Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, ...
Credit: Lord of the Rings: Pierre Vinet

For J.R.R. Tolkien’s fan base of dorkish hippies — or is it hippie-ish dorks? — it’s the coolest movie ever, dude. If you are of a certain mind-set (reflexively cynical, wary of all endeavors requiring elves), this fact was a reason not to catch that thing with the hobbits. Make amends: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is grand enough to earn a spot alongside such film epics as ”Lawrence of Arabia” and ”Star Wars.”

To watch Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s novel is to succumb gladly to fairy dust as the forces of good — a naif called Frodo (Elijah Wood), a wizened wizard (Ian McKellen), and a smoldering loner (Viggo Mortenson) among them — embark on an old-fashioned quest. Jackson does the basic things (sinister silhouettes, racing white steeds, the metallic rasp of swords unsheathed in stereo) with exquisite simplicity. And he does the complex things, like knocking the heart from your chest with the spectacle of impossibly noble heroes placed in outsized peril, simply exquisitely. There is a powerful sense of motion — over blinding green fields, through lairs of unlimited darkness — into a fully imagined world where magic naturally exists.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Movie
  • 178 minutes