Winner of the GenCon 2012 Film Festival, Rise of the Fellowship is, as one might expect, a low-budget geek love song to the ultimate geek epic films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (especially Fellowship of the Ring). Scheduled to arrive on Netflix on January 3rd, Rise of the Fellowship has been making some waves on the indie circuit and on DVD.
Far more a tribute than an actual parody, though I suppose one could argue it weaves together both elements, Rise of the Fellowship centers around a group of ultra-geeky friends who embark on an "epic journey" with obstacles and threats along the way. They lose a prized possession along the way, and it takes all the courage they can muster to work through everything they face.
The film has also played at the Richmond International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Fear & Fantasy Film Festival, a pretty clear sign that it's aimed squarely at the fantasy movie-going fan and will easily get the most chuckles of familiarity from those familiar with all things Tolkien. Randall (Justin Moe) is a geek surrounded by even geekier friends. He works in a game shop, not a bad gig for someone who spends all his time gaming when he's not daydreaming about Stacey (Emma Earnest, which would be a kickass geek porn name), the school's prettiest cheerleader who, of course, happens to be dating a jock/bully. He's got a mother who doesn't understand him, a brother who bullies him, and friends who are such geeks that even the game shop owner wants to keep them out.
Everything changes when Randall learns about the Lord of the Rings gaming competition in Florida, a competition that seems a natural fit for Randall and his friends and offers, just maybe, a chance for their lives to have some meaning. The film's parodying elements are at times quite strong, with a good majority of the scenes playing as awfully familiar for anyone who knows the movies. While a lot of films, especially parodies, tend to cross that line into poking fun of its subject matter, Rise of the Fellowship is clearly intended as a loving tribute to its inspiration and, even when the film falters in terms of production and performance, its overall likability keeps it afloat.
The script, from director Ron Newcomb along with Scott Mathias and Christopher Bunn, is inconsistent but occasionally quite funny and, once again, never less than likable. Among the key players, lead Justin Moe is the most effective and seems like the kind of young man you'd have found in some of the early John Hughes films. Those who surround him are a bit more hit-and-miss, though Ms. Earnest has a winning screen presence and Wolf Sherrill definitely gives the film some abundant laughs.
D.P. Brian Pennington lenses the film quite nicely use the RED One , while Dale Clay's music is effective throughout in doing a sort of wink at the LOTR films while giving the film a rhythm all its own.
While there's nothing about Rise of the Fellowship that's going to blow you away, those who would like a rather easygoing and breezy latenight view on Netflix may very well appreciate what Newcomb and his cast and crew have accomplished. For more information on the film, visit its website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic