Lord of the Rings Review/Jackson
Or, “the Nitpicker’s Guide to LOTR Jackson…
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
The hardest thing to do, I think, must be to make a movie and get it sold, when everyone already knows the ending. Jackson took a shot at this with LOTR and he did a great job with a difficult task, or at least that aspect of it. In addition, the unabridged audiobook The Fellowship of the Ring is something like eleven hours, and somehow Jackson cut that time down to just under three. No matter who or what Jackson cut out to do that, he was going to make somebody unhappy, so according to him, he just made himself happy.
I will say, as I did in the short review, that the movie is beautifuly paced; I observed a theater full of kids who actually sat through the whole 2 and ½ hour plus movie, which is a testament in itself. A friend I went and saw it with felt that even the audience ‘down’ times were still well paced, and that isn’t easy to do with a film like this. (thanks Anthony)
The sets and scenery were beautiful, Hobbiton, Orthanc and Rivendell were beautifully done, although I thought Lothlorien was a tad dark (but still beautiful). One neat thing we see is a barefoot Arwen and Galadriel..very nice touch.
I give the film a 9 out of 10; less than ten only because, just like Bakshi, Jackson changed some character’s lines around again for no conceivable reason. <groan>
The interrelationships between the characters has been modified somewhat with two exceptions: Frodo and Gandalf are close, which both Bakshi and Jackson demonstrated keeping true to the book; and Legolas’ attachment to Aragorn. Now in the book, we don’t see this untill at least Moria, and more so after Boromir’s death; but Jackson starts it right there at the Council of Elrond. This is never explored or explained even in the book, it should be interesting to see if Jackson follows this up at all. Jackson takes it one step farther and shows Aragorn actually relying on Legolas (in the book, Gandalf did). Aragorn actually appears to appoint Legolas as his second in command after Gandalf’s death. (“Get them up, Legolas, Get them up”)
One relationship completely reconstructed, at least so far, that even Bakshi included somewhat in his film, was that between Legolas and Gimli. In the book, they were probably the most emotionally distanced from each other out of all the members of the fellowship, growing together untill they were best friends at the end. In the book, we see this relationship change over time, but Jackson completely cuts it out. A friend I saw the film with noticed that it wasn’t four hobbits so much, it was a Frodo/Sam and a Merry/Pippin team. Sam is way less of a servant in this film, and more of an equal to Frodo. (Thanks Craig) However the ‘rivalry’ factor between Aragorn and Boromir as King of Gondor was developed very well by Jackson. (“Gondor has no King, Gondor needs no King..Harumph!)
Tolkien left a few things open for speculation, and Jackson ran with them very well. Take for example the Last Alliance scene, with Sauron swinging his club. (great scene BTW)However, in the books, Gil-Galad and Elendil (Isildur’s father) stepped forward, basically sacrificing themselves (perhaps through pre-arrangement) and distracting an enraged and provoked Sauron, while Isildur stepped up and cut the Ring from Sauron. As I see it, the Jackson way causes two continuity problems; how is it that a mere mortal was able to get the Ring from Sauron, (we know it was because of Gil-Galad and Elendil, but the film doesn’t show that). Later we see the scene where Elrond tries to get Isildur to throw the Ring into the fire. We see then and later Elrond’s simmering fury over Isildur’s refusal/failure. What we don’t see is one reason for it; Elrond just stood and watched Gilg-Galad and Elendil sacrifice themself for---Isildur to wear the Ring around his neck!! I would be furious too!! The movie doesn’t show this, tho. More on this later. And also, one of the big debates still raging among Tolkien fans/scholars is: “What happened to Sauron’s finger after it was cut?” Jackson goes through great pains-and several minutes of precious screen time-- to demonstate the finger’s fate---twice!! Huh? Jackson cut out Glorfindel, Gildor and Tom Bombadil/Goldberry for THAT? If one character is going to be put back into the movie before the DVD release, it should be Gil-Galad. That was such a wasted opportunity IMHO.
