In the land of Middle-earth, Sauron (a dark and powerful lord long believed dead) has brought together the forces of evil to enslave all life caught in his path. To fulfil his desire to snuff out the light of civilisation and cover the world in darkness, all Sauron needs is to find an enchanted ring that has been lost for centuries. Although he has put all of his power into the search for the Ring, fate has placed it in the hands of one of the most unlikely heroes around - a young hobbit named Frodo Baggins (Wood). Under the guidance of the wizard Gandalf (McKellen), a loyal fellowship is brought together to aid Frodo in his quest to journey deep into Sauron's lands, to Mount Doom where the One Ring can be destroyed forever.
After years of slumming it at the cinema with big budget turkeys like Pearl Harbor, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Mummy Returns, Hollywood has finally delivered an 'event' movie worthy of the media hype with The Fellowship of the Ring. This isn't a film that simply lives or dies by its special effects, although they are more than up to the task in hand and make this a spectacular piece of cinema. Instead, it's full of all the things that have been missing from most recent releases - characterisation, intelligent plotting, quality performances, and genuine emotional depth.
Of course, the film isn't perfect. It does take quite a while for the main story to get going, because there is simply so much exposition required to introduce an unfamiliar audience to Middle-earth, and the narrative itself does little more than transfer Frodo et al between locations, introducing new characters and threats. However, this is the fault of the original novel, and hopefully provides the groundwork for more action in the subsequent two films. Then, there are the creative liberties taken with the book in translating it to the big screen, which may offend some Tolkien purists. But again, we have no real problem with these - the exclusion of Tom Bombadil from the story is an improvement in our mind, and the creation of a lead villain in the form of the Uruk-Hai commander Lurtz simply serves to give this first part of the story a greater dramatic conclusion. The only problem we have is that we've now got to wait at least 18 months to see the conclusion of this fantastic cinematic journey.
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