Rise of the Fellowship probably won’t be exactly what you was expecting… which is a good thing. A movie by an independent upstart like Opening Act Productions will probably not induce terrifically high expectations. But the movie certainly does not have the look and feel of a first attempt by a fledgling production company. The acting by the principal players is very good, and the script and cinematography suggest a more experienced film crew. If you are at all into the Lord of the Rings or gaming, or just appreciate Geek culture ingeneral, you should not be disappointed.
When it played in film festivals and conventions in 2013, the film was originally dubbed The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers. The name, of course, is a play on words with the title of the first book of Tolkien’s famous epic—and the movie based on it—The Fellowship of the Ring. These fellows may be Geeks, but they are hip, too. Or so the name they choose for their team, which competes in a Lord of the Rings Online tournament, would imply.
The movie does weave together elements of the countercultures of today (Geeks), and of the 1960s and 70s (Hippies), when Tolkien first became popular. They will meet a Bombadil/Gandalf/Elrond/Galadriel-type character along the way, who will facilitate the connection between the countercultures, and with Middle-earth. His Hippie-esque followers will remind fans of the Elves of Rivendale and Lothlórien.
This is not to imply the movie is a satire or parody of Middle-earth. The filmmakers tell us in one of the DVD extras, “A Journey in the Making,” the goal was not to make fun of Tolkien, but to provide parallels which would help viewers see the symbolism in the books. This is an approach a wide range of Tolkien admirers should appreciate.
Although Rise of the Fellowship is a film made by Christians (Director Ron Newcomb and Producer Scott Mathias met through their church), don’t expect any heavy-handed (or even light-handed) proselytizing. The closest thing to a religious reference is when the group is struggling to get to the tournament, and one of them tries to assuage their discouragement with the line, “Where is your faith?” You will find no “Gospel presentation,” but there is faith and hope in the movie, which should resonate with followers of Christ—as well as anyone not completely given over to cynicism. That is another parallel with Tolkien, who did not write an overtly Christian epic, but did interweave his tales with faith and hope.
You can rent, buy, or view Rise of the Fellowship from various sources including Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. A complete list can be found on the Opening Act Productions website.