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Author Topic: The Lord of the Rings: What went wrong? (Don't read if you haven't seen it yet)
Tresopax
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***SPOILERS COMING***

MY REVIEW:

Well, it's all over now and Peter Jackson managed to create a brilliant movie that will likely make a billion dollars, win movie of the year, and be remembered for long to come. It is because of all this that I find it a bit strange that I have come to the conclusion that the series as a whole failed to reach the bar it set for itself. The length, scope, and overall tone of the series leads us to believe that in the end this will be a story that will deeply impact us in a meaningful way. The book achieves this with a sweeping climax in which all the major issues that had been careful constructed over the course of three novels come together, revealing at once the folly of evil, the triumph of the virtuous, the ultimate corrputing of power, and the importance of compassion and sheer luck in great events. The movies, however, do not. Instead they have merely achieved what amounts to probably the greatest eye-candy movie of all time, and a faithful celebration of one of the greatest novels of all time, that nevertheless end without much of a lasting point.

Well, that's not true actually. There is a point, but it's a very different one from the book. In the end, it becomes clear that the point of the three movies was not to illustrate the folly of evil, or the triumph of valor, or the transformation of unlikely heroes. Instead, it seems like Jackson's point is simply to celebrate the book. All three movies revolve around the idea that the Lord of the Rings world is really cool - that is what it tells us, and that is primarily what we've learned in the end. And while this is true, I think this final conclusion falls quite a bit short from the bar the movie set for itself - it does not achieve greatness of the highest sort for stories.

What was Jackson's mistake? I would argue he made two big ones:

1. He changed the emotional flow the story and couldn't manage to reconstruct it as masterfully as Tolkein. This is most evident in two areas. Firstly, there is the issue of Shelob, which is probably the most problematic change. While the scene itself was done well, the shift all but elminated the cliffhanger value of the situation. Instead, we find out only minutes later that the ring is safe, the Orcs are too dumb to keep Frodo, and that he will be easily freed, almost without any effort at all. It also eliminates Sauron's bargain at the black gates, which significantly lessens the impact of that battle. Instead of believing that the heroes are blindly placing all their hope on a hobbit who the enemy seems to have captured, the viewer realizes Frodo is already on Mt. Doom (and being movie-savvy realizes he's surely going to plop it in and save everyone before they die.) Thus the impact of the entire conclusion is damaged.

At the same time, Jackson elimated the Scouring at the end, a move I originally thought made sense because that ending was too long. The thing is, though, Jackson replaced it with an equally long but less meaningful ending that actually seemed to leave the audience frustrated that it hadn't ended yet. It almost seemed like it was trying to trick us into thinking the ending had come. This damaged the emotion impact that the film had as we left.

Jackson tried to fix this sort of damage by replacing it with dramatic action scenes and dramatic speeches. Jackson portrays small children facing ugly monsters in an attempt to create emotional impact quickly, rather than taking the time Tokein did to develop a mood and a genuine concern for the characters. It comes out a bit hollow as a result.

In short, Tolkien wrote an epic, with a masterful plot. Jackson just wrote a fantasy, with a masterfully portrayed world. This is the difference.

2. Sauron had no character. I understand why they were afraid of having him as the main villain, but ultimately this choice undercut the significance of the story. We never get to hear Sauron's words - we never get to hear him bargain with Gandalf in the end - we never hear what makes him so evil and what's so terrible about him. Instead, he's just a monsterous eye-lighthouse of sorts, and the role of villain is divided among Saruman and other lesser henchmen. The result is that Sauron's big mistake in the end is never brought to focus. In the book, if you read, Tolkien cuts straight to Sauron's thoughts at that final moment to reveal one of the main lessons of the book and one of the big reasons we are supposed to love Frodo. It is through Sauron that we see why one shouldn't underestimate the small and seemingly unimportant. But in the film, Sauron has no character, so his mistake is not really considered by the viewer, and as a result we lose sight of what the whole story is truly about.

