Rating: PG-13 for violence, intensity
Run Time: 3 hours
J.R.R. Tolkien published his imaginative cult trilogy in 1954, mesmerizing readers with his dark fantasy of Hobbits, Elvin kings, and assorted Dark Lords. Now New Zealander Peter Jackson (“Heavenly Creatures”) has assumed the daunting task of directing this three-part epic (parts II and III for Christmas 2002 and 2003, respectively) for the big screen. And how.
Embracing the classic literature on which it is based, Jackson and his merry band of adventurers bring a palpable passion to their project that infuses every one of its one hundred and eighty screen minutes. The Hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) is the epicenter of the story, a tiny, mirthsome fellow who is entrusted with a golden ring of startling powers. The malevolent circle of gold must be destroyed, but can only be done so by transporting it to its place of origin – the cracks of Mount Doom
Joining Frodo on the intimidating journey to Doom is an unlikely fellowship of brave voyagers that include a pair of Hobbit pals, an Eflin marksman (Orlando Bloom), two Mortal Men warriors (Viggo Mortenson and Sean Bean) and a stout and courageous Dwarf. Heading up the charge is the strapping, gentle wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan), a wise and comforting sage who transcends the Middle-earth ethnic barriers by becoming friend and savior to all.
The rumor is true - Jackson and company offered up a year and a half of their lives to film three full-length films in sequence, absorbing their characters with a devotion seldom seen on screen. Wood is an endearing blend of fierce spirit and wide-eyed innocence. Mortenson is every girl’s dream of the knight in shining armor (mine, at least), and McKellan deserves an Oscar for parlaying his craft into sheer warmth and wisdom. Jackson masters every nuance of the production, from the wee homes of the Hobbit village Shire, to the CG-enhanced monster wars and the up-close-and-personal moments of his diverse population. The costumes, the energy, and the special effects are brilliant, but the bottom line is that this must be respected for the overwhelming achievement that it is. The bar has been raised, and the world of film entertainment will hereinafter be better for it.