Apr 19 2011 11:16am

LotR re-read: Return of the King Movie Rewatch

cover of Return of the King DVDOur penultimate Lord of the Rings re-read post, this time on the movie of Return of the King. (After this will be a general wrapping-up post.) This post is actually two in one: first, we have a guest review from LaShawn Wanak, who won the opportunity in a charity auction lo these many months ago, and then we have my additional comments. Spoilers for everything Tolkien, as usual, after the jump.

Guest Review by LaShawn Wanak

To start off our discussion, here is a guest review by LaShawn Wanak, who comes to the movie from a very different perspective than I do and who has some very interesting things to say about it as a result.

* * *

I must confess: I never cared for The Lord of the Ring books.

I read the trilogy in 7th grade, and I just never got it. It was all a confusing mish-mash of hard-to-pronounce names, rambling histories of dead kings I cared nothing about, and too many people breaking out in spontaneous poetry. I was more a C.S. Lewis fan. I discovered the Chronicles of Narnia around the same time, and back then, a talking lion-god named Aslan made more sense to me than a bounding man-fairy.

Not that I didn’t stop trying to understand The Lord of the Rings. Not caring so much for the book made me more open to its alternate retellings. I read The Hobbit and I found it more enjoyable. I watched the Rankin Bass version of The Hobbit and found it fun. I watched The Lord of the Rings Bakashi version on VHS and found it disturbingly creepy. I even played the Interplay PC game, but I could never get past Weathertop because the game kept crashing.

When Jackson’s version came out in the theater, I watched all three. Then in the theater, I stood up and applauded at the ending credits. Because for the first time, I got it. I finally got it!

Since then, I have read the book, and well, yeah, I can see where Jackson took liberties. Some of the changes made perfect sense (I’m sorry Tom Bombadil fans, but I don’t like him. Something about him creeps me out in all sorts of unpleasant ways, so it was no skin off my teeth to care about his omission from the movie.). Others had me scratching my head, while still others...well...hm....

So when I won the Con and Bust Auction, one of the things I begged to do was to do the movie review of Return of the King. The extended version. This is a frickin’ long movie. So long, I’m not going to bother with an analysis of each scene. Instead, I’ll do what Kate did with the first movie and make lists of what worked and what didn’t...in no particular order.

(Oh...by the way, I love Sean Astin. I see it as no coincidence that Sean’s name sounds phonetically similar to my own, and in fact we were both born on the same day and year. I sincerely believe that in some alternate universe, he and I have hooked up and fight super evil villains that are trying to take over the earth. I’m just saying.)

Things the movie got right

  1. The Mordor army marches out of Minas Morgul

    What an awesome scene, and one I think that corresponded extremely well with the book.  That brief silence before the gate opens? Bonechilling. Absolutely bonechilling. And when the witch king comes out and lets out that scream—we were all writhing with Frodo and Sam in the theater with our hands on our ears. I also loved the quick cutting between here and Minas Tirith, as Gandalf and Pippin stares in horror as they watch Mordor’s army emerge from afar.

  2. Minas Tirith

    Looked exactly how I pictured it in the book. Broad and sweeping. Granted, it gets trashed up good, but towards the end, hey, everything’s fine again and it’s looking just as “purty” as ever.

  3. Frodo and Sam’s encounter with Shelob

    Oh. Yes.

    Gripe all you want about this movie, but the scene where Frodo gets stabbed and Sam comes to the rescue is awesome, both in the book and the movie. Jackson utilizes his horror experience well in this scene. When Shelob stalks Frodo silently above him, you know full well what’s about to happen, but her attack when Frodo gets stabbed, the silence and shock of it still takes the breath away.

    I can still remember the helplessness I felt when Shelob starts wrapping Frodo up (I don’t think this was in the book, but it makes perfect sense—Shelob is a giant spider after all, why wouldn’t she wrap up her food?), and then SAM COMES TO THE RESCUE WITH THE LIGHT OF GALADRIEL AND STING! YAAAAAYYYY!! KICK-ASS SPIDER BATTLE FOLLOWS! I HEART SEAN ASTIN SO MUCH!!!!1!!

    And of course, we get the whole “Don’t go where I can’t follow” speech. Which had this fan swooning. Beautifully done. I’m even willing to overlook the fact that Sam doesn’t put the ring on after the orcs take Frodo. But hey, Tolkien had the gall to end the second book at this very spot, so frankly, it’s a fair trade, dig?

  4. “I can’t carry the ring for you, but I can carry YOU!”

    ::diesdiesdiesdiesdies in absolute squee::

  5. Frodo and Sam in Mount Doom.

    Let’s face it. It is cool to watch Frodo go Super Saiyan and we do get to see that one...brief...moment when Gollum is finally, finally happy.

Things the movie did that the book didn’t, but I’ll forgive Jackson because it looked so freaking cool anyway

  1. The origin of Smeagol/Gollum

    In the book, RotK starts off with Gandalf and Pippin riding into Gondor, and later on Sam searching for Frodo in Minas Morgul. Here, Jackson replaces it with a flashback on how Smeagol becomes Gollum. What would’ve been a clichéd infodump is transformed by Andy Serkis’s only onscreen performance. His transformation from Smeagol into Gollum is creepy and effective. And at the end, with him purring “my prrrrrecious...” Brrrr!

  2. Pippin lighting the Minas Tirith beacon

    I know doesn’t happen in the book, but it does give us some wonderful scenery porn.  Plus, it sets up this awesome scene:

    Aragorn: Gondor calls for aid!
    Theoden:  . . . and Rohan will answer.

  3. Pippin sings as Faramir rides out to face Mordor’s army.

    I actually consider this the best scene in the movie, possibly the entire series. Never mind that in the book it takes Faramir several days to fight. Having Pippin sing while we watch Faramir and his men riding off to battle, with the orcs watching and raising their bows, intercut with Denethor crushing tomatoes with his teeth. Absolutely heartbreaking.

  4.  Eowyn slays the Witch-King

    Two words: kick-ass.

    Okay, so her and Merry riding around on the field hamstringing oliphants is not in the book. But come on. The woman is doing it with two swords. Two swords. It’s so nice to see someone other than Legolas doing some cool fighting theatrics (and indeed, the movie doesn’t let us forget that Legolas is supposed to be this oh so cool fighter—when he appears to strike down an oliphant with his arrows, I was well and truly sick of him).

    Some more words: I seem to recall Eowyn speaking more words after the “I am no man” declaration she makes before killing the Witch-King in the book. Her speech is shorter here in the movie, which makes absolute perfect sense, because hey...when you have a huge Witch-King Nazgul about to spear you through, it’s probably not a good idea to go on a rambling history lesson.

  5. Aragorn et al. challenging Sauron at the gates of Mordor

    First of all, did Aragorn always have an accent? It seems to become more pronounced as he’s giving the final pep talk in front of Mordor’s gates.

    Second of all, The Mouth of Sauron. Out of all of Sauron’s minions, this dude is my favorite. Maybe it’s because he gives off such a Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe.

    Third, Merry isn’t supposed to be there...he was supposed to be back in the House of Healing. But for some reason, when Aragorn goes charging off to meet Sauron’s army, I’ve always appreciated that the next ones to charge is not Legolas and Gimli, but Merry and Pippin.

    And finally, when the ring gets destroyed, and Sauron falls (Visine will get the red out), that look everyone gets of “YAYYY! FRODO!”...followed by “Ohhh...crap.” Followed by “OHHHHH...CRAAAAAAAAP!”

  6. The final parting at the docks of Grey Haven

    I really don’t remember how the book ended. I do know that with Saruman’s death moved up, the hobbits returning to the Shire is more subdued. But the movie ending is done very well to me and always gets me emotional.

Things that got me scratching my head and going “Um, okayyyyy...it didn’t happen that way in the book....”

  1. Pippin looking through the palantir

    A bit overdramatic with the fiery ball of DOOM, but at least they got the part of Gandalf sleeping with his eyes open just right.

  2. Aragorn and his trusty sidekicks head down the Paths of the Dead

    I can’t remember how this was handled in the book, but if I recall, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. Well, it was a big deal, but the dead agreeing to accompany Aragorn was more like, “You’re the heir of Isildur? Okay, we’ll fight.” instead of the overblown scene from the movie (sea of skulls, huh? Riiiiiiiiight). On the other hand, I preferred this scene in the theatrical version than the extended, where the scene continues to where we get Aragorn’s LOOK OF TOTAL DESPAIR when he sees the ships, and then the ghost king comes out as if saying, “Okay. Change our minds.” Definitely in keeping with blowing a simple scene way out of proportion for the sake of Hollywood.

  3. Denethor plunges off “Suicide Point.”

    I was going to put this under the “it looks cool anyway” category, but every time I watch this scene I can’t help but think how stupid it is. We never learn that the reason why Denethor goes nutso in the first place is because he had a palantir too and spent too much time looking into it. So his madness is internal, not brought about by Sauron.

    Then there’s the logistics. There’s no way Denethor would run all the way down that length of rock to jump off the edge without succumbing to his burns. In the book, his decision to lay down and die shows the absolute despair he had, in that he was literally giving up, and laying down to die. In the movie, his death was just...stupid.

    But on the other hand...we do get to see Pippin be the hero and save Faramir from the pyre...so I don’t know.

Things that made me want to go up to Jackson and cram the book into an unmentionable place. Hard.

  1. The death of Saruman

    Really? Really Jackson? Really?

    I can understand bumping his death up in the story. I’ve always felt that Saruman’s presence at the end of the book was like Tolkien looking through his notes and realized, oh crap, he forgot all about him. So he wrote in the scene where Saruman comes to the Shire and wreaks havoc. Granted, it shows how pathetically low Saruman had sunk, but by that time, I was ready for the book to end already.

    But really? To have Saruman fall and land on that big wheel? Dude, really? What was that supposed to be? What a stupid way to get the palantir to fall into the water (as opposed to the book’s other stupid way of just falling into the water in happenstance). And of course, the hobbits get robbed of the honor of killing Wormtongue, thanks to Super Legolas and his super archery skillz.

  2. Arwen becomes mortal...or something.

    I can only echo what everyone else has said here. The parts with Arwen? Dumb. Real dumb.

    So in the middle of a forest, she suddenly realizes, wait a sec, if she and Aragorn get together, there...might...be...CHILDREN?! So she rides all the way back to tell daddy he sucks. He responds that future is almost gone...and I would’ve gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that kid and dog named Scooby-Doo! Cut to DRAMATIC BOOK FALLING, and then, EXTREME SWORD FORGING!