Jackson and Bakshi both cut out Gildor, leading to the same continuity problem; the Black Rider has the hobbits cornered, in the tree roots hollow, then suddenly for no reason he walks away. Why? In the book, it was because of the presence of the Elves, and High-Elves at that. Why Jackson had to do the exact same wrong thing I cannot fathom. In addition to that, after taking great pains to show how small the Hobbits were compared to men(remember Gandalf bumping his head and sitting at the table at Bag-End?) ,and Black Riders seemed bigger than regular men, Jackson then proceeds to show the Hobbits OUTRUNNING mounted Black Riders from Mordor!! Hull-oooo…And one other thing with regard to that scene…there is no way that Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee would have allowed Frodo to fall behind like that and be the last to jump on the ferry…Samwise would have been behind, and taken on the Black Riders all by himself while Frodo made it to the ferry. That's a BIIIG character departure there. I couldn’t help but think of the scene described in Bored of the Rings…the Black Riders thundering up to the gate and (what is supposed to be Glorfindel’s character) holding out his hand and saying “Toll please…”
And I’m not even going to touch further the fact that the Elves are pointy-eared and blonde (they are neither in the book, except golden-haired elves of the house of Finarfin such as Galadriel---and likely Glorfindel, who was cut anyway!!) and the Hobbits are not pointy-eared (they are according to Tolkien). <groan>
Personally, I thought that, just as with Bakshi, way too much precious screen time was taken up with the Black Riders and with the Battle of the Wizards. I would like to have seen less of these two scenes, and at least one eliminated character put back in with the extra time. Speaking of Wizards, while most of what went on at Orthanc was in the book (tho out of sequence) or at least alluded to, the scene where Saruman brags to Gandalf about his Palantir was totally added. Well we can already tell that the scene where Grima throws the palantir down to Gandalf will likely be altered. Hmmmph!!
And as for Arwen’s expanded role…puh—lease!!! It was insulting that Elrond’s half-elven daughter could even come close to taking the place of the High-Elf Lord Glorfindel, the only elf ever to have died and been resurrected. (albeit as an afterthought) It has been hinted that this moment was the reason the Valar sent him back. And Jackson takes it away from him. It might have been more palatable if Arwen had shared the role with Glorfindel. And then to top it all off, instead of Elrond and Gandalf, ARWEN gets to call the river down on the Black Riders. One interesting thing tho; once Arwen crossed the river, the Black Riders just kind of stood there. Arwen could have just ridden away, but she raises her sword and taunts them. Thus angered and provoked, they then step into the river, and thus Arwen calls down the water on them, and buys Rivendell the time it needs to send the Ring on its way to Mordor. This happened the same way with Fingolfin and Morgoth (see ‘The Silmarillion) and with Sauron and Gil-Galad/Isildur. These Dark Lords just do not learn, do they?
My friend that just saw the movie commented on the fact that Gandalf has his staff taken from him at Orthanc, and then it mysteriously reappears in Rivendall. Maybe he had a spare kept there…In all fairness, this actually occurs this way in the book as well. IN fact, I think we can safely assume that Gandalf loses his staff at Moria, but in the book reaapears in Rohan/Fangorn Forest with a new one. How many of those *&*& staffs did Gandalf HAVE, anyway? Of all the gazillion fixes Tolkien made in his books over the years, this wasn’t one of them. And as one of the rare incontinuities remaining in Tolkien’s works, Jackson just had to incorporate THIS ONE in his movie…? (thanks to Jeff for this one.)
One of the complaints about the Bakshi film was Bakshi taking the 32 page (in my FOTR edition) Council of Elrond and condensing it to like 3 minutes in the film. In the Jackson version, does it last even that long? Were my eyes playing tricks on me, or was Arwen present and Bilbo not (the opposite of the book). In addition to that—and I really loved this-- the Council concludes, partly, with Gimli saying “And you have my axe.” WHAT AXE? He had just broken it over The One Ring!!!! Grrrrr….. Something else I didn’t like, was the fact that in the book Elrond struggled and agonized for two months over the choice of the remaining 2 companions of the Fellowship. Jackson condenses it to something like 5 seconds, and to near comedic quality at that.
Not to mention which, Jackson went to great pains, with precious screen time, to show Boromir wonderingly fondling (and then carelessly tossing….eh?) the Shards of Narsil. Later in the movie, we see Aragorn swinging that beautiful long sword around, with no mention of the fact that this is the reforged Narsil now called Anduril. Just like Bakshi. <sigh>Interestingly, behind Aragorn, we see a painting of what probably is supposed to be Isildur and Sauron, but it could just as easily be Fingolfin and Morgoth.
Which leads me to the next incontinuity. In the book, Merry and Eowyn in a concerted effort, kill the Witch-King. Just like ‘how did a mere mortal Isildur cut Sauron’s finger off’, ‘how did the mere hobbit Merry slice the Witch King’s leg’? We know how Isildur did it, but it was cut from the film story. We know how Merry did it, too. It was because of the particular blade (of Elvish/Numenorian make)that Tom Bombadil chose for him from the weapons cache at the Barow Downs. But since all that was cut from the film (both in the Rankin/Bass, the Bakshi AND the (so far) Jackson) this isn’t explained to us. All we see is Aragorn unwrapping a bunch of blades and distributing them to the hobbits. Yeah, as tho sword training was part of the normal cirriculum for Hobbiton schoolchildren!!! It should be interesting to see how Jackson carries this one off, or most likely just leaves it hanging like the Isildur/Sauron/Gil-Galad..etc, etc.
