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December 17, 2003

Waes thu Peter Jackson hael
Posted by Teresa at 01:49 PM *

Monday night I went out to New Jersey with fellow Toroids Jim Minz and Theresa Delucci plus Theresa’s guy Jeff. We stayed at Jim’s place, and next morning went off to see a marathon wide-screen showing of the extended versions of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, followed by The Return of the King. Patrick, who had obligations elsewhere, joined us just before Helm’s Deep. Afterward we crashed at Jim’s house again, and came back this morning.

Initial report: It’s a swell movie. Grond is a spectacular siege engine. The charge of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields had an invisible caption under it that said It is more fun to be cavalry than infantry. Overall, the Pelennor Fields sequence actually manages to top the battle of Helm’s Deep, which I wouldn’t have bet on without seeing it. Denethor’s descent into madness is not as gradual as it might have been, but its full-scale version is satisfactorily disturbing. The Witch-King of Angmar looked just like the Witch-King of Angmar. Shelob was so scary I mostly couldn’t watch her. Minas Tirith is perfect. When we first saw the courtyard with the dead tree in it, I looked over at Patrick and saw he had both hands clapped over his mouth, so I judge it looked just like he’d always imagined. Oh, and Eowyn kicks ass.

As in the previous movies, Peter Jackson’s touch is surest when dealing with monsters and Anglo-Saxons.

Some Hollywood stuff snuck in, but there were also some brilliant additions. Call it even, or better than even. The second half of the book is way too rushed. I expect there’ll be a lot of restorations in the long version.

Give up now on the Shire getting scoured. It proves to be in near-pristine condition. This will upset some people more than others.

More when I think of it. I have a bunch of nitpicks, but I know myself for a history of material culture crank, so I’ll spare you. Few viewers are going to be bothered on a gut level by the sight of a pre-industrial society fielding an army whose cloaks are all the exact same shade.

Summary: I need to see it again. Several times. Soon.

Addenda: Kevin Maroney gave me this link. It’s accurate.

Patrick contributes this discreditably funny link. Note: the RotK review recommences after the digressive rant about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Patrick also found a very interesting discussion of Tolkien’s intent and the films on Chad Engbers’ Locust Wind, and a very interesting response to it on Nate Bruinooge’s Polytropos.

Serious spoiler alert: Karadin, who’s either got a phenomenal memory or was taking notes throughout the movie, has posted a scene-by-scene description of The Return of the King.

Comments on Waes thu Peter Jackson hael:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:26 PM:

There were two moments when I exclaimed in outrage. I won't Spoil, but they both involved deaths.

Peter Jackson would be a much better filmmaker if he realized that being Peter Jackson is better than being George Lucas, and stopped borrowing things.

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:27 PM:

Sorry, meant to say I loved it too. Better than the other two even.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:51 PM:

Yes. And I'll bet I know which scenes you have in mind.

#4 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 03:52 PM:

". . . Patrick joined us just before Helm's Deep."

An editor is never early, nor is he late. He always arrives precisely when the infinitive is about to be split.

#5 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:29 PM:

While I will not be able to see it for a few days, I will say that I had the same gobsmack experience in the earlier movies -- the interior of Bag End and the exteriors of Edoras. Both the shots from a distance of the whole town of Edoras against the mountains and the shot of Eowyn on the porch of Meduseld were both far beyond and far better than the picture in my head. Just the little I have been able to pick out of the trailer looks superb.

I can hardly wait. You lucky dogs, you.

#6 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:34 PM:

Please forgive my ignorance of early English, but what does 'Waes thu Peter Jackson hael' mean?

ObLOTR: Can't wait to see ROTK myself, the first two were just gorgeous...

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:39 PM:

Smart weblog commentary on Tolkien and Jackson: this, and this response to it.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:39 PM:

Claude, Edoras was the point where I started sniffling.

Mike, that movie-watching party had three editors in it, all of whom turned out to have strong opinions about Jackson's handling of expository lumps.

#9 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:54 PM:

If I'm not terribly mistaken, "Waes thu hael" (or 'hal') is the basic origin of 'wassail' -- a toast to good health and fortune, for all practical purposes.

A quick google search suggests I am not terribly mistaken, and also suggests "be whole" or "good health" as an actual translation.

Of course, now that I have typed this, 14 other people will have written something much better, but that's okay. :)

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 04:54 PM:

"Both the shots from a distance of the whole town of Edoras against the mountains and the shot of Eowyn on the porch of Meduseld were both far beyond and far better than the picture in my head."

There's a nice bit about the creation (simulation?) of Edoras in TTT Extended Edition DVD.

It's freaking unbelieveable, what they did, and how they did it. And they cleaned up after themselves when they were done, because the totally perfect location for the city was in a national park.

I was wondering, the other day, what a theme park designed by Jackson's crew -- the WETA people and all -- would be like. Probably really good. Maybe too good; folks might not want to leave.

#11 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:22 PM:

Eowyn kicks ass

Whew! I was sore afraid that she'd be robbed of her big moment, which is my favourite scene in all the books.

#12 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:26 PM:

Tina: Thanks, now I can parse it as something like 'you be well, Peter Jackson'. Very appropriate.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:28 PM:

Nah, sennoma, Peter Jackson knows he'd get too much hatemail. The Nosedrool meets its destined fate.

#14 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:41 PM:

David Elliott of the San Diego Union-Tribune disagrees.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/features/20031216-9999_1c16lord.html

I'm not inclinced to read any other reviews by him.

#15 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:50 PM:

I have to wonder, did David Elliot actually read the book? Or did he just read about the book?

#16 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:54 PM:

Stefan, I get to work with a bunch of crazy New Zelanders -- there are several fields where N.Z. is just about the best in the world and designing and operating large dairy facilities is one of them. Not only do they love the films, in a strangely patriotic sort of way, they recognize a lot of the locations (or at least claim to). They regaled me with their version of what would have happened to Jackson if he had not cleaned up after himself.

Throwing him to orcs would be kinder . . .

#17 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 05:59 PM:

I was at Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh yesterday, along with Jim, Leslie and a friend from work.

I have really mixed feelings about ROTK. I don't know how much it is because I was really exhausted by the time ROTK finally started, or if the movie has some serious structural problems.

There are astonishing scenes in the movie, and it will definitely win the Best Special Effects Oscar (not to mention the Dramatic Presentation Hugo). But it does not seem to hang together that well.
Characters disappear without comment and there are some pretty amazing coincidences.

I plan to go see it again this weekend, when I've had a little more sleep and haven't spent the day watching the other LOTR movies.