    What’s truly stupid is that suddenly “Arwen’s fate is tied to the ring.” Oh, pleeeeease. Why isn’t she the one going around purring, “My prrrecious”? Obviously it was a way for the writers to try to give Arwen more screen time, but really, they should’ve just done how Tolkien did it—leave her out until the end.

  3. Sam beating up Gollum

    Why does everyone want to beat up on poor Gollum? We saw this with Faramir and his gang back in The Two Towers (oh, don’t get me started on what the movie did with Faramir’s character). Up until now, we’ve seen Sam being apathetic, even hen-pecky in a strangely jealous sort of way. But I was willing to put that aside because it was SEAN ASTIN I HEART HIM I HEART HIM SO MUUUUUCH.

    But then, as they climb the stairs of Cirith Ungol and Gollum sets Frodo against Sam by crumbling the last lembas wafer, well, Sam just loses it. He whales on Gollum until Frodo breaks them up, then he sends Sam away. The whole thing feels nasty, and furthermore, I don’t really see the purpose in it. In the book, it was on the stairs that we see Gollum’s last shred of...uh, humanity? Hobbitry? When he watches Frodo and Sam sleep and feeling pity, touches Frodo’s knee. True, in the book Sam does speak roughly when he wakes up and sees this—but then, Sam apologizes. He treats Gollum with more respect. In the movie, Sam basically becomes a bully, then a blubbering baby. It makes this part excruciating to watch, even for me.

    (Now, for the record, when Sam discovers the broken pieces of lembas and, realizing he’d been tricked, looks up the stairs to where Frodo and Gollum have gone, that part was somewhat cool.)

  4. Aragorn looking into the palantir to taunt Sauron and getting frightened off by a vision of Arwen dead

    Ummm...yeah. Whatever.

Random tidbits about the movie I can’t think of putting anywhere else.

Upon watching the extended version, I never caught the scene where Merry gets a horse of his own when he rides out with the Rohirrim, and is kicking his heels trying to get it to move. Surprisingly funny.

When Frodo is in Shelob’s lair, listen for the Spielbergesque strings.

When Grond breaks through Minas Tirith’s doors, Gandalf’s expression of “oh crap” is particularly divine.

When Frodo puts back on the ring, is it just me or did anyone else thing he experienced an orgasmic moment there?

...and wow, both Frodo and Sam look realllllllllly grimy through most of the movie.

I’ve always found Frodo batting away imaginary things in the home stretch of their journey a little heartbreaking.

At the end, when Frodo wakes up in Minas Tirith, did anyone else besides me think “AND IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM”?

I just now realized that the last time Frodo saw Gandalf was him falling in the Mines of Moria, so all this time, Frodo would’ve thought that Gandalf was dead. His laughter, then, is not unfounded. He truly is overjoyed. In contrast, Sam’s entrance after all the others come in is silent, subdued, but Frodo’s exchange of gazes speaks volumes.

When Aragorn is crowned and all of Minas Tirith comes, and everyone bows to the hobbits, watch how the other hobbits look astonished and pleased, except for Frodo who looks like he’s about to throw up. A nice touch on how deep his wounds go which sets us up for the final parting scene at the Grey Havens.

And finally the sketches during the credits...EPIC WIN.

And that’s it. Would love to know everyone’s thoughts. Overall, despite the slow motion and the annoying character reversals and MOVIE TENSION, LotR is, and will always remain, my favorite fantasy movie trilogy of all time.

At least, before The Hobbit comes out.


My Thoughts

I saw The Return of the King three times in the theater and watched the extended edition once before this rewatch. Previously, my general impression was that Fellowship was the best as a movie, a single coherent thing, but that RotK had some of the most amazing moments of the three movies (possibly the most amazing ones), even though I had problems with many elements and never felt that it gelled, flowed, hung together, what-have-you.

As I said in the beginning of the post, I found LaShawn’s comments really interesting from the perspective of someone who isn’t as deeply familiar with the book as I am. (Also someone who is a Sean Astin/movie!Sam fan, which I am not.) I particularly noted her comments about Denethor, which was my biggest change of opinion on this rewatch. Previously I had thought the death scene was stupid, but Denethor’s overall portrayal hadn’t been on my list of problems with the movie. This time, having come to the conclusion that he gets the fullest, most psychologically complex and realistic characterization of anyone in the book...well, I was seriously disappointed in the direction the movie took the character. We have no sense that he ever had any heights to fall from. We are only given this incredibly twitchy (seriously: John Noble’s facial muscles jumping around was amazingly distracting), overemotional, irrational, hasty, and undignified man who is an obstruction, a danger, and then a laughingstock. It’s a sad waste, because I think Noble could had done a good job with the character in the text—his voice on the “No tomb” line gave me chills—but Denethor now strikes me as one of the biggest flaws of the movie.

I was also interested that the Paths of the Dead and Saruman’s death—what I think of as Jackson’s roots as a schlock horror director showing through—similarly stood out as missteps to LaShawn. The whole scene with Saruman is just ridiculous: Saruman shouting down from the very tippy-top of Orthanc is absurd, and his impalement on the water-wheel is needlessly gross and too symbolically heavy-handed, and all in all there were just far better ways to have killed Saruman in Orthanc.

The Paths of the Dead were neither eerie nor interesting (except insofar as I distracted myself by wondering about the extreme disproportion of skulls to other bones), and generally are my exhibit A for why I believe the extended editions aren’t the “real” movies. I think that the discipline imposed by the theatrical running times was a good thing, that a lot of what was cut should have been cut, and that overall the second and third movies would have been better served if the filmmakers hadn’t had the possibility of the extended editions as a fallback and were, accordingly, forced to murder their darlings (e.g., all eight million years of Helm’s Deep; that damn Warg attack/river fall).

(Exhibit B used to be “Aragorn would never kill a messenger,” but this go-round has been replaced with something simpler: why would you bother even trying an ordinary battering ram against the gates of Minas Tirith if you had Grond?!)

* * *

One of the things that RotK is really good at, as a movie, is moments of spectacle, many of which I think there are broad agreement on. If I inflicted my raw notes from this rewatch on you all, you could spot them by my resort to all-caps without any explanation. They are:

  • Minas Tirith. Breathtakingly gorgeous.
  • The army marching out of Minas Morgul. Edge-of-my-seat tense and creepy.
  • Lighting of the beacons. (La la la logistics I can’t hear you.) This is a really good example of how the visual medium can take a fairly throwaway bit from the book and turn it into something iconic.
  • Shelob. Okay, I will inflict one bit of my notes on you: “OMG LOOK UP,” because I couldn’t help myself even though Frodo wasn’t reading over my shoulder.
  • The charge of the Rohirrim at the Pelennor Fields. That right there? Justifies the existence of the entire movie. Also never fails to make me tear up.
  • Éowyn, Merry, and the Witch King. Okay, fell beasts not having blood is mildly distracting, but I will forgive that for the shot of the Witch King standing up, and up, and up, and for the two of them being awesome, and for Éowyn getting to talk to Théoden before he dies.

* * *

Before I talk about the end, I have two questions for any people reading this who didn’t know the books at all before watching the movies. (Are there any?)

First, did you believe that the Orcs had taken the Ring from Frodo? That’s why Sam never puts it on, to preserve that suspense for new watchers, and I’d like to know if it worked for anyone.

Second, when Sam and Frodo are on Mount Doom after the Ring is destroyed and there’s lava everywhere and the screen fades to black, did you think or fear that they were dead?

* * *

Okay, the ending. Well, really, two endings, the destruction of the Ring and Frodo leaving Middle-earth.

The destruction of the Ring: Gollum clinging to invisible Frodo looks ridiculous and I don’t understand why they didn’t do the scene from Frodo’s POV in Wraith-o-vision instead. But more significantly, the Cracks of Doom in the movie is a scene “in which it is demonstrated that while some may fall, others are pushed” (to borrow a phrase). On a thematic level, I am mildly sad that evil is not the seeds of its own destruction. But considering the medium, I’m not sure that the book’s version of Gollum just falling might not have felt too flat, easy, or fortuitous. And it is consistent with the darker Frodo in the movie. So I’m ambivalent about this change; I can understand how others might be very upset about it, but I don’t feel that strongly myself.

Which leads neatly into my last topic, the handling of Frodo after the destruction of the Ring. The second time I saw the movie in the theaters, I devoted many words to the proposition that the movie doesn’t depict Frodo’s damage in enough detail and depth to make the Grey Havens seem logical and necessary. I’m not going to rehash my reasoning now, because it’s at the link and because it didn’t bother me as much this time—possibly my energy was all taken up with Denethor and the Paths? I still believe that it could have been handled better, however.

(This is one of the reasons I like “The Mountain,” a vid by Melina and Astolat to the song of the same name by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer: it explores Frodo and Aragorn’s parallel journeys and ends Frodo’s section with what I think is the proper note of haunted sadness. Also, it’s a lovely, accessible vid to an eerily appropriate song.)

I do note that for some reason, Frodo’s awkward voiceover says it’s been four years since Weathertop, when in the book it was just under three at the Grey Havens. My entirely unsupported guess as to why is that Sean Astin’s real-life daughter plays Elanor, and she would’ve been too old to play a six-month-old at that point (Elanor’s textual age). And Shadowfax is not with Gandalf on the ship, boo hiss.

* * *

I think I can sum up my experience of the movies neatly, actually, by referring to the first behind-the-scenes footage from The Hobbit that was recently released. As I said elsewhere, my reaction through most of it was that it was, you know, fine: some cute moments, but didn’t feel very new after the LotR DVD extras, and was getting a little long.

Until the last twenty seconds, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

For all that I have reservations about the LotR movies, and indeed about the forthcoming Hobbit movie, they still get some things very, very right. And as far as I’m concerned, in the end, those things more than justify the movies’ existence and the dozens of hours I have spent watching them.

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 Dreamwidth and her booklog.

