In the Baggins

We're off to see the wonderful wizards of The Lord of the Rings

Many fine nuances emanate from the cast as well. For instance, we discover that Liv Tyler -- as Galadriel's granddaughter and Aragorn's squeeze, Arwen -- can don pointy ears and emanate elfish pathos without eliciting a single chuckle. As her father, Elrond, Hugo Weaving also commands attention, holding court in the enchanted refuge of Rivendell, bemused by the hobbits one minute, racked by painful memories the next.

Stylistically, Fellowship marks a quantum leap for Jackson, proving that working long and hard on a well-told story is more impressive and potentially lucrative than grinding out disposable pap. Via director of photography Andrew Lesnie, the director allows himself his trademarks -- wide-lensed closeups, gory violence -- but this classic tale also affords him a glowing aesthetic (an Alan Lee painting here, a swan boat there) to balance the adventure's requisite grunge (bloody faces, dirty fingernails). Kudos to editor John Gilbert, sound designer David Farmer, and the musical talents of Howard Shore and Enya for blending it all together like a fantastic dream.

"Frodo, you're a hard hobbit to break"
"Frodo, you're a hard hobbit to break"

Details

Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Jackson, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Rated PG-13.

Read related New Times story, "Talkin' Tolkien"

Jackson and company have chosen to discard much of Tolkien's whimsy, focusing primarily on action and atmosphere, but, happily, the author's philosophies survive, in Frodo's fortitude, Gandalf's fatefulness, and the self-tests of all who confront the ring. Even Saruman's mad command to his orcs to tear out all surrounding trees speaks to an increasingly rootless, post-industrial society. Seen from a world of similarly insane felling, The Lord of the Rings becomes utterly vital.

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