#18 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:11 PM:

Re: "...a pre-industrial society fielding an army whose cloaks are all the exact same shade..."

They subcontract the dyeing to the elves. Their colorsense, you know...

#19 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:18 PM:

Nonsense, Brad. Elves might be killed in battle, but left alone they would never dye.

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:38 PM:

But Alan, think of the fading!

I'll go with Brad's explanation. I was bugged by this when the archers showed up at Helm's Deep. Since as far as we know the elves don't have a standing military, I had to figure that either they keep complete stashes of all the various uniforms they might have to wear, or they paused in a moment of urgent need to make up all those perfectly matching cloaks. I also figured that marching in perfect unison must be a bit of a fetish with them, since Middle Earth doesn't have drill instructors or a manual of arms.

If elves can manufacture aniline-dyed stretch velour -- that being Rivendell's fabric of choice -- they can do anything. What I balked at was believing that the Rohirrim could manage that kind of sophisticated manufacture, especially when they've been on the losing side of a war of attrition.

See also, Jane Yolen's theory that hidden away just over the hill in Fantasyland are embroidery sweatshops, since everyone's clothing has embroidery on it but you never see it being done.

#21 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 06:58 PM:

Haven't seen this one yet, but recently saw the extended Two Towers, and could finally identify what rotted my socks about it so very much.

The generousity has been leeched out of it, along with the restraint.

Which is why I don't think Peter Jackson understands the Rohirrim at all. Employed people well able to present their material culture, oh yes, but social culture?

Pfft.


(The elf cloaks and armor, like the elves, were from Lothlorien; one of, and indeed the chief of, powers of the Elf-rings is to prevent things from fading and diminishing in the rushing swift years of Middle-Earth. I can't see why Galadriel would particular avoid extending that general power to fabric.)

#22 ::: kest ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 07:07 PM:

Forget the clothes. I want to know where Minas Tirith keeps its lawnmowers. And, for that matter, what in the world does everyone eat? The only farmers we ever seem to see are Hobbits.

#23 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 07:37 PM:

I enjoyed it too, but as for rushed, well, I think the whole second half of the entirety has been rushed since the last hour of Two Towers (theatrical version); almost as though suddenly Jackson realized he was running out of time to tell the whole thing.

The Mount Doom sequence was dragged out too long and the cheesy slow mo of Gollum sailing to his end was like the worst cable-pay movie sequence.

Two more complaints: I'm sick of the stupid eye ball/search light and the same tedious backdrop of Mordor mountains with lightning and fire. Jackson never used the maps or the true scale of the journey's distance to best effect.

Okay, I'm done venting. (sorry....)

#24 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 08:02 PM:

Kest: They are obviously all on Atkins', so there's no market for grain

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2003, 09:21 PM:

The folk of Minas Tirith keep the grass short with sheep. They eat the sheep as mutton. The Sheep-herders Carols and Chanties are famed across all Middle-Earth, though the sheep-herders themselves, as they smell of dung and lanolin, aren't allowed out when Polite Company arrives.

Re: Elvish uniforms and close-order drill. Little known but true is that among the major passtimes in Lothlorien musical theatre plays a large role. The Elves who show up to the defense of Helm's Deep had rushed there from a performance of Utopia, Ltd. without bothering to change. (The deaths of so many members of the male chorus quite devastated the following season's performance of Iolanthe.)

#26 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 12:04 AM:

We also see farmers in Rohan. At least I assume that's what the villagers in the first scenes were up to.

I assumed all the armor was left over from the last time the elves went to war and just stored somewhere out of sight protected by elf enchantments.

If you're interested in reviews of the movies, along with some of my opinions, you could check out where I blog about it. I haven't actually seen the movie yet you understand, but I talk a bit about the first 2 and link to reviews and things of the 3rd.

We're seeing it Friday afternoon with a bunch of other Seattle fen.

Even David Bratman, a Tolkien scholar who hates everything, particularly the first 2 movies and large parts of the 3rd, recommends that you see this movie.

MKK

#27 ::: fester ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 02:18 AM:

I just got back from it and I loved the movie and I will see it soon on matinee. However I had a couple of serious problems beyond the complete lack of agricultural facilities anywhere in Gondor and they involved the military aspects of the movies.

Both Helms Deep and Minas Tirith were fortresses that were designed by their very nature to withstand seige and bombardment for long periods of time. Fortresses are designed so small garrisons can hold off massive beseiging armies. Midevil and early modern European history normally indicates that a prepared fortress with resolute defenders could withstand bombardment for weeks at a time and they rarely quickly fell unless good surrender terms were offered or massive trickery was used. However Minas Tirith started to fall apart as soon as it was hit with a single projectile. Helms Deep was tougher as its walls were only breached by gunpowder which is far more realistic, but neither fortress held up well to bombardment.

My second major complaint of the movies' military sense was the vast supremecy of calvary over infantry in most situations. In the Two Towers the calvary patrol that allowed Merry and Pippin to escape makes sense, infantry being surprised in relatively open ground will get slaughtered. However at both Helms Deep and Minas Tirith, calvary charged disciplined, well equipped infantry that was equipped with both pole and missile weapons and ran right over the infantry. As a friend of mine said at Two Towers "What the Orcs needed were a regiment of Swiss Pike" to hold the line.

Finally, where the hell were the logistics units? I never saw a food cart, I never saw a spare horse, I never saw an ambulance etc.

#28 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 02:52 AM:

fester, when the Rohirrim ride out of the valley where they've been mustering, you see that there are still tents set up. I thought this odd, but immediately it occurred to me that these were the support units, and they obviously wouldn't be along until later.

#29 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 03:47 AM:

Actually some of the more mundane details were mentioned in the books. References to hay wains and so forth. But you must remember, Tolkien was decidedly not concerned with realistic detail -- he was avowedly and specifically creating myth. Most myths don't tell you how much food they took aboard the Argo or how exactly the Greeks and Trojans kept themselves supplied during that peskily long war. Mundane details such as that are not the concern of heroic myth. Before you start complaining about lacks and flaws best be sure of the creator's intent.

MKK

#30 ::: Johan A ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 07:48 AM:

I loved it. I have some gripes, though. The scale of Anorien, Mordor, and Ithilien was very weird. Perhaps a mile from Minas Tirith to Osgiliath and another mile to Minas Morgul? Mordor a few miles across? (And where was Rammas Echor?) And why that fluorescent mass sweeping through Minas Tirith? And why, why, *why* didn't the death of the Witch-King reverberate through the hordes of Mordor?

