Jan 26 2010 3:13pm

LotR re-read: Two Towers movie re-watch

cover of The Two Towers DVDHey, you know what?

The extended edition of The Two Towers is really, really long.

So, apologies for the delay, but I ended up spreading this over three non-consecutive nights thanks to other obligations. I did quasi-liveblog my watching, and those notes are included, after some general comments as an introduction.

Spoilers for the book and movies after the jump.

Oh yes, before we start: obligatory XKCD reference (click on image for big version).

General Comments

It’s really hard to say what I think of the extended edition as a movie, because I kept getting distracted by “oh, that’s new, right?” and “check that bit off” and so forth. It’s, obviously, longer, and it feels slower, but I can’t tell if that’s bad or not: I can’t see it as its own thing and not in relation to what’s come before.

(Which, by the by, is the reason I didn’t re-read the book before the movies came out and waited so long after, to try and keep the movies from affecting the book. Which they didn’t.)

But the movie in general, I dislike quite intensely. Just about every change [*] seems to have been designed to drive me up the wall, across the ceiling, and down the other side, where I sit gibbering in a corner.

Look, I understand that movies are not books, that the pace requirements are different, and that what’s suspenseful on the page may not be suspenseful on the screen. But was it really necessary to create suspense through making so many characters self-centered, short-sighted, and ill-informed? By, in other words, diminishing them? Because I’d much rather a slightly flatter sequence of ups and downs instead of stomping all over beloved characters.

[*] I like the Elves coming to Helm’s Deep. And that’s all I can think of.

My other main complaint about the movie is that it wastes time. The disposition of Saruman should have concluded this movie, and if only it had cut out, say, the Warg attack subplot, we could have had that. Also, on all prior watchings Helm’s Deep seemed to take forever; I remain unconvinced that it had to be that long.

Right. I think the quasi-liveblogging addresses the rest of what I wanted to say, so let’s go to those notes (edited and expanded for comprehensibility).


Jackson loves his sweeping mountain shots. But why are we opening with the mountains on the border of Gondor?

Oh, those are the Mountains of Moira. That’s right, this is the Gandalf flashback. Bet this was startling for new people.

CGI not up to actor + creature in lots of motion (Gandalf & Balrog falling, whoever on cave troll last time, Legolas & oliphaunt next time).

Frodo & Sam: Frodo dreaming of Gandalf, then down the cliff.

Wow that’s skinny rope.

Bit about Sam carrying salt just screams “added back in.”

Eye attack! (Looking at Mordor.) Very horror-movie sensibility.

Jackson loves his vertigious overhead shots. (Gollum working way down to “sleeping” hobbits.)

Gollum on rope flings self about very much like thwarted toddler, I know now. =>

Frodo-Gollum dialogue about Gollum swearing is pretty close to the book. Sam getting violent is not and is too much, too fast.

Immediate Gollum-Smeagol internal conflict also added back in, which is more like the book.

Switch to Uruks and the other hobbits. Interesting that starts with them.

Pippin spits out the brooch instead of running away and dropping, nice shortening of episode even if dubious about logistics.

And now we’re back with the traditionally-heroic types. And more helicopter shots.

Oh, poor Gimli. You are so not meant for comic relief.

Isengard. Movie comes down on the side of Isengard & Barad-dûr being Two Towers.

Saruman in palantír setting self up as Sauron’s equal partner. But payoff will never come.

“The Old World will burn in the fires of industry”—subtle!

Repurposed first-movie footage in “fires of industry” montage. Added: mention of Fangorn, swearing in blood of Dunlanders. Feels awkward at this point, don’t if know would have been useful at time.

Sending kids as your messengers to Edoras, is this really sensible?

The dead at the Fords, Éomer finding Théodred: new introduction of character.

Ridiculous Théoden makeup!

Éomer gets Gandalf’s dialogue to Wormtongue about bought/price. And gets banished for his trouble.

Back to chase.

I suppose if everyone else has British accents, the Orcs might as well too.

Orc cannibalism.

No long Riders chase of Orcs, which is kind of too bad.

No, I don’t believe that Pippin’s going to buy it under a horse, sorry.

“A red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night.” — Seriously, Legolas?

Mad horse riding skillz! Horse people, is this circling-around as impressive as it looks or was it mostly editing?

Horse-shaped nosepiece on Éomer’s helmet.

Legolas doesn’t get a “son of” in introduction.

Éomer very quick to give horses, but I think the feeling bad over slaughtering friends is supposed to stand in.

Orcs not very thoroughly burnt, but then I don’t know what a pile of properly-burnt corpses is supposed to look like. (Which is fine with me.)

Reconstruction by Aragorn/flashback, and do I believe that after all the bodies were dragged around to be burnt, the tracks were still there? No I do not. But mystery-solving & discovery is fun.

I love that reveal of Treebeard’s eyes.

If Treebeard really thinks they’re little Orcs, why did he pick them up in the first place? No need to bring to Gandalf for judgment until they talk him into it.

(Did the White Wizard fake-out work for any new people?)

Back to Frodo, Sam, Gollum. Dead Marshes.

Gollum talking to Frodo about knowing the Ring’s hold: attempt to build relationship,  split the hobbits? And/or genuine?

“Little candles of their own” would be more effective if dead had previously been shown with candles.

Wraith-o-vision upon falling in. Did I mention horror-movie sensibility?

Frodo stroking Ring: OMG get a room.

Transition into “you were/are Smeagol” conversation doesn’t work very well.

Weathertop flashbacks when hear Nazgûl.

Love the Nazgûl gauntlets, the pull-back to the flying beast.

Gimli finds Orc blood, what happened to the squished Orc? Huorn eat it?

What happened to “we cannot shoot an unarmed man unaware”? *headdesk*

Voice trick re: Gandalf is trying too hard.

Gandalf! You found hair conditioner and dye in the afterlife!

Cosmic trip and waking in whiteness, can I blame 2001 for this? Would it have been better to just go with narration and Gandalf’s face as he told it?

I do so love Ian McKellen, his glints of humor and his gorgeous voice and his ability to pull off (almost) any line.

Shadowfax appears, and everyone who ever sighed over Lackey’s Companions gets a little sentimental.

Back to Merry & Pippin. Treebeard gets Bregalad’s verse about rowan trees, and then unexplained snippet of Entwife song (which he says is his, not Elves’).

Does he really leave them unguarded in the forest over night? Some safekeeping.

Hello, Gandalf, thank you for the exposition!

Hello, Black Gate! How big and impassable you are!

Can someone comment on any historical inspiration of the armor of the people marching into the Black Gate? I note that they have light brown skin and possibly something like kohl around their eyes.

Don’t know how it will hold up, but the emotions on Gollum’s face look really good now.

Back to Merry & Pippin. Oh, apparently this is supposed to be Treebeard’s home, with the running water and all, though it didn’t look it at all at night.

Comic interlude about pipeweed and growing through drinking the water, and then suddenly it’s Old Man Willow. That was jarring.

Lost Entwives.

Approach to Edoras.

Does Théoden get a manicure when he wakes up? (Later: yes.)

Wormtongue gets Gandalf’s speech about bitter watches of night, directly to Éowyn, and Aragorn’s about fair/cold. “Your words are poison.” Meant to turn from insight to insult? Not exactly sure of intent here, weight of original too distracting.

Hello, thematically-appropriate flag flying away in the wind and landing on the ground!

Gotta love the sets. Sure, why not build a whole town and hall on top of a big rock in the middle of nowhere? (Those carvings! Those tapestries!)

Aragorn doesn’t have Anduril yet, so no fuss about disarming.

Fighting as Gandalf walks up: stupid. Explicit possession: so much less interesting. Wizard-fu exorcism: so much less interesting and ridiculous.

“I know your face.” Okay, that is good. I do like them together.

Aragorn has to stop Théoden from killing a helpless Wormtongue?

I’m sure the commentaries or extras say, but what is Éowyn singing at the funeral (and is it her)?

2000 men riding north? My, they didn’t look that numerous.

“I will not bring further death to my people”? *headdesk*

Gandalf: “Three hundred lives of Men I’ve walked this Earth.”

Random horse plot, which is headdesk-y in that it’s a waste of time.

Miranda Otto is so awesome and Liv Tyler is so not.

Gollum fishing doesn’t work well on the small screen, either.

Frodo & Sam confrontation over Sam’s treatment of Gollum; Ring influence, setting up later plot twist [note: not sure what I meant by this now, except maybe the sending Sam away in the next movie?]. And yet . . . doesn’t grab me.

On watching the original double-talk scene with Smeagol and Gollum, such a good reveal that early snippet looks bad in retrospect by taking away from it (love the way it was done, the switch from camera panning across face to cutting between them).

Conclusion of “Smeagol is free” from Gollum—sharpening up later betrayal and fall.

More armies of Mordor, with bonus oliphaunt closeup. And dead fallen solider: brown skin, curly black hair.

Faramir gets Sam’s lines about wondering about the soldier, which don’t fit at all.

Disc breaks here, with him ordering hobbits’ hands bound.

Back with trip to Helm’s Deep.

Aragorn wasn’t in disguise/admitted his prior service to Théoden? Uncharacteristic, but I imagine only way to get his age out.

Soppy Arwen memory. Does anyone find the two of them convincing?

And another change to make people meaner, smaller, pettier: Elrond asking Aragorn to let Arwen go for her own good. And he does it!

Adding to list of things that don’t work so well on small screen: Warg riders.

It’s too bad they’re wasting the “big music, cuts out at moment of army clash” on this little skirmish. Because it does work so well.

I suppose the attack isn’t implausible and increases the jeopardy and all, but I can’t like it because it sets up the ridiculous Aragorn-thought-dead thing. This is a movie that does not make good use of the time it has!

Nice crane shot giving us the layout of Helm’s Deep.

Brief Saruman bit, then Merry & Pippin see the army marching, then Aragorn doing the Dead Man’s Float and getting kissed by Arwen and his horse.

Arwen & Elrond: 1) it is really weird to put the bit about Aragorn’s death here [*]; 2) Hugo Weaving is so very mis-cast; 3) oh, the pretty sad tears rolling down her face, whatever; 4) Elrond: “Do I not also have your love?” *stab stab stab* That is BAD PARENTING.

[*] I realized just now that they’ve removed the “Arwen becoming human” thing, which probably makes sense from an exposition standpoint.

(Elrond isn’t planning to die here in Middle-earth, why can’t she wait for the ship he’s going on?)

Hello, Galadriel! Nice to see you getting your obligatory portentous voiceover! My, what big blue eyes you have.

Back with Frodo, Sam, Faramir.

Heh, I recognize that map.

Frodo starts his acquaintance with Faramir by lying about Gollum, good show.

Faramir is just all wrong from the start, arrgh, arrgh, I hate this bit.

Boromir reclaimed Osgiliath? What, it was just lost by Faramir? That’s a change. I missed that until now—that does not look like a recently-abandoned city.

Denethor charges Boromir with bringing the Ring to Gondor; Boromir doesn’t want to leave. I am dubious about this. Denethor looks too unstrung already & it changes the dynamic of Boromir’s fall quite a bit retroactively. But it’s nice to see Sean Bean again.

Really working the dog parallel in Frodo’s betrayal of Gollum at the pool. About which my feelings are on record. Ouch.

And now they have these noble men of Gondor beat Gollum to make him talk. Gah. But wow Serkis’ voice acting is good: listening to him do Smeagol & Gollum while curled face-first against the wall made my blood run cold.

“The Ring will go to Gondor”: NO NO NO WRONG LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

Aaaand, back to Aragorn arriving at Helm’s Deep ahead of the army. *gets timer ready for battle*

Okay, I confess, I am almost willing to bear the existence of the entire movie just for the shot of Aragorn pushing open the double doors.

I’d forgotten that Théoden’s bitter reaction to Aragorn’s “Gondor will answer” sets up the “And Rohan will answer” in the third movie. Which is awesome. (This is me, looking on the bright side before the never-ending battle and yet more stuff I hate about this  movie.)

Tiny Entmoot snippet, then more grayness at Helm’s Deep.

Moving Éowyn’s “They fight beside you because” speech here doesn’t work, either.

I, uh, liked the “Where is the horse in the rider” better in the preview footage.

The writers must also know about Aragorn’s youth nickname, the way they throw “hope” around with big flashing letters.

