Jun 3 2009 4:32pm

LotR re-read: Fellowship movie re-watch

cover of Fellowship DVDThe first time I saw the movie The Fellowship of the Ring, I literally jumped up and down in the lobby after, saying, “When is the next one coming out?!” Even now, years after the first flush of excitement, I still have a hard time not watching it if I channel-surf past it on TV, and it’s the one I like best of all.

I re-watched the theatrical edition for three reasons: because of that happy memory; because I think the additions to the extended edition were properly left out (they seem to me “hey, cool, we can put this back in and the fans will like it,” rather than “this is how we envisioned the film all along”); and because movie-watching time is about as scarce as hen’s teeth just now. You can find a list of the additions to the extended edition at the IMDB; if anyone has a more detailed link, please leave it in comments.

After the jump, discussion of the movie Fellowship in light of the re-read of the book Fellowship, with spoilers for all the books and movies.

Okay, a few lists to start, of things I don’t feel the need to discuss at length (don’t let that stop you, though):

Things that I consider an improvement over the book:

  1. Boromir.

Things that enhance my enjoyment of the book:

  1. Locations, sets, and character designs. I am not a visual reader and having these available as mental reference is very useful. Similarly, fighting styles (*pauses to contemplate Aragorn in motion*).

  2. Sounds, sometimes. The voices of the actors I like (not necessarily their phrasings) and some sound effects (I am helplessly fond of *balrog* as a indicator similar to *snarl*, TM Sarah Monette).

Things that I am willing to roll with because of differences in the media:

  1. The front-loading of historical exposition into a prologue-y thing. (Well, I prefer this prologue-y thing to the actual Prologue, but I doubt that I’d want it there in the book.)

  2. The excision of the Old Forest, Tom Bombadil, and the Barrow-downs from the first half. (Though I wish that a more elegant way of getting the hobbits their swords could have been contrived.)

  3. Making Saruman a much more central antagonist.

  4. Shifting Boromir’s death into this movie.

  5. Making the Ring scarier and more immediately tempting. (Though this does lead to ramifications down the road, and I may change my mind when we get to that.)

Worst miscastings:

  1. Elrond. Should not be sinister. (“Mis-ter Baggins, it seems you’ve been leading a double life . . . ”)

  2. Arwen. Should not be breathy and vapid.

  3. Celeborn. Should not be that useless.

* * *

Aaaand let’s get this out of the way early too:

In the text, the Uruk-hai are “swart(y)” and “slant-eyed” (III.3, “The Uruk-Hai”). I am not sure of the connotations of “swarthy” to an Englishman in the 1940s, but to me it conveys brown skin, as you might find in southern Europe along the Mediterranean.

When we first saw Orcs in the movie, they are the garden-variety type, and have ashy gray skin. “Great,” I thought, “ducking the issue entirely by giving orcs a non-human skin color.”

And then I saw the Uruk-hai. Who are not only very dark-skinned, much darker than “swarthy” to me, but have long twisted hair that often comes close to looking like dreadlocks (picture).

This is really not cool.

Very important, read this before commenting!

No, I am not accusing Peter Jackson et al. of being consciously racist, bad people, etc. I imagine they went through an entirely logical conscious thought process that included wanting to strongly differentiate the Uruk-hai from the older orcs, but that was also subconsciously influenced by the racist attitudes that permeate Western culture to the effect that large dark-skinned men are scary and violent, which made it easy to differentiate the Uruk-hai by making them dark-skinned. But regardless of how they got there, they changed an entire race of creatures away from both the source material’s description and their own decision to give other orcs non-human skin colors, into walking stereotypes of large scary violent dark-skinned men, and with a hair style that is strongly linked to Africans and people of African descent, to boot. And then no-one saw a problem with that, which I attribute to the fact that the people making these decisions were overwhelmingly white (based on the DVD extras, though I haven’t re-watched them recently), which means that racism isn’t constantly shoved in their faces the way it is for non-white people, which means they have the luxury of not thinking about race, which means that they can perpetuate racist stereotypes without even noticing.

And thus, I say: this is a perpetuation of racist stereotypes, and it is really not cool.

(By the way: yes, I know it’s just a movie. Please don’t feel it necessary to point that out to me.)

* * *

And now for the longest section, “Things that I am not willing to roll with because of differences in the media.” We can divide this into three categories: character arcs; magic; and humor.

To take them in reverse order:

Poor Gimli, all your eloquent love of Moria in the book is transformed into a demonstration of how stupid you are to not notice that you’re walking through the remains of a battlefield. And your relegation to the comic relief only gets worse from here. (The hobbit comic relief isn’t as bad, but still has the effect of dumbing them down.)

As for magic, well, I understand that things need to be more visual, but I hate that “more visual” apparently equals “loud, flashy, and violent.” The wizard-fu battle of Gandalf and Saruman, the absurd Temptation of Galadriel, Sauron’s fighting the Last Alliance: it’s all just stupid.

(I like the magical critters, though, the Watcher in the Water and the Balrog.)

Finally, character arcs.

The worst of these is Aragorn’s. I hadn’t realized just how massive a revision this was until now, so there’s a benefit of the re-read. It seems to me, here at the end of Fellowship the book, that Aragorn is much bleaker than I’d remembered, seeing no real hope for a defeat of Sauron but grimly fighting on all the same. And I don’t remember if this changes to the extent that you can call it an “arc” in the book, but regardless, his reaction to external events from this perspective strikes me as sufficient to the purpose—except that this is fairly subtle and requires a lot of inference and back-filling (since some of his history doesn’t come out until the Appendices, for goodness’ sake). But going from that to someone who rejects trying for the kingship because he fears inherited weakness of character . . . ?


Now, I do like that Aragorn deliberately chooses to let Frodo go to Mordor alone, because I like that recognition of his choice and that last moment of connection between them. But I think you could have had that without these changes to Aragorn.

(Relatedly, I hadn’t realized until now that the movie takes off the table the possibility of the Company going to Minas Tirith first, or maybe splitting up. I think I’m neutral on this: it is a little hard to believe that any of the characters would actually abandon Frodo if he chose Mordor, and it simplifies things. On the other hand, the possibility that Frodo might choose Minas Tirith—but then doesn’t—is another stressor on Boromir that nudges him toward trying to take the Ring. This is replaced by the Ring being more attractive as an object than in the books. So, six of one, I think.)

And then there’s the wimping up (down?) of Frodo. I’m putting this under “character arcs” because otherwise I can’t figure out what it’s doing in the movie. Instead of stabbing at the Nazgûl at Weathertop, he lies there quaking; and instead of making a desperate last stand after crossing the Ford, he’s dead weight. And it’s annoying. But I’m not really sure it works to give him an arc into bravery, since he’d already opened the movie by deciding to take the Ring, so setting out alone into Mordor doesn’t feel like a progression.

Admittedly there’s not much in the way of character growth and development contained within the first volume. The biggest instances of that in the book as a whole are Éowyn and the hobbits, and those don’t culminate until the third volume. However, I think the movie could have simply used Boromir for its standalone character arc and started laying the groundwork for the hobbits. Or it could have not made Gimli the damn comic relief and started showing his friendship with Legolas earlier, though admittedly this means bringing back the gifts scene into the theatrical edition.

But I really do love this movie, honest. What do you all think?

« Fellowship II.10 | Index | Two Towers III.1 »

JS Bangs
1. jaspax
Interesting comment about the Uruk-hai. (And, ho-boy, you do know that you've stirred up a hornets nest with this one.) The only problem I have with your analysis is that the Uruk-Hai in the film don't look to me to have a human skin color, either. Saruman's orcs are reddish-orange, while the Black Uruk of Mordor are dark gray with a purplish tint. In neither case does the coloring seem to me to be reminiscent, even subliminally, of the coloration of actual humans.

Other stuff:

Agree about Elrond and especially Gimli. Why did they have to make him the butt of their jokes? I can tolerate Arwen, and I was glad that they decided to make her plot prominent. Galadriel was good, but the temptation scene was pure cheese. So was the wizard fight between Saruman and Gandalf. Both the Shire and Moria were perfect, visually, and have enriched my reading of the books.
Kate Nepveu
2. katenepveu
jaspax, I'm confused by your references. Saruman has ashy-gray orcs who then create the Uruk-hai, which is the picture I linked, which doesn't look to me as you describe. Can you maybe find pictures to link to?

(And yes I know, why do you think I put that sentence in bold?)

I liked the idea of moving Arwen to the forefront better than the execution. Well, in this movie it wasn't so bad except for Liv Tyler, but it went rapidly downhill when Arwen stopped riding horses and started having the vapors. Which probably comes back to Liv Tyler again. =>
Miriam Uhlig
3. MKUhlig
One of my main problems with the movies (and this came after I had some distance in time from them, since I also loved them when they came out) is the decision to cast Frodo so young. In the books he is significantly older than the other hobbits. I envision the relationship as like a professor to his graduate students. This contributes to the separation and isolation that carrying the ring gives him. It also plays in better to what I consider that very English relationship of master and man that he and Sam have in the book and definitely do not have in the films.
JS Bangs
4. jaspax
OK, here was my reference image for the Uruk-Hai:

And this was the one that I was thinking when I referred to purple/gray coloring (though I don't think this is actually a Mordor-orc--I was probably confused on that point):

I didn't notice your link the first time, but I agree that this picture makes the orc look a lot more "black" than some of the others. The real question is, what does it look like on screen? I haven't seen the film recently enough to say.
Tim W.
5. Tim W.
I like Gandalf's escape from Orthanc better in the movie than in the book. He takes creative action using the tiny fragment of power left to him, rather than depending on good fortune.
Jason Deshaies
6. darxbane
Totally agree with most of your points, but I have to disagree with your view on stereotypes. I found the Uruk-Hai's hair to be like that of an animal's not a human's. Also, how does making them black portray more of a stereotype than making them brown, or yellow, or any color human skin is pigmented (except white of course, we all know it's impossible to be racist towards White people)? Isn't it possible that the director chose black because that color is the symbol for evil throughout the story (the Nazgul wear all black, the Black gate is the entrance to Mordor, Barad-dur is all black)? They looked nothing like humans to me, and I bet Jackson & Co. felt the same way. It didn't occur to them because they did not intend it that way. I think you are looking way too strongly into this.

Now that I'm done ranting: I loved the scenery in the story. I was not happy with Aragorn's arc, either. I didn't like Arwen's role that much (although I understand why streamlining characters helps a movie and blah, blah, blah). Finally, while I liked Boromir's character, his more obvious lust for the ring made Aragorn seem even more inept at protecting Frodo from him. At least the book makes it subtle enough to believe Aragorn missed the signs. They practically clubbed you over the head with this one. I have a lot more, but I'll let someone else comment.
Maggie M
7. Eswana
It [Frodo being older than the other hobbits] also plays in better to what I consider that very English relationship of master and man that he and Sam have in the book and definitely do not have in the films. I absolutely agree.

Fellowship is certainly my favorite of the three films, even though I like all three. Probably because it took the fewest liberities with the plot (::cough:: ridiculous dreamy rescues with river kisses and trained horses ::cough::).

I'm with you on Gimli. It doesn't get really bad until Two Towers, but he really is reduced to just one-liners and comedy relief. Maybe the central problem of such a large ensemble cast is the inability to give people complexities on film, especially when you have to keep things under three hours. Similarly, I think Legolas and Gimli's developig friendship was a huge casulty in the films. I know that in a movie you have to streamline, but it's a beautiful story of friendship and overcoming racial stereotypes yadda yadda yadda. Legolas was reduced to little more than a Pantene Pro-V commercial.

I'm in two minds about Elrond. At first when I saw the movie all I could think about was "Mr. Anderson..." but Hugo Weaving really grew on me, especially in the Return of the King.

Arwen rant time. Okay. I understand PJ's rationalization that Glorfindel would just be one additional character too many, and they wanted to integrate Aragorn & Arwen's story in the central work. Fine. However, I still feel that she was inserted to have a Love Story in what is primarily a boys' movie (note: not that girls can't enjoy LotR, because clearly that's untrue, but rather that romance wasn't Tolkien's aim here. It was a nice consequence, but not central to the book's main themes. Hence, appendices). Maybe PJ & Co felt that by giving Arwen (and in some ways, Eowyn) more prominace women would be more likely to tag along to their boyfriend's fourteenth viewing of the movie. Also, I don't think they ever really got Arwen right. At first, in Fellowship, she's a little too Xena-y for my taste. Then, by Return of the King, she's become a flat Disney princess, wasting away because her man is gone (I won't even start about the ridiculous "Arwen's fate is now tied to the fate of the Ring...... BLECH.")

What the films did exceptionally well:
-environment. It feels like Middle Earth. It looks like Middle Earth. It sounds like Middle Earth. Pretty much perfect as far as production design was concerned.

-make each third of the story have its own arc. Remember, LotR was not written as a trilogy, but one long honkin' book. It was broken as its natural places, but I think PJ and the screenwriters did a good job making each film feel complete in itself, while leaving you hungry for more.

-Gollum. Much of this is due to Andy Serkis' performance and the guys at Weta Digital making him look *so* believable, but I think they portrayed Gollum just about perfectly.
Kate Nepveu
8. katenepveu
MKUhlig @ #3, I would bet money that the changes to Frodo & Sam's relationship are deliberate, to make it more palatable to American audiences. I hadn't thought about Frodo's age in that regard, though.

jaspax @ #4, thanks for the image references. I think that some of that orange color is mud from the birthing pods/whatever that the Uruk-hai come out of. While the underlying skin color of the Uruk-hai doesn't fit perfectly within the range of normal human skin color--as you say, there's a bit of purple, rather than the blue you get at the very darkest end--it is much more evocative of humans than the gray skin of the other orcs. Plus there's the hair.

Tim W. @ #5, that's a good point about Gandalf's escape--a bonus for streamlining out Radagast's character.
Tim W.
9. Mike Molloy
Pretty much Amen all the way through your remarks here. You really hit all my main peeves about this movie, in particular the "loud, flashy, and violent" treatment of the magic, and the abomination that is movie-Gimli. One difference I have is that the Sauron vs the Last Alliance did not especially bother me, maybe because I like that scene as a whole so much. I mean, yeah, it's non-canonical (likewise the cheap way Isildur/Faramir accidentally cuts off Sauron's ring finger and thereby defeats Sauron), but didn't make me cringe in my seat like the wizard fights and the Galadriel-on-acid scene.

Along the lines of your complaint about the wimpification of Frodo, it really annoys me that throughout the three films Sam seems to be on the verge of weeping every time he addresses Frodo. Also the fact that he stays rather plump through months of walking all day...maybe that's getting ahead to the later movies, though you'd think he'd've trimmed down some already by Moria.

Still, I find it's pretty easy to ignore the many annoying things and enjoy the things Jackson does well, which he generally does very well indeed. As radical a change as it is compared to the book the tremendous compression of the trip from the Shire to Rivendell is well done, and was sorely needed to make the movie a manageable length. And the troll fight and collapsing stairways in Moria...worth the price of admission by themselves.
Kate Nepveu
10. katenepveu
darxbane @ #6, how does making them black portray more of a stereotype than making them brown, or yellow, or any color human skin is pigmented

Because there are many more stereotypes that black people are scary than people of other skin colors?

Also, I did say that I wasn't accusing them of intending it that way. Right after the big bold letters.

As far as Boromir's more obvious desire for the Ring--I did notice that the movie shifted the mechanics of Frodo & Boromir ending up alone, probably to address this. Instead of Frodo asking for an hour alone and then no-one noticing that Boromir had left, Frodo seems to have slipped off _immediately_ after they landed, followed right after by Boromir. And while it's one of the hobbits who notices that Frodo's gone, I think Aragorn does at least start looking right away.

But in general, yeah, subtlety is not something the movies were really going for, I think. =>

Eswana @ #7, I love Gollum and can't wait to see more of him in the next movies. Serkis is fabulous.

As for Elrond, in the later movies is that his character is tied up with that stupid Arwen plot, so Weaving's portrayal doesn't really have the chance to grow on me.

Mike Molloy @ #9, the collapsing staircase didn't wear that well for me on re-watch, particularly on TV, but "They have a cave troll" is possibly my favorite line in the whole movie. Sean Bean is so great.
Hugh Arai
11. HArai
Kate, with regard to the Uruk-hai: with the fangs, the drooling,the yellow eyes and the being spawned out of a sack of ooze, and strangling an orc when it tries to wipe the ooze off, for me they sort of flipped the switch from stereotype of people to movie monster. Like vampires or werewolves. Sort of like the cave troll wasn't a big strong people are stupid sterotype but you know.. a troll.

That said, if you took it the way you did, then it obviously can be taken that way. Which is, as you say, not cool. So I guess I check in as one of the unconscious. Must think about that.

Comedy Gimli was the single thing I hated the most about the movies. Even in the Hobbit, the dwarves are not buffoons. In the rest of Tolkien's extended history they are sober and dignified. Feared warriors and respected craftsmen. Shampoo model/action-hero Legolas also very disappointing. I also missed the elf/dwarf friendship plotline, but after changing these two into one-ply, how could it have any impact?

I disliked the changes to put Arwen in very much as well. The parts given to her weaken the presentation of Frodo (his defiance at the Ford is much more impressive than hers) and Aragon (he doesn't even heal Frodo at Weathertop!). Arguing Glorfindel is one too many characters is pure rationalization. Take her out and put him in. Or leave him out and have Aragorn cover his part. If you want a "what's Aragorn fighting for" have a flashback while he's in Lorien or something. I will not argue there is a lack of female characters in the first book. This was not a good way to put one in though.

Loved the scenery, Sean Bean's Boromir, the cave troll and the Balrog.

Was ok with the "Saruman cast weather spells" instead of Caradhras being an evil mountain. Hard to explain evil mountain on film. Disliked the wizard fu duel. Thought the Galdriel temptation should have been played with way more subtlety.
Was ok with the Old Forest/Tom Bombadil removal. I like that part a lot in the book but it streamlined out well. Can not figure out where the genetic weakness for the Ring thing came from though.

All in all I loved it though. Especially since the only other adaptation of LotR I had seen was that animated musical version of Return of the King with the orcs singing "where there's a whip there's a way"...
Luke M
12. lmelior
"They have a cave troll" is possibly my favorite line in the whole movie. Sean Bean is so great.

Yes! Before you even posted that I was about to say that Sean Bean's delivery throughout the entire movie was utterly fantastic. The line (in the movie, that is, it's slightly different in the book) that sticks in my mind is, "it is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing." Chilling...I have goosebumps thinking about it.

I'm not much a fan of the collapsing staircase, as it just doesn't seem like a necessary if fleeing a giant, immortal demon that's on fire isn't scary enough. Not to mention it further solidifies Gimli's position as comic relief ("Nobody tosses a dwarf" and "Ahhhh! Not the beard!").
Tim W.
13. tamyrlink
i never noticed the race thing (or possibility thereof) about the uruk-hai. something to think on now...

i thought the magic battle between gandalf and saruman could have been way better and more flashy/showy than it was. that was basically telekenesis. even with their staffs prue from charmed would have owned that room. i expected more in the way of magic from two...whatever their other side of the ocean demigod designation is.

i too found it odd that gimli didnt know he was in the midst of a battle field. denser than a rock he was...

i expected a lot more from gandalfs fall, tho i suppose they made up for it in the next movie with the flashback.

Galadriel has always been my favorite elf (i have a thing for super powered women lol). i thought her whole temptation thing was rendered perfectly on screen. in my head it was always an internal thing with her, but to see it externalized was pretty cool.

celeborn, cele-who?

i liked that arwen was made out to be pretty martial in this movie, cant remember if she did all that stuff in the book.

it was very difficult for me (at first and still kinda) to reconcile Agent Smith with Elrond. thats all imma say.

gollum rocked.

and bilbo spazzing out when he saw frodo with the ring is my hands down favorite scene. (cant remember which movie tho...)
Tim W.
14. Mike Molloy
Kate@10 and lmelior@12 -- I'm not much a fan of the collapsing staircase, as it just doesn't seem like a necessary if fleeing a giant, immortal demon that's on fire isn't scary enough. Not to mention it further solidifies Gimli's position as comic relief ("Nobody tosses a dwarf" and "Ahhhh! Not the beard!")

Yeah, agreed that the dwarf-tossing joke is both unfunny and offensive. (And revisited in Two Towers.) I don't so much like what the characters do in this scene, nor Jackson's taking the opportunity to give us his typical cliffhanger-where-you-know-everyone-will-be-fine situation. I just like the look at this part of the mines; the enormous caverns, the stairways themselves, the impressive collapse of the stairs when part of the roof falls in. Nice piece of visual world-building.
Tim W.
15. Mellificent
I always thought that Peter Jackson's Uruk-Hai were very influenced by Maori culture, for what that's worth.

I remember that when I was going to see this movie over and over in 2001 and 2002, I thought there were three dumb parts that made me itchy every time: (1) The Watcher in the Water, because I didn't like the execution of it; (2) the staircase bit, because it just shouldn't be there at all; and (3) Galadriel's Mirror, which was basically botched CGI. (The CGI is really all over the place in the movies overall. Some places it's incredibly subtle; others it's horribly cartoonish, like Galadriel and my other pet peeve, the ghost army in the last movie.)
Tim W.
16. Jon Meltzer
I suppose I've played too much Nethack, because my interpretation of Boromir's cave troll line was "Oh, joy. Now we have to waste our time killing this thing."

Of course, if it had been Nethack Gandalf would be shouting "Eat the troll!" after it was dead ...
Kate Nepveu
17. katenepveu
HArai @ #11: yeah, the Uruk-hai are monsters, but humanoid monsters with gray skin, brown skin, and black skin convey different things, is what I mean. Thanks for saying you'll think about it.

All the references to Legolas as a shampoo model are cracking me up, by the way.

lmelior @ #12, Boromir does seem to have more than his fair share of memorable lines, doesn't he?

tamyrlink @ #13, welcome. I think it would be hard for them to show more about Gandalf's fall without giving away that he was going to come back, so I can see why they waited until the next movie.

(Also, if you weren't being sarcastic, Celeborn was the guy standing next to Galadriel when the Fellowship arrived in Lorien.)

Mike Molloy @ #14, I agree that the _look_ of Moria is great.

Mellificent @ #15, I'd like it if you would expand on how you saw the movie Uruk-hai as influenced by Maori culture. All I know is that the actor who played the most visible Uruk-hai, Lawrence Makoare, is Maori.

Jon Meltzer @ #16, now I have to reference the LJ usericon I made:

Yes, I am a great big dork.
Tim W.
18. Elaine T.
One of my main problems with the movies (and this came after I had some distance in time from them, since I also loved them when they came out) is the decision to cast Frodo so young. In the books he is significantly older than the other hobbits

While I wonder why people complain about this, when Frodo got the Ring at the Hobbit-equivalent-to-Human age of 21, and froze there (physically). He should look young. The movie rather collapses the time between him getting it and leaving, though - couldn't they have had a "27 years pass" note? Didn't they have one at the very beginning dating the Party to x number after the finding of the Ring? And movie Frodo does act more mature than the other hobbits. On the Frodo-Sam relationship question I think no one involved in the movie grasped such a relationship so they couldn't do it properly. Maybe they needed someone from the old Upstairs/Downstairs show to consult?

I loathed the Aragorn arc, although I thought they got the look in Fellowship down really well. Even if, as a Numenorean he shouldn't have had facial hair. The cleaner-shaven Aragorn of the late movies doesn't seem right, somehow.

As someone else said, visually, for the look of Middle-Earth, PJ/Weta/Alan Lee did a great job.

What I remember mostly from the Fellowship movie is a sense that Aragorn and the hobbits liked and trusted each other and cared about each other. I'm not sure it came through so much in the book.

I wouldn't have minded Arwen-Warrior-Princess, if her introduction hadn't been so dumb, and she hadn't taken over Frodo's courage, and she didn't dwindle so. Why they thought they needed her I can't really imagine.
j p
19. sps49
The scenery in the movie was mostly very nice, except there didn't seem to be anything flat in Eriador.

The collapsing staircase was terrible. A masonry structure that big wouldn't tip over, it would very quickly breakup and collapse straight downward into a pile of rubble. And none of those pieces would've stayed intact as they fell, either. Subtle, maybe, but very nonrealistic.

I also did not find the actresses (except Liv Tyler) nearly as attractive as the book describes. And NONE of the male Elves looked right (to me), even aside from the ears.

I saw this movie once is the theater. I was happy that my GF (and her little sister) at the time went with me, but when the movie ended and she realized it was not over she went ballistic. And never saw the next two.

Kate: your bold note came after your comment which, intended or not, sounded to me like you meant it was an unconscious intention, not unintentional.

I am glad that the movie helped bring SF/ Fantasy out of the nerd ghetto it was in for my first three decades.
j p
20. sps49
@ Elaine T-

Nûmenôreans don't have facial hair?
21. selidor
Elaine T@18, also MKUhlig@3:

On the Frodo-Sam relationship question I think no one involved in the movie grasped such a relationship so they couldn't do it properly.

I would be very surprised if that relationship had been interpreted as anything other than mateship, in the Kiwi/Australian sense. Interpreting it as a master/servant relationship is not something with which I could see people from a Down Under cultural background feeling comfortable. But it fits perfectly with the mateship tradition.
Hugh Arai
22. HArai
sps49@19: Well since Arwen and Galadriel were supposed to be pretty much #2 and #2a after Luthien who was the fairest of all the Children of the World, I think you'll have to cut the actresses some slack :)

Oh and regarding people's comments about Celeborn, frankly I was really surprised he was even in the movie. I mean, in the book he doesn't really DO anything. Heck in the extended history he doesn't really do anything except marry Galadriel (who seems to be the power in Lorien from then on) and have Elrond for a son-in-law.

My take on the Frodo-Sam relationship is that it's one of those things that are hard to explain in a book let alone in a movie. After all, the Bagginses,Brandybucks,and Tooks are all aristocrats and the Gamgees are distinctly not. But no one in the books really keeps the class distinction in mind except Sam himself.
Tim W.
23. cofax

Agreed on all your comments. I would note that I think Arwen could have been salvaged with better casting. Liv Tyler was far to young to play a woman who was, conservatively, 2500 years old. She simply hasn't the gravitas. If they'd cast an older actress in the part they might have been able to do more with her later instead of having her swoon around in Rivendell.

Granted, Tyler was cast when Stuart Townsend was cast as Aragorn, and he's rather younger than Mortensen, which probably played into it. It's my understanding the studio insisted on Tyler, as a "name" they knew could draw the crowds.

I still fantasize about Claudia Black in the role, though. She would have been awesome, and far more believable as an Elven woman of great age and power.
David Spiller
24. scifidavid
Awesome! You have just given me an excuse to re-watch this movie!
j p
25. sps49
HArai @22- Arwen was okay, can't have her look old, but EĂłwyn and Galadriel struck me as meh.

Celeborn was portrayed perfectly; he was useless in the book, too.
Tim W.
26. birgit
Removing the Old Forest and Bombadil in the movie makes sense, but the timescale doesn't work because of it. Gandalf sends the hobbits off in Hobbiton and suddenly he is in Minas Tirith, while the Fellowship needs much time to travel the same distance.
Soon Lee
27. SoonLee
sps49 @25:
Thanks. That made me laugh.

Mellificent @15 & Kate @17:
Some of the Uruk were played by Maori (most notably Lawrence Makaore who played "Lurtz") but apart from that, I didn't perceive any Maori connection.

Overall, I really liked the movie. New Zealand's landscape was used to excellent effect, and for most part, any disappointment with deviations from the book were drowned by the excitement of seeing a beloved story on the big screen.

The bits I missed most were the Barrow Downs & Glorfindel. Arwen the action heroine seemed too much of a disconnect from the book version.

The only bit I disliked was the cartoony & heavy-handed portrayal of Galadriel in overlord mode.
Tim W.
28. DemetriosX
General agreement here, especially on the Gimli and collapsing stairs in Moria bits. I also thought the fight with the cave troll went on far too long (and they missed a chance for a big explosion when Gandalf sealed the passage in the book).

Another thing that really bothered me, though it shouldn't have, was the way they kept slipping chapter titles into the dialogue (Riddles in the Dark, Shortcut to Mushrooms, etc.). It was a nice homage, but every time it happened, it took me completely out of the flow of the movie.

My only real problem with Elrond was the costuming. There's no reason he shouldn't seem a bit foreboding and grim. Actually, I've always pictured Elrond a bit like Mark Lenard playing Sarek.

Of course, the biggest problem is the casting of Elijah Wood. He was the youngest person on the set, barely 21 when filming started, and Frodo was a mature adult, older than the other hobbits. (I think we discussed this earlier.) It also doesn't help that he has maybe 2 facial expressions. It's bad news when the CGI character has more expression than your lead actor.
Sara H
29. LadyBelaine
I rather liked Cate Blanchette (I also am a total Cate fangirl, so, there) as Galadriel and she was everything Galadriel was supposed to be - aloof, silvery, regal, imperious, mysterious, coldy beautiful....

...but her temptation scene was awful.

(I am also not so fond her appearance in the epilogue, fwiw)

Arwen, I thought, was a decent addition in the first film. The image of the beautiful woman, her rippling lavender cloak and flowing dark hair being chased by huge slavering black horses ridden by Nazgul looks great on screen and was rather effective. I also like that 'she' was the rescuer in that scene (and not the damsel needing rescue) and she challenges them and ultimately saves Frodo and herself.

I am sorry, but that just worked for me.

Her later appearances are meh, but then again, Arwen is barely a footnote in most of the trilogy.

And for what it's worth, Liv Tyler was sufficiently gorgeous to play the role, I think.
Tim W.
30. toryx
Turning Gimli into the butt of virtually every joke they could think of is the one thing that turned me off with the movies. I'm fond of Dwarves to start with, so it's a touchy subject with me, but the dude deserved a lot more respect than he got.

I know that in pop culture the elves are always more popular than the dwarves and I realize that they were working for the delight of the public but man, it irritates me whenever I watch the movies again.
Tim W.
31. jfarish102
Kate, I found myself disagreeing with you about the color of the Uruk-Hai skin. It never even ocurred to me that their skin color could be a subconcious stereo-type. So I took some time and examined my thoughts and feelings from when I first saw the movie, and I just didn't think that way. They always seemed more like animals to me, creations of Sauruman.

I really did not like Liv Tyler as Arwen. I don't mind that they have increased her time in the movie vs. the book, but it's taken me years to be able to watch her in this movie without getting angry at her having been cast at all, let alone her acting.

As for the Aragarn "inherited weakness" thing, I just didn't see it as necessary. Why not portray Aragorn as he was, in his full splendor as a king in exile battling against all hope to defeat evil, regain his ancient kingdoms, and thereby win the girl. Seeing his greatness would have been just fine on the big screen.

Moria: I loved everything about Moria. The cave troll battle and the balrog were magnificent, as others have said. The collapsing stairwell was unnecessary, just hollywood fluff which made the movie even longer. Could they not have just cut to the bridge at khazad-dum?

Galadriel's temptation: cheesy, stupid, unnecessary, poorly done, did I leave anything out?

Elrond: I did not like how they changed his character. In the books he was full of ancient wisdom and kindness. In the movie they turned him into an ornery man-hater. Did not like that at all.
Tim W.
32. Liddle-Oldman
I really wanted to like these movies. Occasionaly I can. What's heartbreaking is that it's obvious that Jackson realy cared and tried so hard.

In no particular order --

What most occured to me about the various orcs was, the orc grunts were Ferengi, and the Uruk-Hai (who they seem to have confused with the half-orcs) were Klingons. I suspect that your problem with their race (and I quite agree with you) is that all Klingons, now, are played by black actors, and thus so were the Uruk-Hai.

Frodo on Weathertop -- serious wimpification, and that's indicitave of one of my most serious complaints about the movies. Not only is no-one heroic, they're all deliberately un-heroed. Frodo, instead of invoking Elbereth and striking at the Nazgul, cries and tries to crawl away. Theoden, when the signal-fires are lit, asks "What's in this for me?" Farimir, instead of aiding the two hobbits, captures them and brings them into danger. (I was so angry at that.)

The other serious problem I had with the movies was their movie-ness. If a scene in the book was active, they made it ever so much bigger. Hundred foot elephants with six tusks? If a scene in the book was quiet -- and how much of the book was people talking, planning, reporting, discussing? -- they just junked it and wrote womething theatrical and pointless -- the whole episode of Aragon going over the cliff and only his horse goes to look for him.

I grant you that most of it was solid, if riddled with silliness, and we're not likely to get a better version (until I make several billion dollars and do it again verbatim). It's watchable. It's just pitched at 21st century cynical teenqagers with no attention span, and stripped of all of the 19th century heroic journey we read it for.

This, I believe!
Tim W.
33. GoblinRevolution
While I have missed most of the relevant discussion, I feel compelled to add my 2¢.

There are really two things that I cannot stand about this film:

1) Jackson's decision to wussify Saruman. Saruman was a being of vast power making his own play for the One Ring. In the film he comes off as a Sauron's fawning lackey. WTF? Yes, he was corrupted by his use of the Palantir and yes he was falling under the dominion of the Enemy, but in his own mind and actions he was making his own attempt at ultimate power. Jackson buggered this character up but good. Way to take the one other character who is a main threat to the Fellowship (and Middle Earth) and turn him into nothing more than a thug.

2) Gollum. Everything about him. Perhaps I have been too heavily influenced by the BBC animated Hobbit from when I was a child, but Gollum was far to recognizable as a hobbit. He is centuries old and have been physically corrupted by the One Ring. He should bear no resemblance to hobbits or men in anyway but be far more 'evil' like the Ringwraiths. This, I know, flies in the face of absolutely everyone's opinion, yet I cannot stand his look, his portrayal or his voice.

Things I hate but can put up with:

1) Gimli. Yes, it is a great pity what Jackson did to Gimli, but I can understand why he did it: appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator. The wider movie going audience (the ones that the studio counted on for all of their millions of dollars) expect comic relief. Gimli was the only real option here. Yes, Peregrin and Merriodoc could have fulfilled this role (and in many scenes do), their parts in the overall story are smaller and less frequent. Elves must be serious, Men must be serious, Wizards must be serious, but Dwarfs? Dwarfs are ready made for LCD comic relief.

2) Frodo. Why on earth was Elijah Wood cast as Frodo? Why on earth was he directed to be a pussy? Frodo's whininess only increases as the films progress, reaching the ultimate heights of boo-hoo-woe-is-me gutlessness in Return of the King. Too effeminate, too lacking in the inner steel the character truly has.

3) Liv Taylor. I saw an interview with her during the run up to the release of Fellowship... where she stated that she was glad that Arwen's role had been expanded because there were only two strong female characters in the books: Arwen and Shelob. Yes, that's right, Shelob. That right there told me that Taylor would not only be horrible as Arwen, but that it was clear she either had not read The Lord of the Rings or did not bother to read anything dealing with Eowen. But once again, the LDC must be appeased. Taylor is nice to look at, so Jackson was more or less forced to increase her screen time.

The Awesomeness:

The Balrog. Period. The Balrog rocked. The Cave Troll was a close second, but the Balrog was 'teh hotnez'.

In the end, the extended versions were better than the theatrical versions, but they remain flawed, and in some particulars, horribly flawed.
Tim W.
34. sunjah
Liddle-Oldman@32 hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned. Un-heroing is a perfect description of my most serious objection to the movies. I can't say it better.

Cheesy visuals I can forgive, especially for the sake of the awesome ones.
Tim W.
35. firkin
What these films do best are the visualization, sets, costumes, scenery: with the exception of Rohan (which is entirely too rocky) i think the physical world-building is quite wonderful, and i don't mind at all when i see PJ's Bag End while re-reading the text. i agree with many of the comments on characterization, casting (Elijah Wood in particular; not a fan of Eowyn either, but we're not there yet), and unnecessary action sequences.

And i am with Kate 100% on the uruk-hai. I don't think the orcs portrayed on-screen are substantially different or worse than those in the book (indeed, i naively hoped for an improvement), but i wish the filmmakers had made some different decisions there, especially about the dreadlocks. I'm honestly confused by those posters who say the uruk-hai hair seems animal-like, as humans are the only animals i can think of that grow much longer hair on heads than elsewhere (there are manes and tails, but that's clearly not what we're seeing here), and to me the long hair of the fighting uruk-hai unambiguously and unnecessarily evokes dreadlocks.

re: Maori influence -- there's something in the commentary or special features for the Two Towers extended edition on this, in particular the orc-chanting before the battle of Helm's Deep may have some relation to traditional Maori war chants, but it's been a few years so i wouldn't swear to it in court. I don't recall if this originated with the Maori actors or the filmmakers, but I am pretty sure it was mostly acting and behavior-related, nothing to do with the character design.
Kate Nepveu
36. katenepveu
Elaine T. @ #18, I think the movie did better to make it ambiguous how much time passed between Biblo's leaving and the starting of the rest of the plot, but then I would because I found it really hard to swallow that that much time passed in the book.

sps49 @ #19, either there isn't any flat land in Eriador or Jackson's extreme fondness for vertigous camera work took over . . . => (This is most noticeable in the third movie, but I'd forgotten how much it was used here, too.)

and: when the movie ended and she realized it was not over she went ballistic. And never saw the next two.

Oh, no! It's like the friend I gave _Hyperion_ to, thinking that it said on the back cover or at the end that there was a sequel, and then several months later he told me how much he hated it because it just *stopped*!

Finally, I'm not sure what the distinction between unconscious & unintentional is that you're making. Please feel free to expand.

selidor @ #21, interesting about "mateship," thanks. It would be very difficult to convey a master/servant relationship in America, too, without making it comedic, subversive, or otherwise not as Tolkien intended.

cofax @ #23, the studio insisted on Liv Tyler as a draw?! What had she done to this point, besides be in one of those summer asteroid movies?

I've never seen any of Claudia Black's work, but her pictures are intriguing.

birgit @ #26, time scales are a problem for the whole trilogy on film. I remember counting days in the third movie and concluding that no, they really can't all meet up at the same time.

SoonLee @ #27, while I was fine with removing the Barrow Downs for time, considering Jackson's background in horror, if he could have been convinced to portray it in a restrained fashion, that would have been pretty awesome.

DemetriosX @ #28, I can see how the chapter titles in dialogue would be jarring, but they made me happy instead; I'm not sure why.

And yeah, Elijah Wood's performance has not worn well for me.

LadyBelaine @ #29, it was precisely because Cate Blanchett was so good in the role otherwise that the temptation scene was so bad.

Liv Tyler is beautiful and I also liked the chase sequence; but over the course of the trilogy I just did not think she had the acting chops to pull off the role. I agree that the problems were more in the next two.

jfarish102 @ #31, thanks for taking the time to think about it.

Liddle-Oldman @ #32, I'm pretty rusty on Star Trek-ish stuff, but your comparison seems reasonable from what I know.

And just wait until it's time to talk about the next movie! I lapse into Gollum-speak whenever I think about it. We hates it, precious, oh we hates it . . .

GoblinRevolution @ #33, I hadn't thought about the changes to Saruman as wimping him up (down?) too. I think the movies reverse his arc, basically, by having him start to act for his own power later on--or am I misremembering? What did you think of that?

firkin @ #35, thanks, and if the Uruk-hai were indeed given _cultural_ similarities to the Maori by the filmmakers, I will have to beat my head against my desk. Repeatedly.
Tim W.
I'm surprised that nobody is complaining about Arwen in the chase scene. The way PJ cut and spliced the shots together really didn't work for me at all. She's about to get cut off, she is way in front, she is almost surrounded...maybe it's just me.

Elrond the prick was a definite sore spot for me. He can be abrupt or untrusting of humans, fine, but he treats his 2 or 3 millenia old daughter like a 10 year old.

It's a running joke in our house everytime we see the movies while channel surfing: Elijah Wood and his stupid eye-rolling swoon everytime something EEEEVILLLL is around. I actually liked him in most of the first movie but was ready to scream by the time ROTK ended.
Tim W.
38. legionseagle
firkin@35 IIRC, the commentary on the extended edition references not traditional Maori chants specifically but rugby chants.

Now, it is undoubtedly the case that there are all sorts of complicated issues regarding the interface between Maori culture and its appropriation for rugby purposes, including the point about the Colonial era missionaries introducing rugby as an allegedly "civilising" influence on the Maori.

However, whatever you think about all that, for example the haka and how it is used by the All Blacks, and all the current burning debates about the haka in international rugby circles, which I can bore for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland about, that is not what the commentary on The Two Towers said.

The extras playing the Uruk-Hai are self-evidently, for the most part, extremely fit young male New Zealanders. Which, as night follows day, means that the vast bulk of them are either active rugby players or have grown up immersed in rugby culture. (By the same token the Riders of Rohan are, for the most part, extremely fit young female New Zealanders in false beards).

What the DVD bits actually talked about was the way in which the Uruk-Hai extras before the Helm's Deep walls started singing rugby chants and "giving it the needle" in rugby terms. The fact is, many of those chants also derive from/are bastardised versions of Maori cultural artefacts. If it had been filmed in Wales the chants and the behavioural attributes would have been done in Welsh, aka Sindarin, and would probably have had to be overdubbed into something like Maori or KisSwahili to prevent confusion between the races of Middle-Earth.
Kate Nepveu
39. katenepveu
Ah, the rugby chants (during filming downtime, that got taken up?) rings a bell for me from when I saw those extras years ago, and will save my poor head. Thanks for the clarification.
Hugh Arai
40. HArai
katenepveu@36: Prior to LotR, Liv Tyler had actually done a fair number of movies that were popular enough for a studio to want her for a "beautiful elven princess" part:

Empire Records
Stealing Beauty
That Thing You Do!
Inventing the Abbots
One Night at McCool's

I make no claims toward her having fantastic acting chops but I feel that her part in the LotR movies is so clunky and shoehorned in that I'm not sure who could have made a solid performance out of it.

BRPBRP@37: Agreed on the Elrond the prick thing. And actually when you look at his family tree (one grandfather was Tuor, one great-grandfather was Beren) the distrusting humans part is pretty bizarre as well. Of course, that may be tied into the whole weakness of Men they decided to tack on to Aragorn and Faramir.
Kate Nepveu
41. katenepveu
HArai, fair enough; you can tell I'm completely not the demographic for Tyler's prior movies. Though I did see _Armaggedon_, I'm not sure why, and now I need to go fire up the iPod to get that (1) that Aerosmith song and (2) the awful love scene with her and Ben Affleck out of my head . . .
Luke M
42. lmelior
@Mellificent #15
I was mostly okay with the CGI, but the one part that always gets me is when Legolas swings up onto the horse during the fight with the wargs in the second movie. That looks so awkward and ridiculous, and it certainly doesn't help that they actually show it in slow motion. I actually wasn't too upset by the temptation of Galadriel since they went all showy with the other magic parts. The ghost army looked good to me, even if what they did in the movie was a bit ridiculous.

@Kate's NetHack icon
NetHack? What about Moria (which is even older!) or it's later variant Angband? I'm gonna have to hand in my geek card though, as I've only played the graphical version of NetHack, and even that not for long.
Tim W.
43. GoblinRevolution
katenepveu @ #36:

The entire role of Saruman and (if you ask me) the whole point of The Lord of the Rings is completely lost with Jackson's changes. While there is the reversal of the arc you mention, the fact that the Scouring of the Shire is entirely absent from the film and Saruman dying pretty much destroys the dramatic resolution of the novel. The thrust of LotR is that the Shadow has touched the entire world, even the green and pleasant land of the Shire. Saruman is the agent of the Shire's destruction and is necessary to this theme. Wussifying him and then killing him (in a completely inane way, I might add) necessitates that the Scouring must be cut from the films.

This, I think is the greatest of the crimes Jackson committed against the novels. There are no happy endings, evil comes to all, no one is untouched by the Shadow and nothing can remain pure; that is the moral of LotR and Jackson's films completely gut the emotional impact. When I first came to the end of the novel there was an almost physical reaction to the description of Saruman's raping of the Shire. I felt loss, rage, grief and true sorrow. Jackson dispenses with this and instead gives out great heaping handfuls of sentimentality. LDC strikes again.
j p
44. sps49
katenepveu @36-

I take "unconscious" as intentional without being aware of what one is doing- but it still reflects one's beliefs, outlook, vision, whatever.

"Unintentional" is simpler; a choice is made based on material available, intentions are different but result appears the same. Accidental.

So is the Hyperion series good? I don't want any weird Gainax endings!
Tim W.
45. firkin
legionseagle@38 - thanks for that. it's been years since i watched that, guess i conflated a few things. i stand corrected.
Hugh Arai
46. HArai
katenepveu@41: I've only seen Armageddon as well. Many apologies for earworming you. I can't seem to bring either the song or the love scene to mind. Likely a good thing. :)
Tim W.
47. GoblinRevolution
sps49 @ #44:

There has been much discussion about The Hyperion Cantos and either people love it or hate it. I am of the opinion that you should read Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion and then stop. Do not, under any circumstances, read only Hyperion (although Jo Walton has made a different and convincing argument on these boards that Hyperion can stand alone) without reading Fall.... I did not really care for the next two books (Endymion and Rise of Endymion) but if you are captivated by Simmons' universe and want to 'find out what happens next' by all means read them.

I am of the opinion that The Hyperion Cantos is some of the finest Science Fiction written.
Tim W.
48. DaveT
katenepveu @ 8 and 36, selidor@21, and thus Elaine T@18 and MKUhlig@3:

I have felt that Americans are actually better positioned to take the master/servant relationship of Frodo and Sam (and the kingship of Aragorn) as Tolkien intended it, compared to other ex-Empire places. Monarchy, and the traditional English class structure, have vastly more baggage in the UK and New Zealand and Australia and India and ... than they do in the US, which escaped early enough that we don't feel their weight. To us Americans, the master/servant thing evokes Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter, if not Bertie Wooster and Jeeves -- quaintly admirable.

The relationship Tolkien intended to portray simply doesn't exist for Jackson; he can only see it as a cover story for something ugly, akin to what "happy darkies dancing at the plantation" would be to Americans. Making Sam be Frodo's buddy who likes to carry stuff was perhaps the best fallback position he could think of.

The same thing happened to Aragorn. How do you film a Romance about the Return of the True King when you know in your bones that monarchy is an evil institution, and that monarchs are petty and venal and ignorant? You have to make your king unwilling and unkingly, to begin with. Again, wholly incompatible with Tolkien's intent.

(Note: this is NOT an argument that an American would have done it better. It was Disneyfied enough as it was. It's just that the departures from Tolkien's story would have been *different* departures...)
Tim W.
49. cmpalmer
FWIW, there are a few things that make me cringe in the LOTR movies, but nothing that I truly "hate".

I admire Jackson for tackling the project with the dedication that it deserved, but there were a few times where his schlock horror roots were showing (the tilted shaky zoom cam shots and Galadriel's temptation scenes come to mind).

Overall, though, the look of the movies impressed me the most. The dedication to things like the weapons and costuming were incredible (right down to the arrowheads of the elves in Lothlorien). The first time I saw the movies, a few things didn't look like I imagined them. Strangely enough, when I re-read the books later, the movie had portrayed those things faithfully to the book - it was my memory and imagination that were faulty.

One thing that bugged me was how the world looked when Frodo put on the ring. Tolkien himself was a bit inconsistent on this, though. When Bilbo finds the ring in The Hobbit and puts in on, he doesn't realize anything has happened or that he is invisible. That stuck in my mind when the movie showed the foggy, loud, streaky version. I was surprised that in the book, this is pretty much how it is described (at least later in the books, like when Frodo puts on the ring right before the breaking of the Fellowship).

I didn't like Aragorn's doubt about his ability to be king as a reason for his wandering, but I liked that they discussed his age and the ages of the elves (the scene where Elrond recalls the battle against Sauron gave me chills).

All-in-all, while there are things in the movies that could have been done better (poor Gimli), I don't know that anyone else could have done a better job on the movies.
Michael Ikeda
50. mikeda
I like all three movies. There are things here and there that I wish Jackson hadn't done but I think overall he did an excellent job of translating the essence of the books onto the screen.

I definitely agree with the omission of both the Bombadil segment and the Scouring. I like both of them in the book, but what they have in common is that they are largely self-contained segments that can be removed without minimal effect on the rest of the story.

(Removing the Bombadil segment does mean that you have to find another way of getting Merry his dagger, but that's not a difficult problem.)
Andrew Foss
51. alfoss1540
My commercial for the movies: like others, for bringing fantasy out of the basement and getting non nerds interested in LOTR - They were incredible.

The visual imagery was stunning. As we have discussed, LOTR is more about Middle Earth than it is about the story of the Ring, and the people that it affects. The epic story is gravy. Jackson's New Zealand travel agents' dream captured Middle Earth in ways I had not before seen, or changed my views for the better.

