National Post
August 31, 2001

Glimpse of a Visual Universe Faithful to Tolkien
Jeet Heer

But will the Lord of the Rings trilogy capture the author's messages?

In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, war comes to the world of the Hobbits first as a rumour, a distant echo of far-off fighting. Then suddenly the Shire, the cozy and comfortable land of the Hobbits, is engulfed in strife. For fans of Tolkien's great fantasy, the marketing campaign surrounding director Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy resembles warfare in Middle-earth, as once inaudible noises seem to be getting nearer and more ominous.

First there were rumours of a mighty movie in the making, with a cast of thousands being conscripted in New Zealand. These rumours gained substance when magazines such as Vanity Fair started publishing Hobbit photo shoots. The din of move production became nearer when the trailer was released, both at movie theatres and online. Then there were stories about a 20-minute excerpt, which drew thunderous applause from critics at Cannes in May. D-Day will be Dec. 19, when The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of three movies, will finally be released.

Having seen excerpts from The Fellowship (on a 20-minute promotional reel that was first shown at the Cannes festival and reached Toronto yesterday), I can safely say that the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring does in fact resemble, at least visually, the awesome battles described in Tolkien's novel. Despite doubts by fantasy fans, the movie does a remarkable job of creating a visual universe commensurate with Tolkien's fictional achievement. The question remains whether the full-length version of the movie will also capture the moral gravity of Tolkien's writing, in particular his profound approach to war and heroism.

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