolkien rendition more appealing to younger than older audiences.

On the other hand, as the movie draws to its end and audiences are treated to an image of Frodo, the Dark Lord's ring on his finger and his eyes pulled towards the gates of Mordor by the eye of Sauron himself, I can't imagine how anyone who loved these books would pass up the chance to see Tolkien's characters come to life.

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