But the Characters were problematic. Especially:

Smith-Elrond - Elrond was hard to get a fix on from the text. Grey Eyes, Dark Hair, regal, wise and distinguished. Thanks Eswana@7 for the Mr. Anderson Quip. Way too harsh in so many ways.

Arwen - I always figured they wrote such a big Arwen to Justify bringing Liv Tyler to New Zealand for a year and a million bucks. Arwen's 1 scene in the book would never have warranted that.

Sam - Simple does not mean stupid oaf. And he was bigger than Frodo, which I never imagined myself.

Frodo - I have forgiven much about Elijah Wood by erasing him from my memory when I read the book. They are simply too different to put together. He is not bad for the movie, but he is also not Frodo.

Aragorn - We have torn his character apart throughout the reread - but haven't even come close to destroying him as much as Morgenstern did.

Gimli - embarrassing

All the Elves - Jackson must have skipped The Silmarillion. Gildor and most of Lorien were a dissappointment

Hobbits - D&D aside - They are nonmagical, but Humans might think otherwise as they are quiet, can dissappear or seem invisible at will. Jackson's Hobbits were loud, stupid, clueless, childish - so much less dignified than the the book depicted them.

Orcs - I had trouble with the birthing ceremony - but it was more of an explanation than Tolkein ever gave.

Those are who stand out

My other real problem is with the time frames. Gandalf left the Shire, got to Orthanac, excaped and returned to help bring Frodo back to life in less than 2 weeks time. It just didn't compute. Orthanc was pristine when Gandalf arrived - only to transform into the caves and underground city in what amounts to a week - movie time

Also - that from the party to Gandalf's return 15 years vs 1 year - May have worked for people who have not read it, but I am still having trouble with it. (The scene where Gandalf was smoking in and amongst all that parchment made my skin crawl)

I am forever in debt to Howard Shore for the Soundtracks - I was listening to The Two Towers again today. Also to the singers - Enya, Sheila Chandra, Annie Lennox, Viggo, Billy and the creepy singer of the Gollum song from TT.
Kate Nepveu
52. katenepveu
lmelior @ #42, any CGI where one character is in motion on to/atop another character just looks bad. The cave troll in this movie, the oliphaunts in the third . . .

Also, the birds don't look right to me. Something about the feathers.

And NetHack is my only Rogue-like game. Man, I really need to update the spoiler page for that, and finish this game I've had sitting on my hard drive for years . . .

GoblinRevolution @ #43, thanks for your thoughts about the changes to Saruman. I absolutely agree that the ending of the third doesn't show enough of Frodo's loss, though I'd thought before that you could still manage that without the Scouring. We'll see what I think this go-round.

sps49 @ #44, re: unconscious v. unintentional racist behavior: huh, thanks, I do see what you're saying. That level of distinction can't usually be made definitively from the outside, but to me the more important point is that one can do racist things without meaning to, under either option. And then once that's been pointed out, one should go and think about why it happened and what one can do about it--consider which of your options is the one, in other words.

Much discussion of the Hyperion books elsewhere on the site; I don't think the ending is anywhere near as bad as _Neon Genesis Evangelion_, at least from what I've heard of it!

HArai @ #46: re: love scene in _Armageddon_: two words: animal crackers.

I wish I were making that up.

DaveT @ #48, that's interesting about the more recently ex- colonies having more baggage about monarchy and English class structure. I wouldn't have thought countries that still have Elizabeth II as a head of state would feel *that* negatively about monarchy. It has certainly been remarked, you're right, that Americans often have a weird fascination with royalty considering the trouble we went to get rid of it . . .

cmpalmer @ #49, you're right, the craft details in the costumes and sets and so forth is amazing. I remember watching the DVD extras and thinking that the people involved were all crazy, but in a wonderful way.

And how did I miss the wraith-world-ish effect of Frodo putting on the Ring in the previous chapter? "At first he could see little. He seemed to be in a world of mist in which there were only shadows: the Ring was upon him." Thanks for pointing it out.

alfoss1540 @ #51, I'm willing to let some amount of illogic in timelines slip when they aren't specified for the viewer--shoved in our face, as it were--but there was really no excuse for making it _possible_ for us to count days in the third movie and then not having them come out right.

(Also, I blame the filmmakers and not Viggo Mortensen for Aragorn.)

I think someone here said that Gandalf, as wielder of the Ring of Fire, is probably the only person who could safely smoke in the library. I just wish I could believe that was the reasoning behind the scene . . .
Tim W.
53. debraji
I agree with many of the comments already posted. Sean Bean really humanized Boromir for me. Ian McKellan was wonderful as Gandalf. I'll be forever grateful to Jackson for using New Zealand to stand in for Middle Earth.

No one's mentioned Howard Shore's fantastic score.

I hated both of Sauron's incarnations in the movie: Iron Transformer Guy in the battle, and Radio Flaming Eyeball on top of the Dark Tower. Granted, it's practically impossible to show ultimate evil on a movie screen without making it look silly. But Jackson's solutions didn't work for me. And I can barely watch the Gandalf vs. Saruman fight.

Was anyone else bothered by the art nouveau design of Rivendell? It seemed too cluttered with gingerbread, like a fussy seaside resort. In my imagination, Rivendell has an austere, almost Japanese aesthetic, connected to the elves' deep love of the natural world. I had a similar reaction to the movie's Lothlorien.
Tim W.
54. debraji
@51 alfoss1540 , re: yes, the score--we cross-posted.
Tim W.
55. CurrentlyWorkingOnAscendingAnArchaeologist
Hooray for your icon, Kate. Hooray for your NH spoilers, too.

I don't understand why Hollywood has no problem with any of the sexism in most of their original movies, but then in a movie that's an adaptation of an existing book, they feel they have shoehorn in a female part, and it ends up reinforcing more stereotypes then it shatters. And then they apparently envision the Elvish males as gay?

Maybe they didn't have Frodo invoke Elbereth because he didn't have anything suitable to engrave with and he kept engraving Elloer?th instead.

I think honing in too much on the casting of the orcs and blaming it on PJ, et al, ignores the bigger racist aspect of the original source material. Granted, it was the first half of the 20th century, not exactly social liberty at its height, but the story is essentially the English (Hobbits), the Norse (Gondorians), the French (Elves), the Scots (Dwarves), the Germanic tribes (Rohirrim), against Sauron leading orcs and a bunch of Arabs and Africans and Asians (Easterlings and Haradrim). Whether the Orcs themselves capitalized on racist western thinking is NOT the number one issue along those lines, in my mind. While of course I love the series, I think the sometimes overwrought angle of "all the races coming together" theme of the Council of Elrond leaves a bit to be desired. I love Tolkien, and he was a great storyteller and linguist, but social activist, he was not.
j p
56. sps49
katenepveu @52; I'm glad I expressed myself well enough, although your enlargement does it even better! I might not be able to produce it, but I can at least recognize good writing in these re-reads.

I'll give at least the 1st two Hyperions a shot; thanks, y'all.

And NGE was excellent out the gate, and good enough even through the various endings. Everyone should watch it at least once, just beware that the amazing strokes of storytelling suffered from poor follow-through.
Tim W.
57. clovis
With reference to Elijah Wood's performance, I liked the comment in the satirical BBC radio programme 'The Now Show' that "he spends the entire film looking like he's just been slapped and doesn't know why"
Dominic Wellington
58. riotnrrd
Just to throw my hat into the ring of the racism discussion: I have gone through various evolutions in my attitude to comments such as the swarthy Orcs and what-not. When I first encountered LotR I was young enough to be completely colour-blind, that is, I not only did not have any racist attitudes myself, but I couldn't even fathom somebody else having such attitudes, so it just registered as purely factual description of what Orcs look like.

Later on I became very PC and sensitive to such things, and I did have a big issue with LotR and other material where this sort of thing comes up. However, I then became friends with a (half-)black guy, and we ended up moving in together. We had a few conversations about racial and ethnic prejudice, as the guy is in just about everybody's bad books: a black French Jew... He basically told me that only white people worry about it that much, and that I should just shut up and get on with it. He had the same attitude to some of the painfully PC discussions about e.g. whether one should write "black" or "Black".

My friend and I are also both part South African, and in South Africa calling someone "Coloured" is a descriptive term for somebody of mixed race. It's a somewhat tainted word, as there was a distinct legal status associated with it under apartheid, but I was still unprepared for an American colleague's reaction when I described another colleague as being Coloured in the same tone in which I might have described somebody as being blonde.

To cut a long comment short, I think at this point we are never going to agree on what the "right" attitude should be. The best thing therefore is to try not to be either over-sensitive or insensitive, and accept that other people will occasionally rub you up the wrong way.
Kate Nepveu
59. katenepveu
debraji @ #53, I don't feel myself qualified to comment on whether a movie score is good or bad.

And I hadn't really had an image of the design of Rivendell or Lorien before the movies, because of the way I read. Interestingly, glancing at the text now, there's really very little description of architecture and interior design, especially compared to landscape!

Though I'm not sure I agree that love of the natural world naturally leads to an austere aesthetic. Nature can be pretty complicated.

CurrentlyWorkingOnAscendingAnArchaeologist (whew, thank goodness for cut & paste!) @ #55: I don't think I've ever ascended an A, so good luck!

Maybe Hollywood notices the lack of women in adaptations more because it's easier to see someone else's work as a whole?

As for the bigger social picture WRT racism, we'll get there--I was focused on what we saw in this movie, after all.

sps49 @ #56, you're too kind. But I regret to say that I'm unlikely to watch _NGE_ as the queue of things I actively want to watch is pretty long already . . .

clovis @ #57, the entire film looking like he's just been slapped and doesn't know why, that's not very nice but pretty accurate.

riotnrrd @ #58, from your description, it's hard to say exactly what your friend meant by "only white people worry about it that much", but if "it" is race or racism, it is obviously false, as I am a non-white person who cares, thinks, and worries about racism. And advice to "accept that other people will occasionally rub you up the wrong way" is applicable to matters of individual aesthetic taste and personality difference. It is on entirely the wrong scale as a response to social injustice.
Soon Lee
60. SoonLee
Re: Uruk-hai & New Zealand Maori.
IIRC, there was a bit in the DVD extras during Helms Deep filming that showed the Uruk extras chanting at the defending elves & men, which included impromptu haka. Also, Peter Jackson at a rugby event in Wellington, got the crowd to chant in an attempt to get some audio for the movies*. But none of these aspects (the Maori & rugby culture) were apparent in the movie version of Uruks. At least, not to me.

*Only a tiny amount of the recorded audio was usable on account of audible heckling by some members of the audience. Insert comment on the wisdom or otherwise of trying to get a drunken crowd to follow instructions.
john massey
61. subwoofer
'K, I do have to say I loved the movies. I am as big a dork as they come with this trilogy. When the first movie came out I was there day 1 and went again the next weekend. Yup, dweebie am I. I still remember when they released the extended editions a theater played all three movies back to back. I took the day off work and a bunch of us sat for 12 hours watching the extended editions on the big screen.

The stereotypes- no rotting fruits please, just sharing my opinion. As a large person of color, and I do have that effect on little kids for the first time- they hear my deep voice and see my large menacing frame and the tears come... and run to mommies legs. But yes it does irritate me that the baddies are dark- What is more grinding is that the pure, gifted, enchanted, long lived, one step below angels, elves have to be pale white, blond etc. etc. Please. And yes, PJ is a great guy, but when I went to Aussie via NZ, the experience I had made me feel like they are 20 years behind Canada in terms of race relations.

The two things that stood out to me in this movie was the casting of Vigo as Aragorn. I think he was a perfect fit for this role. The other think I have taken with me and use to this day is "second breakfast". What a great idea! Bridge that gap between first breakfast and lunch with a real meal, not a snack.
Andrew Foss
62. alfoss1540
Subwoofer@61 - What about elevensies? - There were some pieces of comic releif to be appreciated!
Tim W.
63. Firefly
Re library scene:
Having spent all too much time being reverent around archives, I hugely enjoyed Gandalf plunking his beer and pipe ash on them. Note: parchment is a form of leather and doesn't catch fire all that easily. Anyway, what light source are they using in there? Right, naked flames – just like everyone before the 20th century.

As it's trash-the-films hour, I'll add a few peeves that I don't think have been mentioned:-

1) Frodo bellowing "NYEEAAAOOOOOOOWW" when Gandalf takes his dive. I'm aware this is compulsory in popular drama at all moments of stress, but I still want to kick the little berk off the ledge.

2) Pointless shouting of characters' names whenever they're in danger. How does it help Frodo dodge a troll if several people scream "FRODO" from across the room?

3) Rivendell looking like a wilting municipal arboretum. I always expect to spot a few waste bins and a dog fouling sign.

4) Irrelevant regional accents. These probably don't register outside the UK, but whenever Merry or Boromir speak I can't help wondering why the hell they share speech patterns which no-one else in the Shire or Gondor has.

5) Logical absurdities, like the Bridge in Moria being seen first from below, then they run elaborately down long flights of stairs and come out at the level of the bridge. Was the place designed by Escher?

Despite this, I agree the Moria scenes are great, though for me they lack the tinge of Lovecraftian horror that creeps into the book's descriptions. The comic staircase and some of the troll business ignore the laws of motion, but that's standard for CGI; many fantasy films are far worse.

6) Those damned plastic ears. Whoever said elves have pointy ears anyway?
Bill Reamy
64. BillinHI
Believe this is my first re-watch of the first DVD (extended edition) since my wife and I visited Hobbiton (the NZ version, of course) in late 2007 and it's still awesome to see the place as portrayed in the movie. The scenery was definitely my favorite part of the whole series. I knew going in that the movies were not going to accurately reproduce the books so I was not TOO disappointed at the missing bits. That said, the Scouring of the Shire was definitely missed on my part, although that would have made it WAY too long or they would have had to make 4 movies. All in all, though, I really loved the movies. FWIW, I am finally listening to the BBC radio dramatization, having had the CD set for several years. I thought it was interesting (ironic?) that Ian Holm played Frodo then and then played Bilbo in the movies. I'm only up to the Mirror of Galdriel (which actually goes to the Breaking of the Fellowship) and they also skipped the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil segments.
john massey
65. subwoofer
@62 alfoss1540- its tricky. Much planning ahead is involved. Most places stop serving breakfast at 11:00am locally so timing has to be spot on or some tricky leftovers... but second breakfast- perfect!

-edit- apples from heaven just don't cut it.
Dominic Wellington
66. riotnrrd
katenepveu @ #59: Sorry if I was unclear: "it" was indeed racial or other ethnic prejudice. Also, I apologize if it seemed that I was belittling what non-white people had to or still have to deal with in that line.

Perhaps it's a difference between American and European attitudes, in my case spiced with South African bits too. If I may proceed to over-generalize wildly and irresponsibly, Americans tend to be extremely sensitive to issues of race, while Europeans, with some shameful exceptions, are not that fussed about race, though they may have hang-ups about different cultures.

For me personally, skin colour is about as important as hair colour, but I appreciate that it's possible that I only have the luxury of that opinion because I grew up white in a still mainly white country. That said, I'm not native to the country I grew up in, and my parents didn't speak the language that well when they moved here. We spoke English at home, and I learned the local language at pre-school, so I do have a little experience in being a bit different from everyone else.

I would hope that as we move on we can get to the point where skin colour is just another way to describe somebody, rather than carrying all this baggage, but I do understand that we are not quite there yet.
Tim W.
67. DemetriosX
Re: the design of Rivendell. Actually, virtually all of the design of the place is taken from Tolkien's own drawings and paintings. This is actually true for most of the artwork in the films. Whenever there was something that JRRT had done art for, they used that as the basis. It's one of the things that really stood out to me when I first saw them and impressed me a great deal.

As for second breakfast and elevenses, that is a bit of dialogue taken straight from the book. If I'm wrong about that, then it comes from the On Hobbits appendix.
Tim W.
68. legionseagle
riotnrrd@66 Perhaps it's a difference between American and European attitudes, in my case spiced with South African bits too. If I may proceed to over-generalize wildly and irresponsibly, Americans tend to be extremely sensitive to issues of race, while Europeans, with some shameful exceptions, are not that fussed about race, though they may have hang-ups about different cultures.

I disagree strongly (as, I suspect, does the European electorate, which are, if the Netherlands' leakage is an indication of wider things, has just given a worrying boost to far-right parties campaigning on an explicitly racist platform) though I acknowledge that it's a viewpoint I've heard expressed before - probably contributing to the North American view, expressed further up the thread, that Europe and Australasia is "20 years behind" North America in this regard.