So, based upon all this, I'd give the series 9 stars out of 10. Normally that's awesome. The only problem is, given all the hype outside the film and within, it was practically begging to be called a 10 - to be called the greatest film of all time, even. It didn't happen. Jackson did an excellent job of portraying the Tolkein world, and worshipping it, but failed to create the sort of lasting effect that the truly elite films and books achieve.

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BYuCnslr
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:: thinks ::
In some ways, I think that's right, though...after seeing RotK...I've come to see the movie as what Peter Jackson meant it to be, a giant expensive fan-fic. If we tried to compair it to the books, it'll never stand up to them, movies almost never do, when they're based on books, instead I've come to look at it as a completely seperate work from the books.
Satyagraha

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raventh1
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quote:
There is a point, but it's a very different one from the book. In the end, it becomes clear that the point of the three movies was not to illustrate the folly of evil, or the triumph of valor, or the transformation of unlikely heroes. Instead, it seems like Jackson's point is simply to celebrate the book.
I will say I haven't read the books.

But I very well think it changed ALL of the main characters in a MAJOR way. Very noticeable. I won't go into detail about why unless you want me to.

but just think of the scene after the everything when they return to the shire, its just incredible, to show that they are that seperate IS a change; they know it and aren't sure if that is where they belong anymore..... *At least thats what I got from the bar scene, and a couple more*

To note: Pippen met Sauron; quite frankly I don't want to meet the guy, his words definately declared to me that Sauron isn't a good guy, and quite frankly Frodo / ring. And even with Bilbo at the end asking about the ring: to show that he still was under the need / want of the ring. Evil isn't always Dark and BLACK, yet even though Sauron was, they didn't have to have him in it to show what he was.
* I still haven't read the books: so yeah. *

[ December 17, 2003, 06:30 PM: Message edited by: raventh1 ]

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Rhaegar The Fool
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I really liked ROTK but I do have one big beef with it, their is almots no time change whatsoever between Pellenor and Cormallen, their needs to be emotion built up, and the armies of the dead were overdone.
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Morgoth
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I can deal with changes that need to be made to turn the book in to the movie and keep non-fans interested like the increased role of the Arwen/Argorn love story, but to entirely change some things the go up against everything a person (as Gimli losing all his honor) or a race (as with the elves showing up at helms deep) stand for show to me the Mr. Jackson wither didn't care enough to truly learn about his subject or did and thought he knew better, either way the movies don't represent the titles so carelessly slapped on there covers.
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Frisco
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I think that if you understood the message of the books better, you wouldn't sound so much like you were spouting solid waste.

I spent the entire reading of TTT wondering why the hell the elves didn't help. I couldn't see any reason or principle that said that men should stand alone while the elves still had even a little power. Seemed really selfish to me.

And Gimli is amazing. To be so jovial, yet such a warrior is exactly how I've always pictured dwarves. He was certainly more honorable than Balin with his temper. And I couldn't see anything that he did that came remotely close to "losing his honor". What, burping? Falling off a horse? That's to be expected...he's not a rider. Because he got tired while he was running for three days behind a Dunedain ranger and an elf, both with much longer strides? It would've been less believable if he would've kept up effortlessly.

I was more upset that they turned Legolas into a gymnast. He was much more badass bullseye-ing goblins from 300 yards than he was jumping onto a horse/troll/oliphant and shooting them point blank in the back of the head.

But to answer Tres's original post:

quote:
revealing at once the folly of evil, the triumph of the virtuous, the ultimate corrputing of power, and the importance of compassion and sheer luck in great events
I guess I disagree because I don't think that any of those were the main message in the books, either. I've always thought that the book was about Hobbits, and the rest was good detail and subplot.

And while I think it would've been more true to that theme had PJ left in the Scouring, that he pefectly nailed both Sam and Frodo's endings made me forget about Merry and Pippin a little. The evolution of Sam from the shy, servant type to Samwise the Brave is the #1 storyline, to me. Frodo remaining relatively unchanged even after having the world's greatest evils attempt to destroy him seems second most important.