Hadn’t caught the contrast between Théoden (slow, attended, mournful sunset) & Aragorn (fast, alone, businesslike) arming up before. I like it.

Why word from just Elrond, not also Galadriel—this is Haldir from Lorien, isn’t it? (Later: yes.)

Starting the timer with the army on the battlements and the Orcs approaching. Just to see if the battle is really as long as it feels.

I do like the look on Théoden’s face when the rain starts, which is very subtle but very speaking nonetheless.

The “scared women and children” shots really get on my nerves. It’s just so . . . blatant.

The Orcs banging their polearms is still cool.

This is the third tiny snippet of Entmoot interlude, the second where the Ents are so very non-hasty, and it’s kinda not working as comic relief for me.

Boy, they were working that culvert explosion for all it’s worth, huh?

Was that Peter Jackson throwing a spear down? I know it was his and Fran Walsh’s adorable moppets being scared in the caves.

Yay, Gimli gets to be heroic! And . . . then trampled.

No, no, the shield surfing is just silly, I’m sorry.

And we’re back to Entmoot and “This is not our war”: LA LA LA. And Pippin saying they should go home?

Haldir gets a slow-mo death. Because he’s pretty.

Music stops quietly with Orcs at gate and Théoden & Hama in fighting. Rewound to see when exactly and lost my timer, estimating to re-start.

Why, exactly, did Aragorn and Gimli go through all that trouble if they were just going to give up the gate like that?

Pippin gets a bright idea, snippet of Frodo begging to be let go, and then back to the major Ent head-desk moment, because Treebeard wouldn’t have known what Saruman did to the forest and they didn’t tell him before now? And it takes their blatant self-interest to get the Ents involved? (And then all the Ents were so close that they could all come out of the trees right away?)

Okay, fine, “Last march of the Ents” still gets me.

Osgiliath—apparently we are in for a long break from Helm’s Deep (15:30 roughly by now).

I know it’s a minor thing, but hearing them all talk about the Ring out in the open is so jarring.

Oh, they gave up the gate because Théoden has succumbed to despair and retreated to the caves to die. I suppose the change to “fey” is somewhat of an improvement.

Hi, Gandalf! You look so white and snowy. Hi, Éomer! You look so timely, I could almost mistake you for Erkenbrand.

Even trying to account for camera angles, that is a really steep slope. Horse people, plausible?

I choose to believe that the dawn light was magically enhanced by Gandalf even though, or perhaps because, it is quite unlike any other magic he does in the movie.

The destruction of Isengard doesn’t live up to my image of it, or even get close, but I don’t mind because nothing could live up to how cool it is in the book.

(I make the battle roughly 20 minutes, which surprised me—it felt longer in prior watches. Not as much here, but I was splitting the movie up, and there’s been so much else added back in that in contrast it couldn’t feel as long.)

You know, I don’t think that the third movie properly takes into account that Frodo is so lost here that he (1) tries to put the Ring on in front of a Nazgûl and (2) almost kills Sam. (I’m out of exclamation points and capital letters. I’m just too tired. This is a long frickin’ movie, even spread out over three nights.)

And oh, no, it’s the grand tearful speech from Sam over the happy-ending montage, which I really would like to work for me. But it makes me cringe. This may say more about me than the movie.

I’d forgotten that the movie makes explicit that the trees kill the Orcs, which is just like the movie and not nearly as creepy.

Faramir’s warning about Cirith Ungol is more explicit: “a dark terror.” And still using force on Gollum, how lovely.

Sam makes a gesture that Frodo doesn’t, tells Gollum that Frodo didn’t mean for him to be hurt & was trying to save him.

Conversation about Sam & Frodo being in fireside tales; Frodo seems to have recovered very well.

And the final amazing Smeagol-Gollum conversation—especially the way it doesn’t cut from one angle to another, like the first one, to give the illusion of two different people. (Though the logistics are weird, could he have really thought to sneak past Shelob before he decided to betray them?) Not as vicious a cliffhanger as Frodo taken by the orcs, but, amazing.

* * *

I suspect I am a minority in disliking this movie so much, so, those who do like it, let’s hear why—and those who don’t, come forth and be counted!

« Two Towers IV.10 | Index | Return of the King I.1 »

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, and (in her copious free time) writing at her LiveJournal and booklog.

1. Fairanna
(Did the White Wizard fake-out work for any new people?)

I never read the books, but I did not realize until my second viewing, months later, that I was supposed to think Gandalf was Saruman.
Marcus W
2. toryx
Oh, poor Gimli. You are so not meant for comic relief.

That is the one thing I hated about the movies. It was just so wrong and so tacky, picking on the dwarf like that.

I actually do like the movie with the extra bits added in. I didn't like the theatrical version nearly as much. But I'll admit that to a certain degree, I don't really think of Jackson's Lord of the Rings as being the same thing as Tolkien's LotR. To me, the movies are really kind of an homage to Tolkien in a manner more successful than all the very bad books that are essentially retellings of LotR.

I do agree that pretty much everything they did with Arwen was just wrong, and the whole suggestion of Aragorn's death was completely wasted time. And that's not to even get started on poor Faramir.

But for a sweeping and epic fantasy story, the movie does the job for me.
3. Mathrik
Interesting, The Two Towers was my favorite of the movies.
4. Jake Steinmann
You're not alone. I hated this movie with the fury of a thousand burning suns, to borrow a cliche. I actually almost skipped the third one because of it.
Kate Nepveu
5. katenepveu
Fairanna @ #1, that's fascinating! Thanks for the data point.

Mathrik @ #3, care to say why? I'd love to know what you saw it in--maybe I'm missing something.
Rikka Cordin
6. Rikka
liked this movie least of the three. too drawn out, I have reverse opinions about Liv and Miranda (Miranda!Eowyn is too... passive! she's mild as milk-water! and always looks like she has a cold >.>)

I miss the hobbits as comic relief, Treebeard is decent but I don't like Gimli for laughing at, it negates the entire point of him being a part of the party! urgh. also, battle scenes only impress me when they do something new. TT fails at this a lot more than RotK
David Levinson
7. DemetriosX
There are a lot of problems with this film, but it also has its moments. Oddly, I think that some of the things they gave up in the interest of being more cinematic would have been more so than the stuff they added.

Hated the whole Arwen thing and the attack of the warg riders. Liv Tyler can't act and isn't really all that attractive either. (It's her mouth, I think, and just an overall impression that her father's lifestyle impacted his DNA for the worse.)

Random stuff: Actually, building Edoras up on the hill like that makes perfect sense. It makes the town more defensible.

IIRC, Treebeard's "little orcs" comment is straight out of the book. Why not pick them up if he's curious? He could squish them like bugs.

The Smeagol/Gollum dialog was possibly the best thing about this movie.

Faramir was horribly miscast. The guy is such a milquetoast, it's incredible. I always thought Sean Bean should have been Faramir and somebody else should have been Boromir, maybe a Brian Blessed type.

Hated the Theoden transformation. It was too much. Done properly, there should have been very little in the way of makeup effects. Just remove a few lines and shadows in his face and let his posture and attitude evoke the change. Bernard Hill was really just too young. Brad Dourif, OTOH, was also an excellent bit of casting.

Haldir annoys me, as I mentioned when we discussed the last movie. Why couldn't we have had the Grey Company arrive instead of the elves? Yes, there would have had to be some exposition, but then the whole Halls of the Dead and Aragorn's arrival at the Pelennor Fields would have made a lot more sense. Either way, the line, "That's no orc horn!" leaves me stuck with the LotR version of Badger, Badger, Badger.
Daniel Brown
8. I_Slap_Raptors
I remember watching TFotR and going with the changes, because films generally have to change a little bit from book based source material to be watchable on screen. TTT was where the Peter Jackson's LotR ship sailed without me. Too much of it was change for its own sake and a large part of it was (even worse in my mind) pandering. Shield surfing, Dwarf tossing gags, Faramir behaving like a jerkass... *Facepalm* I ended up waiting for the third installment to appear on terrestrial television because of it. (Part three also gets a hearty dose of "meh!")
Iain Coleman
9. Iain_Coleman
The scene where Wormtongue is given the lines about Eowyn being trapped in Edoras are a great example of a general rule about these movies: for all the visual splendour, the best bits are where the film-makers take actual words written by Tolkien and give them to a really good actor to say. They should have done more of that.

(Oh, and they also make the wise decision to give the biggest, most gristly gobbets of exposition to McKellen, who is about the only actor who can manage to get away with it.)
Elio García
10. Egarcia
I like The Two Towers as a film, but it's the second hardest of the books to film because of the split-up narrative (the worst is, of course, The Return of the King), and it was a challenge to adapt. Unlike with FotR, which I think Jackson and Co. knocked way out of the park, TTT is just .... pretty good, with some awe-inspiring moments (the opening made my jaw drop when I saw it in the theatre) and some... very ........ very ................... *HOOM* .......... Entish.............. bits.

Which is, to say, slow. The structure's a tough one.

I am a definite Rohan-phile, though, so that alone made me very, very happy. It's not quite how I would have done it, but it was magnficient, and the actors in the various roles of the Rohirrim were uniformly excellent.

As far as Liv Tyler goes, beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. I think she's lovely and ethereal (in two or three senses) in the film. And the bit they pull from the appendices, seeing Aragorn on his bier and all that? Gives me chills. For a bit there, they capture the authentic tragedy that Tolkien intended.

Re: Éowyn's song, I don't know if Otto sang it, but the words are authentic Old English, provided by David Salo. The opening lines are pretty much word-for-word from Beowulf. A translation of this, and other bits of foreign stuff in TTT (and its extended soundtrack), can be found here.
j p
11. sps49
Peter Jackson did a lot of things well with these movies, which only showed how he was able to hit the mark, but chose not to. Stupid changes just for making changes is stupid! If you want to tell your story, go ahead; but don't call it The Two Towers.

Hollywood looks at literature as a starting point for directors to impose their own mise-en-scene, anyway. I recall a push to change Hogwarts into an LA high school, because who cares if the series isn't finished yet?

I also think the first Harry Potter movie is an excellent example of adapting a movie to the screen.
12. pilgrimsoul
To agree with Toryx above and paraphrase Richard Bentley--It's a very pretty movie, Mr. Jackson, but you must not call it Tolkien.
The extended version made more sense because with the theatrical version even knowing the story I kept going "Huh? What's the motivation for THAT?
Also we got more of (sigh) Sean Bean. Orlando Bloom was originally cast as Faramir--am I right about that? Think of how heart breaking he would have been-I mean in a good way.
13. snyderro21
I absolutely hated what was done to Faramir. I know Peter Jackson was trying to emphasize the overwhelming corruptive power of the ring, but the movie misses one of the main points. The whole point of the Boromir/Faramir thing is that though Boromir was perhaps the stronger warrior, Faramir had the nobility of the ancient men of Westernese, and thus did not desire the power the ring gave.

This I think was symptomatic of what I think was one of the major flaws of the movies. It seemed like every character that showed true character and nobility had to have that aspect of their character diminished.

Aragorn has a wimpy not sure I really want to be king unless I get forced into it sort of attitude.

Not much difference between Faramir and his brother.

Galadriel comes across as sort of freaky.

Elrond is a crabby old elf.

Theoden sometimes seems bitter and spiteful.

Don't get me wrong I still loved the movies, though Two Towers was bar far my least favorite of the three. I just don't understand why Jackson felt such a need to diminish any character that showed any amount of nobility in their character.
14. Foxessa
Jackson is a horror movie maker. Which was really too bad for the LOTR film version.

I was disappointed in the horse chosen to play Shadowfax. I'd always seen him as more -- ample, for one thing, like an Andulusian.

I didn't care for the actress playing Éowyn at all (she was the best of the 4 in the execrable Cashmere Mafia (or whatever that short-lived Starr spinoff of SATC was called), whereas I did like Liv Tyler as Arwen, and felt that the scenes between Arwen and Aragorn worked.

But I hated hated hated how Jackson for no reason whatsoever has Aragorn cavalierly giving her up -- just now? when Éowyn is googleeyeing him -- puleeze.

I hated hated hated all those relationship changes and character changes that Jackson made -- and he made them for NO GOOD REASON.