While there are major differences in how racial factors have played out in Europe as in the US - for example, the fact that the dominant non-white group in the UK is from the Indian sub-continent and that the bulk of non-white immigrant communities were established post WWII but that British racial attitudes among white Britains were shaped by a legacy of colonialism in which, essentially, white Britons were encouraged to launder their class origins by chucking their weight around in India or Malaysia or wherever creates different hot-spots and tensions, but they are still racially motivated. For example, I don't doubt that the slightly rocky start to diplomatic relations between Britain and the Obama administration may on some level and to some limited extent be influenced by the fact that the British administration in Kenya imprisoned Obama's grandfather for his Mau Mau activities.
Tim W.
69. UnderHill
My reaction to the race issue of dark skinned bad guy orcs (sometimes with dreads) was recognition and regret.

Two brief stories. I am a white woman, and the only time I have ever been stopped and approached by the cops was well after midnight, downtown in the city, while standing on the street talking to a young black co-worker after our shift in a fast food place was over. He was a sweet kid in high school and we were just standing there chatting. The emotional tone of the cop was very "what illicit thing are you two up to?" He was not acting like the friendly and helpful cop you teach your kids to approach on the street if they need help. At the time I was a young urban bar-going, music-loving person, and was frequently out and about very late at night. But I have never been stopped and bothered by police before or since. Just the time I was talking to the black guy.

Also, a couple of years ago I dated a rather huge and very black man from St Lucia for a while. It was a revelation to go for a walk with him on a pleasant spring evening in my quiet neighbourhood and watch elderly white people recoil in horror. White persons living in predominately white neighbourhoods will probably think I jest, or exaggerate, but no. Unless you have some reason to notice it - such as having a close friend who is a racial minority and you see it happening to them - white people in white contexts can live their entire life without noticing the extent of the inherent racism of their culture.

If you are making a film and that film is based on a wonderful and famous book in which different races are a major part of the story and structure, and if that book itself was written a good while ago, and the ravening hordes of bad guys were written as darker skinned than most anyone else - except for another bad-guy race with a minor part to play... well, I think it would be a bit tricky to manage that film without evoking a few racial stereotypes. Tricky, but not impossible, and I do wish P.J. et al had tried harder with this one and managed to pull it off.

When it comes to racial stereotyping in the white consciousness - or perhaps unconsciousness? - the black guys are the villains.

Now, listen up! I am NOT saying the following is what white people believe, except perhaps for the occasional frankly psychotic white person, but there is an evil ghost of a racist stereotype that exists as a whisp in the brain, supported by dregs of the racist beliefs that were once common currency, and while not universal (thank you, Wilberforce) certainly prevalent; and also derived from (sorry for the hackneyed phrase) portrayals of black people in the popular media. (To make up for that hackneyed phrase, one example from my own life. I loved the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a kid, but as a more wary adult I am repelled by their horrible racism. Does anyone remember how the native africans were portrayed? Nasty. This is also the writing of an earlier time.) There is a whiff of fear, rarely directly acknowledged, but it is there, lurking in the back of the white brain, especially in the brains of white people who haven't had a close friend or roommate or partner who is dark skinned, which is what exorcises this ghost - but when a black person sits down beside a white person on the bus, that stereotype is evoked, and arises willy nilly from some depths of the light skinned person's brain, and it says: Caution! Strange, unknowable, dangerous, possibly on drugs and fresh out of prison, probably packing a knife or gun, and definitely with a grudge against the hapless white guy whose ancestors, if they did not commit atrocities themselves, probably approved of them at the time! And this ghost? It is why cop shows and action movies and probably even some black gansta rappers continue to evoke it. You can do some work to build a menacing, scary character, but you can sure get an effect by just pushing the big scary black guy button...

So the moral thing to do, if you are making a film that has the potential to be a huge blockbuster, and you are sensitive to this issue, is to not reinforce this stereotype, this evil ghost, because to reinforce it is to be complicit in something unjust, cheap, sad, and demeaning to us all.

As mentioned in earlier comments (GoblinRevolution@33) the Lowest Common Denominator has been a major force in turning these films into something Pretty Damn Impressive, Zowie! when they could have been Classic, on the same level as some Great Work of Art. So much in these films is heartbreakingly beautiful, and then... you have dwarf-tossing jokes.

Those dreads bothered me. Ok, the orcs were darker skinned in the books, and they were trying to represent the books faithfully (look at the care they took with Hobbiton, they did an amazing job in recreating the look of things - just don't get me started on what they did to the character of Faramir.) So unless you want to go all "interpretation of Macbeth as set in a modern cheerleader squad" artsy, which is not what they were doing at all, fine for me with dark skinned orcs. But I don't recall the book having orcs running around with dreads.

Subwoofer@61 Your comment made me want to see all the Lorien elves in elegantly arrayed white dreads, just to mess with that soap-commercial pure angelic vibe a little...

Firefly@63: Yes, I found Rivendell to be unnecessarily droopy also. Pretty but attenuated, no vigour. "Wilting municipal arboretum" indeed!

As someone who adores Galadriel, I think Cate Blanchett looked the part well enough, but hated the freaky alien way she talked and was filmed. Elrond looked wrong to me, completely. However, I loved the look of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, even if they messed with his character to some extent. And I agree that Sean Bean did a wonderful job as Boromir, and I loved Ian McKellen's Gandalf.

One thing I didn't like was how Bree was overplayed as sinister and threatening as the hobbits first arrived. Sure they were tired and scared and a bit overwhelmed by all the "big people" stuff, but also those lights of Bree were "twinkling" and "the door was open and light streamed out of it" and lots of other welcoming imagery is going on. Is this more of the hobbits being made childlike?

debraji@53: I love "Radio Flaming Eyeball on top of the Dark Tower"!
Dominic Wellington
70. riotnrrd
legionseagle @ #68: I think you may be interpreting what is going on in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe differently from the locals. The parties which are campaigning in pretty much all European countries right now on a "locals first" platform tend not to be racist as such, although it is true that they sometimes attract fellow travellers who are racists or even unreconstructed Nazis. The issue tends to be with culture, and (to stir up a huge hornet's nest) the un-integrated Islamic culture of many (illegal) immigrants to these countries.

Just to throw out the usual disclaimer, I will be voting for the European "parliament" today, and I will not be voting for either the extreme or the lite local party which stands on this platform.

However, I do recognize that, by simply tarring these views with the "racist!!!" brush, the mainstream and international media is doing us all a disservice. There is an issue with integration of immigrants in Europe right now which needs to be addressed, lest we end up in a mess. Exactly none of the public discussion is about the colour of the immigrants' skins, and in fact the problem is as much with immigration from the East (white) as from the South (black).

While I have plenty of time for somebody telling me that seeing evil Orks portrayed as members of their own racial group bothers them, I have a lot less for someone telling me I'm a racist because I'm bothered by uncontrolled immigration and cultural segregation.

Underhill @ #69, I am glad to say that I have never had that experience, even when out with non-white friends, but I do hear that it still happens.

Maybe all that is needed is time. I remember a very surreal conversation, when my aunt was trying to explain to my little cousin (there are more than twenty years between us) why MLK had a whole day for himself. She simply didn't understand why such obvious and common-sense views might have been controversial...
Tim W.
71. legionseagle
riotnrrd@70 What do you mean, interpreting European politics differently from the locals? I am European. I voted in the European elections on Thursday and one of the strongest motives in getting me into the polling station was the motive of voting against the BNP, whom I regard as unequivocally racist.

I also regard your comment about the focus being as much on the East as on the South (funny how those two directions map on to the directions of threat in LOTR, though, isn't it?) as a tad disingenuous. The fact that the BNP hate the Poles (nearly) as much as they hate the Pakistanis doesn't stop them being a bunch of racist scum. It just makes them a multi-directional bunch of racist scum.
Kate Nepveu
72. katenepveu
subwoofer @ #61, thanks for sharing your experience. If people doubt that there are such stereotypes, I hope they will listen to you.

You reminded me that I always had a vague idea that Legolas had dark hair, but searching the text doesn't give me any description. (His father had silver hair, but since there are no mothers in Middle-earth that is inconclusive.) And while the elves we see do have a variety of hair colors, the emphasis on the whiteness of Galadriel's skin (for instance) also irks me.

As for second breakfast, speaking as someone who just had lunch at 11:00 because she was hungry, I definitely agree there has to be _something_ in there . . . (Though technically I suppose that would be elevensies.)

Firefly @ #63, I didn't spot Boromir's accent as being different from other people in Gondor, but since he's dead by the time we meet others, this isn't a surprise. Tell me more?

Textually Merry is from a slightly different area of the Shire, but I suspect it was more to help people tell him and Pippin apart than anything else.

And you're right, I don't think the pointed ears are at all textual!

BillinHI @ #64, welcome. It must've been amazing to visit New Zealand and see the landscapes in person. I tried a dramatization years ago, which was probably the BBC's, but I didn't like the voice of the actor playing Gandalf and, more importantly, I got my first speeding ticket half an hour in, and so I was in no mood to continue. =>

riotnrrd @ #66, I appreciate your apology and your recognition that "it's possible that I only have the luxury of that opinion because I grew up white in a still mainly white country." It is a luxury, and I think it's more than possible, but many people don't even recognize it as a possibility.

My understanding of Europe's experience is imperfect and second-hand, and I see that legionseagle has already spoken to it, but I'll point out that issues of religion and culture are often difficult to separate from race.

DemetriosX, the prologue says "And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them)"

UnderHill @ #69, thank you also for sharing your experiences and your thoughts. And it's not just the dreads, the Uruk-hais have much darker skin in the movie than in the books, too . . .
Tim W.
73. legionseagle
Kate@72 You referenced Firefly's comment with regard to speech patterns. Sean Bean is using his native South Yorkshire, somewhat toned down from the version he uses in Sharpe but recognisably a Northern accent (cue Ecclestone's comment in Doctor Who: "Lots of planets have a North"). It is recognisably different (and in UK class terms coded as lower-class than) Aragorn (who it would make sense to give a Northern accent to), Faramir and Denethor. I suspect Firefly may have meant Pippin rather than Merry, whose random Scottish accent is the really odd one among the hobbits for me.
Sara H
74. LadyBelaine

I hated both of Sauron's incarnations in the movie: Iron Transformer Guy in the battle, and Radio Flaming Eyeball on top of the Dark Tower. Granted, it's practically impossible to show ultimate evil on a movie screen without making it look silly. But Jackson's solutions didn't work for me.

I really thought that "Iron Transformer Guy" worked well to demonstrate his huge physical, tangible malevolent force in the real world - this towering huge dark-armoured being that sets off atmospheric ripples with his footsteps.

The flaming eye, not so much...

Was anyone else bothered by the art nouveau design of Rivendell? It seemed too cluttered with gingerbread, like a fussy seaside resort. In my imagination, Rivendell has an austere, almost Japanese aesthetic, connected to the elves' deep love of the natural world. I had a similar reaction to the movie's Lothlorien.

Oh, now now.

I loved Rivendell. I want to live in Rivendell. I want to hire Alan Lee to design my house. I thought that Rivendell looks grown and organic, like a living extension of tree-branches snaking and crossing, only with a a celtic-knot like intricacy in them.

I can totally live with a severe, Japanese-themed Elven aesthete (ahem, the Sithi) but I also can envision them having a thing for flowing, overlapping, convoluted lines that mirror the veins on a leaf, or leaves on a stalk, with an illuminated manuscript-typed motiff (S.M. Stirling has a riff on this, by the way in his Emberverse series: the Tolkien inspired settlement of Stardell has a decor of "art-nouveau meets book-of-kells").

I am not sure we saw enough of Lothlorien (or is it Lorien? I can never recall) to say whether it was more formal and restrained or more ornate and "gingerbread-y" like Rivendell. All I recall is that it was white and airy and lacy, and that swirling grand staircase with the overlapping latices that leads to Celeborn and Galadriel's home was Awesome.

(Incidentally, your "fussy seaside resort" comment reminds me of Cape May, which my mother always loved, but made me want to fashion together rope and noose from lace doilies and hang myself from an ornate, fanciful cuppola.)
john massey
75. subwoofer
I'm just going to throw this out to everyone- is there a reason the series is not out on Blue-Ray? I don't know if it is because I am on the ass end of the universe or what but I have not been able to find any of the trilogy on Blue-Ray and it seems like such a waste. It is the perfect kind of movie for that format. I figured the producers were waiting to see who would come out on top of the format war, but now that the war is over what gives?
Tim W.
76. meteorplum
Re: Skin Color
I wonder if anyone could be happy if PJ had managed to make the movies with the genders and colors "reversed"? This is not as tongue-in-cheek as it might first appear, and I would ask everyone to seriously imagine this for 30 seconds.

Is anybody happier with the imaginary result? I know I'm not, and I noticed all the swarthy's, slant eyes' and sallow's when I first read LoTR around age 13 or so, three years into my new life in America and the English language. Now, decades later, my eyes are no less slanted than they were then, nor is my skin less sallow. However, I am much more cognizant of both Tolkien's background and the nature of the source material that inspired and informed his work. This allows me to understand Tolkien's implicit racism much in the same way that I understand Shakespeare's in Othello. And while I don't accept that kind of casual racism in a contemporary setting, I'm not about to rake JRRT & PJ over the coals on the matter. Plus I really don't want to see a bunch of buff, white gals in dreadlocks fighting buff, black gals on the big screen. (Wait, WWE, anyone?)

Re: Master and servant relationship
Skipping ahead to the extra materials on the extended edition DVDs for RotK, Sir Ian talked about giving advice to Sean Astin on how this kind of relationship might've worked. IIRC, Sir Ian's example was that of a British army officer and his NCO. Also, it seems to me that class distinctions in the Shire do exist, but in a quasi-apologetic form where Tolkien is trying to shoehorn in the notion of class with the nominal notion of democracy, or at least elections (do women-hobbits vote?). This is how we get Bilbo and Frodo as "gentlehobbits" with no obvious means of support (at least prior to the events in The Hobbit), "employing" generations of the Gamgees, who belong to the class of hobbits defined by their work as (apparently hereditary) gardeners, millers and farmers, not to mention "poor" hobbits.

As per the extra materials, Pip having some sort of Scottish accent was deliberate, given that he is a Took, pronounced "tuke" in the Scottish fashion, and Bullroarer Took invented golf. I'll have to go back and listen to his dialog and see if I can do a "spot the accent" test, though as a nominal Yank, I'd be happy just to be able to tell the difference between Glaswegian and "other Scotland TBD".

And finally, I think that a series of movies made to the exact text of LotR would be a terrible idea, in the same way that a book which described a great movie directly—including transcribing the dialog exactly—would be a terrible book.
Tim W.
77. UnderHill
meteorplum@76: I'm not sure if it would be a good movie or not, but I would love to watch it. And I think that the gender reversal might be much more striking than the race reversal. What about Helm's Deep, when everyone would be bawling for the men and children to get to safety? I think the scenes of frightened females in the Helm's Deep are those with the most female presence in the three movies. And they are shown as powerless to help themselves. Didn't they play that much more strongly than in the book? Probably as a contrasting background for Eowyn's story, I imagine, but I found it very annoying at first viewing, and every one since.
Tim W.
78. UnderHill
To riotnrrd@70: Yes, time makes a big difference. As with your aunt and cousin, you can see a big change across even one generation. My eleven year old son barely noticed that the man I was dating was dark-skinned. My parents? In their late seventies? They noticed it. They definitely noticed it.
Tim W.
79. Firefly
Kate@72, Legionseagle@73, Meteorplum@76: I agree it would be fine for Merry to have a different accent, as Bucklanders are almost 'foreigners' in the Shire; it's the similarity to Boromir's that makes me double-take. (Prof. Higgins would probably say they're quite different, but as an effete southerner I never could tell Yorkshire from Lancashire.) Then along comes Théoden to confuse me further...

I must have missed the explanation of Pippin's accent on the DVD, but as the Tooks live near Hobbiton I can't see that it makes much sense for him to be Scottish. It's no big deal, and I don't say the performances would necessarily have been better in vanilla English, just that they jar a bit when all the American and NZ actors are dutifully suppressing their native vowels. (Full marks, by the way, to Astin's nearly faultless Mummerset.)