My favorite lines in the entire book, and film, are Sam telling Frodo he's torn, Frodo saying that they saved the Shire, but not for him, and Gandalf's answer to Frodo's wish that the ring had never come to him. I guess that's why I disagree with you, Tres. We read different (though both valid) books. [Smile]

As far as the ending as a whole...I thought it was superb. I had the same exact feeling when the movie was over that I did when I finished the book--every other plotline was ancient history, and what was important was what was being said between Frodo and Sam. I think Astin's delivery of "Well...I'm back." makes every single minor irritation I had in the entire series virtually forgotten.

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Frisco
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I think that if you understood the message of the books better, you wouldn't sound so much like you were spouting solid waste.

I spent the entire reading of TTT wondering why the hell the elves didn't help. I couldn't see any reason or principle that said that men should stand alone while the elves still had even a little power. Seemed really selfish to me.

And Gimli is amazing. To be so jovial, yet such a warrior is exactly how I've always pictured dwarves. He was certainly more honorable than Balin with his temper. And I couldn't see anything that he did that came remotely close to "losing his honor". What, burping? Falling off a horse? That's to be expected...he's not a rider. Because he got tired while he was running for three days behind a Dunedain ranger and an elf, both with much longer strides? It would've been less believable if he would've kept up effortlessly.

I was more upset that they turned Legolas into a gymnast. He was much more badass bullseye-ing goblins from 300 yards than he was jumping onto a horse/troll/oliphant and shooting them point blank in the back of the head.

But to answer Tres's original post:

quote:
revealing at once the folly of evil, the triumph of the virtuous, the ultimate corrputing of power, and the importance of compassion and sheer luck in great events
I guess I disagree because I don't think that any of those were the main message in the books, either. I've always thought that the book was about Hobbits, and the rest was good detail and subplot.

And while I think it would've been more true to that theme had PJ left in the Scouring, that he pefectly nailed both Sam and Frodo's endings made me forget about Merry and Pippin a little. The evolution of Sam from the shy, servant type to Samwise the Brave is the #1 storyline, to me. Frodo remaining relatively unchanged even after having the world's greatest evils attempt to destroy him seems second most important.

My favorite lines in the entire book, and film, are Sam telling Frodo he's torn, Frodo saying that they saved the Shire, but not for him, and Gandalf's answer to Frodo's wish that the ring had never come to him. I guess that's why I disagree with you, Tres. We read different (though both valid) books. [Smile]

As far as the ending as a whole...I thought it was superb. I had the same exact feeling when the movie was over that I did when I finished the book--every other plotline was ancient history, and what was important was what was being said between Frodo and Sam. I think Astin's delivery of "Well...I'm back." makes every single minor irritation I had in the entire series virtually forgotten.

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BYuCnslr
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Frisco: The reason the Elves didn't show up at Helm's Deep in the books was because, Helm's Deep was supposed to be Man's battle alone, to show that in the Forth Age, he didn't need help of other races, and that Mankind, indeed, had the strength to stand up, after falling and breaking in the Third Age.
Satyagraha

[ December 18, 2003, 12:13 PM: Message edited by: BYuCnslr ]

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msquared
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Just go back and review this when PJ releases the Extended version. The Mouth of Sauron will be there. I would guess that they do the bit where he shows the Mithril coat and Aragorn et. al. think that Frodo and Sam are dead. That gives new meaning to when the all shout Frodo's name when they charge the Orc army at the gate.

msquared

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Narnia
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I can say that I didn't have the same feeling at the end of this movie (RotK) that I do when I finish the book...I think I felt a little lost because they didn't do more with Aragorn and how he ended up. But I agree with you Eddie. The hobbits were the story and, in the series as a whole, it was those parts that PJ DID leave in that were the most thrilling to me in the book.

My sister is a rabid fan and her reaction to the movie was "They left my two favorite parts in this movie, so I'm happy." Those parts, funny enough, had to do with the hobbits. The Merry, Eowyn, Lord of the Nazgul scene, and Sam's line when he says "I may not be able to carry the ring, but I can carry you" were enough to make her happy. Both of those parts are really important defining moments for two of the hobbits that make their return to the Shire all the more triumphant and poignant for us that have grown to love them. (Other moments like this include are Frodo with the ring at the cracks of doom and Pippin as a guard of the citadel fighting in the final battle.) These four beloved characters evolved from happy carefree eating hobbits, to brave warriors who were willing to die for the greater good. This is an amazing story! And I think that the movies told that story beautifully.