Rob Munnelly
1. RobMRobM
I think I've said this before but

- I loved Fellowship and thought the beefing up of Arwen was a good deviation from the book.
- I really like Two Towers and many of the deviations (even dwarf tossing) but the scene with the Ents where they voted not to intervene but changed their minds after seeing the devastating to the forest was an irritating, ridiculous deviation that sought to tart up a self-evidently powerful scene. Why not let the Ents take their time, come to a decision to go to war, and go to it. Overdramatic cr*p but at least it was only one portion of a big movie.
- I actively disliked RoTK. I loved the actors, loved the epic scenery, but the level of stupid deviations DROVE ME CRAZY!!! Faramir - what the heck happened there. Best character in the book and they made him into an idiot. Denethor - taking a tortured character and making him stupid. I can't even remember the rest (the changing of the route that Aragon took in getting to the Minas Tirith battle scene?) Just too aggravated to watch it.

A lost opportunity to take nearly perfect acting and cinematography and actually follow Tolkein's story.

2. dcisko
Thanks to both of you for a great summary. It occurrs to me that I haven't seen the extended edition of RotK since it came out, and I'll have to rectify that.

Totally agree about Denethor -- not just his death but the whole of his character development. A wasted opportunity. We spend most of the book aware of his status and power, and only gradually realizing that he's lost hope (and sanity). Developing him as a pantomime villian is a rare misstep from the writing team.

I do, however, agree that the scene with Pippen singing is one of the best in the movie. Denethor and the tomatos is an exceedingly well-crafted touch.

And yes, the Ride of the Rohhirim is perhaps my favorite. It was a favorite scene in the books, and I tend to get something in my eye when I read "Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed..." I was willing to accept that the scene in the movie would never live up to all the weight I gave it from the books.

And yet, it did. A wonderful moment. I even love Bernard Hill's embellishment of riding up and down the lines, tapping their spears with his sword. The mix of CGI with dozens of real horsemen is carried off masterfully and only highlights how badly similar scenes are done in other movies (*cough* Star Wars prequels *cough*).
Sharat Buddhavarapu
3. Sharat Buddhavarapu
I don't know if my foreknowledge of Denethor changed my perception of it, but Denethor seemed pretty well portrayed to me. At no time during the course of the Lord of the Rings books is Denethor ever presented as all-wise. There are musings, or nostalgia certainly, but his lines don't reveal it. What I remember anyways. So the fact that Denethor in the movie is simply the fallen Denethor makes 100 percent sense to me.

Paths of the Dead, not a highlight, but again maybe I gloss over bad parts just because over all Jackson did a terrific job telling the story.

I cannot remember Saruman's death in the movies, which is sad, because I'm sure it's a dramatic scene, but yeah they should have kept it like it was in the books.

I liked Liv Tyler's portrayal of Arwen, so bringing her back on screen didn't bother me.

As to Lashawn's Legolas hating, all I have to say is: "Haters gonna hate."
4. Dr. Thanatos
I keep telling myself that the movies are not supposed to be the books. I have issues with the changes in Aragorn , Denethor , the fact that it seemed like everyone knew that Frodo was Carrying the Big Secret, the fight at the Cafe Doom as opposed to Gollum slips on the Banana Peel of Doom, therefore completing the task that Frodo couldn't and justifying Bilbo's pity, to the minimizing the impact of events on the Shire.

Cool movie, I would like it a whole heck of a lot better if I could stop trying to think of it as an adaptation of the books as opposed to a different story with a lot of the same names.

I do agree with the moments of awesomeness as noted above: Angmar and Friends go for a Ride in the Country; Ace Of Cakes makes a City on a Mountain; Shelob Drops In for a Quick Bite.

I could have asked the effects people to work on perspective; if the Mountain was as close as it looked through the Black Gate, Gandalf could have taken 5 steps through it to rescue Frodo instead of using an Eagle. I'm just sayin'...

Thanks again for the re-reads; I'm gonna miss this.
Kate Nepveu
5. katenepveu
RobMRobM @ #1, my opinion on _TT_ & _RotK_ is reversed from yours: for me _TT_ has way more aggravation than good things, while _RotK_ has a lot more good to balance the problems. And the most egregious stuff with Faramir, particularly, is in _TT_.

dcisko @ #2, thank you. And my notes for the charge at the Pelennor Fields just said "HORNS" because, seriously. Horns!!

Sharat Buddhavarapu @ #3, it's not that I thought Denethor was ever all-wise in the book, but it's that I could see that he had been worthy of respect and consequently that his state now was a tragedy. I didn't get that from the movie. But I'm glad it worked for you, because it was really distracting for me here.

Dr. Thanatos @ #4, now you have me wondering if Ace of Cakes *has* done Minas Tirith! I know they did Hogwarts all mountain-y.

Oh, and that reminds me of something I forgot--at Arisia in January I was on a panel about the movies, and Eric Van had an interesting theory, about which I will quote myself:

"this is an AU in which the Ring is famous and not a secret. As part of that, Faramir knows what Frodo has and has promised to bring the Ring, specifically, back, which is a lot different from some unspecified weapon. Which I think is a very clever explanation, but if the movies were intending to make that kind of fundamental worldbuilding change, they needed to signal it a lot more clearly for people who knew the books."
6. Einarai
Great review Kate and LaShawn,

I watched all the movies before I read the books (well, I did pick up the Fellowship waaay before I watched the movie, but i could never get past Tom Bombadil - for some reason i kept thinking that Lord of the Rings is ONLY just a Hobbit story with them running this way and that, which didn't excite me too much.) In response to your question:

1.1) Yes, I really did think that orcs might have taken the ring, though I did not expect that it would ever reach Sauron. It was more like, uhm, orcs are gonna be greedy and fight amongst themselves... At which point there'd be a heroic sequence of scenes where sam/frodo recover the ring.

1.2) I also did genuinely, for a moment, consider Frodo would die. At that point in the movie he seemed dark and 'lost' enough to write him off (just like Boromir in the Fellowship, such a loss). I totally thought he's done with just for a moment.

2) I NEVER thought both Sam and Frodo are going to die in the end. Sure, that'd be a bit tragic and (perhaps) an interesting finale, but such a sacrifice would have been totally unfair. I would have understood if Frodo died and sacrificed himself (as i said above) but it was illogical for Sam to die too. So, yeah, I did expect Gandalf to totally save them.

All in all, I did think it was a superb movie trilogy, not only as a fantasy fan, but in general. I also didn't find things 'out of place' or 'wrong' because I've watched the movies before i read the books (properly). The story did generally make total sense, except for the usual "Why didn't eagles take them to Mordor????" after the Isengard flashback.

I liked Fellowship better than RotK as a fantasy movie (lots of sets, adventures, twists), but RotK was better imho as just a movie. I felt the story in RotK was more coherent, journeys were all organized as sort of quests where everyone had specific aims - stories that just began, reached a climax, and satisfyingly ended. Fellowship, on the other hand, seemed to be more complex (ie the whole Moria sequence was out of place I felt especially with Gandalf dying - I did think he died).

Also, a bit like LaShawn, I did enjoy the bits they changed from the book. I read the book afterwards and genuinely thought that Jackson did a good job of patching up Tolkien narrative (which was great narrative, no doubt, but a bit convoluted and complex at places to be a movie.) For instance I liked bits like Beregond, Lord of southern Gondor port city (can't remember the name) and Elrond's sons cut out, with their parts given to major characters. I even think the whole Paths of the Dead sequence should've been thrown out and Aragorn should've been either been riding with Rohirrim, or better, with northern ranger/elvish allies.
Kelly McCullough
7. KellyMcCullough
First off, thanks for this whole series, I've enjoyed it enormously even if I haven't had time to comment regularly. As someone who has the books written into my psyche at a level that's bordering on hard-coded I have to say that the 3rd of the movies is not my favorite because its stuck with the job of tying up all the diversions from the first two and thus must go even farther afield.

At the same time I take great joy in the movies as they give me such a wonderful experience of LOTR the place if not always of LOTR the story. I'm glad Jackson made them and I think he did a fantastic job at some things and less so at others.
8. Brian Z
So my brain understands that movies are different than books, and even though some changes actually increased running time as opposed to shortening the runtime (I'm looking at you Faramir as you try and bring Frodo back to Minas Tirith), I will disregard them for this brief statement.

While there were some amazing spectacles (I still experience vertigo when Sam and Frodo are climbing the "stairs") there was too much bad film making. The most glaring example being the final sequences of the Battle of the Pelennor fields. Putting the ghost army there, while increasing the spectacle, takes away all sense of risk. There is no way they can lose. They have an undefeatable army. This also brings to question the sanity of the Legolas, Strider and Gimli seeing as how they stupidly risk their lives fighting in the battle. Maybe if Aragorn had said "Take care of my light work" I might have been okay with it.

I lied in the beginning. I miss and will never forgive the exculsion of the Riders of Rohan Death Cries after the death of Theoden. To me, that was the most memorable scene in the book, more so than their initial charge. How dare he take that out in order to give Eowyn a chance to say goodbye to him. For shame.
James Whitehead
9. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
Nice reviews. As a serious Tolkien fanboy, I was concerned that Jackson, or anyone for that matter, could do the books justice. I am old enough to be around when the Rankin/Bass & Bashki movies came out - loved Rankin/Bass, Bashki, not so much.

I loved all three of Jackson's movies. I knew going in that Tom Bombadil was going to pull a 'Sir Not Appearing in this Film' as it isn't possible to film him without the viewers getting the giggles. Some aspects of Tolkien's series only make sense when reading them.

I did get a little tired of Legolas 'super-elf' & Gimli being comic relief by the end I must admit; although his surfing down the stairs on a shield at Helm's Deep was really cool. ;-)

Thought Saruman's death was rather good in the end. Jackson wasn't doing the Scouring of the Shire as there just wouldn't be the time to make sense of it. Too many hobbits that readers 'knew' about that movie goers wouldn't.

I was saddened that Denethor's descent into madness comes off as him being a loony as opposed to Sauron pushing him that way through the palantir. Did think Pippin's singing while Faramir fights is one of the more haunting scenes of the trilogy.

Never had a problem with Arwen really. I love Liv Tyler & understood why her character was 'beefed up.' One of the best scenes regarding the elves, I thought, was when the contingent of elves from Lothlorien are sent by Galadriel to fight with the Rohirrim at Helm's Deep. Haldir's speech was very moving to me & I thought touched on the background tragedy in Tolkien's books of the elves very nicely.

I do think the paths of the dead was a little overdone but played into the theme trying to be captured by Jackson, et al. We read the book & never see Aragorn question what he does really. This is ok for a book 'cause we've been following along & have been sucked in by the narrative. Doesn't work so well in a movie. The hero cannot be without doubt, etc... He's very boring otherwise.