Kate@72 again: I don't think Legolas's hair colour is ever described, but Tolkien does say (near the end of Appendix F) that all elves are dark 'save in the golden house of Finrod'. In Silmarillion it turns out this was because Finrod's – and Galadriel's – grandmother belonged to the Vanyar tribe, who for unexplained reasons were all blond. Legolas isn't likely to be related, as he's Sindar.
Tim W.
80. overpass
Regarding racism in the books, I recognized it at some point and it was a bit jarring, but I personally give Tolkien a pass. He was writing a mythical story based on Europe and European legends, and the history of Europe is full of invasions from the East, by the Huns, Mongols, and other Central Asian groups. The Muslim invasion of Europe that was turned back at Tours and the Ottoman Turkish advances that came later also helped create the idea of a general threat from the East. It's part of the history of Europe that Tolkien drew from.

Of course European colonialism in the 19th century turned that East-West relationship on its head, as the West became the aggressor. Some might criticize Tolkien as an apologist for colonialism. I don't think the books come across that way, rather they seem to me to be an appreciation of an earlier Europe, and I think Tolkien managed to appreciate European history/myth without being a colonial apologist.

Peter Jackson is another matter. Unlike Tolkien, Jackson knows he's writing for a wide audience (not just Westerners/Europeans) for whom the idea of dark-skinned bad guys doesn't bring to mind historical invasions from the East, but instead perpetuates racist stereotypes in modern society. The movies have already sacrificed some of the European mythical and historical feel of the books in order to make a modern action-adventure movie. Why not drop the dark-skinned bad guys entirely?
Dominic Wellington
81. riotnrrd
legionseagle @ #71: Sorry, I was assuming from the tone that you were outside the EU and relying on some of the quite slanted foreign press coverage we get. I'm no fan of the BNP either, but my point was exactly that their racism, while evil, sick, etc. is not aimed only at non-white people, and in fact can barely be called racism at all. Plus, if everybody on screen had to have the exact same skin colour and accent, it would be very hard to tell the two sides apart...

meteorplum @ #76: For a counter-example, I remember while reading _A wizard of Earthsea_ when it dawned on me that the protagonist was not white, and that some of the bad guys were an unusual shade of white. It didn't change my enjoyment of the story at all, and in fact that remains one of my favourite things that Ursula K. Le Guin ever wrote.
Tim W.
82. legionseagle
riotnrrd@81: On what possible basis can you claim that "the BNP's racism...can barely be called racism at all"? We are talking about a party whose leader - and recently elected MEP (gollum, gollum) - has a conviction from 1998 for inciting racial hatred. We are talking about a party who was only forced recently to abandon plans for the compulsory repatriation of non-white British subjects, even those born here, and replace it with an "incentive" scheme. We are talking about a party which members of public sector organisations such as police and teaching are sacked for belonging to, on the basis that membership is incompatible with their duties to serve all members of the public equally. We are talking about a party a prominent member of which got 12 years for firebombing an Asian shop. If that lot aren't racist, what in your view would make a political organisation racist?
Dominic Wellington
83. riotnrrd
legionseagle @ #81: My point was that while individual members may be racist, the BNP itself is not technically racist, as it has just as much of a problem with Poles (white) as it does with Bangladeshis (brown). One might say more accurately that they have a positive prejudice in favour of (white) Britons. My original point was purely that the BNP would probably not feel that getting rid of all the non-whites would be nearly sufficient, as that would still leave all the Poles et al. to hate.

Personally I am quite conflicted about the idea of sacking people for belonging to a political party, even one as vile as the BNP. Also the whole "inciting racial hatred" thing has become sufficiently overblown that it has lost much of its original desired significance, in effect making molehills out of mountains by calling every little lump a mountain. That said, the sooner the BNP withers up and blows away, the happier I will be.

Anyway we have drifted quite far from the topic, which was about Orks having characteristics reminiscent of black humans. On that note I have just this moment remembered the black(-ish - I seem to remember an Indian hue to the skin, but can't find a decent photo online to check) human Oliphaunt-riders. IIRC in the book there is an aside about the dark-skinned humans from the East being fooled into fighting for Sauron, and leaving in disgust once they work out what is going on, while in the film they are as bad as the Orks. So perhaps the worst offender is PJ after all, not JRRT!
Tim W.
84. *** Dave
Since everyone else is chiming in (and I just finished watching this film with my 8-year-old daughter ...)

The Good

1. Sean Bean's Boromir, as nearly everyone else has said. Only Ian McKellan's Gandalf stands up to the quality of the characterization presented. Everyone else does a workmanlike job, some better, some worse, but every time Bean opens his mouth he's playing a person, not an icon.

2. Gandalf's fall and the immediate aftermath (and another scene where Boromir comes out both as more human and more heroic than Aragorn).

3. Rivendell in its Long Autumn was truly gorgeous.

4. The sprinkling of ruins hither and thither sometimes jarred, but more often gave a sense of what has already been lost.

5. Hobbiton was bucolic wonder.

6. The Hobbits as comic relief -- especially Merry and Pippin -- were fine, and lightened the mood considerably. (That said, it was also good that they showed themselves as doughty fighters when need be.)

7. The Council of Elrond has some flaws, but the early portrayal of the Ring as a corrupter and divider is excellently done.

The Not-so-good:

1. While Galadriel's Dark Overlord scene was poorly executed (and almost unintelligible), the idea was sound and that's what came across. There's a glimpse of something similar (and not terribly well executed either) back at Bag End when Gandalf goes all Powerful on Bilbo.

And, that said, I very much otherwise enjoyed the portrayal of Galadriel.

2. While I was willing (sad, but willing) to see Saruman's story line not play out to its bitter end, I do regret the decision not to have him playing both sides in his own bid for power. Yes, that decision simplifies things some, but it also masks the divisiveness of the Ring, and the reinforcement of the idea that nowhere is, for long, safe to simply stash it away (let alone use it).

3. The collapsing staircase in Moria was overdone and dubiously conceived, but still action-packed goodness. That said, Moria still felt more like a series of set pieces to me than a coherent kingdom. "We're in the Mining Part now. We're in the Tunnel Part now. We're in the "Pretty but Inexplicable Huge Hall of Columns now. We're on the Very Narrow Bridge now."

4. I'll note Gimli below, but Legolas "Still the Prettiest" is pretty much of a cipher here. I do like the subtle walking atop the snow, but between that and the archery-fu, there's not much to recommend him.

5. Bree didn't seem the bustling burg I was expecting, and the whole encounter with Aragorn there was too quickly resolved. Conversely, we managed to avoid the Nursery Rhyme singing at the bar so that's a plus.

6. While Jackson avoided the travelog nature of Tolkien's work, some text to go with the visuals would have been nice. Two noteworthy "that's pretty, but would have been more useful if given at least a few words of explanation" are the Argonnath and the Seat of Seeing.

7. While we see many ruins and places, we see very few (no) roads. So far as can be told, nobody every visited Moria for example. Certainly the eastern gate lets out onto a rocky landscape, with not even a hint of roadway or ruins thereof. (We revisit this again with both Edoras and Minas Tirith.)

8. Boromir's arc is muddied by making him the guy who gets Aragorn over the hump of his inferiority complex. The final speech there is the one marring moment in the otherwise always-brings-a-lump-to-the-eye death of Boromir scene.

9. There's a lot I like about Elijah Woods' Frodo, but he does the pale-and-tragic about 25% more often and intensely than I care for.

10. Yeah, the Uruk-hai struck me a bit too much as "dark skin bad, light skin good" types. That's the setting, though, and I was willing to tolerate it.

The Awful:

1. Yes, Gimli as comic relief bugged the hell out of me Every . Single. Time.

2. Lorien was ... seriously meh. It's the land of tree pathways and folks who process slowly along them. And we care because ...? The wonder, timelessness, and significance of their visit there is completely lost.

All criticisms aside, I love these movies. I bitch all the more bitterly about the flaws because of the wonderful context in which they are placed. Jackson hits the mark, or close to it, so often with the visuals, and with carefully bringing so much of the story to the screen, that I would a thousand times rather have this imperfect trio of gems than do without (or do with a more likely even more flawed edition).
Tim W.
85. DaveT
@meteorplum, wrt Pippin's accent:

There are two problems with giving Pippin the accent he used:

1. PJ had already adopted the (unfortunate) D&D convention that dwarves speak with a Scottish accent. (I don't know where that one came from, but I'd love to stamp it out.) Once you've done that, it makes no sense at all to give some other group a Scottish accent; why would Pippin sound like a dwarf?

2. Peregrine Took is as close to a 'prince' as the Shire can produce: the heir to the Thain. He's actually higher-class than the Bagginses. (Paraphrasing from memory: "If anyone were going to play at being Chief at this time of day, it would be the right Thain of the Shire"), in a society that clearly has an English class structure. And yet they gave him a working-class Glaswegian accent -- just plain wrong. If it was going to be Scottish, it needed to be Edinburgh (or Inverness or Aberdeen) gentry. For Tolkien's purposes, Oxbridge would have been best.
Nick Viner
86. nviner
roitnrrd@83 Surely a fairer description is that the BNP although unashamedly racist (and fascist) at its core tries not to be caught saying so in public in order to try to appear electable. To what extent those who voted for them are motivated by racism or the fear the media is whipping up about immigration I couldn’t say. At least their share of the vote declined this election - they only picked up seats because the Labour vote fell by a larger percentage.

Getting back to the Lord of the Rings, given that Tolkien reused much of his mythology from earlier material where does his depictions of the orcs come from? Is there any equivalent in say the Norse legends?

DaveT@85 yes exactly right so treating the heirs to possibly the two most important family’s in the Shire as light comic relief was to put it mildly grating.
Hugh Arai
87. HArai
nviner@86: They are indeed the heirs to the two most important families in the Shire, but I did not find the joking and playfulness of Merry and Pippin in the movie grating because unlike Gimli, they don't take themselves very seriously for much of the story in the book either.
Tim W.
88. Elaine T
Kate@72 again: I don't think Legolas's hair colour is ever described, but Tolkien does say (near the end of Appendix F) that all elves are dark 'save in the golden house of Finrod'. In Silmarillion it turns out this was because Finrod's – and Galadriel's – grandmother belonged to the Vanyar tribe, who for unexplained reasons were all blond. Legolas isn't likely to be related, as he's Sindar.

In the Hobbit, the firelight glimmers on Thranduil's golden hair (feasting in Mirkwood, not his later appearances). So making Legolas blond has some support. It was of the High Elves, that Tolkien was speaking in Appendix F when he said most had dark hair.

BTw, I was the one who said Numenoreans had no beards, and someone questioned that. I know I read it somewhere long ago. But various attempts to track down the reference have failed, so I withdraw the claim (for now).
Maggie M
89. Eswana
Re: Dwarves = comic relief comments


My biggest fear about the Hobbit film will be that del Torro will fall into this trope as well. It's more of a harzard in the Hobbit becaue dwarves make up 13/15 of the ensemble cast. I really hope they manage to give the dwarves a bit of respect. Poor Gimli. However, I'd say that in the Hobbit Bilbo himself is really more comic relief, since the dwarves are serious about this treasure business and Bilbo's there almost by accident.
Kate Nepveu
90. katenepveu
legionseagle @ #73, thanks for the information about accents, as it's hard for me to tell what's an accent and what's just how someone talks.

LadyBelaine @ #74, your last picture link to the "ornate, fanciful cuppola" has an oddly sinister air about it. It makes me want to check all the windows for screaming faces pressed up against them.

meteorplum @ #76: well, actually, a gender- and color-reversed _LotR_ movie would make me quite happy, because it would be so damn *novel* to have a whole bunch of women of color on-screen in roles spanning the entire gamut (good, bad, indifferent, kickass, not). Look, we exist!

As far as the officer/NCO parallel for Frodo & Sam, we'll be getting to that when we come back to them in Book IV--there are some interesting WWI influences.

Firefly @ #79, thanks for the Appendix F ref. re: Elves' hair--I knew I'd read that _somewhere_.

overpass @ #80, you're quite right that Jackson is already changing the underpinnings of the story in various ways, so why not this one too?

*** Dave @ #84, how did your eight-year-old daughter find the movie?

Good call on how fast the hobbits moved to going with Aragorn, especially after the complicated way that Bree played out in the book. Also, you're right, where _are_ the roads? You'd think that WETA could have whipped some up a treat . . .

And, yes, if there wasn't so much good in the movies I wouldn't care this much about the things that don't work.

nviner @ #86, I believe orcs are sourced in Northern Europe's goblins. I will look if Shippey's _Road to Middle-earth_ has more.

Eswana at @ #89, I think Bilbo is definitely the comic relief in _The Hobbit_--just think of what the dwarves do to him when they show up at his house! Let us hope for better things there.
Hugh Arai
91. HArai
Re: Comic Relief in the Hobbit: I'm curious to see how they play that. As people have pointed out there's the planning party, but there are also a fair number of "wow, Bombur sure is fat" bits, and the Elves in Rivendell are remarkably silly.
Michael Ikeda
92. mikeda

In "The Hobbit", orcs are sometimes CALLED goblins.
Maggie M
93. Eswana
mikeda @ 92
Yes, I think this is because he hadn't started using the term "orc" yet. This could be wrong- could any more informed Tokienologist correct me? As I remember, JRR developed much of the backstory of the Silm first, during WWI and after, especially first age stuff, and the Hobbit almost accidentally grew out of it in the early 1930s, and then LotR in the 1950s.

So, I've wondered if the term "goblin" in the Hobbit refers to orcs, ie, the race of Morgoth-corrupted elves, or something else. If he developed the First Age Elves mythology first, then the elves => orcs is already established, and so you'd think that the term orcs would be part of his Middle Earth vernacular. Or maybe, he knew that elves => orcs, but hadn't decided what to call them yet. Or maybe he *meant* orcs as we know them, but called them goblins because "goblin" is pretty universally understood term for "scary as hell" whereas "orc" requires explanation. Since the Hobbit was written as a childrens' book, mabye he simplified things by just calling them goblins.

however, in the Fellowship movie, Gandalf & Agent Elrond have their chat about Saruman's treachery and Gandalf refers to Uruks as "crossing orcs with goblin men." Now, obviously movie tidbits like this aren't canon, but 1) why are Uruks explained like this? and 2) what's the difference between an orc and a goblin?
Tim W.
94. firkin
Eswana@93, "orc" and "goblin" seem to be two words in different languages for the same kind of being/creature: the sword Orcrist, Goblin-cleaver in Sindarin, made an appearance in The Hobbit.

but i'd love to know more about this "goblin men" business. anyone?

kate@72: Uruk-hais have much darker skin in the movie than in the books, too --- unfortunately, the chapter "The Uruk-hai" in TT actually does describe one of the orcs as "black" (don't have my copy handy, but i believe it's near where the orcs start arguing with each other). though there seems to be a greater diversity of color used elsewhere in the text, and/or Tolkien meant something different by "swart/swarthy" than you or i would mean.
Kate Nepveu
95. katenepveu
firkin, you're right, from Pippin's POV: "In the twilight he saw a large black Orc, probably Ugluk, facing Grishnakh . . . "

I'd not seen that and was relying in: "the hobbits were left with the Isengarders: a grim dark band, four score at least of large, swart, slant-eyed Orcs . . . "

In addition to the options you raise, it may be that the "black" in your quote is akin to calling a Rider "a black chap" because of its clothes, which I found peculiar earlier.

(If we can go by authorial intent, Tolkien is quoted as describing them as "degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.")
Tim W.
96. *** Dave
*** Dave @ #84, how did your eight-year-old daughter find the movie?

This was her second attempt -- about a year earlier we had stopped shortly after getting into Moria when the creepy-crawly pursuing Gollum weirded her out.

This time she did better, though she found the deaths of Gandalf and of Boromir to be very, *very* tearful. We had a lot of interesting talks about the movie as it was going on, and on the influence of the Ring on people. She understood completely why Frodo was leaving.

I'm pretty sure, later in the summer, we'll get to the next movie. I want to see her reaction to the Ents, and to the Smeagol/Gollum bits.
Tim W.
97. legionseagle
Kate@95 And I'm even more disturbed by the "Mongol-types" stuff since at the date of writing LOTR "Mongol" also was the official medically approved terminology for people with
Down Syndrome as identified by John Langdon Down, an identification in which the word "degraded" and racial politics played a very profound part (see Wikipedia on Langdon Down). "Mongol" was first suggested as offensive terminology in a letter to the Lancet in 1961, but remained acceptable "polite" currency among lay people for a good decade longer.
Tim W.
98. UnderHill
I think I remember the word 'orc' being used just once in The Hobbit, either somewhere around the Misty Mountains or the Battle of Five Armies? I would have to read it again to be sure, though. Anyone have a better memory than I do? When I was young I puzzled over creatures apparently the same having a different name in the hobbit and in the LOTR, so on re-reading The Hobbit and finding 'orc' in it just one time, it struck me.