But the Pelennor scene was powerful, immensely powerful. One of several scenes that drew tears from my eyes. The charge of the Rohirrim; I loved it in the book, I loved it in the silver screen. Plot be damned, what I love about the films is the settings and how the magnificent battle scenes illustrate the book.

And very little Arwen, yay!

#31 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 08:06 AM:

Enjoyed it myself, far more than I expected to -- the lack of the Scouring was less important than I expected it to be. I also found it very draining to watch. Shelob was really scary. The Oliphaunts were over the top, and not in a good way -- Jackson seems quite willing to be seduced by the dark side of the CGI (though everyone got a laugh out of Legolas there). Dave Nee's reaction was positive as well, but he went in and came out believing that this is just an extremely long trailer for the real film, which is the extended version. That was borne out in the case of the first two films (Denethor and Faramir, in this film, would make little sense without the scenes involving them in the extended TWO TOWERS, for example).

Alan Lee did an amazing job of design, indeed he did.

#32 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:10 AM:

Very great store long prepared; that's what the errand-rider of Gondor says to The9oden King when that King says that the riders of Rohan cannot bring many supplies with them if they come in haste, so can Gondor feed them? (Though The9oden said it more politely than that.)

The Pelannor is the farms; the 10 league (thirty mile) three quarter circle from the city walls that appears to do most of the regular feeding of the city. It's easy to see how this isn't going to make it into the movie's visuals until after there are orcs all over it.

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:27 AM:

I had intermittent problems with the geography too, as I did in the previous two films. (For instance, as the hobbits are walking out of the Shire, they shouldn't have mountains of that size in view.) Edoras, Helm's Deep, Minas Tirith, and the Ephel Duath shouldn't seem quite as close together as some shots would suggest they are. Then again, there's something charmingly medieval about this kind of elastic scale. And in the breathtaking beacon-lighting scene, Edoras and Minas Tirith suddenly seem properly distant, because we traverse the entire distance in a series of aerial mountain shots.

I'm not sure I agree with Mary Kay's suggestion that "before you start complaining about lacks and flaws best be sure of the creator's intent". Plenty of lousy art is full of good intent, which does nothing to make it any less lousy. What common sense calls upon us to keep in mind are things like context and genre. Which is exactly the point Mary Kay was making before she accidentally sidetracked herself into the vexed issue of "intent."

#34 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:36 AM:

Just a few of my thoughts.

The orc catapults are far too effective. The trebuchets were way cool, and more realistic in terms of what they accomplished.

If the War Oliphaunts had been trimmed, maybe there could have been some mention of why Denethor had driven himself insane as he did his poor best to save Gondor. Maybe we could have also gotten the healing power of the King, which was kind of important.

I was very sorry we didn't get Legolas' reaction to seeing and hearing seagulls....

I know why that was trimmed, but I liked Ban Guri Ban (going from memory here, sorry for the spelling) and the Hill People.

Why hadn't Sam lost weight on the trip? By the time they got to Mordor, he should have been somewhere between lean and gaunt. And why weren't Pippin and Merry taller than the other two throughout this movie? If you've seen the extended version of TTT, then you know Jackson did have them grow from the Ent draughts.

I know we have to wait till fall to see the last of Saruman. Drat.

I'm one of those who felt the scouring was an importand part of the sense of ages turning, and of the loss of what was good in the past. I'm disappointed by its absence, and by the seamless return of the hobbits. OTOH, I had tears running into my beard at the Grey Havens.

Do I want to see this movie again? Better believe it! Will I want the extended version as soon as possible? Hell--I want it NOW! Do I wish I could offer Peter Jackson another couple of hundred million to go back and finish it? Oh, yes....

And, do I recommend others to see it? Absolutely! Because every viewer will have a different set of reactions, and in the long run I'd like to be able to discuss them.

At least, that's this old fart's opinion.

#35 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:57 AM:

I agree with Laurie Mann.

And what happened to the Arwen of who raced to the Ford?

---L.

#36 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 10:41 AM:

The scale problems are less a matter of bad geography than a difference in media, I think. That is, I don't think that things are actually any closer together in the movies, but that they've just left out the boring travel time, because there's just no good way to put it in the movie.

In text, you can throw in a sentence or two noting how much time people spent getting from place to place, even if nothing interesting happened on the way, but that's very hard to do on film. You can give some impression of the passage of time by sequences of shots at diferent times of day, but that eats up screen time, which is already tight. And your only other options are to try to work it in in dialogue ("As you know, Denethor, we've been riding for three days..."), or put titles up on the screen ("Three Days Later..."), neither of which is a good option.

#37 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 10:53 AM:

Note that it's easier to write that an army of several thousand laid seige to the city than to actually hire an army of extras. (or even to animate them)

By the way, am I the only person who sees a package of "Keebler Elfin Crackers" in the store and wants to correct the spelling to Elven? I guess Elven crackers would be lembas.

#38 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 10:58 AM:

Chad: yes, but I would have liked *some* indication of the passage of time, though, because I got confused and thought that a day was missing somewhere in terms of people getting to the Pelennor Fields all at once.

TNH: The charge of the Rohirrim at Pelennor Fields had an invisible caption under it that said It is more fun to be cavalry than infantry.

And it is more fun to be cavalry on 80-foot mutant elephants, too.

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 11:01 AM:

Elven crackers are the ones that say "Elen sila lumenn omen tielvo, y'all."

#40 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 11:28 AM:

My own review/thoughts are here:

http://www.gamersnook.com/blog/archives/001908.html#001908

Amazing stuff. Rushed in the end, I felt, but that's what the extended version will be for. Breathtaking, especially the Rohirrim, Pelennor Fields, and the Witch King.

#41 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 12:29 PM:

Note that it's easier to write that an army of several thousand laid seige to the city than to actually hire an army of extras. (or even to animate them)

Which explains why there are many more books in which armies of thousands lay seige to a city than there are movies in which armies of thousands lay seige to a city. Big battle scenes can be done, but they're difficult to do, and extremely difficult to do well.

The return on investment is much better for battle scenes than for chronology, though. If you put in the extra effort to do a big battle scene well, everybody will appreciate it, while if you work hard to ensure that there's a clear sense of the amount of time spent travelling, you'll make a small number of hard-ore fans happy, while making basically no impression on the vast majority of your audience (and you may even annoy some of them).

#42 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 12:29 PM:

'By the way, am I the only person who sees a package of "Keebler Elfin Crackers" in the store and wants to correct the spelling to Elven? I guess Elven crackers would be lembas.'