Next up, and I feel this deserves special mention, is Elrond’s obvious hostility toward the race of men. (Thanks Jeff) Aside from the fact that this is a different character construction than Tolkien’s book, (OUR Elrond a racist? Nooooo, can’t be!!!) what would be the source of the hostility? Now, mind you, thinking back to the scene in Mt. Doom, where Elrond led Isildur, I can see the set-up for Elven/Numenorian poor race relations, and even the set-up for Elrond to be the disapproving father-in-law-to-be (My daughter Arwen will not marry a Numenorian <spit spit> unless---) but try and think back to the book here just a moment. To criticize the Numenorian race because Isildur didn’t destroy the Ring is not fair anyway (very unfair on Jackson’s part) and we’re conveniently forgetting that Aragorn is Elrond’s nephew (yes, Arwen is Aragorn’s great-great…etc. aunt!!!) , and also it was Elrond’s Elvish relatives that contributed to the CREATION of the RING to BEGIN with; but aside from all that, Jackson’s Elrond is the pot calling the kettle black---there he was in Mt. Doom, Isildur is there in front of him with the Ring, refusing to destroy it. Elrond now has to choose between his nephew Isildur or the welfare and future of Middle Earth, and what does HE do? Walks away instead of shoving Isildur –with Ring--into the lava like he SHOULD have. Hypocrite!!!
By having Arwen give Aragorn her brooch directly in Rivendell, instead of him getting it from Galadriel at Lothlorien, Jackson loses a good opportunity here to compare the personalities of Elrond and his mother-in-law Galadriel. When Galadriel passes the brooch to Aragorn, she spoke in a way that was a lot more approving of her grandaughter Arwen’s choice of husband than Elrond did. There is expressed none of the same bad feeling between Galadriel’s Elven line and the Numenorians. By the same token, during the Council, Gimli hinted at bad blood between Elves and Dwarves, which there was in the book because relatives of both Celeborn and Elrond and Galadriel too, (who was her husband Celeborn’s own cousin by the way) for that matter, and also likely Legolas’s father Thranduil had been murdered by dwarves (but of a different line than Gimli’s). All of that was cut from the film anyway. We see only all this (mostly Elvish) discord floating around and none of the reasons for it.
Someone commented on Bill the Pony’s ability to appear and disappear at will during the journey, up untill the Gates of Moria. I don’t recall seeing Bill on the snowy mountainside, but he was there in the book. (Thanks Richard)
Something alluded to but not elucidated on in the book was the snowstorms on Caradhras. Gandalf states he simply doesn’t know where the ‘force’ comes from. Gandalf doesn’t seem to know a lot about this part of the world. Jackson decided to have Saruman be the reckoning force; however this presents a problem. If the mountain had a ‘personality’ or a ‘force’ of its own, all it would care about was getting the Fellowship (with or without the pony) off its mountain. It wouldn’t care if they all went back home, straight north to Mirkwood (Legolas’ home turf) or under the moutain. Saruman would care very much. Burying them under avalanches of snow or forcing the Fellowship into the Mines of Moria puts the Ring at a tremendous risk of being forever lost again, (or falling back into Sauron’s hands) and Saruman didn’t want the Ring lost. It seems a really unreasonably risky move on Saruman’s part. Why not let them go over Caradhas, and then start pounding on them again once on the other side. Saruman did do this in the book. We can only assume for the purposes of Jackson’s film Saruman didn’t count on them going into Moria.
The cave-troll…I’m not even going there. I personally thought he was a very poor substitute for the Great Orc Chieften, who had a grudge against Frodo on account of Bilbo and Gandalf killing an Orc (Goblin) leader over fifty years earlier. The Cave Troll had no grudge. However, Jackson did one good thing; in the book, mention was made of the fact that the Watchter in the Water and the Orc Chieftan(substituted for here by the Cave Troll) made a beeline straight for Frodo out of all the members of the Fellowship. Jackson brought this out very well in the movie, and without taking up any extra dialogue or screen time.
One big incontinuity in Tolkien’s work is the Gate inscription “The Mines of Moria”. You see, Moria is a derrogatroy term for the great Kingdom of the Dwarves, and yet this door was built and inscribed at the time of the greatest friendship between Elves and Dwarves in Middle Earth. It wasn’t named ‘Moria’ untill much later. So why ‘Moria’ on the door? So this is another example of Jackson weirdly changing stuff around from book to movie, EXCEPT some instances where the book contained REAL incongruities; then those are left IN the film story!!!!!
