Tolkien the movie

The first of three annual film installments of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1,500-page epic The Lord of the Rings, directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, has many fine qualities. The New Zealand scenery evokes the fantastically real world of Tolkien's Middle-earth, and the tunnelly hobbit-homes are finely rendered. The special effects--whether in the brilliance of Gandalf's magical fireworks or the hideousness of the fiend called the Balrog--are also well done. Jackson gives riveting attention to the actors' faces, especially the discerning eyes of the wizard Gandalf. The film's pacing nicely echoes the undulating movement of the book, as it moves from chilling confrontations with orcs and trolls and ringwraiths to episodes of tranquil splendor in the elven realms of Rivendell and Lorien. These latter places have a late Victorian loveliness about them, while the scenes of horror might have been borrowed from Hieronymus Bosch.


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