Lord of the Rings Trilogy, revisited

This fall will be a decade since Fellowship of the Ring was released in theatres.

I usually watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended edition) about once a year. Sometimes I even go so far as the watch a bunch of the commentaries and such. With The Hobbit films getting ready to start up shortly, I’ve worked my way through LOTR trilogy movies in the last week or so.

It’s interesting to think about how I view the films now versus 10 years ago. But one thing (among many) still stands out, and that is the absolutely epic job Bernard Hill did as Theoden. The combination of his performance with Tolkiens writing is very Shakespearean and still sends shivers down my spine. And there are still moments in the second and third films where something gets stuck in my eye, if you know what I mean. ;-)

I remain convinced that this was pretty much the best possible outcome when I heard they were attempting to make the story into a live-action film. We can nitpick, but I really don’t see how it could have been done any better, all things considered.

And still no bluray extended editions.

Bernard Hill started with the overdone enfeebled Theoden, which I imagine Jackson went with to make it more blatantly obvious the influence of Saruman when Tolkien had it as a more subtle thing. I understand it but didn’t care for it, but once he is rid of that affectation, he does a great job.

I won’t say it couldn’t have been done better, because I think it could have - heck, I could re-edit what he shot and improve the movie. At the same time, the bulk of Tolkien is there and considering the difficulty of accomplishing that, I’ll give it some slack. This is a project that I wanted to see ever since I read the novels in the late sixties. It was a long, long wait, and getting 10 or so hours of movie to tell the tale was simply a staggering accomplishment in itself.

I know people who still cling to the lack of Tom Bombadil as proof that the entire film trilogy sucks and isn’t worth watching.

Yeah, I agree. The films give me a lot to gripe about, but ultimately they are a stunning achievement, and the number of affecting sequences far outweigh the issues I have with them overall. I haven’t watched them in like six years, I should try to find the time again soon.

My two favorite scenes to this day are the lighting of the signal fires and the charge of the Rohirrim at Minas Tirith

I agree with the sentiment that it was probably the best adaptation we were going to get even though we can all find some issues with the films. My biggest gripe is that Aragorn was such an emo puss compared to his character in the book.

I was greatly disappointed with the showdown between Gandalf and the Witch King. In the book it was incredibly epic, by far the most epic moment of the entire trilogy. In the movie, there was nothing, nothing at all.

I understand that the scene would have been difficult to film - how do you show that the witch king is afraid? And it lessens the whole invasion of Minas Tirith. But it was such an epic scene.

I too enjoy the extended editions for the additional Tolkien flavor, but I admit that I dislike the extended beginning of Fellowship. It’s just too much. You get Galadriel narrating the history of the Ring, then Bilbo narrating an overview of Hobbits, finally you get to ride with Frodo and Gandalf touring Hobbiton. The theatrical version does it better by skipping the Bilbo bit. There’s no need to tell the audience what Hobbits are. There’s enough hobbity goings-on in the first quarter of the movie to impart that info.

He did show the scene - it just wasn’t in the original theatrical version. But why he changed even that, I’m not sure.

Two of my favorites, also. The lighting of the fires was just a beautifully visualized sequence.

Of the extended editions, the one that I can take or leave is the first. The additions while interesting, aren’t particularly crucial to the story and just end up making it longer rather than better. But the other two add important bits back in and are better for it.

To me, Aragorn never seemed all that sure of himself in the books. Anyway, balancing that was Sean Bean’s performance as Boromir. I never cared for the character in the book, but Bean breathed some three-dimensional life into the character so that his fall was all the more tragic for it.

Bean did fine. No problem with Boromir. In the books, Aragorn was ready to throw down with Sauron. You’re right in that he wasn’t sure of himself when it came to the Fellowship, but he was ready to take on Sauron. In the films, he is very wishy washy about his role in that regard and taking up his former mantle. At least that is how I recall feeling when I watched the series originally.

Ditto on those two - the signal fires scene is really beautiful and is like pulling back the curtains and showing us something that happens a lot in narratives, but you never see it; and the charge scene gives me goosebumps and shivers, it looks so epic. And my third favorite is probably the Death of Boromir - as stated just above, Bean and Jackson did a good job breathing some life into him. After all that time disliking him, and worrying about him trying to steal the ring, when he calls Aragorn his captain and king, I always lose it.

I have to admit that I have no real sense of the theatrical versions any more. The extended is all I own and the only version I’ve seen for many years.

As for the Witch King fight, I don’t disagree. It is rather oddly played out and very short. It may have simply been because of time - that movie is pretty long and you have the big fight between Eowyn and the Witch King coming up, so they probably just figured that a big battle with Gandalf wasn’t really that necessary.

Another thing I’m endlessly fascinated with are the “what ifs” with how they made the trilogy. Other casting plans and major stuff that was filmed but has yet to be seen (like the extened non-canon Arwen stuff at Helm’s Deep, Aragorn battling something other then a troll at the Black Gate, etc.) are interesting to consider.

I felt like the exact opposite. In the books, he never did anything that made him look super bad ass until later in the trilogy. But in the movies, he fought several Naz-gul and fought them off. This made him look like a bad-ass, sure, but it also made the Naz-gul look much weaker than they did in the books. That whole scene in Fellowship is completely made up and I think the whole purpose for it is to make Aragorn look badass.

I’m not saying the movies didn’t portray him as a badass. I’m saying they portrayed him as a wuss who was reluctant to take up the mantle that was rightfully his. In the book, he was all about it. He WANTED to be restored to his throne. In the movie, he whined about it until reluctantly accepting it, then moving to embrace it once he had a badass army of undead.

I’d possibly agree if they hadn’t forgotten to add a proper amount of smoke to the fires. Unfortunately they look very cgiish if you pay slight attention.

I got goosebumps just thinking about it. The music is enthralling.

I remember having that thought the first time I saw it, and we spent the night talking about that among other things, but it was never a legitimate cause for disappointment. Those people are deluding themselves.

The scenes between Bernard Hill and Miranda Otto are my favorites in the movies. They create a real connection between their characters that make some of the other ones(specifically Aragorn/Arwen) seem very forced and fake in comparison. In fact, I think Miranda Otto is the key, since everyone who plays a scene with her(Aragorn/Wormtongue/etc) has some of their best moments with her.

The lighting of the fires doesn’t really work for me because I can’t help but think “How long were those guys WAY up there by themselves just waiting for something to happen? Who brought them their supplies? Where do they sleep?” because in some shots there are no sources of shelter visible.