The more often I've watched the extended version, which I do around Yule every year, the more all the faults of his choices show up, and what one liked matters less and less. Like that beloved lighting of the signal fires -- why light signal fires up among cloud shrouded mountain peaks which nobody can see because of the clous shroud?
Elio García
15. Egarcia

"and thus did not desire the power the ring gave. "

I don't think he wanted the power the ring gives in PJ's film. He wanted the esteem of his father.

I actually liked the film's take on Faramir. It sucks the tension out of things if Faramir is so noble as to never really struggle with the issue that the ring is horribly seductive, as in the novel (on the flip side of this, I never liked that Frodo offered the ring to Aragorn near the end of FotR, and Aragorn was able to shrug it aside after just the briefest of hesitations).

Better to keep that tension, channel it through an appropriate character narrative, and resolve it. At least in my book.
Elio García
16. Egarcia

Shadowfax was an Andalusian. Well, one of them was -- they had two or three horses for various scenes. The "hero" Shadowfax -- used in close-ups and non-riding scenes -- was an Andalusian horse named Domero. For riding sequences, like his galloping about, they used an Andalusian-Thoroughbred cross named Blanco.

Andalusians are not as big as one might think, in any case.
17. Clementine
I watched the movie again recently, and I have to admit that the slowness of it (and the big mountains, and long helicopter shots) are totally part of the pleasure for me, because at many moments its not so much the action, as appreciating the scope of it all that I enjoyed, (this of course does not aply to the battle scene, and my god, I thought it was longer to)

Now that I think of it, maybe the relatively contemplative first part gives it a slighlty intelectual varnish that make the misguided shield surfing and dwarf jokes easier to swallow

Seeing it again I was suprised to notice that I had forgot nearly every Frodo/Sam/Gollum moments, to rember only the rohan plotline, perhaps because of my foundness for big plains and cities on top of hills ( I guess Rohan-phile is the term :) )

Not to deny that Gollum was wonderfull though, because he was.

I had read the books several years before the films came out, and when I was quite young, and so I remember the characters and the overall story foundly, but not really enought to detect all the changed plot point.

What I remember thought is that when reading at was possitivly horrified at the possibily that Eowyn could snatch Aragorn, and in the movie I was totally rooting for her, wich tells you a lot about what I thought of the two actresses performances.

The pseudo dead aragorn was horrible and puting together the dream sequence/metaphor/whatever of arwen and the comic relief of the horse is just clumsy

Though I agree with many of your reserves, I have to confess that when I saw this movie, the only feelings I had was those of a childhood dream becoming true right in front of my eyes, in a way that frankly deserved a gold medal compared to so many books adaptation out there (wich you have to admire because it's he lord of the rings damnit!)

oh, and did I mension THE PUSHING OF THE DOUBLE DOORS!
18. DBratman
The first fundamental problem with this film is that it makes the entire Rohan-Isengard plot look like a sideshow, an interruption. And, unlike so many other of his dubious accomplishments, Jackson does this one without making any perceptible alterations in Tolkien's story. For part of Tolkien's point is that not only the battle for Rohan, but the battle for Gondor also, is a sideshow: the real story is Frodo and Sam with the Ring.

Yet it doesn't feel that way reading Tolkien, but it does watching Jackson. Paradoxically, this may be because of the emphasis Jackson gives to these battles, which he brings forward and makes graphic where Tolkien described them distantly and with stylization. Jackson's victory at Helm's Deep is made triumphant where Tolkien's is not, and that contributes to the anticlimax in realizing that it's only a waystation in the greater conflict.

But I don't know. It's a question only a true artist could answer, and Jackson, alas, is no true artist.

The other fundamental flaw, which shows up in the other films as well but particularly in this one, is that Jackson has no faith in the characters he has inherited from Tolkien. Almost every one of them - in this film, most notably Treebeard, Theoden, and Faramir, but also Legolas and Aragorn (Frodo's is saved for the third film) - undergoes a crisis of faith. They panic, and lose the certainty of the rightness in what they're doing. But then, as he does not want to change the story too much, Jackson then has to backtrack them out of it and return them to the point they left off. This explains, for instance, film-Faramir's baffling decision to take the Ring to Minas Tirith, and then, given that decision, his even more baffling one to change his mind and let Frodo go. It's because he has to return to what Faramir did in the book.

Jackson has said that he didn't find credible Faramir's refusal in the book to touch the Ring, if it's supposed to be so powerful and tempting, but really: if a warrior or leader (like Faramir, or Aragorn, or Gandalf) has in front of him a weapon that could win the war, and yet he recoils from even touching it, surely that conveys its power and menace more than any temptation could do. Faramir is, as Denethor later calls him, "a wizard's pupil": he abjures the Ring because he knows it's dangerous, and why. Jackson doesn't get this.

Another place where Jackson tries to have it both ways, but winds up having it neither, is with the Elves at Helm's Deep. His original plan was to have them led by Arwen. While this would not have been Tolkien's story, it would have been logically in keeping with the character arc Jackson had built for Arwen in film 1.

But Jackson feared the Tolkien fans would disapprove, so he cut Arwen's character off and had her waste away ludicrously (after the way he'd built her up previously) in film 2. And to lead the Elves he replaced her with Haldir, who makes no sense in this context - it's not in keeping with his character as previously shown, and he's from Lorien while the troops are from Rivendell, so wtf?

And having the Elves at Helm's Deep at all is a major change from Tolkien's story, as much as it would be if Arwen had led them, which at least would have made sense in terms of Jackson's story. So he winds up telling a story that is neither his nor Tolkien's.
Ashe Armstrong
19. AsheSaoirse
I'm pretty much in full agreement of this article. The change in Faramir still makes me go into a rant. However, as much as I hate most of this movie, the things that were changed in RotK make me even angrier. Specifically Sam. I'll leave it at that until you do the article for that movie.
20. lampwick
Jackson gets into trouble when he veers away from Tolkien -- Faramir taking the ring and Aragorn being supposed dead are the worst examples in this movie, and I hated both of them. Faramir, unlike most of the other characters who are offered the ring, isn't a king or wizard or steward's heir -- isn't special in any way -- and I always like that he refused it, standing in for ordinary people anywhere. And Aragorn!!! -- There are already enough people coming back from the dead in this movie -- Gandalf, Pippin and Merry thought dead by the others -- that Aragorn doing it too is almost comical, farce.

(I still liked the rest of the movie, though.)
John Carr
21. CyricPL

Actually, with regard to the elf thing, it had already been shot with Arwen, and he could do enough with re-shoots to take her out as the leader, but not enough to take out the elves altogether. This was a reaction to the earlier fan reactions to Arwens ramping up in the previous film.

But the thing is, Jackson isn't entirely to blame for this particular issue (I personally love the movies, but even for me this is a sticking point). If you listen to the commentary track on Two Towers extended, it is clear from Jackson's comments and tone that he is not exactly a fan of the idea of elves at Helm's Deep in any way, but that Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh both are, so he got outvoted in the screenwriting.
Chad Orzel
22. orzelc

I also think the first Harry Potter movie is an excellent example of adapting a movie to the screen.

The first Harry Potter movie was an example of how not to adapt a book to the screen. It was thuddingly simpleminded in its transfer of every detail of the book directly into the movie, save for Richard Harris as Dumbledore, who utterly lacked the element of whimsey that made the character in the book work.

The first decent Harry Potter movie is the third one, where they finally hired an actual director. The first two try to hard to get every single detail on screen, and even with fairly light books, that just doesn't work.

I did not take part in this re-watch, due to general busy-ness, though I've watched bits and pieces on cable at various times (while Kate went LA LA LA LA in the other room). It's probably the weakest of the three films (which is odd, as it's the best of the books), but I'm not as down on it as many other people. I've never found the character of Faramir all that memorable as written, so I'm not as bothered by the changes to his character. I think having him have an actual crisis about the Ring would've been a reasonable change, but having him relent after that godawful sappy speech by Sam is too cheeseball for words.

As I recall, there are a number of points in the special features that suggest the first draft of the script had a lot of things that were even more radical departures from the books, but a lot of those elements were dropped when they turned out not to work. I suspect that some of the really awkward scenes (I agree with a lot of #18) are probably the result of trying to retroactively correct things in post-production.
23. DBratman
orzelc @22: HP1 was a good example of how mechanical reproduction of the plot is not the same thing as faithfulness to the book. Not just Dumbledore's, but every piece of whimsy that made that book so charming was surgically removed, except only the every-flavor beans. At noticing which I said to myself, "I bet they're going to sell those," and sure enough, they soon turned up in the stores.

Even apart from that, the film was crude and exaggerated, e.g. look at what they did to the first flying lesson.

Getting back to LOTR, Jackson (or Boyens) has indeed said that when they got too far away from the book, the storytelling suffered. And boy howdy, indeed it did.

You say that you consider Two Towers the best of the three books. This may in part be because Tolkien didn't write LOTR as a trilogy. It's a single novel that got published in three volumes for size and pricing reasons. So TTT doesn't suffer from the standard "middle volume of a trilogy" syndrome.

CyricPL @21: Actually, when I write "Jackson", consider that shorthand for "the creative team of scriptwriters Jackson-Walsh-Boyens plus Jackson in his capacity as director and any relevant assistants."

If they couldn't get the Elves out of the Helm's Deep shots, all the more reason they should have stuck to the original plan and kept Arwen in. It wouldn't have been any more of Tolkien's story, but it wouldn't have been any less, either, and at least it then would have been their story. As released, it isn't anybody's story.
24. Carbonel
No. 18 has it: the flaws in characterization planted in the first movie come to fruition in the second: badly. I can still watch TTT (there are many good moments, and better music) but I find ROTK virtually unwatchable.

Since Boyens was brought in as the LOTR/Tolkien cognoscienti for the script-writing I wonder how she failed to miss so much of what Tolkien was doing in THE FELLOWSHIP and how, therefore, if you changed it, you'd need to keep changing it down the road... But she did. And they all of them have a tin ear for dialogue -- all the best bits are what Ian McKellen managed to sneak back into the film!
Ron Griggs
25. RonGriggs
I've made my peace with the Peter Jackson movies in this way: Imagine that Peter Jackson is telling an alternate version of an ancient history, just as Tolkien did earlier. There is precedent for this. There are several versions of the Hansel and Gretel tale, or better, there are versions of the histories about Attila the Hun written hundreds of years apart. The main characters are present, the plot works itself to a known end, but the details are different and the motivations of the characters can be completely different, interpreted as they are by different writers in different eras.

So if you can accept the conceit of Tolkien as a translator of the Red Book of Westmarch, then you can imagine Jackson as the "translator" of a more corrupt manuscript with missing pages, miscopyings, and scribal intrusions into the original text. And then you can better enjoy his version.

The best thing about the Jackson LOTR movies, according to a friend of mine, is that they were clearly "shot on location."
Rachel Howe
26. ellarien
This was definitely my least favorite of the three movies: too much was missing that should have been there, too much extraneous stuff was added, and the extended edition didn't fix the former problem and made the latter worse.

A while back, I blogged my second viewing of the EE as follows.

Things they got mostly right:
The Emuin Muil and the Dead Marshes. Gandalf's return, and the flashbacks to the Balrog fight. Isengard. Gollum, with reservations. Merry and Pippin among the orcs, and the quest of the Three Hunters. Eowyn. Grima Wormtongue. Ithilien, complete with stewed rabbit and oliphaunts. The night scene with Gollum fishing at the forbidden pool.

Things that were different from the book, but not necessarily bad in themselves:
The fleshing-out of the ordinary folk of Rohan, and Theodred. Aragorn dreaming/daydreaming about Arwen. Elrond's long-distance call to Galadriel, though after seeing that four times I'm still not sure it makes sense.

Things that were so different from the book that I find it hard to judge whether they were good or bad:
The warg attack and Aragorn falling off the cliff. Faramir dragging Frodo off to Osgiliath, and what happened there. (Sewer under the river? Huh?) The whole Faramir and Boromir thing does make more sense with the extra flashback scenes in the EE.

Things that were just wrong:
the treatment of the Ents as rather stupid comic relief, and in particular that nonsense between the Entmoot and the attack on Isengard. Theoden's magical cure, complete with vanishing beard. Elves at Helm's Deep.
27. Lelliot
In general I think of The Lord of the Rings as more of a travelogue rather than a novel - Tolkien built a world and LoTR was a vehicle to drive us around in it. In that sense I think Jackson captured it brilliantly - the locations, the sets, the costumes all capture the essence of what I imagined (just try to imagine the LoTR by Tim Burton) .

