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Movie Review: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship ofthe Ring

Story: In a more perfect world there would have been two versions of this epic trilogy, which when completed, will be nine hours in total. One version would be the current one, and would only be seen by the obsessed J. R. Tolkien fans and the other version would be a shorter film for folks like me who do not need quite so many details or for each battle scene to be quite so long. Oh well... I know I will be getting mail on this review, so here goes.

Director Peter Jackson (of the very wonderful Heavenly Creatures) with a $300 million budget is filming all three parts over a 15 month period. The second part is due next Christmas and the third in '03. Yikes! (I am happy to say there will be no nail biting here... I can wait). For those who have not read the book(s), you need not fear from a lack of understanding. The story is simple. A young Hobbit is entrusted with a magical ring which was forged from unspeakable evil. He embarks on a trek (read 'quest') to return the ring to it's source in order for it to be destroyed. Don't ask too many questions about why stuff happens ... it just does. Along the way lots of action occurs and most of it is visually quite exciting. In essence, we have good vs. evil (there is no confusing the two here), the corruption of power and a whole lot of special effects.

Jackson has filmed in New Zealand (which apparently looks most like Tolkien's Middle Earth). Much of the land inhabited by the 'good' folk looked too much to me like a Thomas Kincaid (painter of light - gasp!) scene... all sappy, light filled and heavenly. The evil beings lived in a land that reminded me of an all too serious Tim Burton film while he was, perhaps on mood altering drugs.

There are also only two women (not counting the village Hobbit women at the very beginning) in this cast of a bazillion creatures and they have very little screen time. I guess this is a guy flick. But, all in all it is a fun film to experience but it was way too long for this kid.

Acting: With a cast of thousands (mostly digitalized) it was amazingly easy to get to know everyone real. Special kudos goes to Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen and Ian Holm. Elijah Wood was also appropriately wide eyed as Frodo, keeper of the Ring. Christopher Lee was wacky. Liv Tyler's five minutes on screen was enough for me. Kate Blanchette was good, as always, even with her mere five minutes of screen time.

Critters: Other than horses and birds, none of the digitalized critters had a name I could recognize.

Food: Hobbits like to eat all of the time.

Visual Art: The whole film was one incredibly large landscape.

Blatant Product Placement: No product from Middle Earth or the dark place of Mordor is found around E. 22nd Street.

Soundtrack: Lots of action operatic type music and of course, a little Enya.

Opening Titles: Appropriately dramatic.

Theater Audience: Once again a jam packed theater at the first showing at 10 AM on a Wednesday. A surprising number of people (mostly guys) were eating hot dogs and popcorn at 10 AM. Ugh! A number of cell phones went off during the film. There are no telephones of any kind in Middle Earth or in Mordor.

Quirky Meter: 4

Squirm Scale: I only squirmed because the film was so long.

Predictability Level: If you did not read the book it is anybody's guess ... but I was pretty sure the good guys would come out on top eventually.

Oscar Worthy: Not to me ... but I am sure it will get some statuettes for all of the technical aspects of the film.

Nit Picking: Did I mention how long it was?

Big Screen or Rental: Definitely big screen. For a wonderful rental holiday how about an Ian McKellen weekend with Gods and Monsters, Apt Pupil, Richard III and X-Men.

Length: One hour over the Lobo 2 hour rule

LOBO HOWLS: 7