Overall, as has been stated above, I am glad Jackson made the movies & cannot envision anyone else doing a better job.


PS - Am really excited for The Hobbit movie.

PPS - Andy Sirkis really made Gollum a believable character & made me feel sad for him; just as Tolkien did.

PPPS - There's no other Gandalf than Ian McKellen.
10. Natasa
I believe this scene deserves a mention, too. "A Far Green Country," indeed. It gave me chills.

Though I haven't read the books, my family and friends are big enough fans to have told me the main storylines. Until I read this article I never knew Arwen's role was overplayed, but to me the theatrical rendition is perfect.

If you think about it, out of all the characters it was Arwen who made the biggest sacrifice. She gave up everything she knew, her father, her people, her immortality, for a few short decades of happiness with Aragorn. She did it knowing she would die; this is why her role isn't overplayed; it was done to show her strength of character, which IMHO is immense.
11. Dr. Thanatos
I also forgot my other favorite scene of pure distilled awesome:

Eowyn explaining to Angmar that the lack of females on Team Evil was unacceptable in a modern egalitarian world and she was going to demonstrate to him personally that a woman could do anything a man could do. Pay no attention to the male hobbit behind the Nazgul.


In the book, the story of Arwen coming to grips with her sacrifice is dealt with in a depth that the movie could not provide; I appreciate the way Jackson handled it but it didn't work as well for me. Again, a different story with many of the same names...
12. Dr. Thanatos

There is no Gandalf but McKellen and 10% of gross receipts is his profit
James Whitehead
13. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@10Natasa, Arwen's decision always helps explain Elrond's coldness towards Aragorn in the movie. He's losing his daughter until the world is unmade; which is a pretty long time, even for an elf. Also, thanks for the link I had forgotten that bit between Gandalf & Pippin.

@12Dr. Thanatos, too funny.

14. Joe_1967
There was a lot I liked in the movies. As well as a number of times when I stood up and proclaimed in a loud, stentorian voice, "That's not how it happened!" (Well, OK, in my head, at least.) For me, though, the movie's worst sin (almost unforgiveable) was the whole "Gollum drives a wedge between Frodo and Sam and Frodo sends Sam away" subplot. Um. No. Not gonna happen. Coming up closely behind is the violence done to Faramir, and then Denethor. (Denethor I can at least kind of justify to myself by saying the movie showed us the surface of his madness without getting into the root causes. Faramir, on the other hand, is simply inexcusable, even if the extended edition did try to create a bit more narrative justification for it.)
James Goetsch
15. Jedikalos
It's really hard to get past what the film did to Faramir. I end up thinking of the film as a series of illustrations of the books, with some that are stunning beyond belief and others that the artist simply made up in a mad act of fan art. But some of those illustrations are so beautiful they make up for everything. (Still, though: why mess over Faramir like that? aaarghhhhh!)
16. Narmitaj
As you've done the book and now the movies, can I suggest you have a go at the 1981 BBC Radio dramatisation, available on CD? I've read the book several times between 1973 and, I think, 2003, and seen the movies once each, but I have listened to the radio adaptation 20 or 30 or maybe even 40 times, most recently a couple of months ago, twice, while painting doors.

There are some great actors, including three of Britain's acting knights: Sir Robert Stephenson as Aragorn, Sir Ian Holm as Frodo, and Sir Michael Hordern as Gandalf (better than that other acting knight, Sir Ian McKellen, in my probably controversial opinion). Also Bill Nighy as Sam, a fantastic Gollum from Peter Woodthorpe, and John le Mesurier as Bilbo. And James Grout (Inspector Morse's superior officer) is a great Barliman Butterbur.

Some bits don't work so well - the Battle of the Pelennor Fields is a bit of a yelling mish-mash, the start jumps back and forth 17 years to give us a speedy but slightly confusing entry, some of the orcs sound a bit like cod-London oiks and Merry and Pippin may at first sound a little too preciously like a pair of posh public (ie private) schoolboys, but they do grow on you.

One or two of the music/singing choices grate a bit, but most are very good, and the reciting of some of the poems is good too. And the sound effects are subtle and good too... water, blades, environments, crackling fires, horses.

Frodo goes from jolly youth to pained veteran convincingly, Faramir is the honourable character he is in the book, Denethor is well-portrayed as high and mighty and bitter and twisted and finally in believable despair. Aragorn is a figure who has been preparing long for this coming hour, and seizes it... we first meet him as a rather rural-sounding Strider but he soon grows into his kingly stature. Gimli and Legolas's relationship is a tiny bit spiky at times but we don't have the dwarf-tossing malarkey. And far more than in the movies, the dramatisation does take time to stop around a fire and think about the songs and tales of the deep past.

Anyway, worth having a go at. And you can cook or drive or paint doors while listening. (Apologies if somewhere you have made mention of already listening to this).
17. Narmitaj
Further to my last post - sorry - I will also mention for the benefit of the relevant haters (and I am not over-keen on the prancing fol-de-rollery) that the Beeb's dramatisation also leaves out Tom Bombadil.

But it does include the Scouring of the Shire, bringing the war right back to the hobbits' own front doors instead of leaving it in a far off land of which most of the hobbits know nothing.
James Whitehead
18. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@16&17Narmitaj, my boys love the BBC radio dramatisation. They listened to it every night before bed for about a year - kept falling asleep. ;-)

I did like what they did with the series & love Holm as Bilbo (my cousin worked with him on stage & said he was fabulous to work with). I will have to disagree with you, respectfully of course, regarding the best Gandalf. ;-)

I do agree that the Scouring is important in the book but not sure how it could've been added to the movies. I have, however, always liked Bombadil and considered his scene to be a moment of light hearted whimsy before things got dark.

19. Foxessa
The more often I watch the extended LoTR movies, the more stupid this viewer appear Jackson's choices to deliberately change key characters and scene. I particularly hatehatehate the Frodo-Sam rift via Gollum's manipulations. It mattered so much to the arc of the entire Ring narrative that Sam and Frodo are never divided -- and this is something that makes Smeagol-Gollum almost tender, allowing for the momentary ascendency of Smeagol, who Frodo always insisted was there and redeemable. That's where Sam goes wrong, not understanding what is happening. He is harsh with Gollum, and then Faramir and his men are even more so, and that's the end of Gollum-Smeagol's potential for redemption. Yet, again, that's a fortunate fall, for Frodo, in the end, could not complete his quest, and his future would have been no better than Gollum's and perhaps worse, for Sauron would have taken him.

Love, c.
20. Driceman
I love the books and love the movies, all three in both cases. I think most of the changes they made were to shorten things up, honestly. Tolkien is very subtle with his character development, and that's hard to do on screen without making the movie 50 hours long. Some things were changed to keep things moving, such as Boromir, Faramir, and Denethor's characterizations.

That said, some changes were grating to say the least. I know they were using the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen from the Appendix as inspiration for the romance plot line in the movie, but it took up way too much time, especially in Two Towers. I wouldn't have minded maybe one brief flashback, but the two in a row before the unnecessary warg fight annoy me to no end. Instead of having to speed things up with the warg fight and taking so much time on flashbacks, how about putting the Shelob scene in Two Towers where it belongs? Then you have time in Return of the King to get across that Frodo and Sam didn't get across all of Mordor in five minutes. For that matter, you wouldn't have to screw up Faramir so much as a character, either, by cutting out the Osgiliath scene.

Oh well. Nothing to do about it now. Here's to hoping The Hobbit is the best it can be!
21. David Klecha
I'll go down as liking the movies quite a bit. If I recall correctly, I read Fellowship before seeing it, but didn't read the other two until after I saw the movies. To that end, I liked Faramir and Denethor as portrayed--we don't meet Denethor until he's deep in grief for Boromir, and that affects things, and I liked Faramir's "arc" versus his kinda flat (though very noble and heroic) appearance in the books. Oh, and I want to say my reading of Denethor in the movies is that he has been corrupted by Sauron and the Palantir--that's where Saruman's line about something festering in the hear of Middle Earth comes from. Saruman knows from the Palantir. And Denethor's line about the White Tower seeing much and knowing who rides with Theoden, etc. So, basically, he's got grief and anger going into his first meeting with Gandalf and Pippin, and he spirals down from there. I think the flashback scene with Boromir and Faramir in TT (Extended Edition) speaks well of him on his own, but also makes him the villain of the family without question.

I wasn't entirely certain that the Orcs hadn't taken the ring, despite a general understanding from SFF culture that they never did get it, but I wasn't sure if Jackson was going to heighten the stakes a bit by letting them briefly get hold of it.

As for the rest? Well, it's a great movie. It swept the Oscars and, I think, deservedly so. It took the book and gave it almost the least offensive possible translation into Modern Hollywoodese. It added a number of fantastic moments, like Pippin and Gandalf's scene in Minas Tirith when he describes "death" to Pippin. I think the Paths of the Dead scene was a little overdone, but from what I understand, it was something the Jackson had actually wanted to leave out, but thought it would be too much of an omission for fans. And I think the Frodo-Sam split is... agonizing... but I think it's supposed to be. I think it's one of those nearly necessary translations to Hollywoodese.

End of the day, I'm happy to love them both for what they are. The movies get embarassing in spots, but I think even those spots only help to enhance my reaction to the Awesome that comes along later.
22. pilgrimsoul
The lighting of the beacons was the best out-of-book cinamatic experience.
Nice to catch a few gorgeous glimpses of Sean Bean, too.
j p
23. sps49
Osgiliath should not have been portrayed, period. Blech.

Gollum didn't just die randomly- his neverending addiction to the Ring finally gained it back to him, but it was his Evil Monologuing that did him in (and the Ring). His eyes were fixed upward, at the Ring he held aloft in triumph, and the lack of attention to keeping his feet on the ground caused him to overstep and fall.

At least that's how I remember the book. I have to get the book and DVD cued up, because I wasn't expecting this post.

(NOBODY expects the Post!!)

I hope Jackson has learned how not to screw up The Hobbit.
Michael Ikeda
24. mikeda
I didn't mind the Gollum-inspired Frodo-Sam rift. By that time, Frodo's already under the Ring's influence to a substantial extent.

And from the point of view of the Ring, Sam is a rival.

One nice little touch that was mentioned in "More People's Guide to J.R.R. Tolkien" (in Tehanu's RoTK film review). Apparently the Ring doesn't melt immediately upon falling into the lava. Instead it doesn't melt until (quoting from Tehanu's essay) "The moment he reaches up to allow Sam to save his life, the Ring is destroyed. As if that tiny act of individual love and faith were Sauron's undoing."
LaShawn Wanak
25. LMWanak
Lots of wonderful comments!

