I was enthralled from the start as Gandalf came to visit Bilbo, the dwarves were introduced, Bilbo got lost in the cave and shared riddles with Gollum, Bilbo and his padres almost became troll soup, and the stirring conclusion in Smaug the dragon's cave.
As a youngster, my mom bought me a 4-book Tolkien set which included "The Hobbit" and the 3 Lord of the Rings books. I read some of the Hobbit, but never got around to the Rings (it was a bit over my head). I read a Rings knockoff called "The Elfstones of Shannara" by a guy named Terry Brooks when I was 14 and found it quite captivating, though I didn't purchase any of the sequels.
Though I was not familiar with the particulars of Rings, I was quite excited to hear in the late 90's that three movies were being made (at the same time) based on the novels. Call me lazy, but I much preferred to delve into Middle-Earth on the big screen rather than on the printed page.
As I mentioned earlier this week, "Harry Potter I" was a decent movie, but didn't seem to have a lot of magic to it. It sure wasn't a movie I planned on revisiting with any type of regularity. Some of the early reviews of "Fellowship of the Ring" were saying it was a top-notch movie, perhaps even a candidate to be nominated for Best Pic at the Academy Awards.
I didn't see it the first couple days it was out. I asked my friend if he would like to see it on a Saturday afternoon at the new theater (he hadn't been there yet). He was interested, so I went to pick him up. He was taking quite a while to get ready and it looked for a time like we might not make it to the show. We speeded to the Chateau and got our tickets.
There were quite a number of people waiting to be admitted to the screening room where "Fellowship" was to be shown. In fact, the people waiting made a kinda-circle around the interior of the theatre. My friend noted that this was quite appropriate since we were about to see a movie about the "one ring". He also was quite pleased with the design of the theatre (it had a castle theme with an 8-foot dragon on display and the ceiling painted with stars).
We ended up having to sit fairly close, but thankfully, it didn't negatively affect our viewing of the film. My friend noted the great comfort of the seats and their rocking ability. I was aware that the film took place several decades after "The Hobbit". I was enraptured from the start, especially at the sight of Hobbiton near the beginning of the movie.
I loved seeing Elijah Wood as Frodo reading a book and smoking a pipe while he laid against a tree. I chuckled as references were made by Bilbo and Gandalf to the experiences they had in "The Hobbit". I especially loved the mystical aspects of the film such as when the group went to Rivendell where the immortal elves lived.
I also enjoyed the fact that the movie was 3 hours, giving me plenty of time to soak up Middle-Earth. As the credits rolled and an Enya song played, I knew that I had seen something special. Perhaps it would end up being this generation's "Star Wars".
I knew it wasn't going to have a super satisfactory ending since it was the first of a trilogy, but thankfully instead of having to wait 3 years like most sequels, the wait would be a mere year. Course if I wanted to, I could just read the books and find out what happened, but I preferred to experience parts 2 and 3 at 24 frames per second.
I went to "Fellowship" 2 more times over the next couple months and bought the soundtrack a few months after that. On evening walks when passing houses that had lighting that automatically turned on, I would sometimes raise my arm just before it turned on and imagine that I was Gandalf lighting the way.
Though "Fellowship" didn't blow me away like "Titanic" in '97 or "American Beauty" in '99, it was a very rousing way to bring in the 21st century. Perhaps "The Two Towers" or "The Return of the King" would give me that high once again.