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"Director Peter Jackson creates one film to spellbind us all in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Let's not mince words. One of the most impressive fantasy films in recent years is director Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line), and its arrival on video and DVD will give audiences another opportunity to revel in this astonishing adventure, while eagerly preparing for the next installment.

The story revolves around an ancient ring of power, created by the dark lord Sauron. When it falls into the possession of a young hobbit named Frodo (Elijah Wood), this innocent must embark on a quest across Middle-earth, in hopes of destroying this evil ring. Accompanying him on his courageous journey is a fellowship that includes the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), plus assorted hobbits, elves, dwarves, and humans. Of course, they encounter pitfalls along the way--including ringwraiths, orcs and their own weaknesses--as their voyage takes them from snowy mountaintops to the terrifying mines of Moria.
Peter Jackson has always been a fascinationg filmmaker, and in this instance he infuses Fellowship with equal parts spectacle, awe and emotional weight. Nitpicking Tolkien fans might complain about changes in the text, but Jackson has done a masterful job of compressing the story, without losing the story's heart and heroism. The lush New Zealand landscapes make a perfect stand-in for Middle-earth, accompanied by astounding computer-generated imagery creations and perfect casting (particularly Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn and Sean Astin as Frodo's best friend, Sam).
This is a true epic, equipped with a scope and majesty missing from most studio fare, due to Jackson's understanding that it's the characters and their conflicts--not flashy, quickly-edited visuals--that give a movie its lasting power. Of course, he also knows how to deliver a kick-ass action sequence, which doesn't hurt either. The two-disc DVD includes numerous featurettes, plus a 10-minute preview of the upcoming The Two Towers. Rating: A.
--Steven Puchalski