The books featured a lot of turgid dialogue, paper thin characters and unmotivated behavior, and a lot of that made it into the films. To be sure, Jackson committed plenty of sins - of which the psuedo-death of Aragorn was probably the worst. On the other hand, the role of Aragorn in the book was pretty underwritten and I really liked what they did with him overall (and the job that Viggo Mortenson did with the part).

There are a handful of iconic scenes that he manage to incorporate that really did hit the mark - and the return of Gandalf was high on that list (along with his fall in Moria). In the comments PJ says that the first few seconds of that shot have Christopher Lee's eyes super-imposed in order to heighten the impression that its Saruman (which is a strong element of that scene in the book).

Nowadays I tend to rewatch the extras on the extended edition as much or more than the actual movies - everything about how they did the art design (hiring John Howe and Alan Lee), the costumes, the sets, the locations and the special effects is fascinating. The commentary with the screen writers is informative if you're curious about the plot choices they made.

I walked out of the first movie thinking it was about as much as one could hope for from an adaptation, but the extended edition completely blew me away. Unfortunately this was released right before the two towers, so my impression of that movie was completely colored by my expectations for the extended version.
Matt Austern
28. austern
It's true that most of the problems in the movie are when Jackson chose to deviate from Tolkien. It's also true that most of them have to do with his diminution of Tolkien's characters, his unwillingness to believe in heroism.

I've also noticed another pattern, though: the worst parts of the movie are when Jackson chooses to insert an artificial cliffhanger, building dramatic tension by setting up a seeming disaster that gets resolve a few minutes later as no such thing. (The Ents' seeming decision to ignore the fight; Aragorn's seeming death; Faramir's seeming corruption.) The end result is a mechanical sort of rhythm, with a little cliffhanger every n minutes. As with the ill-judged comic relief, it just makes the story feel cheap.
Soon Lee
29. SoonLee
There was a certain amount of Hollywoodisation, the diminishment of other characters to make Aragorn more heroic. I did not like that; the changes to Faramir still rankle.

Carbonel @24: "if you changed it, you'd need to keep changing it down the road..."

And provoked outraged cries of "UR DOING IT WRONG!" among fans, myself included.

I still like the movie treatments though they are by no means perfect. They got so much right that the parts they got wrong (Faramir & the Gimli character being abused as comic relief) really stick out.
30. Lane Arnold
--as a big fan of the books--all three movies took some getting used to--but now i can't understand why anyone who enjoys fantasy would think that these films are not masterpieces--seen them multiple times--impressed with this movie in particular--edoras is amazing--so is helm's deep--ms. otto's costumes are beautiful---tolkien takes some digestion--ever try to read the simarillion?--sheesh!
Karen Lofstrom
31. DPZora
I've only read the LOTR twice. A great book (it IS one book) but also a deeply flawed one. Jackson tried to erase some of the flaws, succeeded (IMHO), but introduced others.

I didn't mind! I'm quite willing to consider the movies not as an instantiation of the books, but as a different version of the myth that Tolkien created. Tolkien's great success is that he did create myth, one that can be told and interpreted in different ways. Good stories deserve to be retold.

I watched all the films in the theater and like them; I liked the extended version better. I think I've watched the whole extended version three times. All the appendices twice. The material in the appendices deepens my appreciation for what appears in the films.

It's going to be easier to do another LOTR film in the future, as CGI gets easier and cheaper, so there will be one. But will be made in reaction to Jackson's version; there's no escaping that one.

There was some discussion recently, on Salon, re the fact that the LOTR didn't show up on the critics' lists of the best films of the 2000s. Why not? Perhaps the love it/hate it reactions it evokes. Perhaps the fact that it is a crowd-pleasing, intricately-crafted, deeply traditional movie. Book of Kells at the Venice Biennial. No critic can get any street cred for liking this one.
Ian Gazzotti
32. Atrus
Between Faramir and Haldir's nazi robocop elf brigade, wartching this movie really makes me sad. A pity, because there are some very beautiful and touching scenes, even among those that weren't written by Tolkien.

@27 Paper thin characters? I think they're pretty full characters, just of a kind different than what we're used to see in modern stories.
In LotR, apart from the hobbits, all characters are adults. Aragorn is 80, the Elves hundreds to thousands of years old: they did their growing up a lot of time ago, changes in behaviour happen but are more subtle, and they keep their emotions sombre rather than on their sleeves. I always found them a refreshing chance from the small and bitter characters ("diminished", as Kate put it) we tend to see in modern media.
Kate Nepveu
33. katenepveu
Hi, everybody. Before we start, an awesome link: _Lord of the Rings_ cast with chromatic actors, as part of a meme going around fannish blogs on LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, etc.

DemetriosX @ #7, I wasn't making fun of the location of Edoras, just the effort involved in actually building the thing . . . for a movie.

And I just don't see any reason for Treebeard to be curious about them in the movie before picking them up; in the book he likes their voices.

I cannot agree that Sean Bean should have been anything but Boromir, but I can't tell if the problems with Faramir rest with the actor in addition to the script, since the script is so bad.

I_Slap_Raptors @ #8, I have very mixed feeling about the third one, which we will get to in due course, but I certainly spent a lot of time trying not to get my hopes up about it after this.

Iain_Coleman @ #9, I know, poor McKellen. Chad & I (orzelc further down the comments, who if that context doesn't make clear is my husband) were talking last night about who did the best acting in the movies, and I was arguing for McKellen doing better than he thought because he suffered under the weight of all that exposition.

Egarcia @ #10, thanks for the link--I should have known it was Old English! It sounded great, too, I forgot to say.

sps49 @ #11, I was with you up until the Harry Potter reference!--I've seen the first four and the only one I really liked was the third.

pilgrimsoul @ #12, and I was with you up to preferring Orlando Bloom! As far as I can tell his acting consists of moving his eyebrows around. Not impressed.

Tastes, they do vary.

snyderro21 @ #13, exactly.

Foxessa @ #14, I know he's a horror film maker, it's just odd when it really breaks through all of a sudden. (Also, I'm pretending I can't hear you about the signal fires.)

Egarcia @ #15, I agree that that's what it was trying to do with Faramir and I even sympathize with the urge, but two things: one, the family drama just feels really melodramatic and forced and out of place. Two, the way that Faramir rejects the Ring in the book is so very carefully constructed that, at least this time, I could see on what a knife's edge it hung, and I think one could make a terrific tense piece of filmmaking out of that.

Clementine @ #17, I had just that feeling about the first one. I had it here in places, too, just not nearly as much as I wanted. (And your last line made me laugh.)

DBratman @ #18, that's interesting. I started out writing a comment disagreeing with you about the emphasis on Helm's Deep, and then I ended up coming around to agreeing, because if Helm's Deep were shorter and the extraneous stuff around it weren't there, I'd be less impatient with the whole thing. Nothing but agreement on the lack of faith in the characters, of course.

I sort of assumed that Jackson et al. decided that Liv Tyler wasn't up to carrying Arwen Action Hero--or I think it might be implied in some of the commentaries? I'm pretty sure there was something from her about the difficulty of the stunt work in the first film--thus the reversal.

lampwick @ #20, I like your point about Faramir standing in for the ordinary, but don't Frodo and Sam do so as well? (Which then makes it 2 out of 3 the wrong way, which just supports your point.)

orzelc @ #22, I didn't get the impression that Faramir's relenting was supposed to be linked to Sam's speech--I had put it down to seeing Frodo with the Nazgul, actually, plus Sam earlier telling him about Boromir--but I guess I was eyerolling too hard to pay attention to where Faramir was during that.

RonGriggs @ #25, the landscapes and the costumes are definitely pluses for me.

ellarien @ #26, sewer under the river, oh my, I completely went right past that bit. You're right: huh?

Lelliot @ #27, I have a higher opinion of the book than you, but I do think it's fair that the book Aragorn requires a great deal of inference and interpolation, a lot of which can't even be done until the end, which is considerably less than ideal. Mind, I don't like the direction he's taken in the movies, but it's certainly true that more explicit characterization needed to be done.

austern @ #28, yes, cheap is an excellent word for the artificial cliffhangers. I know when I'm being yanked around, darn it. And it's not like the book isn't _full_ of reversals to propel the story along, you don't need to add more.

DPZora @ #31, you're absolutely right that any future adaptations of _LotR_ now must deal with these movies, as indeed pretty much any attempts to do epic secondary-world fantasy (_The Golden Compass_, I'm looking at you) must. Which is nothing new for the story, after all.
Andrew Foss
34. alfoss1540
1) Anyone saying this was the weakest or worst of the three movies - Go fast forwatch RotK - take 5 asprin and comment in the morning. This may have been weeak and bad as a story, but RotK is an abomination.

2) The Two Towers Soundtrack is the Best of the 3.

3) Andy Serkis deserved an Oscar.

Positives are: scenery was magnificent and do ample justice to the books. As a video scrapbook, with soundtrack and no dialog, it could have worked.

I had forgiven the plot straying up until Faramir.
Kelly McCullough
35. KellyMcCullough
I found this the weakest of three movies, and that's after a recent rewatch of all three. The extended editions are much better than the theatrical releases.

Having some familiarity with adapting stuff from one medium to another I figured that I'd be pretty happy with a movie that had a fifty percent success rate and thus was quite pleased with the movies taken as a whole (75% FotR, 50% TT, 60% RotK, imho) I tend, like RonGriggs above, to pretend they are an alternate adaptation of the material Tolkien translated and that helps enormously.

The two things that really don't work in this one for me are the ents as fools—an absolute disaster of a choice—and the warg riders attack, which is just simply not very good use of time that could have been better spent elsewhere.

On the elves at Helms Deep and the removal of Arwen from that section, I had heard that it had more to do with Liv Tyler not being a very convincing warrior princess than it did with fan worries. Though I actually quite like Tyler as Arwen, I find this not at all hard to believe.
Kate Nepveu
36. katenepveu
alfoss1540 @ #34, I foresee interesting discussions when it comes to the next movie!

KellyMcCullough @ #35, glad to hear I'm not the only one who had that impression about Arwen & Liv Tyler.

(Have rescued another comment of mine, see #33 for other responses.)
37. pilgrimsoul
Kate@ Ah, but I perceive I will have to fight you for Sean Bean.
38. lampwick
Katenepveu @ 33 -- I was thinking of Frodo and Sam as Hobbits, and Faramir as what Tolkien calls a Man, meaning he's the only really ordinary human to be offered the Ring. As an ordinary person myself, I like the idea that we might refuse the Ring if we had the choice.

I agree with everyone who says all the cliffhangers were part of what got Jackson into trouble. There's enough tension in LotR without having to ramp up the suspense, Hollywood-style.
39. cofax
glad to hear I'm not the only one who had that impression about Arwen & Liv Tyler.

Indeed not. She's far too young to carry off a 2000-plus-year-old woman. And I don't mean her face, I mean her entire lack of gravitas.

So whenever I watch these movies, I fantasize that Jackson had instead cast Claudia Black in the role of Arwen. ::sigh::

I find, over all, that the overt depiction of magical moments in these movies is one of my real problems. Gandalf and Saruman's Matrix-esque fight in the first one, and the freeing of Theoden in this one, are just Too Much. It's really symptomatic of the use of too much CGI in a lot of movies nowadays: just because you can show it, doesn't mean you should.

And I hate hate hate Gimli as comic relief.
Andrew Foss
40. alfoss1540
Arwen and Liv-Aerosmith Tyler - Jackson had to write something into the script to justify keeping Steven's daughter in New Zealand for a year, thus an idiotic character is born.

Arwen was a very weak McGuffin in the books - just someone for Aragorn to dream about and "live for".

As for all of her talks with Smith-Elrond (I was waiting for him to zing out some Mr Anderson quip whenever his mouth opened) all completely moronic. Arwen is 2000 years old. What is this choose him or me crap - or anything about being a dutiful daughter. THESE ARE ELVES DAMMIT. They all have had eons to consider the implications of immortality.

Kate - also thanks for pointing out about the Old Man Willow swallows again scene. Another wretching and offensive and pointless scene.

BTW - Shadowfax was sleek and silver grey - NOT WHITE!
41. Janice in GA
Making Gimli be the Comic Relief Dwarf and the Amazingly Unbelievable Adventures of Legolas really pissed me off.