DON'T . . . GIVE . . . THEM . . . ANY . . . IDEAS.

Hell, Nabisco could send sales of its obscure Pilot Wafers through the roof if they stuck a picture of Orlando Bloom on the box.

"Mundane details such as that are not the concern of heroic myth."

I agree. Fantasy that tries to shoehorn magic into physics . . . isn't.

But just to feed this fire a little: I recall that the lands SW of Minas Tirith, west of the river, had farms and such.

#43 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 12:53 PM:

"Note that it's easier to write that an army of several thousand laid seige to the city than to actually hire an army of extras"

According to my local paper yesterday, the trilogy used 20,602 extras, 48,000 swords, shields and other weapons, and 15,000 costumes. That's a bigger army than, say, William I at Hastings, or Henry V at Agincourt.

The scale of the production, of course, explains why all these extras are in uniforms--it would be way too costly in today's world to costume that many people except through mass production.

#44 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 12:54 PM:

Haven't seen any of the three movies yet because I'm going to read the book first in order to refresh my memory on the details, but you all certainly have whetted my appetite.

Here's a positive review by Shawn Levy, movie critic at my hometown newspaper, The Oregonian:
http://www.oregonlive.com/movies/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/exclude/1071665737124470.xml

#45 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 12:56 PM:

There were two particular points in the film that I thought were so ridiculous and/or nonsensical that they really should have totyally derailed my enjoyment of it. Yet the rest of the film (by which I mean the vast, vast majority of it) is so damn delicious and magnificent that my inner nitpicker is out cold and not expected to awaken for a few days.

PJ did a truly masterful job of expressing the simultaneity of the last stand before the Black Gate and the last climb up Mount Doom-- and using Sam and Frodo to echo the Isildur/Elrond scene from the first film was a stroke of visual genius.

I expected to really miss the Mouth of Sauron, as he added personality to the faceless Mordor hordes and to his shy, retiring master-- but when the Black Gate finally opened, I didn't miss him for one second. That was my hand-over-mouth moment-- the sheer, malevolent beauty of Barad-Dur and Mount Doom afire in the distance, with the Eye's blood-red light diffused through clouds of steam and smoke.

The conception and presentation of Mordor has been one of the highlights of the films for me. It's awe-inspiring but never serene, empty and eerie but never restful. Every rock and every crag seems truly imbued with malice-- you can feel your lips and throat parching while Frodo and Sam trudge through it onscreen.

Shelob is indeed magnificently done. My old pet tarantula Neal would approve. I'm not an arachnophobe, but half the audience around me last night is now if they weren't before.

My thoughts are still a bit scattered at the moment; the thing about these films is that they apologize for their occasional silly moments and missteps by totally kicking your ass with everything else. Never has a beating been so sweet.

#46 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:02 PM:

What happened to the Arwen who raced to the ford? Heck, what happened to the Arwen who's supposed to be Luthien come again? Luthien was one tough cookie.

Fester, the logistics bothered me, too. The Rohirrim set off for Gondor with one horse apiece and no visible supply train. The orcs have no quartermasters.

I had my say at the time The Two Towers came out concerning the probable outcome of a closely-packed cavalry charge down an extremely steep slope when there are massed pike formations waiting at the bottom.

As long as we're in full nitpick mode: During the battle of Helm's Deep, when we see the noncombatants back in the caves? There are women and children and a few old people. Where are the disabled? The Rohirrim have rudimentary medical technology, and as far as I know they don't kill off their own sick and wounded. Along with the usual congenital problems and illness, they've got a lifestyle guaranteed to produce crippling injuries. If warfare doesn't do it to them, falls from horseback will.

And for pete's sake, does no one in Rohan own a comb? We're supposed to believe that these people keep tidy steadings, work ornamental braiding into their horses' harnesses, and carve elaborate interlaced bands into the walls of their houses, but never think to comb out and plait up their own hair.

#47 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:04 PM:

Mind, I adore these films.

#48 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:15 PM:

"totyally ." Damn, I wasn't kidding when I said I haven't recovered from the experience. Sigh. Caffeine will make me right again.

***Spoiler Warning!***

I just wanted to add one more thing, concerning Gollum's plunge at the end. The camera zooms in on Gollum's beatific smile as he and the Ring drop toward the fire-- and then he hits the lava and slips under, with barely a change of expression, gazing at his Precious to the last. I found this the polar opposite of ridiculous-- I thought it was essential.

Gollum doesn't fall into the fire just because he's doing a little end-zone dance and slips. He isn't pushed by Frodo. He doesn't even really overbalance while fending Frodo off. The point of the climax in the book-- a point that is retained by its presentation in the film-- is that Gollum is so consumed with the joy of possessing his Precious, so blinded with avarice, that (like the Dark Lord) he pays no heed to his imminent peril. He doesn't lose his footing-- he loses his perspective.

The power of the Ring, and the blinding nature of greed, are both clearly expressed by the image of Gollum falling to his fiery death with his eyes joyfully fixed on the Precious. Had it been otherwise, a great deal of the spirit of Tolkien would have been lost from films that have already cut it in a few conspicuous places-- but preserving this part reduces most of the other excisions to trivial status for me.

Also, the sight of the inscription upon the Ring being brought out by the heat of the lava beneath it is a stunning image in a film that's just bloody crammed with stunning images-- but that one might be the best of all.

#49 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:27 PM:

I have to disagree, Scott. The whole crack of doom sequence I found unforgivably stretched out--and the added toying insult of watching the ring float around for a few seconds was just bullshit. (Followed by the pathetic Stalag-17 eye-ball/searchlight nonsense to boot).

After so long a trek at the end of these movies, Jackson should have executed that entire last sequence with lighting speed. Instead, his tedious over-reliance on slow motion enervates the climax and for me saps the whole story of its intended power.

A good review I think is this one by Jonathan Last.

#50 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:34 PM:

"Haven't seen any of the three movies yet because I'm going to read the book first in order to refresh my memory on the details"

Toni, you may want to consider holding off on that re-read until after you've seen the films. I hadn't read Lord of the Rings in ages, and decided I'd rather go into the theatre cold than with the book fresh on my mind. I'm glad that I did; while my Tolkien fanatic friends were wincing periodically, I was blissfully ignorant of the changes that were made to the theatrical version.

Of course, even die-hard purists I've talked to tend to love the movies, so re-reading the book probably won't significantly affect your enjoyment of the adaptation. Carry on! Don't mind me!

#51 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:42 PM:

I have to disagree, Scott. The whole crack of doom sequence I found unforgivably stretched out--and the added toying insult of watching the ring float around for a few seconds was just bullshit. (Followed by the pathetic Stalag-17 eye-ball/searchlight nonsense to boot).

To be fair, there aren't many ways to movie-fy the concept of the invisible-yet-palpable gaze of Sauron, short of having the characters say something like, "I can feel his burning gaze upon me!" I think they were aiming high in this regard. And I do concur to some extent-- the effect could have been much creepier had it been a bit less literally like a searchlight.

As for the floating Ring, well, I'm sorry it didn't do it for you, John. But when we're discussing a malicious and near-sentient magical artifact serving as the focal point for the worldly power of a Dark Lord, I'm not really prepared to get my innards in a twist over its buoyancy.

I mean, we've already seen that it can slip on or off a wearer's finger at will, re-size itself to fit its holder, call out to its holder by that person's name, and be thrown into a fire without becoming hot to the touch. Is it really that much of a stretch to accept that it wouldn't dissolve or sink without a fight? My take was that it was resisting its destruction for the last few seconds its magical nature could buy it. After all, it wanted to find the hand of its master, not get itself thrown into the soup.


#52 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 01:53 PM:

A place where I might not feel so guilty about my gripes! I liked the third film far better than the second or the first. I felt that some of the cuts in the third were understandable, even the Scouring of the Shire, although it is a piece I loved in the books, since it provides vindication of the hobbit's adventuring from their own kind, and they come into their own, all without the help of anybody else.

Glad Eowyn's scene was more or less intact too--people clapped during her scene, more than they did at the end of the film even.

Had a couple issues with Peter Jackson's battle tactics, some of which had me biting my lips in frustration. (Also wondering how they got large pieces of masonry, intact, keystones, arches, and all, into the catapult cradles, and furthermore, why did those pieces stay intact while hurtling through the air and/or smashing to the ground?) Why did Faramir wait a few minutes for the orcs to run by at Osgiliath--I thought for a moment they must have some subtle plan to delay the capture of Osgiliath a few days hence, which would give Rohan time to come to their aid. Instead, they merely waited a while to rush to battle, letting orcs go by in the meantime, and effectively cut off their retreat. That can't be good.

Also, there were a number of small issues I wanted resolved a little more concretely, ie, the fate of the mithril shirt leading the Armies of the West to momentary dispair, Faramir and Eowyn's love story, Saruman's loss of power, Denethor's possession of a palantir leading to his eventual madness, Aragorn's assumption of the palantir found at Isengard, that sort of thing. The seeds were all planted visually, but never came to fruition, which I find rather frustrating.

I'll link to the rest of my personal gripes below, and if anybody else wants to join in the bitchfest, they're welcome. Otherwise the rest of my remarks--at least the ones here--shall be more or less laudatory in nature.

Things I loved:

+ Shelob - Scared the shit out of me a couple of times, and did far more justice to my mental picture than I ever would have supposed.

+ Eowyn - Pretty damn good job there, both scared and determined at once. Miranda Otto did a good job of portraying the hopelessness and frustration Eowyn felt at being a woman in a very "male" society.

+ Nazgul and Minas Morgul--pretty frickin' cool. The stair at Cirith Ungol was also pretty visually arresting.

+ The Grey Havens - nice depiction, although a little inaccurate when referring to the Last Boat to leave Middle Earth--if I recall from the appendices, Sam also makes a final journey to the Havens.

+ Design of Minas Tirith - Pretty cool--could have used a little more latitude in the breadth of the lower circles, but still awesome.

+ The Beacons of Gondor - ROXOR! The distances involved made the whole thing seem much more grand in scope. (Can't say I liked Pippin's intervention in lighting the beacon, as that didn't happen in the book, but I can see why Jackson made that change.)

+ Liked the design of the Corsair ships and the Oliphaunts, even if I felt the Oliphaunt head riders looked a little too Mad Max.

+ Smeagol's transformation to Gollum, visually very good. (I thought the dialogue changes were a bit too abrupt, but otherwise....)

Return of the King thoughts

Two Towers mini-review

Lord of the Really Gooey Things, or why I had issues with the Fellowship: You might want to skip the part about me being sick as a dog, although it might provide context for a certain amount of my animosity.

---------

RE: The Keebler Elves and elfin vs. elven: I always thought of elfin as pertaining to non-elves, like she had elfin features, meaning she was delicate. (Not she had elven features, meaning that she actually HAD elven features.) Also, I noticed that "elfin" seemed to be really common in the Victorian and Edwardian romances.

As such I couldn't really classify the Keebler elves as Elven, because they don't seem particularly Elven to me. They seem more like little friendly gnomes.

BTW, have you noticed that the Keebler elves, much like the Smurfs, are nearly all male. Have you ever seen a FEMALE Keebler elf? Are the corporate rules about their particular mascot opposed to showing female Keebler elves, or are they like the Ent-wives, who left and were never seen again?


#53 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 02:23 PM:

Patrick: What a very gentle and polite correction, and, while I see your point, I am not sure I agree with you. Tolkien intended to create myth. Myths have certain features and lack others. Criticizing a myth because it lacks things myths do not have seems -- peculiar. Perhaps I was again merely being too telegraphic, as is my wont, in saying what I meant. It is possible we are in violent agreement.

Damn. I can't believe I still have to wait more than 24 hours before I see this. Hmm. Wonder if any of today's showings have tickets available...

MKK

#54 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 02:45 PM:

"I want to know where Minas Tirith keeps its lawnmowers."

Well, it's not in Minas Tirith, but you might recall that Sam's excuse when caught evesdropping by Gandalf back at Bag End in the first book/movie is, in effect, that he's mowing the lawn (at night).

#55 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 02:48 PM:

They keep very small white goats for cropping the lawn to an acceptable height. The goats were given to the line of the Stewards of Gondor ages ago, and are very sought after. You can find them on eBay.

#56 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 03:33 PM:

My major gripe is the lack of resolution for several more-than-minor-but-not-a-part-of-the-fellowship characters (Eowyn, Faramir, even Denethor, Eomer - dude, shouldn't he be a king now? etc). However, since I was busy wiping away the constant stream of tears from the climax at Pellinor Fields to the hobbits wandering back to the Shire, I didn't mind too much. I also forgot about my arachnophobia in my excitement for the movie. I just never made the connection that I hate spiders and Shelob's the Mother of All Spiders. As soon as Shelob appeared on screen, however, my memory returned and all connections were made. I didn't catch much of her cinematic debut. The parts I did see made me curse PJ and WETA for their stunning CG abilities.

