Lord of the Rings (Fellowship of the Ring) takes place in a fantasy world where a group of leftwing insurgents, (The Fellowship), plots to assassinate the rightful ruler of Middle Earth; an elderly and frail man known as Sauron who was historically deposed in an illegal coup d’etat conducted by the combined armies of men and elves. During the overthrow the usurpers also misappropriated Sauron’s chastity ring, a band of gold created in the fires of Mount Doom, a local beauty spot in the land of Mordor where Sauron now finds himself exiled. The stolen ring has passed hands a number of times over the years and currently resides with aging Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. The Hobbits are an insular, parochial society of midgets who fear the outside world and its creeping influence on their idyllic home. A bit like the Amish if they read the Daily Mail.
The extremists are led by a so-called ‘wizard’ who turns out to be a high-end conman who calls himself Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf the Grifter more like. Gandalf shamelessly encourages Frodo to destroy the ring thus condemning Sauron to death. Frodo agrees to undertake the pernicious task, but only if he can take along his personal dogsbody, Samwise Gamgee, with him. Gamgee, who is the fantasy equivalent of Baldrick crossed with Uncle Tom, is also joined by vegetable rustlers and the Only Gays in the Village, Merry & Pippin. This rag-tag band of fundamentalists swells its ranks with the addition of renegade mall cop, Aragorn and snide Daddy’s boy, Boromir. The Fellowship is rounded off by odd couple Gimli, (John Rhys-Davies giving his best Brian Blessed impression) and Legolas, (Orlando Bloom giving his best impression of someone who thinks he can act). As a dwarf and an elf, Gimli and Legolas have a long-standing cultural antipathy and the film is littered with frequent racial epithets.
Chief among these is the treatment of Orcs, a people who have pledged loyalty to defend Sauron. The Orcs are symptomatic of the proletariat attempting to rise up and cast off the shackles of the elitist society created by man, elves and the other two vertically challenged races. Their struggle to create a truly classless community is portrayed as the violent uprising of a bunch of barbarians. Showing a shocking disregard for the articles of the Geneva convention, the Fellowship hacks, slashes, eviscerates and disembowels its way through several hundred Orc freedom fighters in their relentless journey towards Mordor. Indeed, it becomes a source of ridicule for the warriors of the Fellowship if they do not kill at least twenty Orcs each in every skirmish.
Meanwhile, serial fraudster Gandalf has been imprisoned in debtor’s prison by Darth Tyranus, who has defected from the Stars Wars universe to Tolkien’s realm, (after sharing a screen with Jar Jar Binks, who can blame him?). Rather than stand trial and face justice, Gandalf escapes with the help of a giant eagle which is much cooler than the Shawshank Redemption prison escape method and infinitely less messy.
The Fellowship, with the aid of Gandalf, infiltrate a known dwarven stronghold underground in an attempt to flush out more Orcs to brutally slay. Gandalf stalks a Balrog, a rare and endangered species native to Middle-Earth and callously tosses the creature to its death off a cliff. In taking a moment to gloat over the demise of the Balrog, Gandalf trips and falls to what I can only assume to be CERTAIN DEATH. Yes, no way ANYONE could survive that fall.
The Fellowship is shaken by the loss of their eminence grise, but they soon rouse themselves back into action through the promise of more Orc blood. Oh, and Liv Tyler briefly appears as ageless cougar Arwen who has a somewhat disturbing interest in Aragorn despite him being at least several thousand years younger than her.
The good news is that this is only the first instalment in a trilogy of films and I look forward to the righteous forces of Mordor eventually triumphing as well as Gandalf not being resurrected in an appalling deus ex machina and an insanely hot immortal not giving up eternal life for a few rolls in the hay with Viggo Mortensen. Yes, those last two things will never happen.