And cavalry charging down the hill into PIKES doesn't bother anybody else?? Maybe I've read too many Richard Sharpe books, but I thought that horses wouldn't charge into BAYONETS, much less pikes.

Jackson did a good job in the first movie, and I was really excited to see the rest of the movies. But his treatment of Faramir (and Denethor, in the third movie) really bothered me.

Jackson got some things right, and the stuff that's RIGHT is pretty good. But on the whole, I find the movies almost unwatchable now. They make me angry at what MIGHT have been, if Jackson hadn't decided to wander off and make his own movies that only tangentially touched Tolkien's story.

Yeah, I'm cranky.
42. Anna Wing
Arwen could much better have been played by Maggie Cheung, the Hong Kong film star, who has both the looks and the gravitas. If they wanted her as an action heroine, she could have been played by Michelle Yeoh(also a Hong Kong film star), who has the looks, the gravitas and the martial arts skills (she co-starred in Jackie Chan movies and did her own stunts).
Ashe Armstrong
43. AsheSaoirse
I'd like to add that for the record, everything WETA Workshop did with the costumes, props, locations and practical effects was brilliant, breath taking and orgasmic. Carry on.
Lee Schumacher
44. lelliot
Kate @ #33 - I like the books just fine, I just don't see them as beyond criticism. There's a temptation to bludgeon the movies for any perceived departures from the books, but I don't think there's enough credit given for the overall success in taming the beast and delivering a very satisfying movie trilogy that preserves the spirit as well as a lot of critical details from the original books.

I re-read the books just before the first movie came out with the thought in mind about how it could be adapted to film (which is I think quite a bit different than re-reading it while comparing it with an adaption you've already seen), and its a daunting task. There's a lot of stuff in the books that simply won't work on film (and in some cases doesn't work all that well on the page). I think any fair criticism of the screenplay should also acknowledge the difficulty of the endeavor and that many of the flaws in the movie represent accurately flaws that were in the book. I think this is particularly true of the third movie.
Elio García
45. Egarcia
The response to Arwen's clearly a very individual thing. I find it interesting. For me, of all the elves in the film, Liv Tyler's Arwen and possibly Cate Blanchett's Galadriel are the only ones who feels like they're half way into some completely different world. Hugo Weaving's Elrond feels a bit too earthy and gritty for that, Orlando Bloom's Legolas is too ever-present, and so on.

Maybe it's just because they're the female elves in the film, and so their physicality is not highlighted (with the exception of the scene in FotR). Hard to pull off otherworldly when you're shield-surfing, I guess. I, for one, am so very glad that Liv Tyler proved to be utterly incapable of performing in action scenes, so that they cut her scenes from Helm's Deep and let her remain rather more ethereal.


In elf years, 2,000 years old is like ... 14 years old -- OMG, Aragorn's robbing the cradle!

More seriously, I think the tension between Arwen and Elrond is there as a subtext in the novel; Arwen may be 2,000 years old, but daddy still decides who she marries. Making it more explicit and comprehensible by casting it in the frame of more usual father-daughter tensions isn't such an awful choice.

And it gives us that awesome sequence at Aragorn's death, so... I'll live with it.
Kelly McCullough
46. KellyMcCullough
Ooh, sticking a nose back in, I agree that Weaving was a truly poor choice for Elrond. Brilliant actor badly miscast. And, since I'm here, I will reiterate my general happiness with Tyler's Arwen, though I have to admit that I think she's somewhat thrown into the shade by Otto's Eowyn.
Kate Nepveu
47. katenepveu
lampwick @ #38, ah, I understand. Funny, I see the hobbits as _such_ reader/viewer stand-ins that the species thing never registered for me!

cofax @ #39, restraint just ain't a characteristic of these movies. Pity.

alfoss1540 @ #40, that or he thinks she's incredibly stupid never to have realized what loving a mortal meant . . .

Janice in GA @ #41, they are Very Special Horses. Didn't the kissing earlier show you that? /sarcasm

Anna Wing @ #42, I've never seen Maggie Cheung in anything, but she's a great addition to the chromatic casting I linked above.

AsheSaoirse @ #43, concur! WETA did amazing work.

lelliot @ #44, if you think _I_ think the book is beyond criticism you haven't been reading these posts! We are just going to have to disagree on what its spirit is, that's all.

Egarcia @ # 45, KellyMcCullough @ #46, I'm glad Tyler has her defenders--no, seriously, it's not like I enjoy disliking her scenes!
48. DBratman
I can't accept the "it's just another telling of the same story" way of thinking, that several people offered, myself, because although Tolkien had actually imagined kicking off an open-source mythology when he began writing, he discarded that notion as too overweening. When he wrote The Lord of the Rings, he created a novel, a consciously-created work of art, not an open-source playground. Any remaining thoughts he had about the virtues of other tellings were squashed when he saw the first, really dreadful, attempts at dramatic adaptations in the 1950s. When he sold the movie rights, he didn't think a film would ever actually be made, and he only did it for the money, not to endorse the results if any. A lot of medieval myth tales, Arthurian among them, do exist in not only the well-known versions but later reworkings by other hands. Many of these are real stinkers, and they're deservedly forgotten.

Lelliot @27: "the role of Aragorn in the book was pretty underwritten." That was deliberate. This is not a conventional tale of a warrior battling evil. Aragorn is not the hero of the story, and he knows it. The hobbits are the heroes. A film-maker who forgets that and adds emphasis to Aragorn is falsifying Tolkien's whole moral underpinning. Also, what Atrus @32 said: they are full characters, just not told in modern psychological and diminished terms.

austern@28: The examples you give of what you call "artificial cliffhangers" are all cases of what I was calling Jackson's lack of faith in his characters - his refusal to believe in heroism, as you put it. So I don't think this is a different pattern so much as another way of looking at the same pattern. You're quite right about it, though, of course.

Lane Arnold @30: I didn't have anywhere near as much trouble digesting The Silmarillion as I did Jackson's tedious films. Your praise is all of the visuals. The visuals are gorgeous. But it takes more than that to make a great movie, unless you confuse Best Art Direction with Best Picture.

Kate @33: I can't disagree that Liv wasn't up to playing a Xena Warrior Princess type character, but if that's why Jackson cut her down in TT, he was awfully late figuring it out. Better that he should just have continued wading on than awkwardly backtracking on himself.

lampwick @38: Tolkien's intention was for human readers to identify with the hobbits, not with the Mannish warriors, who are a little bit superhuman from our perspective.

Egarcia @45: Aragorn isn't robbing the cradle, Arwen is. Elves mature more slowly than humans but not that much so. Arwen seems a young woman, but she's far more mature than the young Aragorn when they first meet. He has to grow up tremendously to reach her level, which is why her father sets him such a difficult task.
Kate Nepveu
49. katenepveu
DBratman @ #48: although Tolkien had actually imagined kicking off an open-source mythology when he began writing, he discarded that notion as too overweening

And yet his intent isn't determinative, as a matter of practicality, and I would argue *shouldn't* be.

That said, I can't do the mental work of seeing the movies that way either.
50. lampwick
katenepveu @ 47 -- Glad you got what I was trying to say -- I realized after I'd posted that I'd come across like some kind of hobbit bigot or something. What I _meant_ was that Tolkien kept emphasising how tough and brave the hobbits were, how they were far more courageous than people thought, and yet he didn't do that for humans, or not that I remember. At the same time, though, I think we _were_ supposed to identify with the hobbits as well.
51. DBratman
Kate @49: Well, obviously Tolkien's intent isn't determinative, or else how did we come to be watching this movie?

My point is that if you're going to insult the author's intent, you should at least be aware that that's what you're doing. (At the very least, when you're dealing with a living author, you can avoid being surprised when they object, the way Julie Powell was surprised when Julia Child dismissed her.)

And that playing around with a conscious and deliberate work of art of claimed authorship in the modern mode is not the same thing as playing around with a public domain folk tale, regardless of what rules are determinative, regardless of whether you give a damn about the author of not.
Kelly McCullough
52. KellyMcCullough
DBratman @ 51,

Actually, "playing around with a conscious and deliberate work of art of claimed authorship in the modern mode" is exactly what you sign up for when you sell your movie rights without some sort of script approval provisions.

Once you've signed the rights over, whatever the reason, you get the vision of the person who holds the rights. Doesn't matter if you're just doing it for the money or because you believe in the vision of the film maker, game designer, graphic novelist, or what have you. That's the way the game is played, and if you were afraid that the reworking of your stuff would go in ways that you had rather it didn't you shouldn't have sold them.

As an author, a big part of my job is to understand the contracts I sign and abide by the terms.
53. DonnaIsme
My own assessment is that the first movie was rather good, TT was awful, and ROTK was -- astonishingly -- even worse: wretched, abysmal, or, as #34 puts it, an abomination.

What I really liked:

Also good:
costumes, settings, landscapes, actors. In fact, everything that wasn't story was excellent. Except Edoras (the built part), which wasn't convincing for me. It looked like a shepherds' village instead of the capital of Rohan.

What I hated (much longer list):
The ents being made stupid.
Faramir being made an idiot.
Theoden in cobwebs; stupid exorcism.
Ridiculous, unneeded Aragorn fake death, wasting time, accomplishing nothing.
Embarrassing insertions concerning Arwen. I wanted to hide.

Peter Jackson seemed to have *no interest whatsoever* in character. He didn't mind inserting the most illogical, senseless actions in the story. It was simply painful to watch. I don't mind filmmakers making changes to a story; it makes a movie more interesting. But the changes have to make sense.

Special agreement here:
"...the way that Faramir rejects the Ring in the book is so very carefully constructed that, at least this time, I could see on what a knife's edge it hung, and I think one could make a terrific tense piece of filmmaking out of that."

The suspense of that scene could have been terrific. *sigh of regret*

Remove the Warg riders and shorten the battle, and the movie could have shown Gandalf's confrontation with Saruman (in theater version). And would have made the extended release unnecessary.

"...that or he thinks she's incredibly stupid never to have realized what loving a mortal meant..."

Stupid, no. But there's a difference between knowing and experiencing. The most heart-piercing and tragic moment in the story of Aragorn and Arwen is when the says, faced with Aragorn's death, "Only now do I understand the story of your people. As fools I scorned them..." etc. (I wish I had my copy with me, to quote better.)
54. DBratman
Kelly @52: I think you've quite misunderstood my point.

Tolkien, as I said @48, was willing to risk a bad adaptation, especially because he didn't think it would be made. (And it wasn't, in his lifetime.) His contract, however, contained no clause requiring him, still less his heirs, to endorse the results.

But I only mentioned Tolkien's position in order to ward off assumptions that he didn't mind. My point was about my reaction. I am neither Tolkien nor his heir, and neither are the people I was responding to.

And that point was about my inability to go along with their willingness to shrug off an adaptation even they didn't much care for on the grounds that it was just another telling of "the Story". That's an aesthetic response, and has NOTHING to do with contractual rights, or anybody's legal obligation to do anything.
55. Lsana
On Arwen,

In the books, I think the implication was pretty clear that she hadn't thought through all the implications of staying in Middle Earth and becoming mortal, and if she had, she might not have chosen the way that she did. She might have lived a couple millenia, but she hasn't spent those years contemplating the meaning of immortality and the pluses and minuses of the mortal condition. Having Elrond try to drill into her head exactly what she was giving up and the transitory nature of what she was going to receive was exactly what she needed.

I'll admit my bias: I never liked Arwen very much. I thought she was a pale copy of Luthian.
56. XChquer
Well done, Kate. A fantastic fisk (well not entirely a fisk but it felt like one :-))

Completely agree re: Miranda Otto. She was wonderful and engaged the audience every scene she was in. Certainly, she made Liv Tyler look vacuous and shallow in comparison.

Otto stole the show for me as female characters went.


Kelly McCullough
57. KellyMcCullough
DBratman @ 54,

My point was simply that expecting reintepretation of the main story is an entirely reasonable assumption any time that a book becomes a movie or game or whatever and vice-versa, since that's pretty much the way the system has worked all along barring unusual contractual clauses.

Also, I personally find it enormously less stressful to go into new media versions of stories that I love with that expectation since it keeps me from getting too upset about departures, but that's me and I certainly don't begrudge you a different aesthetic choice.
58. Darwinista
Overall I like the film/s, for the reasons stated by so many people above, and I hate many of the changes as well. Just one note on Arwen.

