I don’t know that I could even count how many times I’ve seen this series – it’s that good. As a fantasy nut, my personal strategy is to watch the incredibly long extended editions, even though I know that the edited theatrical release versions are probably superior films. Whichever way you choose, there’s no question that this series is one of the most epic, expansive, ambitious in film history. Peter Jackson’s attention to bringing almost every detail from the books to life is incomparable, and the decisions of what parts of the book to cut are almost unanimously good ones. In The Fellowship of the Ring, particularly, there’s a lot to be set up, and aside from an expository monologue to start the film, most of the setup is established rather elegantly.
The ensemble cast of these films is incredible – even minor characters who get a minute or two of screen time turn out to be successful TV or film actors, even if they’re not huge stars.
Additionally, I can’t go through a viewing of these films without acknowledging the brilliance of Howard Shore’s score for the films. His use of leitmotif in scoring this series works like a charm, with the different leitmotifs perfectly hitting their marks for emotional resonance. The charm of the Shire’s theme, the resonant drum beats that become the leitmotif of the Orcish armies, the swelling resonance of the Fellowship’s theme, this is how the leitmotif was meant to be used.
While Fellowship isn’t my favorite of the three films (The Two Towers takes that honor), it’s the one that I think of most fondly, and remains a high water mark in the world of fantasy fiction.