The diehard fans miss stuff. We miss intimate details about characters that we know so well...but I'm glad that the movies can't REPLACE the books. That wouldn't do at all. [Smile] I'll always have good excuse to go back and read them again.

[ December 18, 2003, 01:02 PM: Message edited by: Narnia ]

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Rhaegar The Fool
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Morgoth, you are as wrong and tiwsted in your realisation of what Jackson did with the films as your namesake was wiht beauty, they were good, just not good enough. And Gimli is just fine in the films, where do you get him losing his honor? The only problem I had with ROTK was the absecne of time between Pellenor and Cormallen, it made Cormallen weaker and less desperate, they didn't have time to build it.

[ December 18, 2003, 03:44 PM: Message edited by: Rhaegar The Fool ]

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David Bowles
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I agree with that... we needed more time, scenes of the army marching intercut with Frodo and Sam's journey across the smoking plains, their encounter with the orcs, etc. Even just five minutes would've worked.
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Rhaegar The Fool
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Yea, they needed just a little more tension, maybe the buring of Morgul Vale, a bit of Ithilien.
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Morgoth
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The movies where good, if they would have been called Peter Jacksonís The Lord of the rings, they where filmed beautify and of course the story was good but I personally donít feel they where changed to much in areas they didnít need to be. Gimli lost the honor he had in the books, the problem was it was never established in the films, he was just that funny little dwarf that could swing an axe. As for the elves Fricso The actually don't have the much power left there number have greatly dwindled and if suddenly they sent enough elves to make a difference to helms deep what would stop Sauron from capitalizing, in addition to other factor such as Byu put out. Ragar Who are you so come right out and say I'm wrong, all the points I made had at least some undeniable validity even if you are able to just look past them, I just figured the in a thread titled "The Lord of the Rings: What went wrong?" I would air my own opinion, just because you don't personal agree that doesn't mean it's wrong.
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Hazen
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Why didn't the elves show up? Because they were under attack also. Lorien was attacked three times around this time, Mirkwood also. And the people from Rivendell wouldn't have had time to get there, wouldn't have known where they were, and would have had to march right through enemy territory- and right under Saruman's nose -in order to make it to Helm's deep. Keep in mind that Gandalf did his best just to get the riders there, and they never got even as far as Lorien. So that is why the Elves didn't come. The fact that they come in the movie makes it a lot more unrealistic.
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BobbyK
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Ack, my head hurts now.

Can we please *read* our posts before submitting them. English grammar is a bit tricky, and quite contradictory, I know. But, punctuation is a must. Even when used somewhat incorrectly, more forgivable than the 15 thoughts smashed into one sentence above. Not to mention, retorts are so much more effective when spoken intelligently.

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Rhaegar The Fool
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Yea, I believe the Iron Mountains, and Erebior were under attack too no?
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Hazen
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Yes. Both King Dane and King Brand ended up dying. I also seem to recall something about attacks going on around Rivendell, but in reviewing the appendix I can't find anything about it. I think it is cool that Tolkien actually planned out the Sauron's attacks like that, showing that he was planning on subduing all his enemys, and showing that there were other things going on beyond Frodo and co.

[ December 20, 2003, 04:17 AM: Message edited by: Hazen ]

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LadyDove
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I read the book 20+ years ago and remembered it as a good vs evil epic that was heroic and showed that in many ways we're at the mercy of things beyond our control (white and black magic).

I watched the movie and got a much more complete story.

In the movie, good vs evil, were for me, just the backdrop. The magic was really downplayed. The meat of the story was the friendships that developed, the character growth and required cooperation and equality between men/elves/dwarves/hobbits/women/honorable and dishonorable.

