Latest of the Reviews

That’s not exactly a new topic but now that I’ve seen the DVD edition of Lord of the Rings I wanted to add a few comments as a long-time Tolkien fan (as a kid I nabbed the German translation from my sister’s bookshelf, later I bought an English edition and then another one when the first had fallen apart from overuse!).

By and large I’m very pleased with the movie. Jackson gets most things right, and I can agree with most of his changes considering the change of medium. Some scenes are missing that might have served to clarify the story but I hear that many of them will be added in the special edition later this year which I’m of course also going to buy! :)

I was especially pleased with the all-around convincing settings and (most of) the special effects, such as the “red eye” of Sauron, the shadow world Frodo sees when he’s wearing the Ring, and of course the suitably impressive Balrog. The story and dialogue were adapted well enough from Tolkien’s book, given that actors on a cinema screen can’t rant for hours on end like many characters in the book. The hobbits appeared quite “real” and not just as a bunch of little clowns, and Jackson also faithfully duplicated the transition from a Jane Austen Hobbiton to places like Rivendell or Moria modelled after medieval mythology.

An interesting decision was the quasi-realistic look of the elves and men, with long hair that has obviously never seen shampoo and a genuine medieval wardrobe, even stained and worn clothes for the humans. Jackson may have done that to reinforce the separation of “Little England” Hobbiton (19th century clothes for the hobbits!) and the rest of the world. But this being a movie, the dirty and “primitive” look of the humans is always before our eyes, and we don’t get the frequent inner monologue stating how Aragorn or Gandalf look kingly and proud despite their worn appearance.

Aragorn really just looks like a dirty ranger, nothing more; though Jackson may have chosen to save the “revelation” for a later time. Regarding Boromir, however, I think Jackson plainly made a mistake. He should arrive at Rivendell as a “prince” of Gondor, the favourite son of the ruling steward Denethor, travel-stained but nevertheless expensively clad and decorated. Instead he looks just as ragged and grey and dirty as Aragorn – why, in order to not make him look like an elf? Worse, the Boromir character looks almost the same as the Aragorn character, making it rather hard to keep the two apart and giving a general impression that even the foremost men of Middle-Earth are some kind of irrelevant beggars in a world ruled by elves. Not only would Bruce Geryk hate that idea, it’s also simply untrue to the book.

Two other gripes I had about the movie – first, of course, the utterly ridiculous Orthanc staff fighting sequence. Couldn’t they have done something a little more in the style of ancient and powerful wizards? That’s the only instance where a plot change by Jackson was a complete dud. The other was the strange rodent-looking female who was supposed to impress us as the mighty elven queen Galadriel. She is so pitifully devoid of any charisma that her “terrifying” speech ends up looking very silly, the only failed special effect in the movie.

The rest of the cast & script were okay with me. Jackson cut Bombadil but he was one of those chapters that you’d leaf over even in the book, rather boring and of no further consequence. Unfortunately that meant Jackson also had to cut the Old Forest and the Barrowdowns but that can’t be helped without completely rewriting these chapters. Some elves and other minor characters were dropped by the wayside but again, the persons in question were of no further consequence anyway. The initial Hobbiton chapters are much abbreviated but in such a skillful way that the sequence of important events remained intact, and a lot of time-consuming hobbit genealogy could be removed. Elrond’s council was really too short and lacking some crucial background information but I hope to see that in the special edition.

One addition that wasn’t terrible but rather unnecessary was the farewell meeting of Aragorn and Frodo – what was the point of that if the film was too long anyway? Maybe Jackson wanted to avoid making Aragorn look like a moron at this point, as he does in the book?

Anyway, it’s nice to see a high-quality fantasy movie – they are rare enough after all. Looking forward to the SE and the next two parts!

