You may be wondering why I am reviewing a film that was released over 16 years ago. The reason for this is that I I really want my first review to be the movie I love and admire most. It may be 16 years old, but it is the movie I am most passionate for and have the urge to write about.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, directed by Peter Jackson, is the best movie I have came across, and that is most personal to me. The innovative story, casting, special effects and effort put into creating something special is something to be admired.
My dad has always told me about the times when he, my nana and grandad all lived in Wellington for 7 years. He has always told me about the culture, beauty and love he has for the city and the country in general. Even though he was very young when he lived there, he still has the positive lasting effect from the experience, which always invigorated me to visit. I’m more than glad I did.
Wellington is extremely significant because many scenes and production work for the movie took place here. Weta Workshop was the main studio for the development of visual effects, props and many other production aspects for the movie, and somewhere I was lucky enough to have a tour, but more on that later.
The movie is based on J.R.R Tolkien’s book and was released in 2001. By December 2003 it had grossed over $300 million. It had a huge budget of approximately $90 million and was a huge risk, however a risk that has now led to it being one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. It was that successful, it has led to Jackson’s decision to direct the more recent Hobbit movies, which were also incredibly successful. The main reason the budget was so huge was the fact all three original Lord of the Rings movies were filmed at the same time, in one lengthy go. It was a long process but one that was beneficial in an abundance of ways. It launched careers, made the film community more passionate, and is one of the greatest adventures in movie history.
The story begins in The Shire, in which a wizard named Gandalf meets with an old friend, Frodo. Having previously been on many adventures with Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo, Gandalf returns to the beautiful and tranquil Shire for Bilbos’s 111th birthday. Bilbo has a ring, the One Ring and is kept a secret from all until now. He is oblivious to the fact this ring is filled with evil and peril, and belonged to the once dark lord Sauron. The ring has the power to create devastation in the hands of Sauron, and many want to obtain it. Whilst in the Shire Gandalf finds out about the ring, and fears that it could be the One Ring he fears. Bilbo decides to leave the Shire, the ring, and Frodo behind. Frodo became in possession of the ring and the only way the ring can be destroyed, is in the fires of Mount Doom, the place in which it was forged. This first of three movies is only part of his journey with The Fellowship, a mix of 9 men, elves and dwarves in which they all seek to destroy the ring.
This journey sees Frodo and his companions come up against many treacheries, in which there are some extremely impressive scenes.
As mentioned earlier, much of the movie was filmed throughout New Zealand, and is one of the reasons the country and film are loved so much by fans. The beautiful green grasslands to the snow peaked mountains are just some of the fantastic locations involved in the movie. One of the most influential is The Shire itself. It is a humble little village and the home of Frodo and the other hobbits in the movie. Jackson created this place from scratch, on a patch of farm land. The reason it is so special is the connotations linked with the nature of a Hobbit and the aspects of the place itself. Hobbits are quite small, relatively lazy, food loving, and life loving. Jackson has used these aspects and Tolkiens descriptions to create a place that purposely isn’t thriving, but kind of plodding along. The Hobbits are content with a simple life and this shines through on the set.
When I visited New Zealand, I was privileged enough to be taken on the tour around The Shire and it was one of the best experiences. I could really feel the detail involved. It had its own dedicated team to ensure the quality of the land. They had their own gardeners, and when walking around found many real fruits and vegetables growing throughout. The pub (The Green Dragon) made its own, unique craft beer and meat pies for all that visited on the tour. These small touches made the place feel real, however I learnt a lot on the tour which made me admire the tricks of film making. Behind the doors of the Hobbit holes, there was nothing. Many trees and shrubs were all fake, but looked incredibly realistic. Despite this, the amount of effort put into making it seem real was surreal. It was emotional just to be there and take it all in.
Another great experience of a scene was in a forest in Wellington. I went on a great tour around Wellington and visited many iconic scenes; however this one stood out significantly. This scene takes places when Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin get chased by farmer Maggot and fall down a hill. Merry lands on a carrot, and Pippin nearly lands his face in a pile of horse S***. Not the most ideal scenario, but one we recreated on the tour. Please see below an image of my face almost landing in fake S***.
On a serious note though, this is one of the more iconic scenes, and it was amazing to roam and learn all about the filming and importance of locations in this movie.
Characters and acting
The acting in this film is some of the most skilled I’ve seen. You can see the passion the actors give in their roles and the work taken to perfect scenes. Some of my favourites include Sam, played by Sean Astin and Gandalf, played by Ian Mckellen. Sean Astin portrays Sam in a way that makes him really likeable and relatable to the audience. He’s an empathetic, true best friend of Frodo and one of the most loyal of hobbits. Sean often portrays sadness, uncertainty and loyalty in a very convincing way. For example, in one scene Sam tries to swim to Frodo in a boat, in which Frodo is trying to leave him behind to fulfil the quest alone. Sam can’t swim but still tries to reach him, showing his commitment and potential lack of purpose if he does not continue the quest. Sean reaches the boat and expresses to Frodo emotionally his desire and commitment to stay with him, and is very inspiring in an acting sense. In terms of Ian Mckellen as Gandalf, he portrays aspects of a wizard such as fearlessness and will with class. Being a distinct character in the books it’s great to see an actor make the character his own. Mckellen is known for spending a great amount of time preparing for a role and you can definitely see this whilst he acts. Generally throughout the movie the acting is great, with a variety and diverse range of characters showing different interpretations of Tolkien’s characters.
The music in the movie blows me away. Howard shore does a great job of creating an atmosphere and feel within scenes using his music. With a mixture of violins, drums, voice and wind instruments scenes are enhanced to make the audience feel different emotions. My favourite song in the movie, ‘Concerning Hobbits’, helps resemble Hobbiton to be harmonious and laid back, whereas ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dum’ ensures the scene is given the extra strength to feel rampageous. The music truly adds to the movie more than in many other films I have seen.
Peter Jackson was the core that ensured all three films came together. All three were filmed at the same time, with thousands of people involved and a budget to keep to. The pressure that this brings to the director is huge. The organisation involved is insane. Jackson absorbed and embraced this pressure and changed it into motivation for himself and the rest of the departments involved.
I was lucky enough to fulfil one of my dreams and travelled to New Zealand to visit many of the movies locations as mentioned earlier. Hobbiton was by far the best however I went on another tour in Wellington which was a lot more mellow, no big crowds at all, which was better for me. We were taken to various locations from the movies. One was the river where Aragorn is found by his horse in the second movie, another of where Helms Deep was built. The tour was great for the fact the guide told us so much information about areas of production, problems they faced whilst filming and a ton more. Weta Softworks was the main facility where a lot of production work was done. The tour gave a chance to go through sectioned areas and learn a lot more about what Weta do and the processes involved in making their movies. If in Wellington, I would definitely recommend.
It was amazing to visit many places I had wanted to visit for so long across New Zealand. Learning about the people involved within the three movies broadened my interest in the industry, and i hope to return and do everything again in the future!
Written by Daniel Rankin