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20 Years Later: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

13 December 21 words: George White

Is this the best Lord of the Rings film? You bet your staff it is... 

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Sean Bean, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood
Running time: 178 minutes 

When it comes to The Lord of the Rings, there really is one film to rule them all: The Fellowship of the Ring. Sure, The Return of the King may have racked up eleven Oscars. And, sure, The Two Towers may have a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. But this is all meaningless: The Fellowship of the Ring is the best Lord of the Rings movie, and that’s the end of it. Okay, it’s not the end of it - another few hundred words explaining why are to follow. Still, these words shouldn’t be needed. Anyone with taste already knows it’s the truth. 

Kicking off one of the most iconic sets of films in cinematic history, The Fellowship of the Ring follows Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a young, naive hobbit who’s been living peacefully in the idyllic region of the Shire - that is until Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), a pipe-weed-smoking, savagely sassy wizard, drags him along on a quest to destroy the One Ring and save Middle Earth. Dramatic stuff. Along the way, he and his fellow hobbits team up with, you guessed it, The Fellowship of the Ring, which includes Orlando Bloom’s Elvish Legolas and John Rhys-Davies’ Dwarvish Gimli, Sean Bean’s shifty Boromir and Viggo Mortensen’s ice-cool Aragorn. 

It is this motley crew of heroes, and the unique journey they take towards becoming an unlikely band of brothers, that makes the first of the trilogy the best of the bunch. Their bickering, banter and eventual bond becomes increasingly entertaining as time progresses, and by the final act of the movie, emotional plot points hit home with full force as their connection is put to the sword.

It may not have quite the same scale, scope or stakes as the other two films, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most effective

This is also the instalment that is most closely cut from the action-adventure cloth, avoiding giant, sweeping battles to become a sort of road trip movie - one with lots of walking, and lots of dicing with death. Through sequences such as a dangerous scramble through the Mines of Moria, bumping shoulders (and weapons) with orcs and a cave troll, and the hobbits’ brush with the Nazgûl on Weathertop, as Frodo is shanked by a Morgul blade, there is plenty to get the pulse racing. Yet the focus never strays from the characters - something that cannot always be said of all three films. 

Most importantly, though, this is the Lord of the Rings movie that boasts the beauty of Sean Bean. Nothing more needs to be said, really. The northern powerhouse, the master of memes, the serial divorcer from Sheffield - this franchise was lucky to have him, and he didn’t stick around for long enough. Boromir, arsehole as he may be, adds a tasty dynamic to the Fellowship that keeps things interesting. His unpredictability and short temper create a fabulous friction within the group, a tantalising tension that threatens to boil over at any moment. And getting to see Sean Bean’s face on the big screen, in his prime, is something this world just wasn’t, and still isn’t, worthy of. Not twenty years ago, and not now. What a masterpiece. 

So, with a killer chemistry between its phenomenal cast, an action-adventure approach that offers countless mind-blowing set pieces, and the Sean Bean, this is the closest the franchise gets to perfection. It may not have quite the same scale, scope or stakes as the other two films, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most effective. Only a Fool of a Took would claim otherwise.

Did you know? Gandalf's painful encounter with a ceiling beam in Bilbo's hobbit-hole was not in the script. Sir Ian McKellen banged his forehead against the beam accidentally.

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