I don't think anyone has mentioned one other book example of dark skin going along with the bad guys: what about Sauron? Black-handed, at least, in one incarnation anyway.

"The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron's hand, which was black and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-Galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed. But for my part I will risk no hurt to this thing: of all the works of Sauron the only fair. It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain."
john massey
99. subwoofer
As far as Orcs, in my minds eye I always pictured them as pig-like with a snout and tusks and pink coloring. IIRC(my wife has my series packed away in a box that I can't find)Orcs,and the Uruk-hai are supposed to be elves, tortured and twisted to the darkness. To me that would make them an off-white or grey. I dunno, I may be reaching here, but does the good/evil contrast always have to be illustrated as a battle between black and white?

- On a brighter note, I thought Bilbo's speech was a nice send off- I like half of you...The message of how serious the quest is to destroy the ring comes across well too. The "little late for trimming the verge, don't you think?" was good, and I did like the loyalty Sam has to Frodo.- The one-liners that knit the script together made the character relations believable.

I have mixed feelings about the Nine. On the one hand the witch king of angmar was convincing. On the other, I was reminded of something out of the Dark Crystal with the hoods and cloaks.

I could hem and haw some more, but the bottom line is that this series is in my top 5 all time great movies. Bar none.
Hugh Arai
100. HArai

I dunno, I may be reaching here, but does the good/evil contrast always have to be illustrated as a battle between black and white?

Not at all. But... it is going to be fairly common for it to be shown that way in a cultural tradition that associates light with good and darkness with evil.
Bill Reamy
101. BillinHI
kate @72: Didn't see a lot of NZ on that trip as we only had 2 days in Auckland at the end of a 2 week cruise from Hawaii to NZ via Tahiti, Moorea & Bora Bora. We did see much more of NZ back in 1995 when we drove from Auckland to Wellington, then Picton to Queenstown and back to Christchurch. That was before the movies, of course, but the scenery was awesome in person and made the movies even more special. I had hoped to make a return to NZ this year and visit as many of the LotR sites as possible but it turned out to be financially impossible.
Maybe another time :(
Tim W.
102. sunjah
Eswana@93, firkin@94,
I don't recall the bit of dialog from TFOTR film, but it seems to be referencing this bit from the Two Towers, chapter "Treebeard,"

'It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman's Orcs can endure it, even if they hate it. I wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!'

Here Treebeard is characteristically indulging in taxonomic speculation. I suspect Tolkien left the speculation open at least partly because both of the options above are problematic.
Tim W.
103. Firefly
Elaine T @88: Appendix F is ambiguous, as it talks first about the Quendi (elves generally), then about the Eldar in particular, and the remark about hair colour may refer to either. Since the Sindar were a branch of the Eldar I'd maintain that they're included both ways; I can't read it as applying only to High Elves (the ones who went to Valinor). Tolkien changed his mind about details so often that contradictions are likely enough to occur, but it does suggest he thought of most elves as dark.
Tim W.
104. Elaine T
does the good/evil contrast always have to be illustrated as a battle between black and white?

The good guys like black, too. Just think of the livery of the Guard of Minas Tirith. Ok, it's not unrelieved black, but still, it's mostly black. JRRT seems to have had good black and bad black. Kinda like Jo Walton's Sulien's good darkness put up against evil darkness at the end of the duology.

Idle thought: I wonder if Elves are all pale-skinned because they have no melanin, being from before the Sun?
Tim W.
105. ELaine T
#103, I agree he likely thought of most elves as dark. I read those lines in Appendix F, though, as refering to the Quenya, the People of the Great Journey, since that's where the house of Finarfin comes from, and he goes on to talk about the history of those who returned to ME.

But, yes, he also did change his mind a lot.

In the prologue of Movie 1, there's a red haired elf, isn't there?
j p
106. sps49
legionseagle @81 re: Ged-

I visualized Johnny Rico of Starship Troopers as, well, me, until RAH finally referenced his actual ancestry.

niniver & others- I visualized goblins (I read The Hobbit first, then the cartoon, then read LotR) as live Green Goblins- green, scaly, point-eared. They evolved, some, in the trilogy.

Nowadays I wonder what Celebrian's torment at the claws of the Misty Mountain Orcs was, in light of how elves can just poof away their bodies if desired (per some JRRT writings).

Black and White- Star Wars messed with this trope some, i.e. stormtroopers clad in pristine white.
Dominic Wellington
107. riotnrrd
Leaving aside the matter of skin colour for a moment, it's my understanding that black magic is evil magic in the African traditions as well. If it comes to that, calling something "sinister" is potentially insulting to left-handed people...
Hugh Arai
108. HArai

Indeed. Googling left-handed and sinister took me to what was either the web page of a Satanist or someone outlining Satanist beliefs. The "Left-handed Path". I think it is almost impossible to express yourself in a language without using a word or phrase that has cultural implications in at least one of the cultures that use that language.
Tim W.
109. Siberian
Since I just rewatched FOTR EE I think I'll add a few things that haven't been mentioned much before:


- Why didn't Gandalf cover up Bilbo's disappearance at the party? It's not like Gandalf to be so careless
- Merry & Pippin joining out of the blue. I understand that filmmakers wanted to save some time by cutting out their lengthy preparations but they should have come up with a way to show their dedication to Frodo more.
- The hobbits taking Aragorn as a guide no questions asked. Was it so hard to show Gandalf's letter?
- "Sarumen crossed orcs with goblin men" ... huh?
- Elrond the misogynist and Aragorn "I'm too weak and stupid" to be the King. Why couldn't they stay closer to the real history of Aragorn and his ancestors?
- Except the Balrog, Moria as a whole was disappointing. In the books it's both ancient and abandoned, majestic and claustrophobic with the hidden menace growing with the company's progress. Here, we see dead orcs right away so some of the anticipation is gone. And why does it crumble so easily? Balrog has already been in its passages many times.
- The Argonath - could have mentioned that one of them was Isildur. And where are the axes? This is minor, but why not stay true to the books when you can?
- The breaking of the fellowship, aside from Boromir's death, was poorly done and unbelievable. I understand the need to make it more cinematic, but it just didn't work for me.
- Saruman looking eeeevil. We're talking about one of the Istari who could be very charming even after his treachery was uncovered. Christopher Lee is still playing Drakula.
- Frodo looking hurt, scared and generally inept.

Good things:
- The shire, of course.
- Galadriel, for the most part. I wouldn't call her particularly beautiful, but she managed to be both regal and kind.
- Anduin and the Argonath
- Sam - best casting, I think.
- Gandalf was awesome, too.
- Boromir, surprizingly, came off more likable than in the books.
- The looks - kudos to the artists and New Zealand landscapes.
Hugh Arai
110. HArai
Siberian@109: With reference to Saruman: As I recall it wasn't that he looked particularly charming, it was that his voice was so trememdously compelling that you believed whatever he said. In that respect, I thought Christopher Lee was as good a choice as any.
Maggie M
111. Eswana
Siberian @ 109:
and why does it crumble so easily? Balrog has already been in its passages many times.

Well obviously, the Balrog has wings, so he just flies around :-)

- Why didn't Gandalf cover up Bilbo's disappearance at the party? It's not like Gandalf to be so careless

This peeved me a bit too. However, I think PJ discusses this in the commentary. It was cut out because the LotR virgin who goes to the film with no foreknowledge would be confused. We know why Gandalf makes the light flash, but they don't. Someone unfamilier with Tolkien might see what happend at the party and think, "Gee, the Ring makes you flash light and then disappear." And then every subsequent time it's used, they wouldn't understand why there's not light. Why Gandalf made the light requires too much explaining, and there was already a hefty bit of info-dumping in the Shire scenes.
Tim W.
112. CathWren
delurking to ask if anyone else "compared and contrasted" the attempted seduction of Gandalf by Saurman to the attempted seduction of Obi-Wan by Count Dooku? Christopher Lee played those two scenes so differently and yet they are almost the same scene.

Kate, enjoying the re-read and re-watch immensely. Thanks for thinking of it.

Tim W.
113. debraji
legionseagle@97, re: Kate@95,

I read Tolkien's comment about the "least-lovely Mongol types" as referring to the invading Asiatic people, not much beloved by Europeans, rather than people with Down's syndrome. (Not that it's one of the professor's more endearing remarks...)
Tim W.
114. Siberian
re: Gandalf at the party

That's right, the audience is so stupid, they'll never make a connection between Gandalf and fireworks... really, it's precisely this type of thinking that has led to mass-produced braindead blockbusters of recent years. You'd think that a New Zealander would be less susceptible to it.
Bill Reamy
115. BillinHI
Siberian@109/HArai@110: Just listened to the BBC dramatization of LotR, specifically the part where Gandalf, Theoden et al confront Saruman at Isengard after the Ent attack and they did quite a good job on Saruman's voice, making a distinct difference between his "compelling or appealing" voice and his "regular" voice. On the other hand, Wormtongue's tossing of the palantir was very easy to miss, until Pippin suddenly screams after he looks into it. While I'm generally enjoying the listening, there are times when it can be difficult figuring out who is who. Of course, that could just reflect my poor memory of the books, even after many re-reads. Memory like a steel sieve, that's me ;)
Tim W.
116. Siberian
I actually like Lee's deep voice (did you know he's narrating the audio version of The Children of Hurin?). I think he could have pulled it off if the writers allowed him.
Jim Lund
117. JLund
The depiction of the orcs, especially the Uruk-hai, bothered me. They are way too strong and menacing. In the books, orcs are dangerous because they breed like flys, and there are hoards of them (and particularly dangerous in the dark).

Individually, they are not the match of man, elf, or dwarf. They should be small, the size of a dwarf, but not as substantial. Individually, they are stronger and a bit bigger than a hobbit. The Uruk-hai are bigger and stronger than ordinary orcs, but still not the match of a man.

The movies supersize all the orcs to make them scarier--each normal orc is strong, armed to the teeth, and can climb walls! The movie Uruk-hai are super-soldiers, 100 kg heavily muscled berzerker warriors. This messes up all the fight scenes--the relative strengths are all off, both the small fights and the warring armies. If the Uruk-hai leader can give Aragorn a good fight, an army of Uruk-hai should by itself, without the other evil hosts, dominate Middle Earth.
Tim May
118. ngogam
Firefly @63:
Anyway, what light source are they using in there? Right, naked flames – just like everyone before the 20th century.
That's a bit of an exaggeration. There are two obvious sources of light other than a naked flame available to readers before the introduction of electric lighting*: 1) an enclosed flame and 2) daylight. In ancient Greek libraries like that of Pergamum (& presumably the more famous one at Alexandria, though there we don't have direct evidence), the scrolls would be brought out from the cramped storerooms to an adjoining colonnade to consult them, where the light was better. Roman libraries had enclosed reading rooms, but still relied heavily on daylight.

(Sorry for this digression, but I was just reading Casson's Libraries in the Ancient World.)

* The first electrically-lit libraries actually appeared in the late 19th century, but I mention this only out of pedantry. >_>
Dru O'Higgins
119. bellman
Just learned on aintitcoolnews that Andy Serkis, Ian McKellan and Hugo Weaving have been confirmed for the Hobbit. There was also something about the story possibly following Gandalf's going after Sauron which doesn't happen in the book.
Kate Nepveu
120. katenepveu
Belatedly (work, it has been kicking my butt, until I kicked back today)--

subwoofer @ #99: does the good/evil contrast always have to be illustrated as a battle between black and white?

It would be a novel change, wouldn't it?

Fortunately, I either never saw _The Dark Crystal_ or don't remember it, so they don't taint my Nazgul experience.

(That reminds me, the movie of _Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban_ was clearly influenced by needing the Dementors *not* to look like they were just Nazgul--I am pretty sure the crepe-draped basketballs they ended up with for heads are not textual.)

Elaine T @ #104: I wonder if Elves are all pale-skinned because they have no melanin, being from before the Sun?

Wouldn't that also require UV to be a later development, as the Sun moves from mythological to astronomical? Or maybe immunity to skin cancer is part of the package when you're immortal. =>

sps49 @ #106: in light of how elves can just poof away their bodies if desired (per some JRRT writings)

What a terrible, terrible idea. I'm glad it's nowhere to be seen within _LotR_ or even, IIRC, _The Silmarillion_, because that just seems to really wreck the tension of so many situations.

Siberian @ #109: I do generally like Sean Astin's acting here, but he gets given some pretty tough things to pull off, especially in the upcoming movies.

CathWren @ #112, if that's in the second Star Wars prequel, I skipped that one, so I can't say. (And if it's in the first or third, obviously it did not make an impression!) Glad you're enjoying this, and thanks for reading.

debraji @ #113, I agree that Tolkien is overwhelmingly likely to have history in mind rather than medicine when referring to Mongols.

BillinHI @ #115, I listen to a fair number of BBC radio dramatizations--mostly Agatha Christie novels, which are usually well-suited to the medium--and there really does seem to be an art to having the listener _always know_ who is talking.

JLund @ #117: If the Uruk-hai leader can give Aragorn a good fight, an army of Uruk-hai should by itself, without the other evil hosts, dominate Middle Earth.

You know, I hadn't thought of that before, but that's a really fair point.

ngogam @ #118, ooh, ooh, is _Libraries in the Ancient World_ meant for a general audience? If so I *want*.

bellman @ #119, thanks for the pointer. Yay to Serkis and McKellan, enh to Weaving (Elrond). (source article)
Hugh Arai
121. HArai
JLund@117: You're right. It also makes it sadder that they got so silly with Gimli and Legolas, instead of showing them as highly skilled warriors. The running count between the two at Helm's Deep seems like a grim contest in the book, but showing Aragorn having trouble with one, makes Gimli's count of what, 50ish? seem awfully inflated.
Tim W.
122. Firefly
ngogam @ 118: Sure it's an exaggeration, but my point stands, since a) it wasn't daylight, or else they kept the records in the cellar, and b) the Minas Tirith Culture & Heritage budget apparently didn't run to anything as sophisticated as lanterns, so Gandalf wasn't increasing the hazard quotient a lot by smoking. Besides, enclosed flames aren't all that safe either: see any film where someone nudges a lamp and WOOFF... (I was going to cite Name of the Rose, but didn't they have plain old flames there too?)
Michael Ikeda
123. mikeda

I don't actually think it's inconsistent with the books to depict an especially skilled or powerful Uruk-hai as capable of giving Aragorn a good battle before losing.

What makes orc armies problematic isn't so much the individual weakness of the orcs, as the fact that they lack discipline. They bolt at the slightest excuse and are difficult to organize into a charge.

(Uruk-hai are somewhat better on both counts, but most orcs aren't Uruk-hai.)
Tim W.
124. CathWren
kate #120: yes, the scene between Dooku and Obi-Wan was in Chapter 2.

BillinHI #115: Did you notice that Aragorn had a lisp in the BBC radio version? It drove me crazy.

Speaking of voices: What did everyone think of the Nazgul's voices? I was very disappointed. I imagined something more like the uulating of desert tribes or native Americans.
Arghya Raihan
125. Umbardacil
Okay, first of all, Balrogs don't have wings. Otherwise, the Balrog could simply have flown out of the chasm it fell into. It's not like Gandalf had wounded it earlier.

Secondly, JLund, Orcs are not nearly as small as you make them out to be. They are shorter than Men, but taller than Dwarves and the Uruk-hai are definitely man-size. That and the fact that they can endure sunlight brings up all the man-orc hybrid talk.
Kate Nepveu
126. katenepveu
CathWren @ #124, I don't "hear" things when I read normally and so I had no idea what the Nazgul sounded like.

