Shallow Hal

Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett.
Running Time: 178 mins
Rated: M

I hate to say, but The Fellowship of the Ring is the film Harry Potter should have been. Even if you have never opened a JRR Tolkien novel, this film will enchant and entertain you from start to finish.

The first in a trilogy of films, young hobbit, Frodo Boggins (Wood) inherits the One Ring of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor. The ring gives the wearer control over evil forces. Frodo and his five companions must travel across Middle Earth to the Crack of Doom, where the ring was made, and destroy its power forever.

Libraries have been written about Tolkien's work, but The Fellowship of the Ring clearly demonstrates the influence of Carl Jung's psychology on the Oxford Don. Tolkien was fascinated by Jung's theory of archetypes, the journey into the unconscious, the anima and animus, the shadow side of every human personality and the confrontation of evil as necessary precursor for maturity. All these observations are on offer in this film.

Jung's greatest contribution to Tolkien's thinking was in regard to the importance of dreams. Jung thought they were the gateway to understanding the power of our unconscious life. The Fellowship of the Ring is a quest film about our shadow side. It is a description of a dream, filled with mythical archetypes and rich symbolism. Every character in this film could be read as a facet of one human personality. Tolkien's fine prose, extraordinary imagination and profound insight into the human mind makes this film satisfying on every level.

New Zealand director, Peter Jackson has done a superb job realising Tolkien's vision. Indeed it is only with the advent of animatics and computer generation special effects that this film adaptation could be attempted. Except for the too frequent and sometimes jerky pans and flights over the landscape, the photography is breathtakingly good and the wedding of location, studio and computer images is masterful. One of the stars of this show is New Zealand's varied and captivating scenery.

Jackson has not been enslaved by the book and so has made several cuts to the novel while remaining faithful to the core elements of Tolkien's story.

The acting is of the highest order with Wood as Frodo striking the right balance between innocence and determination. Ian McKellen is captivating. This film is a boys-own-annual, so it takes an hour for a leading woman to appear. When they do, Liv Tyler is charming and Cate Blanchett luminous.

A word of warning: Tolkien's novels were not written for children. They were parables for adults about confronting evil. This film holds true to the shocks, fights, battles, and occasional gore in the novel. The sound track, especially, will frighten children. It's M rating is a good guide.

Debate will rage, again, about elves, wizards and hobbits. While I appreciate how sensitive and concerned some Christians are about the glamour and promotion of evil, their call for censorship of all stories containing these creatures of fantasy would deprive our children of some classics in the canon of western literature including Shakespeare's MacBeth, CS Lewis' Narnia Chronicles and JRR Tolkien. Given the anecdotal, and often very limited, evidence that stories of wizards give rise to occult worshippers, such a prohibition is an over reaction.

The Fellowship of the Ring has excellent lessons about friendship, loyalty, free will, discernment and the journey all adults must undertake to maturity. At nearly three hours, this monumental film is epic in every sense of the word.

Richard Leonard SJ

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