@Sharat, Ironically, I don't hate Legolas at all in the first movie. I think he completely rocked it, and deservedly so. The second movie, I was more, "Okay, he's doing more showy off things. Um Okayyy..." By the third movie, it had gotten really old. But I fault that to the writers, not to Legolas himself, per se.

@Kate The charge of the Rohirrim at the Pelennor Fields oddly didn't resonate with me as much. Strange, because I normally consider such battle scenes as epic. Maybe it's because I found the Rohirrim's return at Minas Tirith more Epic, as they were charging in to save the day, whereas at Pelennor fields, they felt more diminished. ::shrug::

Anyway, thanks everybody! And thanks, Kate, for letting me do the guest post. It was a lot of fun.
mark Proctor
26. mark-p
I haven't watched the Return of the King since it was first released so I can't remember the details completely clearly.
I remember being annoyed at various changes to characters etc and some of the special effects that seemed to be used less well than in the first two films, especially in the battles ( like Legolases ridiculous acrobatics killing the oliphants)
Even though I didn't think this movie was that great I still enjoyed it, were defiantly some highlights like Shelob and I liked most of Frodos scenes (except Osgiliath) .
I really wanted them to do was make this one a slightly shorter film, followed by a forth.
The final part would contain sections from of the Return of the King but concentrate on the scouring of the Shire (one of my favourite sections of the books).
Andrew Foss
27. alfoss1540
For the series of movies, I will admit to loving them for the simple reason of them being a reasonable facimile of the books I love so dearly.

LaShawn you state it so well that the books didn't mean too much to you when you were young. They are not necessarily an easy read. And for people unable to get through them, these movies bring the story to life beautifully.

Thank you for bringing up the visual image of the beacons. The effect was brilliant. NOW IF IT HADN'T INVOLVED PIPPIN COMMITTING TREASON, I would have liked it a little bit better.

In the words of Dr Thantos:

Cool movie, I would like it a whole heck of a lot better if I could stop trying to think of it as an adaptation of the books as opposed to a different story with a lot of the same names.

Because as an adaptation of LOTR, it broke my heart in so many ways.

Thanks Kate for getting back to this.
Kate Nepveu
28. katenepveu
Einarai @ #6, thanks so much for responding! It's fascinating to hear your reactions as someone new to the story.

KellyMcCullough @ #7, "LotR the place" is a good way of putting it.

Brian Z @ #8, no, that's true about the army of the Dead on the battle field, but by that point I was just so over everything translucent-green that I just couldn't work up the energy to care.

KatoCrossesTheCourtyard @ #9, re: Aragorn not being static: true. But I didn't like the conflict the movies gave him, because I thought they made him seem stupid. Worrying about hereditary weakness? Only realizing what mortality means for Arwen at the last minute? I think "all hope of personal happiness and the restoration of the Kingdom," and some demonstrated tension over those stakes, would have been enough. And Sirkis, McKellen, and Sean Bean are my top three "having seen/heard these actors has made my mental experience of the book immeasurably better."

Natasa @ #10, one of my notes I cut for space was a comment on how much _older_, fittingly, Pippin looks at various times in this movie. I was really impressed. And Arwen is, alas, hardly in the book, but we are led to infer that she has considerably more steadfastness of character there. The idea that she might actually start to _leave_ Middle-earth is entirely out of left field.

Joe_1967 @ #14, Jedikalos @ #15, no, there's nothing that would justify Faramir to me either.

Narmitaj @ #16, I *think* I was listening those radio dramatizations were the ones I was listening to when I got my first speeding ticket, which gave me kind of a bad association. => More relevantly, I think I was already not liking the voice acting for Gandalf. But I may see if the library has them and try them again; there are only so many terrible TV shows I can half-watch while stitching, after all.

Foxessa @ #19, I admit I hadn't given much thought to the Gollum psychological warfare before, other than thinking it was clever and in-character for _him_, but you make a good point about the balance of Sam and Frodo's relationship during the quest.

Driceman @ #20, I wanted them to take out the warg scene and put Saruman back in. But I'm actually okay with the time spent on the journey across Mordor, which also takes up a surprisingly few pages in the book, and for the same reason: there's only so much grinding tedium and despair I can read about/see in detail, you know?

David Klecha @ #21, I certainly think those familiar with the book can infer the causes of Denethor's madness from the movie, but it's awfully subtle for those not familiar--Denethor's never shown with a palantir, not even at his burning. And thanks for answering about the orcs taking the Ring!

pilgrimsoul @ #22, beacons!

sps49 @ #23, I know no-one expected the post! I'm really sorry about the long delay.

mikeda @ #24, I confess I took the delay in the Ring's melting to be its capacity to absorb heat as a magical object, but that's a nice thematic argument.

LaShank @ #25, we might not be talking about the same thing--I meant the one with the horns and "Death!" and the sun rising behind them and all that. And thank _you_!

mark-p @ #26, I am not sure the Scouring is a entire movie, but it's a very intriguing thought. Maybe a standalone short film?

alfoss1540 @ #27, oh, ouch, yeah. I don't know what Gondor counts as treason, but Pippin was indeed going against the wishes of his sworn liege, wasn't he?
Bill Stusser
29. billiam
I loved all three movies. If I had to rate them individually it would go in order, Fellowship best, then Towers, and lastly Return. I think the reason I feel this way is that by Return of the King the action just seemed too over the top.

By the third movie I hated Legolas, which is sad because he & Gimli are my favs from the books after Aragorn. I really disliked how Legolas was turned into a pretty boy who was just there to make the young women squee. And don't even get me started on reducing Gimli to comic relief, argh.

I have to agree with those who dislike what was done to Faramir in the films. It's a shame that such a cool character in the books had to become such an asshat in the movies. And Osgiliath? Does anybody think that Frodo would have come away with the ring after being face to face with the Nazgul?

I understand why Peter Jackson moved Shelob to the third movie, but how cool would it have been to end the second film with Samwise (and the audience) thinking that Frodo was dead?

I know this sounded really negative but I do love these movies. I am so looking forward to the Hobbit, which was by the way the first real (my daughter calls them chapter books) I read by myself.
Andrew Foss
30. alfoss1540
Treason: Hmmm Beregond likely could have been executed for defying the king's express orders - in order to save Faramir - Pardoned somewhat by Aragorn. But the Movie Pippin desserts the king and sends out an all points distress alert across the entire country. In any military situation, he would be beheaded. It could have been started any other way and I would have liked it (someone drops a match after lighting his pipe, anything other than treason).
31. a-j
Sadly, for me, the film is completely ruined by the absence of the Scouring of the Shire. This sequence is so central to Tolkien's vision and understanding of the nature of evil that I still have difficulty understanding why it was cut (unlike Tom Bombadil who I like but can see why he was missed out).
Another thumbs up and recommend for the BBC radio version which I am re-listening to even now. I didn't like it on first transmission, but warmed to it on a later repeat and now like it very much.
James Whitehead
32. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@28katenepveu, I see your point and would've loved the movie to explain what Arwen was really giving up. I guess, however, there's only so much that can be introduced; we have 9+ hours of movie as it is (if you go by the extended versions).

Well, Isildur in the end was weak when it came to the ring; 'course if he wasn't then Sauron goes poof & we don't get these books we love so much. ;-) Things had to be changed in the end to ensure dramatic tension in the movies. As a purist, I would've loved the movie to be much closer to the book. But literal translations just don't work well in movies.

Look at the Harry Potter movies. The first two movies were visually stunning, the casting was dead on, the script faithful to the books, but they lacked the soul needed. When 'Azkaban' came out they focused more on the spirit of the books and not telling the viewer we are now on chapter 17, please do try to keep up.

That's what Jackson, in my mind, did so well; he captured the spirit of Tolkien's works. But he had to be pragmatic about it and make the movie he felt was the best that could be made.

As a side note, I saw the Dino DeLaurentiis version of Dune in the theatres in '84 & they gave you a handout of definitions for a number of the words used in the series to help you understand what was going on. I had read & loved the series so I knew what was going on, as did my friends. Too many other people, however, did not.

I'm sure Jackson had to balance his love of the series & the richness of Tolkien's world with what people would be able to follow in a movie theatre. That means, unfortunately, that stuff that we the fans know & love so well won't be the same.


PS - Sorry for the long post. Just enjoying having people to discuss Tolkien stuff with. ;-)

PPS - I do wish I had kept that Dune handout.

PPS - I do think that Jackson did as good a casting job as J.K. Rowling did. Most of the actors fit my imagination of the characters perfectly.

PPPS - Yes, I did steal this postscript silliness from Gandalf's note to Frodo. Sorry, it's a terribly affectation but what can you do? ;-)
33. Stefan Jones
Last fall, to consummate my new 47" flat-screen, I re-watched the movies after a couple of years.

A few months ago I began rereading the trilogy, the first time since the first of the movies came out. I'm a few chapters into The Return of the King.

Overall opinion: Jackson did a remarkably good job of dramatizing the "gist" of the story. There were lots of omissions, and lots of alternations, many of which were borderline eye-rollers. But overall, dang!

Of the movies, I think The Two Towers was the best balanced and most enjoyable as a movie. A lot of the heavy expository lifting was taken care of in Fellowship, and it doesn't have the multiple endings of Return. It's just a flat-out rousing adventure, expertly juggling three storylines.

And there's this: My father, an retired English teacher, hates sceince fiction and fantasy. Just a total fucking snob. But The Two Towers had him stuck to his seat in the theater, with no bathroom breaks. That is self says a lot to me.

I actually hesitated before my re-watch The Return of the King, because so much sad stuff happens. I felt like a kid nervous about rewatching Snow White because of that scary witch.

* * *
LaShawn comments on the Gollum origin scene. According to the "Making Of" story included in the super-special DVD set, Jackson originally intended to include that in The Two Towers. Specifically, right after "Gollum" brings up the fact that "Smeagol" is a murderer. You might remember Smeagol's expression goes kind of distant for a moment. That shot would have led into the origin scene . . . he was remembering his cousin's murder.
Bruce Cassidy
34. FungiUg
For me, the movies are a tribute, a homage, and I love them to bits. Peter Jackson did a lot of hard work to make the story accessable to people who hadn't read the books, and to honour those who had.

