Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis
Director: Peter Jackson
Summary: A meek hobbit and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the one ring and the Dark Lord Sauron
Other Nominations: Director, Supporting Actor (McKellen), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score*, Original Song (“May It Be”), Sound, Art Direction, Cinematography*, Makeup*, Costume Design, Film Editing, Visual Effects*
*I watched the theatrical cut (178 minutes), not the extended cut (228 minutes) because that’s the version the Academy voters would have seen at the time of the ceremony*
Before I begin my review, I wanted to say that, as incredible as it might sound, I somehow have avoided watching any of these movies (or read the books) before this project. Having now seen the first of the trilogy, I have to say it mostly lives up to the hype. While the movie does a lot of things exceedingly well, the thing that jumped out to me more than anything else was just how amazing the score is-seriously, it’s one of the best ever, and one of the most recent (as of 2017) that I would call truly memorable and iconic. The whole cast is excellent (with loads of people who became much bigger deals because of the success of these films), but Ian McKellen is always the best and undoubtedly earned his Oscar nomination; considering how beloved he is by everyone, I’m surprised he lost to Jim Broadbent in Iris (although I have not seen that movie to be fair). Frodo is somewhat of a thankless role-much like Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, he’s the semi-bland main character audience avatar surrounded by other more interesting characters, but Wood does a nice job, and his puppy dog eyes are his greatest asset. The effects were a giant leap forward at the time, although some of the CG and chroma key effects look dodgy by modern standards. Even with that, the effects (especially the orcs who look awesome), combined with the overall art direction and the cinematography make for a gorgeous looking film.
The story does a great job of building a unique and complete world (if not one that feels very standard fantasy in the time since it was written), and whatever cuts were made from the novel for the interests of time seem to have been the right ones as you can still follow everything going on with no issues whatsoever. I will say that maybe something was lost in characterization though: with a cast of characters so large, it’s difficult to give them all the attention they deserve in the first installment of a trilogy. Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Arwen (Liv Tyler) feel like they showed up just to set them up to do big things later on, but I would have liked to have gotten more from them here even with all that said. Ultimately, while I’m much more of a sci-fi fan than a fantasy fan, this is still about as good of an adaptation as you could possibly hope for, and I look forward to the next two.