I loved seeing what makes the characters strive for victory. For Sam, it was Frodo. For Aragorn, it was Arwyn. For Frodo, it was the Shire.

These characters weren't risking their lives for some intangible thing called "honor" or "power"; nor were they seeking some material thing "the Ring". In each case, triumph was fueled by love.

I think that PJ's version is alot more romantic than Tolkien's, but I think that it is also more empowering than Tolkien's.

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Rakeesh
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Personally, I was not disappointed because I made sure to set my bar lower that the one reached by the book, in many ways. Visually, prop-wise, battle-sequences, and with Gollum, it was in all ways better. You just got so immersed and affected.

But others, the more subtle emotional areas, the ones expressed so well in the book, but done over pages and chapters and not very overtly either, I didn't expect to be as happy with the film.

quote:
The book achieves this with a sweeping climax in which all the major issues that had been careful constructed over the course of three novels come together, revealing at once the folly of evil, the triumph of the virtuous, the ultimate corrputing of power, and the importance of compassion and sheer luck in great events.
I partially agree. My first big disagreement is that the book didn't acheive those things in a sweeping climax. Far from it. Scores of pages after the Ring is destroyed, Frodo and Co. come full circle, achieving entirely independant nobility and virtue and bravery in the Scouring of the Shire. Entire portions of the story after Saruman initially rejects his chance at parole given by Gandalf, he eternally rejects it at Frodo's hands.

Importance of compassion-more acurately termed mercy as Frodo displays it-I agree with. It is that, and that alone, which permits the Ring to be destroyed. Mercy for its own sake, without expectation or even thought of reward. Frodo-and even moreso Bilbo, who knew nothing of Gollum's tale of woe, had more than adequate reason and justification to kill Gollum, but neither did...simply because they were moved to pity him. It was Gollum, not Frodo, who put the Ring into the Fire, after all.

I think some of the most poignant and central themes of the books simply could not have made it onto the screen without at least doubling its length. It may still have been impossible. The successes we're familiar with. The potrayl of Gollum, being the biggest in my mind. But how to illustrate Elrond's sense of not quite despair, but intense pessimism without detailing the Silmarillion? How to show the affect of a Marred World on the Shire, without adding on another hour minimum to each film?

I mean, people, really. How many hundreds of pages was LotR? Compared to approximately ten hours of film, with large portions given over to battle scenes which took only a few score pages in the book? How many here have read or are at least familiar with the wider story surrounding Middle-Earth? We can't set our expectations too high, and I suppose in that sense I partially agree that the film was at least partially a celebration of the book. But it was more than that, and less at once. It surpassed the book, I think, in portraying Gollum. It lagged behind the book in portraying Saruman. Etc., etc.

I agree PJ botched the handling of Shelob. He should've switched to Gandalf and Minas Tirith, or Aragorn and the Paths, or etc. for a good twenty minutes at least. Sam's taking up of the Ring, and his few steps into Mordor, alone, are also sorely missed.

I do think at least they could've met Saruman in the end, one more time, instead of numerous semi-endings which were needed, but could've been perhaps stitched together more concisely. Instead Saruman is mentioned maybe three times, in about as many minutes...and he's never heard from again.

quote:
Jackson portrays small children facing ugly monsters in an attempt to create emotional impact quickly, rather than taking the time Tokein did to develop a mood and a genuine concern for the characters. It comes out a bit hollow as a result.
Given the time permitted for the film, this is beyond a Herculean Labor. Completely impossible, in other words. If PJ has to reach for a more blunt, heavy-handed method every now and again, I can't blame him, and am glad he does as well as he does.