But I have always accepted that the two are separate things, and I have always been pleased with how much of the thematic material from LotR was squeezed in.

I've never done a scene-by-scene breakdown of the movies, and I probably never will. There seems no value in deliberately hunting for bits I don't like when all I really wanted was to spend more time immersed in the world.

Thankfully, The Hobbit is coming!
35. Jazzlet
A lot of what I thought has been said. The thing that hasn't which annoyed me was how fragile Minas Tirith seemed to be, one hit on the masonry and it was crumbling. The city that was built by master masons in the glory days of the White Tree, before the long waning of Gondor, falling to bits at the first onslaught? No, I don't think so.

Thanks again Kate!
Kate Nepveu
36. katenepveu
billiam @ #29, I'm not sure that a cliffhanger like "is Frodo dead?" could be sustained over a year, especially when based on an existing book, and when regardless people aren't really going to believe that he'd be dead when they have a year to think about it.

a-j @ #31 re: the Scouring, I think that it would be such a difficult transition on screen that I'm okay with it being left out, but I can understand people feeling otherwise.

KatoCrossesTheCourtyard @ #32, I think your anecdote about the Dune movie is hilarious, thank you.

StefanJones @ #33, hmm, I think I like the Gollum origin scene better where it is; what do you think?

FungiUg @ #34, I don't deliberate hunt for things I don't like, they jump up and smack me in the face. Seriously. It's how I process stories, it's impossible for me to suppress critical engagement with them.

Jazzlet @ #35, yeah, you could handwave that as metaphorical, but no, it's just for the dramatic effect.
37. Cazfans
It seems to me that the scene between Gandalf and Pippin harkens back to Tolkien's short story "Leaf by Niggle," but I'm not sure why.
Matt Bertram
38. mbertram
Kate, thanks for the great re-read from a long time, but quiet, reader. With this final movie I remember I found the closing farewell scenes very slow and drawn out. I just wanted it to finish. However, one scene that has really stayed with me is the hobbits in the pub. They have been through a completely life changing experience and have that shared connection, but are surrounded by normality and by people who can not begin to understand. A small scene but one I found very poignant and I felt it captured the essence of some of the dislocation our "heroes" would have felt back in The Shire.

Thanks again.
James Hogan
39. Sonofthunder
I agree with a lot of the comments here, and especially with those like FungiUg(interesting name...!) who state my own opinion that the movie series is a gorgeous homage to the series. It is pretty much impossible to do the book justice, but the movies are pretty amazing in their own right. And I love them. They're different. They mess some things up...but mostly, I don't care. They're such uniquely beautiful movies, I can't help but love them.

When I first had watched all three movies, I felt RotK was the best, but that was most likely newest-movie-bias. Now, Two Towers is my favorite to watch, because as mentioned above, it has such a strong story and plot progression, without being overly slow in the beginning. I still feel FotR may be the strongest movie, it's just not my favorite. Since FotR is able to have all the characters together for the whole movie, it's extremely tight.

Two Towers, while having some weird spots...I still love it to bits. Unlike some, I absolutely adore the whole Helm's Deep battle. My favorite battle of the movie series, by far. Sorry Pelennor. And I DO like all the Arwen sequences. When I first saw them, they bothered me. Now...they just fit. Arwen was a major part of Aragorn's motivations, even if this wasn't present during the main part of the book. Faramir remains the only problematic part. We'll just gloss over that for now.

As for RotK, I agree with...was it you, Kate? RotK holds some of my absolute favorite moments of the whole movie series. The arrival of the Rohirrim on the Pelennor with Theoden's speech and subsequent charge...nothing can match that. And the end..."I CAN carry YOU!" Amazing. It's still not my favorite...probably for a couple reasons. I was extremely annoyed with Frodo and Sam separating...and this continues to bother me. Sam would NEVER abandon Frodo. Even if he was pushed away.

Also, this may just be me....but I was quite disappointed when Eowyn's face wasn't hidden pre-reveal. Oh how awesome it would be for a random "Dernhelm" to take Merry along to battle. The reveal scene before the Witch King would have been that much more dramatic. I still don't know why they didn't do that. Ah well. Aside from those quibbles...I still liked RotK, it just seemed looser than the other two movies. Which is why...it's probably my least-watched of the three.

Thanks much for this re-watch!!!!! Both reviews were extremely well enjoyed. And now I feel like watching LotR again...
Kate Nepveu
40. katenepveu
mbertram @ #38, yes yes yes the inn scene! It's perfect, did I really cut mentioning it for space here? Geez, sometimes I really get over-zealous about that. Got.

Sonofthunder @ #39, Merry recognizes Eowyn right away just from her voice, I think, which seemed a little unlikely to me at the time. We may have decided during the relevant chapters, though, that her disguise was not actually that complete and the Riders she was with were deliberately turning a blind eye, which seems plausible to me, and which may have informed the decision. Also this way we had two people to root for from the beginning of the sequence instead of just one.
James Hogan
41. Sonofthunder
Merry recognizes her voice? Oops, my book knowledge is worse than I thought...I do remember the other riders turning a blind eye(to Merry, and upon further readings, Eowyn as well), but I distinctly remember my first time reading and being delighted at Dernhelm revealing "himself" as Eowyn(guess this was just me being dense in my reading!). I would have liked for that to be captured in the movie as well...but like I said, I think this is just a personal thing, since I've never seen anyone else who has a problem with this!!
Kate Nepveu
42. katenepveu
Sorry, no, I meant recognized in the movie!
43. Lelliot
KatoCrossesTheCourtyard @ #32 - I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to that movie as anything but "David Lynch's Dune" - which I think summarizes what the thing that PJ did better than any other director I can imagine (Tim Burton's LoTR anyone?) - he decided to use the 50y of fan art and imagination to guide the art direction of the film. I love the sequence in the extras for Fellowship where PJ invited Alan Lee & John Howe to join the production as conceptual artists - it really shows his dedication to make *the* LoTR, not "Peter Jackson's LoTR".

I think the obsession with plot and character in some sense is a mis-reading of Tolkien's intent. My interpretation of the history of the LoTR is that it was written not because JRR Tolkien needed to tell a particular story (unlike the Hobbit), but because he had this marvelous world he had imagined and the LoTR plot was just a vehicle he used to drive us around in it.

The movies do a wonderful job of imaging the locations, the people and many of the key points from the book. The stuff in between is less important as far as I'm concerned.
Soon Lee
44. SoonLee
Not only is the post unexpected, but it is also stealthy! (I completely missed this posting).

I really liked all three movies but with reservations. As a bit of a purist, I didn't like some of the changes introduced to increase drama. And the problem with that is (as mentioned upthread) this movie has to then somehow reconcile the changes not to mention bring the different plot threads to a satisfying conclusion. That said, there were some magic moments (most of which have already been mentioned upthread).

I guess the thing that most frustrates me is this: given the large amount of the movie that was done so right (so very, very right), it makes the bits that don't work that much more jarring, that much harder to understand. (I've watched the commentaries with the producers where they discuss some of their reasoning for departures from the book & I still find some of their decisions baffling).

One of the things that struck me was how long the ending was - all the extended farewells seemed to take *forever*. But then, the book was similarly long-winded. Just goes to show that what works in the book does't always work onscreen, though I don't know how it could have been done differently.

KatoCrossesTheCourtyard @32:
That Dune movie? Ack! If you hadn't read the book you'd be hopelessly lost, but if you had, you'd be extremely annoyed with the changes. The Fremen were marching in lock-step in the opening credits foreshadowed the rest of the movie. The papier-mache sandworms out of a pantomine production & weirding modules were the most annoying bits for me.
45. SiriusMeiMei
One thing about the theatrical release vs. the extended version that continues to annoy me is the wrap-up of Faramir's and Eowyns storylines. I really, really wish that had been included in the theatrical release. All you see there is that they're suddenly Gondor royal couple #2 at Aragorn's crowning ceremony.
Faramir and Eowyn's coming together after is one of my favorite parts of the book and one of the more believable love stories in the series. (Although the piece in the extended version could have been done with a leetle more finesse.... just sayin.)
Soon Lee
46. SoonLee
SiriusMeiMei @45:

There is a part of me that still thinks that the story might have been better served as a mini-series on TV if for no other reason than to allow enough space for the story to unfold. One drawback of the movies is the necessary elision of some of the story elements & combining of others just to squeeze it all into the three movies. And despite that, it still felt cramped in parts.
Kate Nepveu
47. katenepveu
Lelliot @ #43, welcome. I'm glad that the movies work for you on that level. But I don't think my interest in plot and character and Tolkien's intent are entirely relevant to each other. If nothing else, whatever Tolkien was motivated by, he could and did craft excellent characters and put together tight plots, and as those are present in the book I think it's fair to talk about how the movies treat them.

SoonLee @ #44, I have rarely been called stealthy!

SiriusMeiMei @ #45, yeah, I disliked the way Faramir and Eowyn dropped out in the theatrical version too, but was not particularly impressed with the extended edition's treatment of it.
Rob Munnelly
48. RobMRobM
Re the rewatch comments, look at my comment @1 and thank you commenter for focusing on the insanity of the Denethor portrayal.
Aeria Lynn
49. aeria_lynn
To whomever is wondering about why the eagles couldn't take Frodo to Morodor:

Very simple. The eagles would have been nuked by the ringwraiths, who had flying mounts. After the ring is destroyed, the ringwraiths have nothing to hold them to the world, and they disappear, leaving the path free for the eagles to fly in.
Constance Sublette
50. Zorra
As have others, the choice to leave out the Scouring of the Shire, was a terrible disappointment to me. The point of Frodo's Quest was to save the Shire, a place of so little importance in the larger world that no one even knows of it or of its Hobbits. Yet if somewhere like the Shire and its variety of good, bad and ugly, and, well, the normal cannot be safe, nothing can be saved. It depends on the larger world for its safety. Frodo believes down to the very bottom of his hairy toes that the Shire is worthy of saving. One part of that is the unbreakable bond of friendship - devotion between him and Sam. Frodo isn't doing this to put Aragorn on the throne. It's done to save the place for which he and Sam share the same devotion they have in their friendship with each other -- their home that bred and made them both.

Only Gandalf and Aragorn seem to understand these fundamentals about the Hobbits. In that grand council of the Great, there are only these 'normals,' the small, the not-Great, the Hobbits.

And then he comes home. And no matter how hard everyone works, it's not the same any longer. Not for him. It can't be. This is the story of war, or any very great ordeal a person experiences. No matter if one comes out the other side, everything is changed. Because everyone's war, everyone's ordeal, is personal, and happens where they are located. So the Shire is concerned with Sharkey, not with Sauruman, with Pippin and Merry, not with the King who has come again, with the redemption of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and more friendly and prosperous commerce, not with the re-vivication of the Tree of Minas Tirith.

Rather than the ugly birthing of thousands of Uruk-hai, impalement of Sauruman, a millennium of slalomming of oliphants and peek-a-boo with trolls and an additional millennium on a lava flow, plus incredibly distorted Ents -- of which there were NOT ENOUGH to be plausible -- I'd have given it all for a good depiction of the Scouring of the Shire, complete with Sharkey's End.

Without the Scouring the story is incomplete -- it doesn't tell us why we come back again when we go away. It doesn't make clear why we will do what we do, unto giving our lives, for our Place in the Great World.

Love, C.
Constance Sublette
51. Zorra
eeeks, I forgot to include the other significant matter of excluding the Scouring of the Shire, which is why it feels so wrong to the lovers of the books.

As so many have said, about the books and the films both, it's The Fellowship of the Ring that feels the most satisfactory, the most magical too. I have always felt that way about the books, which I have read over many times, as well as the far fewer times when watching the film versions. The reason this first volume and film feel that way is because they are the most magical. We are immersed in the normal, from people to occupation to landscape. Slowly, as we move out of Hobbiton, we move in the realms of the magical, the fright of the Riders -- almost like a Halloween tale, scary, spooky, but a context we get -- Headless Horseman and so on -- to the threatening -- the hooded man, Strider -- adventure, but we come through safely, to more strange and then ever stranger, and terror. And then, we hit out-and-out magic in Rivendell, yet still somewhat homely -- the Last Homely House. Finally, it's full blast enchantment with Galadriel and Lothlórien. We have traveled from homely home to fairyland.

There is no fairyland in the following two books. It's just the Great and their minions, orcs and others. Only Sam gets a hit of a wonder he's always desired, seeing an oliphant.

Again, that's why we need the Scouring of the Shire.

Love, C.
Doc Tobin
52. thegooddoctor
As previously mentioned, I expendended far too much effort writing a live blog rewatch of the trilogy, which you can read here. but i'd like to mention that a lot of people seem to be saying that their awareness of the books is what impairs their enjoyment of the movies, and that somehow jackson's changes would be okay if they hadn't read the books. like faramir's character changes wouldn't matter if you hadn't read the book.

in my live blogging, i try to focus strictly on how the movies fail as movies, and not worry about the changes. i point out that certain changes were good for the movie, such as omissions.

for the most part, my criticisms of the movie are based solely on the fact they are poorly made movies. jackson resorts to cheap tricks to try and create suspense, like aragorn falling over the cliff in ttt, that are bad (extermely bad) b-movie tropes. there are some genuinely good moments in the three movies, but i think these are in fact heightened by our awareness of the books. i think overall, because we have the entire weight of the mythology propelling us through the movie experience, we are actually quicker to forgive the problems with the movies than if we had never read the books.

my theory is that if you have read the books, sure you'll be mad about faramir and the dumbing down of so many characters, but we'll forgive them, because the movies look spectacular and correspond so well with our imagination. we can mentally edit the scenes we don't like to accord with the books, and we can reread the books and picture the movies, and so they have melded into one and we are able to overlook the faults.

but if you haven't read the books, then the movies are just superlong, not very good movies that have a lot of awesome visual spectacle. and if you wonder why people might still like them if that's the case, well a lot of people like the transformers movies, and people aren't writing long blogs about all the problems with those movies. we all know they are really bad as movies. it's just they happen to work for a lot of people as entertainment.

so that's what you have with the lotr movies. they are bad, but for some people they are entertaining. if the novels weren't so popular (or had never existed), there wouldn't be all this debate about these movies. they would have slipped quickly into obscurity.
Kate Nepveu
53. katenepveu
aeria_lynn @ #49, a couple other good reasons about the Eagles: very proud sentient beings are not good carriers of the Ring; they might not be allowed to interfere too much, as agents of the Valar.

Zorra @ #50, I would accept that a whole 'nother episode would be very hard for audiences to get through once the Ring was destroyed, if only they'd done better at showing Frodo's isolation and damage after they returned.
54. SKM
Meh, I was OVERJOYED to see the Scouring of the Shire cut. I get what Tolkien was going for, but it was poorly executed, drawn out, and anti-climactic. I skip it (and Tom Bombadil as well--Tolkien was by no means perfect) on every reread.

Being unable to truly go home again because Saruman wrecked the place doesn't move me nearly as much as being unable to go home again because the Shire hasn't changed, but you have. Failing by succeeding is much more moving than outright failure, IMO.
55. Lsana
@50, 51,

I always thought I was the only one (with the possible exception of Tolkien himself) who loved the Scouring of the Shire in the books. In the books, I think it worked as a wrap-up episode that let us come down from the climax and return to the everyday world. In the movies, though, the ending already felt too drawn out. They're different mediums, and on film, I just don't think it would have worked.
56. Halibulu
I absolutely loved the movies, however,I can never get over or forget the look of utter FEAR(?!?!) on Gandalf's face in the extended version when he and Pippin are confronted by the Witch King, who then SHATTERS Gandalf's staff. This made no sense to me, and completely demeaned Gandalf's decision in the books, when he gets ready to battle with the Witch King, the horn of the Theoden & co. is sounded, the WK flies off and Gandalf is stopped from pursuit because Pippin needs his help stopping Denethor. That scene always weighed heavy with me because we all (including Gandalf) knew that some beloved character would die, but was necessary so that "no man" could kill the Witch King, which I always believed Gandalf capable of, he just didn't get the chance to.

On a side note: Eomer's cry of anguish when he discovers Eowyn upon the field always catches my breath and wrenches my heart. Excellently done, even if I would have liked to see his fury leading him to cut dangerously deep into the ranks of orcs alone and be overcome by despair at the sight of the (believed to be) corsair ships.
Michael Ikeda
57. mikeda

I'd put it a bit more strongly. I'd say that the Scouring is the one cut that absolutely MUST be made for the movies.

(I do agree that it works well in the books.)
Constance Sublette
58. Zorra
OK, you all. But it still seems to me that the movies would have been better all the way around if the Scouring was kept and a lot of the balderdash -- bad balderdash into the bargain -- hadn't been included.

Does anyone who hasn't read the books understand more about the rebirth of the White Tree than we who do know the books -- without which there wouldn't have been these movies at all -- understand about the re-growth of the Party Tree? But since the Scouring is cut, this doesn't happen, while the Party Tree is in the film version. With the Scouring cut Galadriel's gift to Sam makes no sense at all. This decision was made at the top, and this decision cascaded into one after another further bad decisions that made for bad movie making of cliches, dumbnesses and wrongs.

Love, C.
Kate Nepveu
59. katenepveu
SKM @ #54, I liked seeing the hobbits get the chance to show their growth on their home turf, but that is an interesting point about the Scouring and internal v. external changes.

Lsana @ #55, no, a bunch of people said they liked the Scouring best back in the day!

Halibulu @ #56, welcome, though I regret that my memory of the extended edition has faded enough that I can't comment usefully on the scenes you mention.

Zorra @ #58, I'm on board with taking out balderdash! The warg attack in _TT_ is tops of my list. =>
Michael Ikeda
60. mikeda

The problem is that even as it is the ending is simultaneously too long and too short. Too short because it's basically a highlights reel of brief scenes of things that mostly HAVE to be included. Too long because there are enough of the brief scenes that the movie is probably going to drag a bit for anyone who hasn't read the books. There simply isn't any room to even consider forcing in anything as long as the Scouring.

Now adding a brief scene of a devastated Shire to the highlights reel, that maybe could have been managed.
Alan Brown
61. AlanBrown
I enjoyed the final movie of the trilogy, as I did all of them. Some things I would have liked to see ended up on the cutting room floor, but in the end, I thought Mr. Jackson did an excellent job of bringing the books to life. Even with 9 hours of screen time, there was just too much in these books to put on the screen.
And I think my favorite part of the movies was the scenery, the sets and the costumes. New Zealand is just as much of a character in these movies as the actors. It is just familiar enough to feel real, but strange enough to show us that this is another era we are visiting. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I like the lighting of the beacons so much, just the view of the mountains passing beneath us would have been breathtaking--and the beacons bursting into flame gave it even more drama. And the costume and props folks did an excellent job of bringing the things I had imagined to life, and doing so in a way that swept me into, and along with, the story.
I am going to have to dig out my copy of the BBC radio plays, as I did enjoy them, and have been reminded of how good they are by this discussion.
62. gadget
As a long time LotR fan, I'm somewhat
biased, but I've always found PJ's version--despite the enormous
effort--to be very over the top and mawkish. I'm not ranting
that they left out Tom Bombadil, or that the Scouring of the Shire
was not dramatized, or many of the usual urltra-“purist”
complaints. I have my issues and preferences of course, but I
realize that adapting a work of art from one medium to another takes
a certain amount of—well, adaptation. Like translating a stanza
or verse of poetry from one language to another, many times a literal
translation will not do. So, I am not unaware of the many issues
involved in making a movie from a much beloved book, not the least of
which is that this was an enormous financial risk that the film
makers made to film the movies at all.

In the end, it was the very
inconsistent tone and the writer's need to constantly (and
artificially) ratchet up the tension and create false climaxes that
really bothered me. Many of the visuals that are rightly praised are
often marred by a contextual set up that defies all logic and reason.
Pippin has to light the beacons because? Denethor's having a bad
day and doesn't want help? Huh? Frodo is easily fooled into casting
off is lifelong friend and servant in Sam because of a few crumbs?
Really? Faramir is making an idiotic cavalry assault on an
entrenched enemy with walls and buildings because? His dad wanted a
tragic back drop to his lunch time serenade? All those years
captaining the Army of Gondor in the field paid off I guess (I'm
reminded of an equally ridiculous scene in the Two Towers where Eomer
and is men are charging down a better than 45 degree angle slope into
a waiting pike formation). Gandalf had to club Denethor into
submission and take command of Minus Tirith because ol' Denethor
choose that day to set his internal switch to: Loony?