Scott, with you 100% on the ring business. I thought it was amazing how Gollum was so enamored of his precious that he didn't really notice his rather uncomfortable surroundings. Very key to the story and adds further elements to his character.

My favorite sequence was Billy Boyd's little ditty to entertain Denethor's face-stuffing session. Next in line is the signal fires scene. I need to see it again before I can sort out more of the individual elements of the end of the movie - too much happening, too many tears, too many thoughts about how it was almost over.

#57 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 03:59 PM:

The awful spirit of pedantry compells me to point out that Shelob isn't the Mother of All Spiders; Ungoilant, who helped Morgoth destroy the Two Tress of Valinor, is the Mother of All (Big, nasty, homophagous) Spiders.

#58 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:00 PM:

I mean, we've already seen that it can slip on or off a wearer's finger at will, re-size itself to fit its holder, call out to its holder by that person's name, and be thrown into a fire without becoming hot to the touch. Is it really that much of a stretch to accept that it wouldn't dissolve or sink without a fight? My take was that it was resisting its destruction for the last few seconds its magical nature could buy it.

True, and that is consistent I suppose. My problem is I found some of those effects grow equally annoying throughout the films.

On the plus side (so I don't come across as a complete carmudgeon), I was weeping at the death of Theoden, as well as Gandalf's beautiful monologue to Pippin about the far West in the middle of the siege. Breathtaking tracking shots as the camera followed Gandalf galloping up the levels of Minas Tirith.

Shelob sequence was... absolutely... perfect.

Two questions: Why did Bilbo age so much more ontop of his already hastened age from just a few months before? And what's up with the Charles Laughton/Hunchback lookalike Orc chieftan?

@-)

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:00 PM:

I feel the exact opposite about the Gollum/Ring sequence. Since when are humans (or hobbits) more dense than molten rock, which is mostly iron? And significantly more dense, given the speed of sinking. Possible, but unlikely, is that the speed of his falling pushed him under -- but molten rock is _dense!_

On the other hand, it was established that it took a lot to heat up the ring. And if you notice, it's floating on a little bit of black iron _that was probably created by its being cool enough to "freeze" the area around it. That's a good attention to detail (it may just have been, visually, that gold against black looks better than gold against red-orange). And as the lettering comes up (as the ring gets hotter, clearly) the black under it breaks up.

#60 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:13 PM:

"Why did Bilbo age so much more ontop of his already hastened age from just a few months before?"

Because it was the power of the ring that was preserving him, just as it was preserving Gollum (who, after all, was a hobbit too). Bilbo started aging rapidly after giving up the ring, but it makes sense that it would acceelerate once the rig was destryed altogether.

#61 ::: FMguru ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:21 PM:

"The Rohirrim set off for Gondor with one horse apiece and no visible supply train."

To be fair, the Rohirrim seemed pretty clear on their likelihood of not coming back. They weren't planning on a long campaign - they were setting out to race to Minas Tirith and die on its doorstep.

I was more struck by how all the rough-hewn Rohirrim seemed to own spotless white tents.

#62 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:29 PM:

"Why did Bilbo age so much more ontop of his already hastened age from just a few months before?"

Actually, by the time we see Bilbo, it's at least four years after the Ring was destroyed, not just a few months. And when you are THAT elderly, even a bad illness or a fall can do a lot to you. Bilbo was already old for Hobbits BEFORE he gave up the Ring to Frodo, and I think by the time he actually goes into the West, he's about 130 years old. Ancient.

#63 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:31 PM:

I was rather pleased to find that the dim sum in my refrigerator had an identical outward appearance of the elven waybread. I'm not certain what recipe the production crew was using for their lembas (it looked like heavy blanched-almond shortbread), but I'm pretty certain the stand-in for malorn leaves was lotus leaves.

I'm going to have to make some to bring to the Greyhaven new years party.

#64 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:37 PM:

Mary Kay, that's the point. What you're saying is that Tolkien is trying to do a particular thing. Your point is anchored in the nature of that thing, not in the endless and unprovable thicket of "intent."

In other words, I agreed with everything you said in the first place until you brought "intent" into the picture. We should assess operas as operas and baseball games as baseball games. Absolutely. But if you drag "intent" in, the next thing you know somebody is arguing that their crappy work deserves a more sympathetic hearing because they meant well.

(I also, needless to say, acknowledge that genres change and that often good works yield worthwhile readings even when latter-day audiences don't fully understand the genres that produced them. Good art can be mysterious that way.)

#65 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:38 PM:

"I was more struck by how all the rough-hewn Rohirrim seemed to own spotless white tents."

After the fall of Isengard, they had access to the mighty Laundries of Orthanc. (Run by men, not orcs, so the Ents didn't trash them.)

#66 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:42 PM:

Actually, by the time we see Bilbo, it's at least four years after the Ring was destroyed, not just a few months.

Yeah, if you've read the books. The movies imply this whole thing took place in the scope of a year. I presume by that logic that Bilbo's catch-up aging was done by the time Frodo met him at Rivendell. Apparently not....

#67 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:42 PM:

John, I have to disagree with you. I loved the mini-sequence when the ring hit the lava, because it struck me, not as an arbitrary tension-producing delay, but a nice piece of physical realism.

We know the ring has odd thermal properties, starting with its ability to sop up a lot of heat. We see this demonstrated when Gandalf tosses it into Frodo's fire, uses tongs to remove it, and then immediately puts it into Frodo's hand. At that point it's cool to the touch, and the amount of heat it's absorbed is barely enough to make the inscription appear.

Here's Isildur's description of it:

"It was hot when I first took it, hot as a glede, and my hand was scorched, so that I doubt if ever again I shall be free of the pain of it. Yet even as I write it is cooled, and it seemeth to shrink, though it loseth neither its beauty nor its shape. Already the writing upon it, which at first was as clear as red flame, fadeth and is now only barely to be read. ... I trace here a copy of it, lest it fade beyond recall. The Ring misseth, maybe, the heat of Sauron's hand, which was black, and yet burned like fire, and so Gil-galad was destroyed; and maybe were the gold made hot again, the writing would be refreshed."
Isildur took the ring on the battlefield, so it's been cooling for a while; but if the inscription is still visible, it must still retain about as much heat as it did after sitting on red-hot coals in Frodo's fireplace.

Presumably, a ring made of normal metal would have melted on Sauron's hand. That's why this one has to be dropped into Mount Doom: nothing less can melt it down.