First, my initial reaction was something like: Okay, give Arwen Glorfindel's part, no problem, he doesn't have much to do and it's a reasonable enough way to update her role. But don't give her all of Frodo's good bits!

In this film, I thought--hooray, Arwen won't be vacuuming up more central characters' key scenes. But this! The commentaries only confirmed my feeling after the helpless-heroine-gives-the-hero-a-reason-to fight-for-his-luv trainwreck on screen: Now they've gotten her wrong TWO DIFFERENT WAYS.
59. vicsolo
One of the problems is that Tolkien was writing northern European hero sagas and that is a difficult mind set for the modern film maker to get into. So what I liked about this film (and it is my favorite of the three) is what plays into the mythic hero tradition. For instance, as we first see Edoras, it is built on a hill as many castles and redoubts were. It looks very medieval, reminds me of vikings. And the music mirrors music we hear with cowboy sagas, another mythic hero.

The hero archetype is also why Aragorn is so effective in many (though not all) of the scenes. I agree that the scene of him pushing open the doors is worth the whole movie. Very heroic archetype as is the scene of Aragorn girding for battle. The scene of the king and Aragorn and the others riding through the hall at Helm's Deep, preparing to die together in battle could be taken from any number of heroic tales and sagas. In my opinion, that scene is extremely effective and very much what Tolkien may have been striving for in his heroes' tale.

Where the film succeeds is where it follows the epic and heroic vision of the book. Where it fails is where it attempt to humanize the story for the modern sensibility.
Ron Griggs
60. RonGriggs
DBratman @48: I can't agree with your suggestion that Tolkien consciously created a novel, with all the modern literary baggage that implies. Tolkien consistently referred to it as a story or a tale in the forward to the LOTR. Explicitly, he described it as an attempt at "a really long story that would hold the attention of the readers, amuse them, delight them, and times maybe excite them or deeply move them." I don't think that he uses the word novel anywhere in the forward. He refers to the LOTR as a "story" eight times, a "tale" seven times, a "book" three times, and as a "history," a "sequel," an "account," and a "legend." This persnickety exercise was just to point out that Tolkien had plenty of opportunity to use the word novel but didn't. (I expect that he would not have been unhappy with the characterization of the LOTR as a romance, either, though I can't support this.)

Tolkien understood and appreciated that authors can re-tell old tales, adding and substracting, emphasizing and ignoring, adding depth or glossing over elements in the bones of the story. He of course does this with his own stories in the many shorter and longer versions of Silmarillion tales, some in verse and some in prose. He did this with his re-telling of the Sigurd story in verse (The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun just recently published.) And consider his mastery of this concept in Tolkien's "The Man in the Moon Stayed Up Late," his poem that expands the nursery rhyme and creates the charming back story. Tolkien understood that his own works would eventually become ingredients in the "soup of story."

That said, I've no doubt Tolkien would have disliked much of Peter Jackson's version for reasons that many have mentioned here. The "modernization" of many of the characters that diminishes them and makes their choices and motivation seem tarnished and tawdry is one of many. But I don't know that he would have objected to the principle.
Joel Salomon
61. JCSalomon
So you liked the Elves coming to Helm’s Deep? That addition had two problems for me:
• It meant we were not going to get a good rendition of all the troops the neighboring nations were sending to Gondor in RotK, since the “aid from afar” had already been done; and
• It meant we were not going to see the other battles: in Lorien, in Rivendell, in Dale, &c., since we already saw the Elves fighting here. (OK, Tolkien didn’t show those fights on-screen either, but I had hoped.)

And though the Helm’s Deep battle was visually stunning, it might have been better if they could have shown just what the point of going to the Deep was. Sort of like the site you linked to in your post on Helm’s Deep. I do not think Jackson et al. read that post, or did any analysis on just what was going on.

My verdict on movie two: great visuals, but it’s not The Two Towers. (I kinda liked movie one, but three was even worse than two.)
62. goshawk
Absolutely agreed on most bits, particularly (AUGH!) the way PJ didn't have faith in the audience's ability to accept nobility from more than one character. I hate that need to make every character lesser, diminished, and mean in some way. And comic-relief-Gimli just makes me want to throw things at the screen.

The same lack of faith applied to the over-blatant CGI-magic; in the books the magic was far more subtle. I think the charge down the scree slope at the end of the battle was a good example of how the magic should've been handled; the sun rose and blinded the orcs just as the horses reached the line (btw, it was a much shallower slope IRL, edited to look steep). Now that might have been just the sun, but there's the hint that Gandalf's will pushed it just enough that it came very brightly at just the right moment. That's how it should be done. SUBTLETY. We can handle it, I promise.

Interestingly, my views on the Arwen/Eowyn casting are the reverse of yours and apparently most other people. I think Liv Tyler did a great job of carrying the role, and I didn't mind the interludes (though PJ can take their "I give you up"/"I'll go into the West" storyline and SHOVE it). Miranda Otto, though, was entirely unconvincing as Eowyn. I mean, in the books Eowyn was described as cold and regal, probably in part because deep down she had been convinced that her house was "a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek" and she was trying desperately to make it untrue. Her unbending enough to tremble slightly at Aragorn's touch was a source of concern - when she begged to go with him, it was "grievous to see" (or something to that effect). Otto lacked the pride and strength and, later, the fey *presence* that any screen-Eowyn needs.

Also, I loved the Brego (random extra horse) bits, but I'm a total equiphile and I recognise that they were totally unnecessary to the plot. But. The horse they used was SO PRETTY! /shallow
63. DBratman
Ron Griggs @60: What kind of work The Lord of the Rings is depends on the context you're considering it in. Put up against a mainstream literary critic's preference for novels with psychological characterization, realistic action, and what, in criticizing LOTR for lacking it, they always call "adult themes" (by which they mean sex, since LOTR's themes of moral corruption, the nature of evil, the necessity of war, and the fear of death are about as adult as you can get), it makes sense to describe it as a romance, an older literary form. And "romance" and related terms like "tale" or "story" are what Tolkien used, because that was the context in which he mostly had to defend his work. He called it a "history" in the context of stating that it was not an allegory, since "history" best explains what the elements often mistaken as allegorical are actually doing there.

However, we're speaking in another context. Compared with the Silmarillion, LOTR's close-up action, intense concentration on major characters, long stretches of dialogue and of detailed description, and fairly condensed plot (I mean that the bulk of the book takes place over a period of months rather than centuries), all make it much more like a novel than his earlier mythological work. See Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon by Brian Rosebery for a discussion of this point. Substitute, if you wish to be picky, "novelish" or "novel-like" in my earlier comment.

And this is the context relevant to the matter at hand. Everything you say in your second paragraph is exactly what Tolkien had in mind for his mythology when he originally created it, and it is exactly what he changed his opinion on when he published LOTR and found himself faced with the real world of dramatic adaptations and how he felt about what they did to the story he had created. It was not a story he was giving to the world to fill in gaps and modify as it liked, it was his artistic endeavor which he was giving to read as he wrote it.

(Even in his pre-publication description of what he'd had in mind, which is on p. 144-5 of his Letters, he's curiously restrained. He wants others to fill in what he left sketchy, not to rewrite his own work. He wants them to be artists and musicians, not other writers of poetry and narrative.)

So that - and the other important point that most such medieval reworkings of their own period's now-classic stories are bad and justly forgotten - is why neither I, nor Tolkien, could shrug off bad adaptations of LOTR as you suggest.
64. DBratman
Kelly @57: There was no need to point out that we needed to expect Jackson to make changes. Everybody expected that.

The questions at hand are whether his specific changes were necessary or well-advised for his purposes, and - the specific point under discussion in the conversation you responded to - our own personal aesthetic reactions if we don't like it.

You advise going in with that expectation. I did go in with it. I hoped for a brilliant reinterpretation that would be true to the spirit of the work. Instead I got bad fan-fiction junk. I expect somebody who says he loves Tolkien, as Jackson said, and who insists on his respect for the original, as Jackson said he did, to do better than that.

Lest you think I grumble at all changes, I will give you two examples of films which adapted well-loved stories so intelligently and imaginatively they made me think, "Wow, this is better than the original story!"
1) The Princess Bride, especially what they did with the frame story, but much else as well;
2) A 1959 film called The Battle of the Sexes, based on Thurber's "The Catbird Seat", especially how the setting and context were changed.

It can be done. Jackson didn't do it. That's his problem, not mine.
Jim Field
65. Engels3
Personally I liked this movie most out of the trilogy, and was inspired to watch it again recently after I flew from Sydney to Christchurch and got an awesome view of mountain ranges that took me back to the opening sequence. That sequence sets a sombre tone that I think really fits the Two Towers arc. Cheers.
Kelly McCullough
66. KellyMcCullough
DBratman @ 64

Dismissive language does not help your case, but it does tell me that there's no point in my engaging with you. Done.
Kate Nepveu
67. katenepveu
lampwick @ #50, or maybe since the book was going to be read by humans, he thought we might take the virtues of the humans as read? I really don't know.

DonnaIsme @ #53, fair point about knowing v. experiencing death, and if he'd stopped at "no, _really_, think about it," that would be one thing, but going on to "Do I not also have your love?" is still, and I'm sorry for yelling but, BAD PARENTING.

Lsana @ #55, I don't recall that the text takes a position on whether Arwen would have chosen differently if she knew then what she etc. But I didn't like or dislike Arwen in the text, because she's just not there enough for me to have an opinion.

XChquer @ #56, thanks! (And I'm fascinated by how polarizing the female actors are to people.)

Darwinista @ #58, Now they've gotten her wrong TWO DIFFERENT WAYS. -- yes, precisely.

vicsolo @ #59, this is me waggling my head uncertainly. There have certainly been points in the re-read where I felt that the Northern European hero saga mindset was too foreign for me, and it might have been been even more on film. But I certainly agree that the non-heroic bits that were substituted went way too far in the other direction. In a way, I think that perhaps the treatment of Sam and Frodo's relationship might be an example of a middle road the filmmakers could have taken: the master-servant aspect is deemphasized, because it's not something that modern audiences will react the same way too, but it's still there.

jcsalomon @ #61, I did like the Elves at Helm's Deep. But the troops coming into Gondor never made that must impression on me, and honestly I just didn't think of it, and I never held out hope for the other battles anyway. As for geography, as I've previously confessed I'm really not good at it, so if the movie fell down there I didn't catch it.

goshawk @ #62, I think that Eowyn in the movie must have been written & directed to _not_ be cold, or at least not once Our Heroes arrived, because of the moving of those lines to early & from Wormtongue, and because otherwise the performance is simply inexplicable. And I'll have to take your word for the prettiness of the horse!

Engels3 @ #65, I'm very envious of people who get to visit Middle-earth, err, New Zealand in person. A friend has also done that very recently. It sounds wicked cool.
Kelly McCullough
68. KellyMcCullough
lampwick @ 20, did you mistype something there? At this point in the story, after the death of Boromir, Faramir is a Steward's heir.
69. Lsana
@67 katenepveu,

At the end of the Aragorn/Arwen story, Aragorn suggests to her as he is dying that she could still change her mind and go West. Her response isn't, "No, I still love you and want to be with you beyond death even though the dying part is worse than I imagined." Instead, it's essentially, "Too late. I don't think I could find a ship." That suggests to me that if she thought it was possible, she would at least consider undoing her choice and staying an elf.

And the fact that Arwen wasn't in the story is what makes me dislike her. Luthien was always part of Beren's adventure; when she wasn't actively out hunting with him, she was at least planning with him and advising him. Arwen not only didn't go the warrior-princess route, she didn't even attend the Council of Elrond and give everyone the benefit of her wisdom. She was nothing more than a passive prize to be won, and I don't like that in my female characters.
j p
70. sps49
Kate: If you ever do a HP re-read/ watch, I'll write about Cuarón putting the wizard kids into zippered sweatshirts. And how I kept wondering how the director of Y Tu Mamá También would handle the similarly-aged Hogwarts crowd.

On Arwen, I do remember her empathy for the Númenoreans, and the window into what the rest of the Elves likely still thought of them ("As wicked fools I scorned them"; wonder where she picked up that attitude?).
71. DBratman
Kelly - I'm sorry you feel you have to carry a torch for Peter Jackson. It's him I'm dismissing, not you, and he deserves it, not you.

