The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – PG-13

Best for: Mature pre-teens to adult fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales

What’s it about: The Lord of the Rings trilogy tells the story of Frodo (Elijah Wood), who inherits a valuable ring from his uncle Bilbo (Ian Holm) and under the guidance of Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) set out across the treacherous landscape of Middle Earth with a select group of friends (Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd). They must protect the ring and keep it from falling into the hands of evil forces and the Dark Lord Sauron. Viggo Mortensen, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lee, John Rhys-Davis, Andy Serkis and Liv Tyler also star.

The good: Screenwriter/director Peter Jackson has created a sci-fi fantasy of epic proportions. This first film of a planned trilogy is an impressive movie with unusual looking characters, lavish scenes, breathtaking locations, incredible digitized scenery, amazing and terrifying special effects, storybook villages and a musical score that beautifully ties it all together.

Some of the characters from Tolkien’s trilogy have been eliminated for the sake of squeezing the story into two-and-a-half hours. But if you’ve never read the books, don’t worry: The storyline, though detailed, isn’t too difficult to follow.

I can’t say I loved this movie as much as I’d hoped to. I didn’t really strongly connect with any of the characters, and the film is extremely dark and intense. But I do like this movie and appreciate the incredible artistic merit that Jackson brought to it.

The not-so-good: I’ve never read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it’s my understanding that there are strong Christian themes and analogies throughout Tolkien’s books. For instance Gandalf the wizard is an angelic being who is kind of an archangel sent to help people accomplish the ‘One True God’s’ will. Also, Tolkien's mythical Middle Earth supposedly reflects the distinction between right and wrong and accountability to a sovereign God who is ‘Lord of the universe.’ But those Christian messages are not obvious in the movie (at least not in this first installment).

I think many parents will take their kids under 12 or even their young teens thinking this is a fantasy movie with a moral or religious message. I’ve heard many say they will take their kids and compare it to Harry Potter. I want to make it clear that this is not a kid’s movie on that same “magical” level. In fact, this is not a kids movie at all! This is a dark story about the struggle between the good and evil forces.

Although it’s classic good verses evil, light against darkness in a fantasy setting, this movie has some of the most realistic, hideous, grotesque and spawned-from-hell looking creatures I’ve ever seen on the big screen. The plot takes several twists and turns, leading to loud and intense battle scenes between man, elf and various creatures. One of the more creepy scenes is of a creature being birthed out of the mud and clay under the earth.

If anything is lacking in this elaborate tale, it’s screen time with some of the main characters. While there is adequate emphasis placed on the backgrounds and relationships in the Fellowship, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of a storyline with romantic scenes between she-elf Arwen (Tyler) and the mortal Aragorn (Mortensen).

But my biggest disappointment is one that comes naturally with movies that are part of a trilogy. After sitting through two-and-a-half-hours of the film, it would have been more fulfilling to get a glimpse of what’s to come. Instead, Jackson has chosen a more abrupt approach, leaving the fate of several characters dangling with the credits. Since audiences will have to wait a year for that fate to be determined, I wish Jackson had given the audience a better sense of closure until the next installment.

Offensive language: None

Sexual situations: None

Violence: I use the word “giant” in my descriptions because that’s what this story is full of – giant men and creatures. Several men are slain by a giant grotesque creature, another is pulled into a fiery pit by a giant flaming dragon-looking creature. A giant octopus grabs men to drown them, and giant skeletal ghosts appear to whomever wears the ring. Two wizards hurl each other against walls and the floor. Giant black caped creatures on thunderous giant horses hunt the hobbits in hopes of killing them. Special effects produce ugly faces that jump out at several characters, and hundreds of hellish creatures in a cave swarm around the Fellowship to kill them.

Parental Advisory: This “PG-13” film contains epic battle sequences with grotesque monsters, creatures and some scary images that I believe are too intense for young children. This is not a kid-friendly movie but rather a dark and complicated story for mature teens who can endure the length, follow the complex characters and plot twists and appreciate the realistic special-effect-creatures. I would advise parents to go see this movie first before even considering taking any kid under 13. This is really a movie written and meant for, mature teen and adult audiences who can handle the themes.