I agree the Mouth of Sauron was sorely missed, as well. I thought perhaps the leprous Orc would be the Mouth, but I was wrong. Sauron could've been solidified just a little. We are hardly aware he's even an independant conciousness in the film, more an omnipresent evil. Sauron is definitely not that.

quote:
It is through Sauron that we see why one shouldn't underestimate the small and seemingly unimportant. But in the film, Sauron has no character, so his mistake is not really considered by the viewer, and as a result we lose sight of what the whole story is truly about.
That was one of Sauron's mistakes, but not his primary one. His primary mistake is in fact mentioned by Gandalf at at least one point. Someone asks why Sauron will believe that one of the Wise or Denethor II or Aragorn, etc., has taken the Ring for himself, and Gandalf answers, "Because that is what he would do." He goes on to say that the extremely or utterly evil, selfish being cannot imagine anyone doing something so certainly self-sacrificing as committing suicide in order to save the world, when ultimate power is literally held in the palm of their hand. OSC says it elsewhere too, I believe, when he says that evil will always be too devious for a good-hearted person to think ahead of, and a good-hearted person will sacrifice and endure things an evil person would never consider.
----
Frisco,

quote:
I spent the entire reading of TTT wondering why the hell the elves didn't help. I couldn't see any reason or principle that said that men should stand alone while the elves still had even a little power. Seemed really selfish to me.
In the books, it was my understanding that the Elves didn't help more because they couldn't. Elrond himself says as much, when he comments that he's not sending Glorfindel because, "Even if I had a company of Elf-knights in mail to send with you, it would accomplish nothing but to rouse Sauron's might." The Elves don't help because they can't; the warriors of the Eldar, and save Turin they're the best, are all either dead and thus in the Halls of Mandos (in the West), or they long since grew weary of Middle-Earth and returned home, or they never left at all. Or, the last option, they're needed for border-defense. In Lothlorien, for instance, there are some Elven bowmen, but they're there because there are enemies literally all around them. Saruman, Moria, and Mordor orcs are constantly probing. If they left to help Men, Sauron would know and would surely, with a miniscule portion of his strength, attack and destroy.

Same with the Dwarves. It's even mentioned in the Appendices that the Dwarves and Men of the Lonely Mountain and Dale fought a vicious battle while the major campaigns were happening at Minas Tirith and the Morannon.

Gimli didn't lose his honor, unless you wrongly take honor to mean grimly serious all the time and reacts violently to any joke at his expense. The fact that Gimli keeps up with Aragorn and Legolas, even though his stride is about half as long, and he's carrying at least-and probably twice as-much weight as them, and that he's not an Elf or a Numenorean, and thus not gifted with extraordinary stamina or a literally unwearying body, makes his chase more spectacular than the other two.

It's like putting up a regular Joe with two Olympian marathon runners. Say distance and time and speed records are broken. The remarkable part isn't so much that the two Olympians did it; it's that Joe was there at the end of the race at all.

While visually pleasing and possessing of an "oh cool" factor, Legolas's acrobatics weren't very appropriate to me, either. Unneccessary fluff.

quote:
I've always thought that the book was about Hobbits, and the rest was good detail and subplot.
You're largely correct. In addition to creating a world to fit his manufactured languages, give England an ancestral mythology it had lost, telling a story about Truth as a Catholic sees it, other things I haven't caught yet, Tolkien was also telling a story about how people like his own people, rural and village Englishpeople, really, would behave in an epic struggle between Good and Evil.

He shows that they're often provincial, sometimes foolish or stupid, and isolationalist. But because and not in spite of those things, their heroic and more noble moments are that much more inspiring. Sam saying that he could carry Frodo was a goose-bumpy moment of the film for me, too. More than anyone else, Sam was played to the hilt. Gollum is perhaps a close second.

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Ela
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I agree with a lot of what Tres said in his original post about problems with the film.

I also agree with Rakeesh: I did set my standards lower, knowing there was no way all of the book material could fit into a movie. And there are certain changes that have to be made to make points in the book that are in people's thoughts, so I understand that, too. For example, the way Peter Jackson tried to show the conflict between Elrond and Arwen about her wanting to marry Aragorn and become mortal. Another example is the fight between Sam and Frodo, instigated by Gollum, on the approach to Cirith Ungol. In that case, he was trying to show how the Ring makes one paranoid and causes conflict (even though I didn't really agree with that way of doing it).

Overall, I liked the film. I wanna see it again.

(Did anyone notice in the credits the Barad-Dur Destruction Lead, and the Inferno Artist [Wink] ).

**Ela**

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