The point that it's not the necessities of adaptation, but the type of specific changes Jackson made, that are the problem, remains unresponded to - and, judging from every conversation I've ever had or seen others have on this subject, unanswerable.

So I know how to read the huff you've driven off in.
72. DonnaIsme
Lsana #69 --

I don't think Arwen's saying exactly "Too late, no more ships"; I understand it as "I made that choice long ago and I made that choice again and again when I knew the last ships were leaving." She had many years in which to reconsider and she stayed constant to her choice.

kate #67--

I'm not defending the Elrond-Arwen scenes in the movie (you may be responding to #55 by Lsana, saying that Elrond was drilling into her head exactly what she needed).

I can imagine a scene between Elrond and Arwen that would serve the purpose of dramatizing, for a movie audience, her choice to marry Aragorn and become mortal. But I would have written it much differently than the scene in the movie. The argument was wrong, the anger was wrong, all wrong, wrong.

To weigh in on the actresses, I thought Liv Tyler was fine in the role, and only wish her part had been better written. Miranda Otto was lovely and had great qualities for the role: she had that vulnerability or woundedness that I thought was right for Eowyn, but she did not quite reach the defiant pride that was the other part of her. It may have been, again, the fault of the filmmakers rather than the actress, though. They seemed to think she had to be constantly mooning over Aragorn.
Michael Ikeda
73. mikeda
My view on the Two Towers movie is the same as my view on all three movies.

Jackson did an excellent job of translating the books to the screen, of capturing the essence of the books. All three movies are good both strictly as films and as adaptations.

They are not perfect films. There are occasional details that perhaps should have been done differently, but these details are ultimately much less important than the overall effect.
74. ***Dave
I'll confess that I like the *idea* of what Jackson did with Faramir -- emphasizing the brotherly rivalry (Bean's appearance in the extra bits here works marvels) and desire for paternal support (Denethor is treated far less well by Jackson than Faramir is, and I still break teeth grinding them over Gimli).

My problem with the Faramir bits is the execution. Once having started along the path of bringing the Ring back to Minas Tirith, the battle in Osgiliath simply doesn't credibly change Faramir's mind. It's almost like Jackson had a great idea (one that works better in context than Tolkien's "I am too noble to dabble with the Ring," I think), then suddenly realized he didn't know how to get out of it elegantly.

The only other plotty bit from the first two books that regretfully didn't make it into the movies is the idea that Saruman was setting himself up as a potential rival to Sauron, seeking the Ring not just as a lap dog but as part of his master plan. That, and the rivalry between orc types, gets sanded off, alas.
Kelly McCullough
75. KellyMcCullough
DBratman @ 71,

Not driven off, nor in huff really, just no longer willing to engage with you on the topic of the movies.

Let me try 66 again, in a clearer and less snarky way: Irregardless of intent, your comments on this topic have begun to read to me as dismissive and belittling. From long experience on the internet I know that further engagement with you on this topic will be bad both for my blood pressure and the conversation and, since I like both, I'm not going to continue to engage with you on the topic. That said, it is entirely possible that on other topics in the future I will be completely happy to engage with you.
Kate Nepveu
76. katenepveu
Hi, all.

Lsana @ #69, sps49 @ #70, good point about Arwen sympathizing with the Numenoreans; I'd forgotten about that, obviously. I'll have to see what I think of that in context when we get there.

(And Lsana, I don't disagree with you, but I tend to dislike the book/Tolkien for Arwen's boringness and not her.)

DonnaIsme @ #72, there was really too much sighing over, wasn't there?

***Dave @ #74, I think what we were supposed to think changed Faramir's mind was the combination of, before the battle, hearing what the Ring had done to Boromir, and during the battle, seeing what it did to Frodo. Which, since all the motivations have gone _personal_ anyway, seems as good as anything to me.

And I know, I thought the movies were going for a Saruman-Sauron rivalry too and then it just fizzles.

Finally, DBratman, in case you were not intending this / would like another datapoint / in any way care: I think you sound rude too.
77. DBratman
Kate, You'll have to tell me what was any ruder than what was was said to me, unless the person being insulted is Peter Jackson. And again, Peter Jackson insulted me with his movies.
Kelly McCullough
78. KellyMcCullough
On Arwen and her comments about no ship to bear her away, I think there's another thing going on there.

If I'm remembering my Tolkien correctly, the Valar gave the children of Elrond the same choice they had given Elrond and his brother Elros—to decide which race they wanted to be counted among—but with a very specific expiration date on that choice, the departure of Elrond. Since the tale of Earindil and his children is perhaps the most important in the history of Elves since the fall of Morgoth, the terms of that choice are known to all the elves. Likewise, they all know that Elrond has left and that Arwen chose a mortal life and is now explicitly a human.

Remembering what happens to humans who try to reach Valinor, no elf in their right mind would try to bring Arwen with them to Valinor even were she foolish enough to try.
Bill Reamy
79. BillinHI
Kate @67: I probably mentioned this in an earlier post, but my wife and I were able to visit Hobbiton in 2007 at the end of an unexpected cruise from Hawaii to New Zealand via Tahiti. Except for the sheep dung everywhere and a bit of rain, it was thoroughly delightful. The party tree looked just like it did in the first movie! Or I guess I should say the movie tree looked just like the real one.

I had planned for us to go back in 2009 for a more extensive LotR tour but finances just weren't there. We had made a trip there in 1995 (before the movies, of course) and drove from Auckland to Wellington and then from Picton to Christchurch via Queenstown and have always loved NZ as a very beautiful country.
Andrew Foss
80. alfoss1540
@64 DBrateman

Murdered by Pirates is Good!
81. notaboyscout
Peter Jackson:

Dwarves are not comic relief.

Thanks for making Faramir a jerk.
Travis Butler
82. tbutler
My apologies for coming in on this late; I was pointed to the re-read series a couple of days ago ago and have just gotten this far.

I admit I'm in the minority for thoroughly disliking, even loathing the first two movies (this one turned me off so badly that I've never seen the third), though I feel somewhat comforted now to read others feeling this way. There are three basic themes I'd pick out that ruined the movies for me, though there were a host of other things I disliked:

* As several others have mentioned, the denigration of pure heroism and nobility (in the behavioral sense, not the dynastic); at times it seems like every single character or group with noble motives must be sullied to match the tastes of a cynical age. Aragorn's self-doubt; Faramir's corruption; the Ents' clownish dim-wittedness, gullibility and self-serving wish not to get involved; Merry and Pippin's frat-boy behavior (especially in movie 1); Elrond's bitterness and cynicism; Gimli's comic-opera buffoonery; Theoden's arrogance, bluster and self-importance... the list goes on and on. I'd expand this to include the twisting of safe havens. In the first book, Bree is turned from a warm, friendly welcome to a scary, dark place with threatening Big Folk; here, Henneth Annun is no longer the place of safety where Frodo and Sam find friendship and recuperate before the final push through Morgul-Vale into Mordor.

* Summer blockbuster mentality. Things cannot be left subtle, but must be shouted out or spoon-fed; long, introspective moments must be cut and replaced with action-friendly or 'cinematic' sequences. Thus, Theoden can't simply have fallen into bad council and despair, but must be magically influenced; Frodo can't simply observe the Black Gate from a distance, but must fall and come ludicrously close to discovery. (In the first movie, my classic example is the crumbling stairs in Moria; a segue that takes less than a page in the book is expanded out into a special effects action set-piece that appears to be trying for the Indiana Jones audience.) The warg attack and Arwen rescue seems to fit here as well, except it was so poorly done I can't tell what purpose it was supposed to serve.

* Insistence in telling events in chronological order, regardless of how that affects pacing, the flow of the narrative, or the audience's distraction factor. Was I the only one who felt the incessant inter-cutting between Rohan and Frodo was distracting and broke up the narrative? By the time any one plot thread had reclaimed my allegiance, the movie straight away cut to the other, to the point where I couldn't build up enough identification to care about either one.

There were a few things I liked about the movies; but they only served to fuel my distaste, as good things squandered in the pursuit of a vision of the story that I vehemently disagreed with.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. ^^;;
Kate Nepveu
84. katenepveu
Hi tbutler:

Was I the only one who felt the incessant inter-cutting between Rohan and Frodo was distracting and broke up the narrative?

I'm not a good judge of that, because of the way I ended up splitting the rewatch over three different nights, and because this is another place where familiarity is a barrier to assessing the movie on its own terms. But I certainly recall finding the little tiny snippets of Ents etc. in this one not very helpful.
86. Driceman
It's been a long time since this was posted but I figured I should throw in my thoughts anyway. :P

I read the books in 4th grade, which is also when FotR came out, so at that point in time I loved every minute of both. Therefore, I may be a little biased in my defense of all of the above. I doubt I have to defend the books (the only part that I really hate is that the Prologue and Chapters 3-6 of Fellowship move like molasses, and the ents and Shire scouring didn't thrill me), but I have a few things to say about the movies.

First, I know Tolkien fans tend to be very devoted, so it's unsurprising that everyone is going to pick these movies apart. I am a huge Tolkien fan and I too found some parts of the movies very jarring.

In FotR, I noticed the lack of the Prologue about hobbit culture, the Old Forest, and Tom (but didn't really miss them, to be honest). Frodo was way cooler in the book, so I appreciated him a lot more than my dad seemed to, who hadn't read the books. Boromir was douchier, but I never liked him anyway, and the way he acted was a good way to point out that the other option is to bring the Ring to Gondor. I did notice the comic relief in Gimli and Pippin, and it annoys me too, but it didn't really piss me off until TTT. I noticed Aragorn not getting Anduril, but I think it worked in the movies. And, obviously, I noticed that they actually made Arwen a central character and got rid of Glorfindel. I think I get their reasoning in that romance is a big appeal to moviegoers and there aren't a lot of girls in LotR, but that annoyed me right off the bat. In 4th grade, I thought the filmmakers had made up the whole story. I didn't look it up in the Appendix for years. I noticed that the rest of the Boromir death scene was inserted into the end, but I honestly thought that it fit better in FotR. I imagine Tolkien wanted to keep everything from Frodo's perspective in FotR, of course, but I thought Jackson made a good decision there. I loved most of the special effects (and I actually enjoyed wizard-fu just because I wanted to see more magic when I first read the books), but even then the Galadriel thing just looked stupid.

I originally thought the movies improved as they went. I now consider them RotK>FotR>TTT, whereas I see them as RotK>TTT>FotR in the books. This is because, re-watching them, I notice that all my annoyances from the first one were greatly enhanced here. The Gimli and Pippin stuff was thoroughly irritating and there was a ridiculous amount of Arwen flashbacks. I should point out that I like Liv Tyler, though. It's just that her subplot was dumb. I liked Faramir in the books because he didn't foresee the Ring coming within his grasp and didn't take it anyway, whereas here he was an ass about it. The Warg rider subplot was kind of cool to me at the time just because it was action and the romance stuff was bugging me, but now I see it as annoying too. It only feels necessary because they bogged that part of the movie down in boring, useless junk. I know that they wanted to fill RotK with cool stuff, but why not get rid of the flashbacks, and Warg battle and replace them with, I don't know, Pippin getting the Palantir? Or Shelob? Or something? Then RotK wouldn't have to be 3 hours 20 minutes. It felt as though they forgot about Frodo and Sam in the movie, too, whereas they were literally half of the book. I figured they would ruin it with RotK after I saw TTT's stopping point.

In RotK, though, I felt things started going back to the actual plot. Less Arwen junk and comic relief and more main storyline. I didn't like the Frodo telling Sam to go home bit, and I doubt many other people here did either, but I guess from a movie standpoint I can see how it'd be hard to film them getting separated in Shelob's Lair. Again, the Anduril thing bugged me, but I think they had a cool idea in the movie, so I kind of forgive them. Obviously the Shire scouring was absent, but that's another part that didn't thrill me all that much in the books (although it was waaaaaaay better than the Shire stuff at the beginning of FotR). In fact... That's just about it for RotK. I loved it. It felt like all of the people who were out of character before were in character again here. Faramir was suddenly cool, for example. My biggest complaint is that it was twenty minutes longer than the last two and if TTT hadn't wasted so much time it wouldn't have had to be.

So yeah, lots of complaints, although I didn't think the others you mentioned were a big deal. (Well... And the Gandalf/Saruman fake-out thing was kind of dumb).