At Moria is where the worst of the dialogue changing, to me anyway, takes place. In the book and in Bakshi, Aragorn doesn’t want to go into Moria; in Jackson, it is Gandalf who does not wish to go. Gimli keeps going on and on about his cousins in the Mine, but in the book, they were practically assumed dead. In the book Gandalf finally figures out the Elvish word for ‘friend’ is the password, but in Jackson it is Frodo. In the book, it was Boromir who threw the stone in the water; in Jackson it was the hapless Pippin that takes the rap for disturbing the Watchter. But to make up for it, instead of deliberately throwing a stone into the well inside the mine, Pippin accidently sends the armored skeleton into the well, possibly waking up the Balrog. In the book it is Legolas who first identifies the Balrog; in Bakshi and in Jackson, Gandalf does.
And about Gandalf’s death scene; in the book, it is plainly clear that the Balrog intentionally drags Gandalf down with him into the abyss. “He grapsed vainly at the stone.” Jackson has Gandalf hanging for a while by his hands, clearly able to pull himself up and be rescued; then he very plainly releases himself and goes into the abyss. It came across to me in every way that Gandalf THREW himnself down after the Balrog.
I have yet to meet someone who did not think that the Fellowship grieving scene was beautifully done. Peter Jackson, I salute you for this scene if for no other!!!
Lothlorien was beautifully done, if a tad dark I thought. Some interesting deviation from the book; Tolkien had the Fellowship ascend to Galadriel and Celeborn up a ladder; Jackson had them go up a spiral staircase, which was a beautiful scene to watch. Also, the scene where Galadriel tells Frodo that one by one, all the Fellowship will be ‘taken’ by the Ring. This scene was well done, and connects very well with the breaking of the Fellowship that will soon come. Another salute!!!
Not only does Sam not get to look into the mirror of Galadriel, but Legolas doesn’t get his new Great Elven Bow of Lorien and quiver, I couldn’t tell if they got new cloaks or not, they did get their brooches. Legolas doesn’t get to shoot down his Nazgul; you might recall this is what buys Gandalf and other free peopels some extra time when they were in crises.
I couldn’t help but think, when watching the ‘fairwell to Lothlorien’ scene, and later, as the Fellowship paddled down the river in their elven boats, how interesting this scene really was if its background was known. It is hinted at later that hobbits don’t swim, but I thought about the fact that Frodo’s parents were killed in a boating accident. It’s especially poignant to see a Hobbit in a boat on a river in the first place, but this was especially so knowing Frodo’s history. The death of Frodo’s parents contributed to Biblbo’s adoption of Frodo, which led to Frodo inheriting the Ring from Biblo, which led to The Fellowship of the Ring. Middle Earth is a small world sometimes, something Tolkien much delighted in bringing out.
And another salute to Jackson: the Argonath scene was beautifully done, a pleasure to watch.
Quite a bit was changed around at the breaking of the fellowship and the death of Boromir, but it was all well done. Strangely, in the book Frodo quietly takes off, but in the movie, he gets to say goodbye to practically everyone. The scene with Aragorn..”I would have gone to Mordor with you..” yea, and then what? Pitch Frodo into the lava like should have been done with Isildur? See, Aragorn made up his mind not to go to Mordor, even BEFORE Boromir made Aragorn promise to go to Minas Tirith instead…a bit of a ‘oops’ here. One interesting deviation, something I had to look up in the book when I got home. In the book, Sam sees a boat paddling itself away from shore, and he leaps for the boat and misses, and has to be rescued by Frodo. But in the movie, it looks for all the world as though Sam deliberately stepped into the water, where he knew he couldn’t swim, thereby manipulating Frodo into turning back and rescuing him. That was the whole point of Frodo slipping away secretly in the book in the first place; his character structure was such that he couldn’t say goodby to his friends. But the Uruk-Hai was fabulous.
There is the matter of Legolas’ never-empty quiver of arrows. After the big battle in the mines of Moria, Legolas has arrows remaining in his quiver. After the battle with the orcs, Legolas still has arrows in his quiver. Kind of like Gandalf’s never ending supply of staffs…. Also, even tho we plainly see Saruman instruct the orcs to bring back the hobbits unharmed and unspoiled, we vividly see an orc make a running strike at a hobbit, saved only by Boromir. The Uruk-Hai was really falling down on the job here.
In the book, the relationship between Legolas and Aragorn takes a dramatic change here. It was Legolas who took over the lead for the most part(perhaps because of Aragorn’s grief?), campaigning for Boromir’s funeral and to go after Merry and Pippin, and it stays this way untill they meet up with the Riders of Rohan Jackson keeps the relationship unchanged at this point.
The movie ended with Sam and Frodo contemplating the plain of Gorgoroth I believe it is, looking toward Mt. Doom. This is one of the few scenes in the movie above criticism. Another salute….
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