THIS WRITEUP CONTAINS NO SPOILERS TO SPEAK OF
The Fellowship of the Ring is the first of three films, directed by Peter Jackson, and based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Lord of the Rings, the central work of Tolkien's monumental literary legacy, and arguably one of the most significant works of literature of the 20th century.
The film stars Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins, a young hobbit cast into perilous adventures, in an effort to deny the One Ring, artifact of ancient evil, to its creator, the foul Sauron.
Fresh from the premiere of the film (I've only had a few hours sleep since I got home, and I rushed to node this for you, as soon as possible, to preserve my first impressions), I'd have to say that this is a very faithful film version of the first book of the LOTR trilogy.
In particular, the visual imagery of the film is very true to the descriptions in Tolkien's tale. Hobbiton is as Hobbiton should be, Rivendell is Rivendell, and Moria is astounding. The characters, too, are very faithfully painted, in terms of appearance and costume.
The "maker's mark" of Tolkien's writing was the linguistic depth of his creation - every race of peoples in Middle Earth had its own unique and detailed language. This aspect, too, is partially captured in the film. We hear snatches of Sindarin, and of the Dark Tongue. With the exception of proper names, however, the language of the Dwarves is notably absent. I would have liked to hear Gimli utter the battle cry of the Dwarves, Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd aimênu! - but alas, that was not in the film. This is a definite blemish.1
"Blemish" is the right word for it, however. Though the film abounds with small omissions and slight alterations (generally justified, in terms of the storytelling flow of the film), these do not notably detract from the high standard of the film. The story has been compressed, and some scenes have been edited down to a bare-bones sketch of the much longer version in the book (notably, the events at Galadriel's Mirror). If this had not been done, however, The Fellowship of the Ring would be at least five hours long - and doomed to flop. For the long version (and we know that many scenes have been edited down - so the footage exists), we'll have to wait for the inevitable Director's Cut.
The Fellowship of the Ring is, quite simply, an amazing film. I would have to say that I cannot imagine it being done better than this. It is not perfect, but the few imperfections have the character of beauty marks. I would not hesitate to call it one of the best films I've ever seen - a true work of art, well worthy of Tolkien.
1 Of course, purists will say that it shouldn't appear until the second film, because it doesn't appear until the second book - but this is film, not book - an entirely different medium. Adding the linguistic flourish would have been easy.