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In this first part of the trilogy, the shy young Hobbit, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) inherits a ring – a special ring, the One Ring, an instrument of great power. It would enable Sauron, the dark Lord of Mordor to rule Middle-earth and enslave its people. It’s up to Frodo, and a loyal Fellowship of Hobbits including a wizard, a dwarf and an elf, to return the ring to the Crack of Doom where it was forged, and there destroy it forever. But the journey is frought with great dangers and takes them through the territory held by the dark Lord, who is amassing his army of orcs, the fearsome stormtroopers. And Frodo Baggins also has to contend with the internal dissent that ferments as the corrupting influence of the ring spreads to his friends. But the stakes are high: the course of the future is entwined in the fate of the Fellowship.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Disc 1:
The movie itself: While a giant of a movie, it doesn’t overwhelm us; while it tackles eternal truths, it doesn’t dismiss the smallest details – indeed, it revels in them, uses them as its building blocks with the same dynamic thrust that is applied to the extensive scenes of battle and jaw-droppingly dramatic scenic sequences in settings that range from foreboding to lyrical. The original illustrator, Alan Lee, provided the inspirational fire for the design, and the final result was driven by Peter Jackson’s singular wish to make a film of Tolkien’s work (over three films) which he – himself a big fan – would want to see and love. As a result, he’s made a masterpiece. Or maybe three.

Disc 2:
The first three in depth programs (so called) are standard format tv docos, all with American narration. All the key filmmakers and cast are represented in varying grabs, Peter Jackson in several set ups. The featurettes are short (2 – 5 minute) subject driven items, like Finding Hobbiton, Languages of Middle Earth (most interesting). Although there is some repetition: eg Peter Jackson talking about vegetables being planted a year before shooting at The Shire is repeated in various items at least three times, as is Ian McKellen ‘believing’ the reality of The Shire.

In Two Wizards, cast and crew talk specifically about the wizards Gandalf and Saruman, and the differences between them.

One of my favourite items is the music featurette, showing the orchestra recording it, the choirs who add such evocative touches, as well as hearing Howard Shore talk about his task so frankly and with humour. An awesome responsibility well executed; it gives the film its heart and soul, as Jackson says.

The features give the whole project a very thorough going over to satisfy – even satiate perhaps – the fans. It is presented in a myriad of mini insights and I wonder whether this is simply following the structure of DVD features to date (dictated by the available material) or whether it is in fact the most user friendly way of presenting such a wealth of information. Will we see an evolution of a more sophisticated form, especially for such large scale films? And if not, should we?

Just an aside, and a note on the way of the world, these days: alert viewers will note the digital removal of brand names from clothing worn by the cast and crew in behind scenes footage on a few occasions. 

An extra 30 minutes will be included in the Special Extended Edition DVD out in November 2002 in a special four disc set, with new features. In a preview featurette on this disc, we get a teasing glimpse of the extra elements, and Howard Shore points out that it’s a unique moment as he writes extra music for the extended version on DVD. A first in movie history. (What with the feature film running at 171 minutes on the DVD instead of 180, the extra 30 minutes may in fact be only 29 or so….some people may be unaware that films in video and DVD have shorter run times. Film is transferred to DVD and videotape at 25 frames per second - one frame per second faster than theatrical projection, which runs at 24fps. Consequently, for every 25 minutes of screen time that elapses one minute is 'lost'.)

The 10 minute preview of The Two Towers – shown to media under unusually strict embargo conditions for reasons not explained – is truly compelling. It is generous in that it not only shows some of the footage from the second film, but Jackson and the team put it so well into context, both with the first film and within the entire trilogy. And it’s bookended with a nicely casual Jackson driving to work in his work shirt.

And of course, a word about the coming video game, in which you can become Legolas or Aragorn or the wonderful, axe-wielding dwarf and fight the battles in the same settings as the film – and the same evil enemies. For me, the movie is involving enough – and watching it up close in digital quality on a big tv screen with Middle-earth noises around me is all I need to be there – to be one of the Fellowship.

Published August 8, 2002

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Peter Jackson interview (NZ, Dec 2001)
Cate Blanchett interview (LA, Nov 2001)
Story/character feature
Fellow-Talk (NZ, Dec 2001 with Richard Taylor, Philippa Boyens, Barrie M. Osborne, The Hobbits and Hugo Weaving)
Soundtrack review
LOTR goblets

Interviews in Wellington with Elijah Wood, Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Philippa Boyens, Hugo Weaving
Red Carpet interviews (Wellington) with The Hobbits, Peter Jackson, Helen Clark, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Miranda Otto, Mark Ordesky
Wrap Party Dec 2000
Trailer - Low or High


CAST: Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Bean

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

RUNNING TIME: 171 minutes (feature only)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1 – the movie; Disc 2 – Featurettes: Welcome to Middle-earth; Quest for the Ring; A Passage to Middle-earth; Shorter items (eg Finding Hobbiton) x 8 and star interviews x 7; 10 minute preview of The Two Towers; preview of video game

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 6, 2002

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