A Masterpiece in Literature adapted to a Masterpiece in Filmmaking
First off - watch this Movie ! Its quite possible one of the three best movies of the 2001 season, and if one can stand the few scenes with some violence ( although even my sensitive girlfriend did not consider them "too bad" ), and does not need the quintessential happy end for one's satisfaction, its the best movie in a long time... That is, if one is willing to accept and watch a fantasy story at all ( and not just "Verminator 15" or whatever ), and can live with the fact, that this is only the first part of a three-piece whole (unlike Star Wars or whatever)
It's utterly terrifying (in the most positive sense )and surprising what Peter Jackson did with the voluminous book ( which could have been used to make a movie three times the current length, if he had stuck to _all_ the details like some puritstic folks demand ) - the scenery of the book fairly leaps out of the pages onto the screen, providing majestic vistas, lovely shots of the shire, some cute episodes and above all keeping to the epic mood of the books, condensing whole pages (even chapters) of description into quick, yet evocative shots and settings,
He is able of capturing essential moods with some of the key lines of the books, yet cutting back on several of the long conversations, outlining the shire, the elves and even the dark enemy within the first few scenes and establishing the whole frame of Middleearth within minutes ! At the same time he is adding the huge canvas on which to paint his telling of Tolkien's story. Yes, Peter Jackson had to cut some "classic" scenes from the books (and fans of the will gripe and gripe and the moan some about it) yet those scenes were cut to make the movie/story more accessible to a wider audience, not to diminish the pleasure of some fanatic adherents of the "Original". Live with it - basically some of the scenes cut I found nice, even if more than merely superfluent, in the book (of which I am an unabashed fan ). This is helped by excellent camerawork and editing, as well as a moody soundtrack. And I guess, he did actually film the sequences, and we get to see them on the DVD edition, possibly extending the movie into a truly epic 4+ hours...
As for the acting - well, I can accept Eliah Wood as Frodo (and he is nicely a-breed-apart from his fellow "countryfolk" hobbits), Ian Holm as Bilbo is extraordinary, and the same holds true for Ian McClellan - if he should get the 'Oscar' for it, it would be well deserved indeed. The only problem for me was Hugo Weaving as Elrond - not that his acting wasn#t up to par, but rather his distinctive face screamed "ahhh the 'Matrix' villain " at me the second he came on screen. Oh well... The rest of the cast is solid to superior in their performance, although Sean Bean is sadly underused - what a great Aragorn he could have been, but Vigo Mortensen fills the spot well enough, too. The small roles played by the few other "names" in the cast (Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett...) add some flavour and hint at those characters importance, yet do not detract from the storyline - this is first and foremost a plot based movie, not a star vehicle ! Anyone going to view LOTR simply because someone particular is acting in it....oh well.
LOTR's "star" is the incredible richness of the story, the athmosphere (which is a far far shot from anything else marketing itself under and the "fantasy" label) and the detailed and deep setting - not any hired Hollywood talent.