“Rodent-looking”? That was Cate Blanchett, btw, and I think she was perfectly cast. I’ll agree with your comments about most of the film, even Boromir (even though the actor was fantastic) and the Orthanc wizard battle (which I liked, in spite of myself) but I really thought Jackson pulled Lorien and Galadriel off well. Especially considering how truncated that scene ends up. Jackson seemed to cut what’s magical and beautiful about Lorien but left behind what’s frightening and alien about it. Readers of the books know that’s lopsided.

Warning, I’ve heard that most of what’s being added back in concerns that “strange rodent-looking woman”. Consider yourself forewarned.

Yes, Cate Blanchett… I don’t know, maybe the expectation built up by the book for this persona is impossible to meet by any live actress but she just didn’t look very attractive or charismatic or terrifying, or just in any way impressive to me. More like the queen’s chamber maid than the queen herself.

For an example of a character that was supposed to look noble, powerful and terrifying and really lived up to this image, I would name Christopher Lee as Saruman. Maybe the Galadriel actress should have been older, even if that would compromise the “unaging beauty” ideal.

I’ll agree with your comments about most of the film, even Boromir (even though the actor was fantastic) and the Orthanc wizard battle (which I liked, in spite of myself) but I really thought Jackson pulled Lorien and Galadriel off well. Especially considering how truncated that scene ends up. Jackson seemed to cut what’s magical and beautiful about Lorien but left behind what’s frightening and alien about it. Readers of the books know that’s lopsided.

I agree that the Boromir actor is to be held blameless, he did perform very well. As for the wizard battle, I wonder if Jackson wanted to set up the Two Towers scenes that make it look as if the wizards’ power was in their staves. Tolkien said this was just symbolic but Jackson may have decided on a more literal interpretation for the cinema screen.

You are quite correct that Jackson cut out all the parts where the Company was wandering about Lórien and marvelled at its beauty but strangely I didn’t miss that. I think he succeeded quite well in conveying this feeling with just a few glimpses of his incredible sets and the (inevitably beautiful, white-clad, radiating) elven characters.

As a side note, there’s a hilarious interview with the casting crew on the DVD where they say they’re absolutely sick of tall beautiful supermodel-looking people after casting hundreds of elves. :-)

Warning, I’ve heard that most of what’s being added back in concerns that “strange rodent-looking woman”. Consider yourself forewarned.

That will be the parting presents, I guess. But I’ll suffer through it as long as we also get longer version of Elrond’s Council. :-)

What’s missing from Lorien isn’t really the wandering around part, it’s the giving of gifts before they leave part. Gimli asking for her hair, the phials, the lembalas, the cloaks, etc., It’s a beautiful scene in the book and sorely missed here. I think. Not only for the props and plot points, but for the sweet/happiness that serves as a counterpoint to the “Elves and Scary” bits he kept. I’d argue the “parting gifts” are very important, probably the only really important part Jackson left out.

Boromir’s best scene, imo, was when he picks up the rings from the stone. Pauses long, tosses it back, messes with Frodo’s hair, and says “I care not.” It’s a nice setup for the end of the movie.

You hit the one jarring segment of the whole movie for me. Part of me thrilled to see Saruman “earlier” then he really appeared in the Book. In the book he is offstage for the whole thing. You get one story of Gandalf escaping by eagle and that is it. I loved Orthanc before the desecration, I loved seeing the development of the Urukhai. On the flipside I hated seeing the palantir - remember that in the book the recovery of one was a complete surprise to Gandalf and the later explanation for Saruman’s betrayal. The other is the “magic” of the wizards. If Saruman could do what he did in the battle why does Gandalf get away scot free on the eagle. He could not just pull him back? It was just stupid in an otherwise flawless accomplishment. I spent some time watching the previews of the extended version and it looks like the add-ins are in the Council of Elrond and Lothlorien for the most part.

It was put back into the Special Edition from what I’ve seen (the gift giving scene).

— Alan

I’d like to say I really enjoyed Jackson’s LOTR. The film oozes class and for once didn’t pander to the typical American filmmaking style.