Molten rock is viscous stuff, not liquid like water. The ring doesn't have a lot of mass. It's not unreasonable for it to alight on the surface instead of dropping straight in. For a while it sits there, doing its heat-absorbing thing. The inscription appears, and a thin crust of darker, cooler rock forms on top of the lava around it. This is true to everything we know about the ring's physical properties. It goes on absorbing heat until it finally reaches its melting point, at which point it flows down into the lava.

Very satisfying.

I like rocks.

#68 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:49 PM:

Tom, molten rock is mostly silicon dioxide, i.e. glass.

But your larger point is still correct. It's still denser than human (or hobbit) flesh. Sme9agol would have burned to ash on the surface rather than sinking below.

Which reminds me of one of my little bugaboos: "Sme9agol" was pronounced in the films to more-or-less rhyme with "seagull". I was under the impression that the accent on the e conveyed that "Sme9" and "a" were separate syllables, and that the name should be said somewhat along the lines of "SMEH-ya-gol". (Compare to The9oden or c9owyn).

And one of the delights of the film: The opening sequence with Sme9agol and De9agol struggling over the ring resounded thrillingly for me of the struggle between Fafnir and Fasolt over a certain other ring.

#69 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:50 PM:

The movies imply this whole thing took place in the scope of a year.

Frodo says, when he shows Sam the nearly-completed book, that it was four years ago that he was wounded at Weathertop.

I was listening for time stuff by the end, which is why I caught it.

#70 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:53 PM:

"Yeah, if you've read the books. The movies imply this whole thing took place in the scope of a year."

Frodo says (in the movie) that it's been four years since Weathertop and his wound pains him still. And since they announce that thirteen or fourteen months after Gandalf sent them on this quest, they returned to the Shire, at a minimum it's nearly three years by the time Bilbo crosses the screen again. I'd have to give it a little more time based on Frodo's writing.

#71 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:53 PM:

Kate beat me to it. :)

#72 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 04:54 PM:

The awful spirit of pedantry compells me to point out that Shelob isn't the Mother of All Spiders; Ungoilant, who helped Morgoth destroy the Two Tress of Valinor, is the Mother of All (Big, nasty, homophagous) Spiders.

As I was typing that descriptor, I knew someone would quibble with it. I did pause to wonder about spider evolution both on this earth and Middle Earth. But I usually don't pay a whole lot of attention to detail when it comes to those icky creatures that can make me shudder when they're only a few centimeters big. And seeing as how Shelob looks rather menacing by herself and even moreso on a big screen, the moniker "Mother of All Spiders" seemed extremely apropos. I beg you will forgive its historical and even scientific inaccuracy.

Since when are humans (or hobbits) more dense than molten rock, which is mostly iron?

Tom, problematic scientific points disturb me in science fiction movies and novels. In fantasy movies and novels, I'm quite willing to suspend disbelief for just about anything. If they had continually treated lava in a different fashion than we might expect without any explanation as to why, then I would be irked.

Why did Faramir wait a few minutes for the orcs to run by at Osgiliath

Picus, this bothered me too. I thought perhaps they were going to let the army pour out and then take their boats. Before they let the orcs go by I thought they were going to surprise them and then mow them down one by one since entryway space was limited. Waiting for about half of them to pass seemed really dumb - perhaps Denethor's madness extends to control of such tactics? That was the best explanation I could come up with. When I wasn't wondering if fleshy stumpy guy was Sloth from Goonies.

#73 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 05:07 PM:

Teresa,

Okay--but, I think the ring's dissolution would've worked better for me had the preceding struggle not already started dragging out too long. At that point I was feeling like "oh come on, already." But your points are well taken.

I stand corrected on the time-scope of the epilogue. I should've remembered that line about 4 years, too.

#74 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 05:22 PM:

Also at the end, Sam has had enough time to marry and produce a 3yo child (played by Astin's actual daughter).

I have seen film of what happens to a stout pair of work boots dropped on flowing lava. You would think that SFX were involved, they go up in flames so very fast! (Though I wouldn't like to try it personally, dying by falling into lava is very likely nearly painless, as the nerves would be destroyed too quickly to actually transmit much pain.)

#75 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 05:33 PM:

Tom & Alan:

How about this idea -- the patch of molten rock that Gollum hit happened to have a very high gas content and therefore a low density. Pumice, for example has a density of less than 1 g/cc. Rock ususaly has a density of about 2.5 g/cc. (Of course, one would then have to ignore that a pool of molten rock exposed to surface air pressure would have outgassed pretty thoroughly before that point. Details, always details . . .)

PiscusFiche & Kellie:

Why did Faramir wait a few minutes for the orcs to run by at Osgiliath

That's actually a fairly standard ambush tactic, useful for a small, well coordinated and motivated force facing a larger one. With enough troops you can suck a force in past you and cut off their retreat while encircling them -- a maneuver called a kill sack, for obvious reasons. It's also a way that a rear guard can surprise a large force by attacking it from the rear, delaying it while the main force escapes. As usual, it's a bit hard on the rear guard.

#76 ::: rbs ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 05:48 PM:

So, did anyone else see the head orc on the fields of Pelenor (the one with the speaking role) and think: Charles Laughton? Hunchback of Notre Dame?

And speaking of speaking roles: What, no Mouth of Sauron? The sequence at the Gates of Mordor /was/ pretty rushed.

#77 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 05:57 PM:

fester: wrt the fragility of Minas Tirith: IIRC, Minas Tirith is a fortified city, not a part-natural bolt-hole like Helms Deep; there's a lot of difference between real fortresses (such as still can be found all over England) and Dubrovnik (a fortified city that quickly took serious damage when barbarians such as Karadjic and Milosevic had it shelled). Possibly Tolkien was thinking about it as a fortress on a scale that's never been seen on \this/ earth -- but if it takes the produce from 10 leagues around (as cited by Graydon) to feed it, I'm not convinced all of it would be able to withstand bombardment. Also, how long has it stood without serious attack? Fortifications that aren't attacked frequently tend at least not to be kept up (as noted by many writers, from Piper to McCaffrey), and can grow baroque ornamentation that will break up in fashion dear to the hearts of special-effects men (the same ones who believe that every crashed car explodes) at the first impact.

#78 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:07 PM:

SPOILERS FOLLOW.

I saw it last night. I will like it much, much better the next time I see it. I won't be stressed by wondering which bit they're going to hack up in which way, what will be left behind, and what will be changed. It was beautiful. It was wonderful. I do, of course, have issues.