On the other hand, part of why I'll defend the movies is that they're still so much fun to watch to me. I've never spent my time or money on the Extended Editions, admittedly, seeing as I've read the books anyway and the theatrical releases were how they were intended. But in the case of the original versions, purely from a moviegoer standpoint, they're awesome. Including TTT. I should also mention that I liked the Helm's Deep sequence. It was long, yes, but it's something else that just worked for me.

Frankly, I can overlook all of the complaints I mentioned though, other than that TTT didn't cover enough plot and essentially left a giant mess to clear up for RotK, which is the shortest book... Whatever. I love it all. :)
88. Dorianin
I agree with you completely, and I love the listing. I actually saw this in the theatre when it first came out. Within 20 minutes, I had pulled a scene from 'Misery' and got kicked out. I like(not love) 'Fellowship', don't mind 'Return', but this movie just angers me. I tried watching once more, on the small screen, and still account it one of the most unpleasant 3 hours of my life. And that's saying a lot, believe me. I realize this post is 2 years or so late, but I just found your excellent re-read.
Kate Nepveu
89. katenepveu
Dorianin, hi, and while I wouldn't go as far as you, I certainly sympathize . . .
Rob Rater
90. Quasarmodo
Hello! I wasn't around tor for this originally, but followed the recent posts. I didn't care for TTT theatrical version, which really upset me because I loved Fellowship so much. My siblings and I sat down to watch the extended edition (we were watching my brother's copy since I refused to buy it), and the way it started, I almost dared hoped they'd fixed all the things I didn't like about the movie. Which was impossible, I knew, because there was way too much wrong with it. Anyway, it all went downhill in a hurry. Once we got to the scene with Aragorn forcing down Eowyn's stew, from that moment on it was MST3K comments from us, making every onscreen conversation about the awful stew. It ended up being a great time!
Constance Sublette
91. Zorra
The number one cause of the very many failings of PJ's filmic LOTR trilogy is all that money they had to spend creating the vast armies for the vast army - and - battle sequences. Part of those are other scenes that go on way too long, such as the stupid troll battle in Fellowship, Legolas surfing - skateboarding his kill of an olifant, and on and on like that. What is most expensive you give the most time to, which means, apparently, leaving out important and essential matters.

Yet, and still, none of that is any excuse whatsoever to have Sam and Frodo fall out of their friendship over Gollum. I will never forgive these stupid decisions that are entirely contrary to the author's story of ever faithful live-long friendship and loyalty, even past death, as Sam, as Ringbearer for sucha short time, also can go to the West.

I cannot express my disgust over what he did to Gimli's character, or again, the rift between Aragorn and Arwen.

Love, C.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
92. Lisamarie
I don't remember if I ever commented on this or not but my friend and I almost walked out of the movie theater at 'the ring will go to Gondor'. I can never quite forgive PJ for that. Plus, Faramir was one of my favorite characters in the book. And yes, I've heard all the various arguments about how characters need an arc, how it makes the Ring more scary, etc...but none of them work for me at all.

Totally agree with you that a lot of this movie was a waste of time. I loved Fellowship and Return of the King, despite the various differences, but I almost always skip watching this one.
Rob Munnelly
94. RobMRobM
I actually liked this movie better than the other two (hate, hate hate ROTK, for reasons we'll no doubt talk about on your next post) but the whole fake drama when Treebeard said not our war and then the hobbits get him to walk over near the Isengard part of the forest - which TB would have known about anyway, given how close ents are tied to the trees - was so stupid and aggravating it almost ruined the movie for me.
Tricia Irish
95. Tektonica
Hahaha...RobM@94. I totally agree with you.
When I rewatch the movies at home, I fast forward over any, and all, Ents. ;-)

I have always been rather impressed that these movies were made at all.
I think Jackson did a pretty creditible job too, given the change in mediums and the inherent dialogue/plot changes that had to be made. I did find them a bit lengthy and could've taken a knife to a few things, but what really bugged me was the intercutting. I know this is the "middle" of the book and there are many plot threads all off in different directions, but every time I'd get immersed in one thread, he'd pull the rug out from under me and I'd be with someone new. This could be an attempt to create tension. Movement. It could have to do with Timeline issues. Or just juggling. And maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Btw, I quite liked Faramir. He's no Boromir, the brash hero brother. He's the quiet, not as glamorous brother, that his father didn't like. I found him very believeable. His dialogue could've been improved, but I liked the actor.
Tricia Irish
96. Tektonica
Double post.
97. Gardner Dozois
THE TWO TOWERS was my least favorite of the three films, but then, the book was by far my least favorite of the trilogy too; in fact, on the first try, it took me two tries, with months between each try, to get through it, after I'd inhaled THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING in days.

In both book and movie, the Battle of Helm's Deep goes on too long.
Kate Nepveu
98. katenepveu
Quasarmodo @ #90, that is one of the great benefits of watching movies with the like-minded!

Zorra @ #91, I think the relationship between expense and screen time might be a chicken and egg problem, but I agree about the end result, that the pacing is often poor.

Lisamarie @ #92, aargh Faramir character assassination, arrgh all over again just thinking about it.

RobMRobM @ #94, aargh Treebeard character assassination, arrgh all over again just thinking about it.

Tektonica @ #95, I really go back and forth about the intercutting of the movies versus the more-separate threads of the books. I lean toward thinking that there are things you can do in books that are much harder sells in movies, and it would really be difficult for movie audiences to accept a straight rendition of the book's structure. I don't say that maybe there could have been *less* intercutting, but I do think a good deal was probably reasonable.
Christopher Turkel
99. Applekey
I thought this one was the best of the trilogy. Jackson took a very dry, ponderous novel and turned it into a fast paced action flick. Yeah, it's the not the novel but what movie ever is?
Kate Nepveu
101. katenepveu
Gardner Dozois @ #97, what was it about _TT_ that made it your least favorite book? I'm not sure I have a least-favorite of the three volumes, or even of the six books; probably the Mordor chapters are it, after Ioreth of course.

Applekey @ #99, seriously, I'm glad you liked it. I _wanted_ to like it, after all!
102. Gardner Dozois
It was all the High Court stuff in Rohan, which stopped me cold each time. Tolkein's tone of voice changes dramatically here, too, slipping, even in the narration, into a stilted thee-thou voice: "Then did Beaverbrook ride forth, and he spake to the multitude, saying, "Verily, thou lords and ladies, we art assembled." Very different from the tone of voice of the FELLOWSHIP, which was told in a naturalistic voice. Tolkein slips into this voice occasionally throughout the rest of the trilogy, especially in the High Court scenes in Gondor, and it's only the scenes with the Hobbits in Mordor, where he DOESN'T use this voice but uses the naturalistic voice of the FELLOWSHIP, that I really enjoy. This reinforced my opinion that there had to be Hobbits involved to give the reader an accessible window into the work, and when there's WEREN'T Hobbits, his work tended to be stilted and rather dull. I never could get into THE SILMARILION for that reason; there was no common touch there to cut all the Lists of the Kings stuff.
Iain Cupples
103. NumberNone
Re: 'nobility of character', Faramir, and the Ring:

One of the biggest problems with the books is that Tolkien tells us repeatedly how unbelievably tempting the Ring is to even the noblest and most powerful of souls, then proceeds to have a series of characters rejects its temptation relatively easily because of their inherent nobility. Gandalf, Galadriel, Faramir, Aragorn, (Tom Bombadil as well, though that's a special case: nobody but Boromir shows any damned interest in taking it.

And that really doesn't work.

Jackson aims to fix that in a variety of ways, most significantly by making Faramir actually struggle to reject it. But he does this, as egarcia pointed out, by making the temptation not the Ring itself, but the approval he would win from his father by winning the Ring (plus, he would get to complete his brother's quest). So his inherent nobility is actually retained.

It's sad that people think this diminishes his character. It does not. It simply makes one of Tolkien's flatter characters more multidimensional.
104. SKM
I second everything #103 said! I liked and sympathized with Faramir in the movies. In the books, he was just another Very Noble Guy From the Race of Men. (Well, and Eowyn's consolation prize--"Eowyn, you just proved yourself a badass--so we'll marry you off to the readiest available character, because that's what women want, right?" I like to forget that subplot of the book happened, because URGH).
Kate Nepveu
105. katenepveu
Gardner Dozois @ #102, quite understandable about the change of voice in _TT_ being hard to get through. This is another point where having read so young and so often affects my relationship to the text: by the time I was the kind of reader who could notice that kind of thing, I'd already internalized the text so much that it didn't disconcert me (and early on I ate the high-fantasy aspects up with a spoon anyway).

NumberNone @ #103, yes, I understand the impulse to make the Ring more dramatic and difficult to resist. In the relevant book chapter we talked about how very carefully the book sets up events to bring Faramir to that point, especially in relation to Boromir; it would have been harder to convey that on screen, but I would have liked to see the movie try to show that razor-edge and narrow escape. Oh well.

SKM @ #104, my conflicted feelings about Eowyn, let me show them to you . . .
Alan Brown
106. AlanBrown
I thought this was a pretty good movie, but then again, the Battle of Helm's Deep was one of my favorite parts of the series. Noble warriors fighting insurmountable odds, not for a cause, but for simple survival, and the protection of kith and kin.
I only have two quibbles. One is Legolas and his shield surfing, and the other is Faramir, who was one of my favorite characters in the book, but came across rather flat in the movie. I myself am not one for 'multidimensional' characters, which is probably why I am a fan of Captain America in the comic books, and preferred Faramir when he was portrayed as being less complicated and more noble.
Kate Nepveu
107. katenepveu
AlanBrown, your comparison intrigues me! Though I imprinted so hard on movie!Cap that I might not be able to cope with comics!Cap (the age and the snark seem to be major sticking points for me).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
108. Lisamarie
Alan, I totally know what you mean about the whole noble vs. complicated characters (although I don't think being noble necessarily means being a one dimensional character).

I can kind of see the idea of it making the Ring less threatening, but I never felt (when I read it many, many times) myself that the Ring was not threatening (especially when you see what it did to Frodo, Gollum, Bilbo, etc)...if any thing, it just made me like Faramir MORE and showed that nobility of character is something that we can all aspire too - even in the face of great evil. It's not just something for the one hero of the story. And I think Gandalf and Galadriel WERE tempted by it (or new they would be), they just put themselves out of reach of the temptation.

If anything, I think Sam may be the noblest character because I think he is the only one that is actually able to give up the Ring of his own accord (Bilbo kind of does but I feel like he had to be more pressured into it) - maybe because he only had it for a short time. And I love his 'fantasy' of being this totally badass gardner, haha.

That said, Eowyn was my favorite character growing up, and as I reread the book growing older, I felt the same conflicted feelings about the resolution of her character. I agree with many of the comments on the reread that Tolkien had good intentions (she was forsaking violence, despair, etc - and you know, I am a mother myself so I really do find that kind of 'housewifely' stuff really important and sacred. But, I also work full time outside the home so I know there are more roles for women than that if they want them) but it just wasn't handled as well as it could have been, partially because he just wasn't that familiar with writing women.

But...yeah. Poor Faramir :( Plus, I just think the whole stupid detour was a waste of movie time.

Also, while I did enjoy it, I actually wasn't a huge huge fan of the Avengers movie (and I have no comic book experience outside of comic book movies) but Captain America was my favorite ;) I didn't even realize he was made more complicated in the movie. But it did make me want to see his 'backstory' movie.
109. DresdenRose
"Okay, I confess, I am almost willing to bear the existence of the entire movie just for the shot of Aragorn pushing open the double doors."

There isn't a woman who's seen that who would disagree with you.
Kate Nepveu
110. katenepveu
Lisamarie @ #108, I'm really glad that you liked Steve in _The Avengers_ because I was afraid it wasn't doing him justice for new people (I had such a headache just looking at him clench his jaw). You should definitely see _Captain America_.

DresdenRose @ #109, well, anyone who appreciates the aesthetic value of Viggo Mortensen in action, really. =>
Rob Rater
111. Quasarmodo
I had originally planned to re-read the books before each of the movies came out. I got through Fellowship just in time (I'm a fairly slow reader, plus I don't budget my time well), but as I was reading TTT, all the "Lo! Behold!" dialogue finally did me in and I never finished re-reading it. On the plus side, I knew the dialogue in the movie would at least top the book, so that was good. Unfortunately, I still didn't like the movie.

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