Different strokes, I guess, as that was one of my favorite bits. I especially enjoyed her palpable relief once she realized she had resisted the ring’s call.

Sounds like the special edition might be what I’m looking for. I thought the Lothlorien scene was truncated a bit too much, and I’m looking forward to seeing what was put back in.

As for Blanchett/Galadriel, I thought she was fine in the role, even if the role was a bit glossed over. Again, I would like to see what’s in the restored footage.

  • Alan

>Worse, the Boromir character looks almost the same as the Aragorn character, making it rather hard to keep the two apart and giving a general impression that even the foremost men of Middle-Earth are some kind of irrelevant beggars in a world ruled by elves.

I didn’t get that impression from Jackson’s film. Er, although that kinda is what men are in Tolkien’s world, other than the Numenoreans, who had been diluted by many generations. Boromir was pretty classy looking when he rode into Rivendale (a trip that was a harrowing escape through areas infested with enemy forces). Aragorn was a “dirty ranger” in Fellowship, only appearing differently in Rivendale (whcih he did in the movie as well).

>Worse, the Boromir character looks almost the same as the Aragorn character

Well, they are both descended from Numenoreans, a pretty distinct people.

>Two other gripes I had about the movie – first, of course, the utterly ridiculous Orthanc staff fighting sequence. Couldn’t they have done something a little more in the style of ancient and powerful wizards?

Completely agree. That’s probably my biggest complaint with the movie.

>The other was the strange rodent-looking female who was supposed to impress us as the mighty elven queen Galadriel. She is so pitifully devoid of any charisma that her “terrifying” speech ends up looking very silly, the only failed special effect in the movie.

Wow, completely disagree. I thought everything about Cate Blanchett was great – I can’t imagine a better depiction of Galadriel, and I loved the mirror scene.

> Jackson cut Bombadil but he was one of those chapters that you’d leaf over even in the book, rather boring and of no further consequence. Unfortunately that meant Jackson also had to cut the Old Forest and the Barrowdowns but that can’t be helped without completely rewriting these chapters

> Jackson cut Bombadil but he was one of those chapters that you’d leaf over even in the book, rather boring and of no further consequence. Unfortunately that meant Jackson also had to cut the Old Forest and the Barrowdowns but that can’t be helped without completely rewriting these chapters

Agree and agree.

>One addition that wasn’t terrible but rather unnecessary was the farewell meeting of Aragorn and Frodo – what was the point of that if the film was too long anyway? Maybe Jackson wanted to avoid making Aragorn look like a moron at this point, as he does in the book?

Loved that scene. I think Jackson was trying to make Aragorn’s decision to abandon the ring-carrier more reasonable than it came across in the book, and also wanted to emphasize Aragorn’s confrontation with the weakness of his ancestor, making his ascension to King seem less abrupt.

The only scene(s) I didn’t like in the movie, which you haven’t mentioned, were those with Sauruman tearing up the ground and making the Urukhai from “goblin-men”. Those scenes seemed campy and weren’t in the source material

> nice to see a high-quality fantasy movie – they are rare enough after all

Well, there really has never been one. What’ve been the best ones to date: Excalibur, Dragonslayer, Conan the Barbarian – even those are flawed or much “smaller” films that LOTR.

The only scene(s) I didn’t like in the movie, which you haven’t mentioned, were those with Sauruman tearing up the ground and making the Urukhai from “goblin-men”. Those scenes seemed campy and weren’t in the source material

I’d agree about the “goblin-men” comment, but for some reason I like the tearing down of the trees, despite the fact that it’s in the book. We know Gandalf saw the creation of the Uruk-hai, so it was kinda cool to see him see it.

will need to go back and look again but I believe if you look a little more closely at Boromir’s clothes they are actualy quite the intricate weave. The only reason I mention this is I had the same impression when I saw it in the theater and only saw the difference watching it on the dvd.

>believe if you look a little more closely at Boromir’s clothes they are actualy quite the intricate weave

Heh, well, I’m geek enough to have actually touched the Boromir outfit – all of the clothes, weapons, props, etc. were amazing. The attention to detail was incredible. The weapons were particularly impressive.

Stefan

Wow. I bow to Your Geekness. :)

I look at reproductions of the swords from the film every time I pass this tobacco store display window on my way to pick up some lo mein. If I was going to buy a sword, though, I’d want something that could be legitimately used in combat.

I guess the differences in Boromir’s clothing compared to Aragorn were too subtle for me then. I’ll have to watch the DVD again and look for his outfit but I expected him to openly wear gold and jewelry, as the book said IIRC, and I didn’t spot any of those.

Well, they are both descended from Numenoreans, a pretty distinct people.

No, I mean they look like identical twins, so much alike that I have to look at Boromir’s shield (which was also too cheap-looking for the heir of Denethor, by the way) or Aragorn’s bow (apparently Jackson’s D&D addition) to tell them apart! Maybe I’m easily confused but IMO Jackson really should have picked two more distinct actors, or more distinct looks.

Wow, completely disagree. I thought everything about Cate Blanchett was great – I can’t imagine a better depiction of Galadriel, and I loved the mirror scene.

Apparently everyone except me is a Cate Blanchett fan. Oh well. At least Liv Tyler was hot. :)

Loved that scene. I think Jackson was trying to make Aragorn’s decision to abandon the ring-carrier more reasonable than it came across in the book, and also wanted to emphasize Aragorn’s confrontation with the weakness of his ancestor, making his ascension to King seem less abrupt.

Hmm… good points. The final sequence of the Great River chapter did have a lot of inner monologue that would have been missing from the film otherwise.

The only scene(s) I didn’t like in the movie, which you haven’t mentioned, were those with Sauruman tearing up the ground and making the Urukhai from “goblin-men”. Those scenes seemed campy and weren’t in the source material

Here I have to disagree, I thought these scenes were excellent and Orthanc with its factories was perhaps the film’s most impressive setting. The birthing of the Uruk-hai is never described in detail by Tolkien, and them bursting out of a breeding pit is as good an idea as anything. (Love the look of those Uruk-hai and the smaller orcs, by the way – very distinct and convincing.) Also, Saruman did tear up trees and constructed vast pits beneath Orthanc, it’s just that we don’t “see” him do it in the books.

Well, there really has never been one. What’ve been the best ones to date: Excalibur, Dragonslayer, Conan the Barbarian – even those are flawed or much “smaller” films that LOTR.

I’ve yet to see Dragonslayer. There’s also Willow which was pretty good. As for Excalibur and Conan, I’d actually still put either of them ahead of Lord of the Rings. I don’t feel like I can really judge the movie on its own merit because my knowledge of the book and Tolkien’s other works provides so much background information, but I suspect that LOTR taken by itself is rather too sprawling, disparate and incomplete compared to Excalibur or Conan.

No, I mean they look like identical twins, so much alike that I have to look at Boromir’s shield (which was also too cheap-looking for the heir of Denethor, by the way) or Aragorn’s bow (apparently Jackson’s D&D addition) to tell them apart! Maybe I’m easily confused but IMO Jackson really should have picked two more distinct actors, or more distinct looks.

I’ll help: Boromir has light brown hair, and Aragorn’s is jet black.

He must be watching on a black and white tv.

If you really want to geek out on Lord of the Rings you have to buy this:

http://www.noblecollection.com/catalog/product.cfm?id=NN9269&catid=17

(Link spotted at the Gone Gold forums)

“Light” brown? I seem to recall a slight difference in hair colour, yes… but it was barely noticeable on the TV screen.

I think it’s pretty substantial. Compare this to this.

Although I will confess, in some shots of the movie, it’s a little harder to tell the two apart by hair color alone. In this shot, for example, they look more similar. (Aragorn is on your right.)

Study hard – there will be a test. :)

Gotta love IMDB.