Umbardacil @ #125, I'll have to look for textevd on Orc size now! This is probably another place where my non-visual reading style is a weakness.
Michael Ikeda
127. mikeda

For what it's worth, Robert Foster's "The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth" (First Paperback Edition) says that Uruk-hai were "almost as tall as Men".
Michael Ikeda
129. mikeda
He doesn't cite a specific source for that conclusion, although he does list occurrences of the term "Uruk-hai".
Tim W.
130. Elaine T
On Uruk-Hai vs orcs: The first chapters of TT touch on this: There were four goblin-soldiers of greater stature ... armed with short.. swords... and they had bows of yew, in length and shape like the bows of Men. Upon their shields they bore .. a small white hand..." (first chapter, looking at Boromir's kills.) When they meet Eomer, he mentions "Great Orcs, who also bore the White Hand of Isengard: that kind is stronger and more fell...". Then in the chapter titled "The Uruk-Hai" wherein we jump from the Three Hunters to Pippin & Merry, Pippin observes: ".. a large black Orc, probably Ugluk, standing facing Grishnakh, a short, crook-legged creature ... Round them were many smaller goblins..."

Just from this I think we can say Foster isn't wrong about Urk-hai being almost as tall as Men; from their bows, if nothing else. And they are certainly larger than the basic orc.
Bill Reamy
131. BillinHI
CathWren @124 I must admit I had not really noticed Aragorn's lisp. I'll have to re-listen to episode 12 (just finished this morning). In the Battle of Pelennor(sp?) Fields, I was very disappointed in the voice of the Captain of the Nazgul - nothing special there at all, I thought. The Voice of Sauron in Ep 12 was very well done IMO. I did get a little tired of Frodo's voice/actions in both episodes 11 and 12: too much anger at Sam and too much angst at the difficulties of crossing Mordor. I know it wasn't easy, obviously, but I didn't see the anger in the book or movie versions. On the other hand, I assume that we do get to hear something of the scouring of the Shire, although I haven't looked at the section titles on my Zune.
Tim W.
132. MerrylG
I have to disagree with you on Aragorn's arc. There is some evidence that when Aragorn was younger, he did feel that way about the kingship. Over time, and all his travels, he came to terms with his birthright and realized that when the ring was found, it was now time for him to "come out". He's been in hiding all of his life; his father was killed before he was born and his mother took refuge at Rivendell.

What they did in the movie was to move this part of Aragorn's arc from being something that happened off-screen, before we met him into something that happens before our eyes. I like that.
Tim W.
133. Elaine T
There is some evidence that when Aragorn was younger, he did feel that way about the kingship. Over time, and all his travels, he came to terms with his birthright

This note surprised me, and I just reread the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, and I don't see the claimed ambivalence about his heritage and kingship.

Can you elaborate on where you see it?
Tim W.
134. images10dream
I realize that probably nobody is using this forum anymore, but I have been rereading and rewatching LOTR. Recently, I re-watched Fellowship. Most of what needs to be said has been said about the good and bad. However, nobody commented on the effect of the score in the film. Howard Shore gives us a straight up John Williams Star Wars scores: each character (or group of characters), place, and event gets its own leitmotif; we hear the same theme throughout. For instance, whenever the hobbits reminisce about the shire, or their natural innocence shows through, we get the celtic, folky theme (I hated this theme, but some may like it). This works well enough. The opening theme of the film (heard during scenes of mystery) is particularly effective. However, during the moria battle scene, the music completely ruins the film. After the company flees the room and is running through the hall, the heroic music instantly starts up. This jarred so badly with what was happening on the screen. The orcs are closing in in massive numbers and the company is surrounded; this is also taking place in almost absolute darkness. This is a scene from a nightmare; the company is terrified, yet the music is obnoxiously upbeat. There are several other scenes where the score simply does not match the film, and it grated on me as the film moved on. Howard Shore really tried to create the Star Wars magic, and I don't think it fit the films; yeah, some of the themes are memorable, but the overall atmosphere of the movies is much darker than Star Wars. The films deserved a more intense score.
Soon Lee
135. SoonLee
images10dream @134:

I didn't find the score to be too bad; my only reservation really was that there were times when I thought the music was too loud. I think a movie score should enhance the emotional content of what's onscreen, it shouldn't be used as a bludgeon.
Chris Meadows
136. Robotech_Master
I'm rather glad I didn't reread the books until well after having seen the movies. (In fact, I'm rereading them now for the first time in years, and finding this set of blog posts very interesting.)

I haven't had time to read through all the comments on this post yet, but posting this on my break at work: I think we can lay the emasculated Aragorn (and various other unflattering character changes) squarely at the feet of post-modernism. Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns were so well-written in their deconstruction of the heroic trope that they, and the other works they inspired, more or less shaped the thinking of a generation.

We're too cynical now. We can no longer accept unblemished heroes at face-value. Aragorn simply couldn't remain the upright, heroic figure he was in the books, because modern (or, rather, post-modern) audiences wouldn't accept it. We want our heroes to have feet of clay now, because it's not "realistic" if they don't. (It's worth pointing out in this regard that about the only character most everyone agrees was "improved" in the movie was Boromir, who had already been presented as flawed in the books.)

(This sort of thinking is also why paladins and other Lawful Good characters in D&D invariably get played as holier-than-thou goody-two-shoes--people have trouble taking seriously the idea that someone could just be "good".)

I'm not sure whether the decision to present the characters that way was because Jackson didn't believe in unblemished heroes, or because he thought the audience wouldn't accept unblemished heroes, but either way it works out the same: retrofitting post-modern archetypes to a pre-post-modern (or just "modern"?) story.

Edited to Add: And then again, when I brought up this theory with a friend of mine later tonight, he pointed out that Jackson had to add some sort of internal conflict to make Aragorn less of a cardboard cut-out character in the movie—and while he didn't necessarily approve of the way they'd chosen to do it, they had to do it somehow. In the books, he's an archetype, but the movie needed a character.

Perhaps there's some truth in both perspectives.
Kate Nepveu
137. katenepveu
images10dream @ #134, I do try and check in every so often. As for the score, it's not an area that usually sticks with me, so I don't have a lot to say about it, other than yeah, I recognize some of the motifs at the time and also when at intense battle moments the music just cuts out (this was actually done twice at the Pelennor Fields, and I remember putting in my notes that it was one time too many (the first was right after the initial charge of the Rohirrim with the horns, when they hit the massed Orcs; I think the second was the oliphaunts).

Robotech_Master @ #136, and yet Boromir is improved by being made more three-dimensional in positive ways, mostly his interactions with Pippin and Merry.

But I do agree that Jackson et al. don't seem to believe in nobility of character, which pretty much wrecked _The Two Towers_ for me. I don't have enough perspective to blame that on post-modernism or not, though I will note that I find much to value in questioning the underpinnings and assumptions of what have been previously presented as heroes, full stop, end of discussion.

I would have liked to see Aragorn made more realized as a character in the movie by bringing forward all the stuff that the book mostly leaves for the appendices, what he's sacrificed to come this far and what the current crisis means for him personally and in the bigger picture and the complicated brew of fatalism and determination and, yes, hope that you can see hinted at from time to time in the book. Rather than the mess the movie ended up with.
Tim W.
138. Patricia Mathews
And then I saw the Uruk-hai. Who are not only very dark-skinned, much darker than “swarthy” to me, but have long twisted hair that often comes close to looking like dreadlocks (picture)."

Actually, my first thought was "Aha! Klingons in Middle Earth!"
139. JoeNotCharles
I was surprised to hear you say that the Uruk-Hai had black skin, because I always though of them as being dark blue.

And when I just looked up images, I realized that's because first scene where we see one "hatching", is in blue light and the image imprinted on me.

I definitely would say the face paint + dreadlocks makes me think Maori far more than African, which is pretty problematic too considering where it's filmed.
Kate Nepveu
140. katenepveu
Patricia Mathews @ #138, you can tell that Trek is not one of my primary fandoms!

JoeNotCharles @ #139, yeaah, neither option there is good.
Matthew Abel
141. MatthewAbel
I've finally read Fellowship for the first time and am working through Two Towers. I watched the first half of the movie after reading the first few parts and watched the second half before starting the TT book.

Anyway. I really thought it smart to incorporate the first part of TT into the Fellowship movie. It was a pretty well-done movie, overall - my main quibbles are with hobbits.

I found the movie grossly miscast. I get using a young actor in Frodo's role, but as you say, he doesn't have the brave arc as the book has - I would have preferred an older protagonist similar to the more proper casting I see in The Hobbit.

I also found both Merry and Pippin more thoughtful and less comic relief in the book. I didn't really care for their portrayal in the movie at all.
Tim W.
142. Tehanu
Can't agree that Aragorn in the book is a "cardboard" figure (or more kindly, an archetype and nothing more). After all, he's almost the only character who displays a real sense of humor. I think the difficulty is what Robotech Master pointed out: that we're too cynical now to appreciate, or even believe in, a character who is really morally noble; we almost have to believe that that kind of goodness can't exist. Or at least, we have to say we can't believe it, because otherwise people will sneer at our naivete. But I think Tolkien believed in the possibility of real heroism and that is why Aragorn is the way he is, and it's our loss if we are just looking for faults and flaws in him.
Tim W.
143. thegooddoctor
the movies are not good. period. some people might like them anyway, but that doesn't make them good movies. it just means that some people can enjoy bad movies, in the same way i enjoy saved by the bell: the college years.

i've done a live blogging of my own rewatch of the trilogy, and i point out all the flaws in the movie. if you can read the whole thing, then rewatch the movies and still enjoy them, then i congratulate you on your ability to compartmentalize.
Tim Marshall
144. smaug86
I agree that making Frodo so young was a mistake, considering that it was 17 years after he received the ring that he was tasked to take it to Rivendell. No way you could have made Elijah Wood seem that much older than the other 3 hobbits, even with hollywood magic.

@143 That is just your opinion and it has no bearing on whether or not the films are good in and of themselves. Most people I know that have seen them, and that are huge Tolkien fans, thought the films were good. Again, their opinions, but no more or less relevant than yours.
Tim W.
145. quillet
I have mixed feelings about discussions like this. Part of me delights in any excuse to read/talk about the films (which I love) and the book (which I adore). I'm fascinated to see where others' opinions gel with my own, and where they don't. But another part of me finds the whole thing just a bit…

Actually, Tolkien himself said it far better than I ever could. So I will paraphrase:

Even from the points of view of many who have enjoyed these films, there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long movie adaptation to please everybody at all points, nor to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from various articles, comments & forums I have read that the scenes or performances (or sets or music) that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. I myself see many defects, minor and major, but being quite unable (lacking the skills, resources, and especially the talent) to remake the films myself, I will pass over these in silence, except for one: the movies are too short.

@ katenepveu: In case that last sentence has you wondering: I think you're completely wrong about PJ's motives — though probably not the studio's — in making the extended editions, and I disagree with you about their worth. But hey, to each her own. Great article anyway, many thanks!

@143 thegooddoctor: I congratulate you on your ability to think that your assessment of a "flaw" is the only one possible.
Doc Tobin
146. thegooddoctor
@144 and @145

i don't think it will be possible for you to read my blog review and still enjoy the movies after that. i find it hard to believe that anyone who was a fan of the books first could enjoy the movies, not with what they did to faramir's character, along with countless other atrocities.
Kate Nepveu
147. katenepveu
MatthewAbel @ #141, I agree that about stopping _Fellowship_ the movie later than _Fellowship_ the book--can you imagine the howls of outrage? And yes, I'm not thrilled by the way the movies used humor, though I like what we do see of Merry and Pippin's growth later.

Tehanu @ #142, I don't need Aragorn to have _faults_, but I think I would have found him a lot more interesting and rooted for him a lot harder if all the stuff about what the quest actually *meant* to him wasn't stuck in an Appendix! I am bang-on with nobility of character, believe me (for a long time my favorite character was Faramir).

thegooddoctor @ #143, I do believe there is such a thing as objectively bad when it comes to film, but I also believe it's set a lot lower than these movies (though if you read the later posts, you'll see I am very much not a fan of some things about them). I also believe that other people's opinions can and do differ and that as long as no-one's insulting anyone else's intelligence or character in discussing it, that's just fine.

smaug86 @ #144, I would be provisionally okay with aging Frodo down if they did something useful with it, but not so much.

quillet @ #145, hee. And believe it or not, I do share your conflicting feelings in some degree . . .
Alan Brown
148. AlanBrown
Tolkien's world is a product of its time. I recently ran across a book in my mom's house called "The British Dominions Year Book 1918," a year that was an especially important one in Tolkien's life. In flipping through it, the assumptions the authors make are pretty clear: the British Empire is good for everyone involved, monarchy is a good political system, and the English are at the apex of civilization. There is perhaps a wiff of confusion that the Great War has lasted so long, and brought so much chaos to Europe. But other than that, there is a great deal of self satisfaction. A view that carries over into Tolkien's fantasy land, which views its analog for England as a kind of earthly paradise.
Regardless of whether the orcs are purple, green, black or whatever, in Tolkien's work, they represent a threat of different looking people that originates in the south and east, which could bring unpleasantness to the caucasian "New Jerusalem" that "our race of men" is building (to use a term that the authors in my year book use to refer to themselves).
This branding of a military opponent as the "other," who is "evil," or "not human," is easy to explain away in fiction, but we see the same characterizations being made to justify far too many real conflicts. I think this comes not from any malice on Tolkien's part, it simply comes from his being a man of his times, shaped by the common beliefs and experiences of his countrymen. But it is regrettable, nonetheless.
Some have said that Americans simply wouldn't understand the servant/master relationship that defines Frodo and Sam. I would beg to differ. Class divisions in the USA are perhaps stronger than they have been at any time since WWII. The relationship of officer and sergeant was mentioned above--not surprising, since this relationship was largely defined in the British military, and is built around concepts of aristocracy. The American Revolution was not as much of a class struggle as it was a struggle between a local ruling class and a foreign ruling class, and many British customs and traditions survived the struggle intact. While we aspire to be a classless society, it would be foolish to think that Americans have put these things behind them. And I would argue that having thrown off the monarchy sooner tends to soften American attitudes toward that institution, as we have not had to live for quite some time with its flaws and shortcomings, and instead view it through the haze of nostalgia.
And finally, to get away from philosophy, and address the movie itself, I liked it just fine. Not the same as the book, but as many have pointed out, different media call for different treatments. I have my own minor quibbles, but in the main, I thought Mr. Jackson did a good job of it.
Kate Nepveu
149. katenepveu
AlanBrown, I hope I didn't imply that USians couldn't understand Frodo & Sam because the US doesn't *have* class divisions, because that would be, uh, absurd. But the specifics of different classes and cross-class relationships is a pretty culturally specific thing and aspects of it may not be obvious to USians (and others not of that culture).
Tim W.
150. AlanMorlock
As for that latent racism, and how so many of the "bad guys" have dark skin in this series, let us not forget that the character they turn into the big bad for this film is a crusty old white dude who literrally has "The White" as his surname, similar to Star Wars as well.
Kate Nepveu
151. katenepveu
AlanMorlock @ #150, yup, and the ultimate villain isn't embodied at all in the present day! Again, I'm not saying that this was a deliberate plan (and therefore inconsistency is not an argument *against* a thesis), just that look, here is a thing, and it sucks.
Tim W.
152. Matthieu G
On the subject of Orc size, there is also this description of the Orc that spears Frodo in the chamber of Balin's tomb:
“... a huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber ...”
I don't think he is an Uruk, so when the text says he is 'huge' but only 'almost' man-sized, that seems to support the consensus in these comments.
On heroic comportment, there's some talk in Shippey of LotR being Tolkien's stab at a more modern attitude towards protagonist behavior, compared to the Silmarillion, where he follows the conventions of the Sagas and poems like Beowulf, which may have been more natural to him. In other words, Aragorn is already less than a full-on hero in the text, even before the movies take that even further.
There were some very cogent asides about Aragorn's behavior with Hama and Wormtongue in the comments for one of the FotR chapters; they made the point that in Rohan at least, Aragorn has to revert to an older form of Hero behavior to be taken seriously, and someone pointed out that this bratty behavior (like Achilles, or Feanör) is expected of him there.
Shippey is saying that Aragorn wouldn't be palatable to Tolkien's LotR audience if he stayed in that Feanör mode all the time, and it's interesting that the movies felt the need to take that even further.
Makes you wonder what a Silmarillion movie trilogy would be like?
Kate Nepveu
153. katenepveu
Matthieu G, I personally think a Silmarillion movie trilogy would be _depressing as fuck_, but then I have Issues with the Silmarillion, so my opinion is perhaps not very useful!
Tim W.
154. Mathieu G
Yeah, I like the Silmarillion but I agree it's probably not the best kind of stories to tell on screen without some intensive rewrites.
Same thing with Beowulf, I don't think we'd be able to relate.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment