'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' coming to Netflix

This August, Netflix subscribers are in for a treat. The first film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novels collectively called “The Lord of the Rings” will be available for livestreaming. “The Fellowship of the Ring” is set in a magical world called Middle Earth, inhabited by men, elves, dwarves, orcs, and hobbits. The movie, based on the book by the same name, tells the story of the beginning of the quest to destroy the One Ring of power that the evil lord Sauron forged so many centuries ago. The destruction of the ring is crucial to stave off the coming assault on Middle Earth by Sauron and his legions of Orcs, ugly, evil creatures bred for war, and allied humans who have been tempted to evil with promises of wealth and power.

Naturally, the only place that the Ring can be destroyed is in a volcano called Mount Doom in the middle of Mordor, the land controlled by Sauron.

The story of “The Fellowship of the Ring” is familiar to just about everyone. It starts in the Shire, the land of the hobbits, a diminutive people, which is a country that can be best described as an idealized version of preindustrial England. One of the messages of the books is that even the smallest of people are capable of great deeds. So it is for the unfortunate Frodo Baggins, the ring bearer, who is doomed to suffer the pains of the damned to complete his quest.

The One Ring has often been compared to the atomic bomb as a weapon of mass destruction. However, unlike natural weapons, the Ring imparts power that corrupts even the most powerful and virtuous of people. Using the weapon against Sauron is not an option, no matter how some characters, such as Boromir, would wish it otherwise. To use the ring, if one is someone of power, is to become like Sauron. If one is less powerful, say a hobbit, it is a quick way to ruin and to possibly be enslaved by the forces of darkness.

The Peter Jackson movies were long in coming. Attempts had been made to bring “The Lord of the Rings” to the big screen for decades. The orneriness of Tolkien and, after his death, his estate, combined with the sheer difficulty of translating the printed epic to film kept the project in various kinds of development hell.

However, Jackson, who used his native New Zealand as a stand-in for Middle Earth, succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The movie, the first of three, premiered within a few months of 9/11, presenting a particularly searing context. It is worth seeing again even if seen many times on the big and small screens.