Blog | 27 November 2001 | First Impressions

What to tell you about The Fellowship of The Ring which I have now seen in a private screening room in New York? Certainly a great deal less than you would like, but then the audience of 40 who were invited by Mark Ordesky (Executive Producer/New Line Cinema) were sworn to secrecy about the movie's content. After all it wouldn't do, would it, to give away any details of the plot of the most-read book of the twentieth century!

Over the months, I have leaked a few secrets, one of which now turns out to have been misleading, so perhaps I should in all fairness correct it. There is after all a prologue which sets the scene and story of The Ring before the adventures proper begin. This is done so expeditiously and excitingly that it is almost like a film of its own with glimpses of the Dark Lord and the forging of The One Ring. It is narrated by a female voice (guess whose) and leads one into the world of Middle-earth confidently as if Peter Jackson had taken you by the hand and personally led you there. There you remain for about 2 hours 45 minutes, although I thought it was less than an hour, the journey was so entrancing. It's the film equivalent of "not being able to put it down till I'd finished". The promise of two more movies to come completes one's satisfaction rather than thwarts it.

Everything on screen honours Tolkien's imagination and cinematically matches it.  The achievement of WETA's special effects is that they are not evident, seemingly as actual as the New Zealand landscapes which double for Middle-earth.  The designs of make-up, costume and varying sizes (from hobbits to elves) do not draw attention themselves - they simply belong within a world that never existed which is yet fully alive.

All this, with performances to match, allows the story to be the star of the film and of that I couldn't be more pleased.

Now as the publicity intensifies I find it infectious, keen to know how others will respond. I have never been so popular with friends hoping to get into the London premiere or before that into a preview screening for the press. But the real test will be when filmgoers go and, as I intend to, go again, after the public release on 19 December. My advice would be to see it at least once on a really big screen - there is so much detail to look and wonder at. If you don't know the novels, don't try now to read them in advance - the film's narrative is crystal clear and you have a year before The Two Towers to slake your Tolkien thirst by reading the novel.

At Sardi's (Interview for South Bank Show), Photo by Keith Stern

At Barnes and Noble Book Signing, November 2011

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