It takes some serpentine mental mapping
to introduce Frodo (plus his friends, his enemies, and his magnificent
world) without overwhelming the audience. Just imagine how complexly
wired Peter Jackson’s head must be. But out of that head poured The
Fellowship of the Ring, the richest, most wondrous fantasy of our time.
And check out the extended DVD cut; rather than sagging the movie’s
pace, the 208-minute runtime pulls the viewer further into Jackson’s
staggeringly realized interpretation of Middle-Earth lore.
The two sequels had Jackson working overtime to top himself in a valiant
dash to show off the grandeur, beauty, and horror of Tolkien’s universe. But the
things most appealing about The Fellowship of the Ring are also its
simplest, like watching daily life in the Shire and discovering the
interplay between hobbits and dwarves, between elves and humans. We see the sweet
innocence of the world before the forces of evil come out to destroy it.
And as a trilogy, The Lord of the Rings was something unique for a
specific audience. For the children of the 80s and 90s (let’s just say there’s a few of those in the Rotten Tomatoes readership, and on RT’s staff itself) who missed ground zero of the
Star Wars phenomenon, the Lord of the Rings movies presented the rarest of opportunities: a chance to spin our own movie trilogy into the hallowed halls of popdom.