Eowyn's confrontation with the Witch King doesn't even hold a pale candle to
the power and majesty of the book confrontation. I didn't expect all
of the, admittedly sometimes purple, dialog of the book, but this
just didn't do it for me. The only scene that really lived up to the
the book, imho, was the charge of the Rohirrim. Theoden ridding up
and down the line of Riders clanging his sword on their outstretched
spears gave me chills. But what little real drama the story manges
to earn is immediately stomped on by the over the top and
cartoon-like antics of Legolas, Gimli, & Aragorn. One gets the
impression that any one of those characters could have bent over,
broken wind, and knocked over a whole battalion of orcs, which really
trivializes what honest tension the narrative manged to generate.

Finally, this leads us to the most ridiculous move of all: the
scrubbing bubbles of DEATH! Yes, Aragorn saw a toilet bowel cleaning
commercial and thought he ought to bring some of that stuff to use on
the walls of Minus Tirith! It wasn't really a bad idea to adapt the
movie to have Aragorn bring the dead to the battle of Minus Tirith
rather than try and explain all the rigmarole about the cleansing the
costs of Gondor and gathering reinforcements to relieve the
beleaguered forces at the capitol ( it would have been especially
nice if we could have seen the King of the Dead refuse to help
Isuldur in the Battle of the Last Alliance prologue and be cursed for
it), but the execution was cartoonish and campy.

I won't even go into the silly Van-de-graph of Doom Eye of Mordor swiveling around on top of Barad-dur like some kind of crazed search light. Or the obviously filmed on a sound stage and very fake looking Grey Heavens scene. In short, too much over the top melodrama and false tension
at the expense the overall story and a consistent narrative tone.
Kate Nepveu
63. katenepveu
gadget @ #62, "scrubbing bubbles of DEATH" is my favorite thing so far today.
Chris Nelly
64. Aeryl
The objection to Arwen's fate being tied to the fate of the ring is really strange to me.

The Elves are leaving Middle Earth because of the "evil" and mortality that has overtaken it, and going to the Grey Havens.

Arwen, out of love for Aragorn, decides to stay. As an Elf, her immortality is tied deeply to the world, and if the world sinks into blackness, well then Arwen dies.

Not that difficult, not creating some mystical connection to the ring, just stating that if Sauron isn't defeated and the ring destroyed, Arwen will not be able tocontinue living in Middle Earth and since she won't leave, she will die.

Now, I hadn't read the books first, because the movie looked cool and I didn't want it spoiled, so when I was confused by that part, the above is the answer I got from my LoTR loving friend I attended the movies with.
Constance Sublette
65. Zorra
(I'm reminded of an equally ridiculous scene in the Two Towers where Eomer and is men are charging down a better than 45 degree angle slope into a waiting pike formation).
O, man, that drove me spitting mad too! Like all the other so-called military moves just about.

IOW, these are badly written movies from any angle you look at them.

Love, C.
66. gadget
Glad I could help :)

Aeryl@64 - So your explaination for the Arwen stuff is: If Sauron wins, she's screwed, just like virtually everyone else in Middle-earth? Yet we don't see the rest of the world collapsing into a pile of leaves/roses petals (or whatever it was, it's been a while since I've seen the movie) and getting weaker. Maybe they were trying to suggest that 'mortality' had caught up with her and she was becoming mortal? Not really Tolkien at all (she does choose mortality in the books, but it does not work like that), but it still seems kind of muddled to me.

Zorra@65 - Yes. I've heard people criticize Tolkien based on the awful military depictions in the movies and tried to explain that Tolkien is actually quite good at it, mostly because he does not go into details that often. I'm also reminded of the physics-defying trebuchet action going on as well. I read a while ago that some amateur enthusiasts in the UK made a trebuchet that could hurl a VW beetle some distance. But the type of ordinance that these things were hurling makes that look like a kid with a sling shot. Not just multiple ton blocks of stone, but huge hundred ton blocks that should have left impact craters and wiped out the dinosaurs!
Alan Brown
67. AlanBrown
One generally has to check all their knowledge of medieval combat at the door when going to see modern fantasy movies. Come to think of it, with most movies, the less military history you are familar with, the better!
As I recollect, gadget, you are correct in stating that Tolkien didn't do a bad job of describing warfare in his books--just left a lot to the imagination--which is far better than putting in details that just don't make sense.
Constance Sublette
68. Zorra
Hello? Didn't criticize Tolkien -- criticized Jackson, OK now?

In the meantime, here is this, re It All & Jackson.

Love, C.
Kate Nepveu
69. katenepveu
Zorra, I think you and gadget are in violent agreement. =>
Chris Nelly
70. Aeryl
It is kinda muddled, but the point I got from it was that Elrond was making it explicit to Aragorn is that now yes, Arwen is screwed like everyone else. He always thought she would go to the Gray Havens and be safe, but now not so much.
Kate Nepveu
71. katenepveu
Aeryl, it seemed to me that Elrond was trying to make a more direct connection, what with all the languishing and stuff, but I've put a lot of the details out of my head already so cannot be more specific! It was certainly not as clear as it could have been.
72. gadget
Zorra@68 I was agreeing with you, sorry if that was not clear.

Aeryl@70 Yeah, I guess if you say so. I still kind of think that it was just a rather ham-fisted way of forcing the romatic sub-plot into the movie to little overall gain.

I guess I should point out that, though I am critical of the final result, PJ and team put in an enormous amount of work and dedication to pull this off, and they were also under an enormous amount of pressure to have it be a success. Hats off to them for that. I just feel that so much of the story was an excuse to set up the 'scenery porn', as another poster put it, rather than said scenery being used to advance and convey the story. But, that is fairly par for the course in modern, big-budget, 'event' movies, so it is hard to pillroy the film makers for doing what they had to do to make the films pay off (I still manage though :) ).

And finally, whatever one thinks of the quality of the movies, we cannot deny that it has generated a huge upsurge in Tolkien in the media and in the public awareness of his works in general. Many people have read and enjoyed Tolkien for the first time because of the films, college courses are now taught using his works etc. And that is a good thing.
Rob Rater
73. Quasarmodo
I still haven't watched my extended copy of ROTK. I will one day. I think.
Rob Munnelly
74. RobMRobM
Loved the acting, loved the scenery, loved the special effects - I just had big problems with the unnecessary changes in adapting the work that cheapened the story - similar to @62. Denethor and Faramir are Exhibits A and B; the scrubbing bubbles of death Exhibit C; and to get all of the additional changes that drove me crazy at the time, I'd have to rewatch the darned thing.
Chris Nelly
75. Aeryl
I absolutely agree that it was a ham fisted way to force the love story into the plot, but it doesn't contradict the mythology just expands it, and it based on Tolkein's writings.

PJ's obviously going to be drawing on a lot of history from The Silmarillion to fill The Hobbit's now three movie expansion, probably to an even greater extreme than he mined the LoTR appendices.

I will say that after I read the books, I found the movies intolerable to rewatch, except in small doses. I can watch parts it if I catch it on cable, but not from start to finish.
76. gadget
Aeryl@75 - I think we will just agree to disagree on the Arwen thing. As for the Silmarillion, PJ does not have the rights to any of that work. The Tolkien Estate will not give up the rights to that while Christopher Tolkien is still alive, so it is unlikely that PJ will use any of it.

Where PJ is expanding the story of the Hobbit is including (or rather inventing, as there is only a few paragraphs in the Appendices to tLotR about it) the story line of the White Council driving the Necromancer (a.k.a Sauron) out of Southern Mirkwood. Readers will recall that this was the reason Gandalf left the party before they entered Mirkwood. Originally it was just an excuse for the author to get Gandalf out of the way so Bilbo and the dwarves would be on their own.

He might also include some of the dwarf-goblin war history from the appendices, as it seems the goblin's will feature heavily in the films.
Brandon Lammers
77. wickedkinetic
Loved Fellowship, loved the first hour of TT, until the Farmir/Ring detour - I think what bothers me most is that if Sauron had eyes-on confirmation that The Ring was right there on his front porch... well, the army would have marched right then - the Nazgul might have backed off but I guarantee they'd keep eyes-on the hobbit and track them... it makes the whole plot-line of the 3 sneaking in the back door very farfetched - but i'm sure that poor dead horse has taken enough abuse over the last 10 years.....

I too miss the scouring of the shire - I'd hear that Peter Jackson didn't like it and that's why it was cut. My friends joke that the movie already had 8 endings and finales as is, and after the large-scale stuff adding a scouring sequence would be anticlimactic and make a very long movie very much longer...

still, my theory on PJ not liking it is thus - most of us in the modern first-world can imagine pre-industrial civilization - but we haven't seen it - Tolkien left agrarian England for WWI and returned to a nation covered in factories and roads and cars - a nation taken over by the war machine - like most of the civilized world - leading up to and through World War 2 and the last 100 years. On the other hand, lovely New Zealand (which I have experienced primarily through these movies....) is still very much untouched by industrialization - there are still many parts of New Zealand that have never seen roads, or war, or smog.... its one of the places you could go home to from World War 1 where maybe things hadn't changed much.... just a very bizarre theory I've always held, comparing Tolkien's experience (come home from war and the little farming town is now poisoned by factory smoke and industry) to that of the Kiwi's preservation of their incredibly natural resources....

on Saruman's death - yes that was silly and overdone - but it was good theater - makes more sense that he'd be safe in his tower and show up later causing trouble like in the books - but the only change that really troubles me about the movies, and makes it very hard for me to watch TT - is the little detour the ring takes....
78. braeem
Sorry but youve made a couple of mistakes.
Frodo wakes up in Rivendel. Not minas tirith

And smaegol frames sam at the stairs next to Minas Morgul . Not Cirith Ungol.
Great review though. I think the Mouth of Sauron part was horrible. I dont agree with you at that. They ruined the whole dark theme of mordor by making it somewhat humorous. Mouth of Sauron didnt seem dark and deadly..unlike the witch king. I wouldve preferred if the orc army just came out.

Also I totally agree with the army of the dead scene. The theatrical version was much much better. It kept the suspense when aragorn comes out with the army looking all kick ass and adding that wow factor to the whole scene. Plus Gimli was trying to be funny when he was blowing at the dead spirits, wth !! :S
Chris Nelly
79. Aeryl
That was a quick trip from Rivendell to Minas Tirith for the crowning. And it takes away from the dramatic tension of Aragorn not knowing Arwen's still alive and in Middle Earth, if he's hanging out at her house.

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