My biggest issue is with Arwen. She's converted from a warrior queen to a trophy bride, an incredibly distressing change. Up until the very last moment, I believed in my heart that the figure in the black cloak was Arwen, brining the Sword That Was Broken and the banner to Aragorn. When it turned out to be Elrond, and that Arwen had apparently contracted the wasting disease as if she were in a Victorian novel, I wanted to weep. From the moment I saw Arwen with a sword at Aragorn's throat, I knew that she would bring the sword herself.

What the hell with the Paths of the Dead, anyway? What is the nonsense that Aragorn talks about murders and so on? Why does there appear to be uncertainty about where the path leaves, when they leave camp? The confrontation with the dead king is cool, but I think that having the dead fall silently into ranks behind Aragorn as he rides through the Paths of the Dead would have been eerier, and more emotionally powerful.

Gollum's chicanery to make Sam look bad was just stupid, ok? It must have been done to make up for not telling the full Shelob story. I cannot for the life of me figure out why Jackson made that change. Upon reflection, I suppose that it wasn't a lack of cinematic presence, but rather that Jackson had locked himself into a view of the Ring as being completely corrupting. In Jackson's world, if Sam had worn the Ring, even as briefly as he did to save Frodo's life, then Sam would not have been able to give it back. Jackson was being too inflexible, if you ask me. (I know, I know, he didn't.)

The struggle at the cracks of Mount Doom was a bit long, but utterly canonical, but then Jackson had to add a bit. Why? Dragging Frodo up from the edge was distressing, but my disbelief came crashing round my ears when he was holding on with just one hand. The second struggle between Frodo and Gollum was so unnecessary. If Jackson wanted to show that Frodo was still under the power of the Ring, he could have had Frodo make a grab for Gollum as Gollum fell. The fight with an invisible Frodo and a visible Gollum was less than visually believable, to me. While Gollum certainly could and has jumped on someone's back, he never just held on like that in a fight. It looked nothing like his other fights, nothing like his normal fighting style.

The Fields of Pellenor made up for all of it, though. I wish the Rhorrim had sung, but it was grand and frightening and fine. I want to see it again. Soon.

#79 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:17 PM:

Ungoilant

Typo for Ungoliant?

Ban Guri Ban

Ghân-buri-Ghân -- whom I shall miss even though I understand why he is not in the film.

No Mouth of Sauron? WAIL!

#80 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:18 PM:

Yeah, I was absolutely certain the hooded figure was going to turn out to be Arwen bearing the sword, not Elrond bearing the sword.

#81 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:20 PM:

I know that most think it nitpicking to say that the Scouring of the Shire should have somehow made it into the movie, but I feel that having it missing entirely is a disservice to a major theme of the books. You =can't= go home again and expect to be just as you left it. You can't go home after a major war and expect everything to be rosey and beautiful and warm and comfy and homey and just as you left it. And yet, in ROTK, that's exactly what happened. I felt heartsick at seeing the Shire picture-perfect as they had left it. Where was the bittersweetness at being home again, only to find it had also been touched by the war? Yeah, sure, they all felt as if they didn't really belong there anymore -- not as before, anyway. But is that the same as having to help rebuild the Shire? No, it isn't. When you return home from the trenches to Merry Olde, you find that the village church has lost its tower from bombings and most houses have pockmarks from air raids.

#82 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:25 PM:

She's converted from a warrior queen to a trophy bride

Damn. I agreed with Arwen getting a boost in the film version (she's hardly a warrior queen, or even much of a presence, in the books), and heartily approved substituting her for Glorfindel at the ford. What a shame to waste all that setup.

#83 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:32 PM:

I had already seen a trailer with Elrond giving Aragorn the sword (at least he unsheathes it right in front of Elrond, leaving us with the assumption that Elrond journeyed to give it to him rather than journeying to watch his future son-in-law play Erol Flynn). But I was still hoping it was wrong too.

#84 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 06:54 PM:

I've been surprised by how many people here are willing to casually sacrifice physical logic in fantasy narratives. I'm not saying that's bad or good; I'm saying it surprises me, because I'm not willing to do that. I'll buy elves living forever, and rings having the moral well-being of an entire world tied up in them, and walking and talking trees whose language sounds like Finnish as spoken by a contrabassoon, because those are all part of the unified setup of the story. But I want the rest of the it to be grounded in logic and reality. I'll put up with a few whopping great fibs, if everything else around them is reliably realistic.

#85 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 07:07 PM:

". . . grounded in logic and reality."

Ah . . . but whose logic? Whose reality? People had very odd ideas about physics, and about the ways our bodies functioned, way back when. Many of these seem utterly, obviously, ludicrous to us now.

Rationalist that I am, I think a fantasy can be *stronger* for accepting odd, old ways of thinking. If fact, I'm *less* willing to suspend my disbelief if magic is shoehorned into physics, rather than presented as . . . magic.

Perhaps the Ring floated on that lava because it was trying to preserve itself . . .

#86 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 07:17 PM:

Further:

About ten years back, NBC aired a bunch of Silly Season low-budget documentaries presenting logical and plausible explanations of biblical miracles. CAD models of the palace Sampson pulled down, tides that could part the Red Sea, and so on.

It ended with a solemn Bible expert stating that if people knew that these miracles were possible, they'd take the Bible more seriously.

I'm not a believer, but I can see a big flaw here. If all those miracles have rational, real-world explanations, then the moral impact of the stories is seriously lessened. Faithful men Shadrach, Meshach, and Ibednego survive their stay in that furnace because . . . they found a cool spot? Lesson: Their faith didn't mean anything. God: Not involved, not necessary.

#87 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 08:03 PM:

I guess my complaint comes down to pacing and editing at certain parts of the film rather than logic and realism.

As for Charles Laughton/Hunchback/Orc, I get the feeling he was put in to make up for the absence of an active personalized villain (Christopher Lee), at least for some of the movie. But in a way I felt he detracted from the Witch King's presence.

I would've loved to have seen more of the Lord of the Nazgul.

Nancy, I think you raise a good point, but in defence of Jackson, I think he grabbed a very nice moment when the 4 hobbits sit down with their beers at the Green Dragon and—for just the right pause—don't know what to say. For me that was a nice apprehension that indeed, things aren't the same.....

#88 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 08:33 PM:

I agree with Lydia Nickerson on Arwen. I liked the way she was recreated for FOTR, but all of that vanished in TTT and ROTK. Also, I rather liked the scene in the book of ROTK between Frodo and Arwen when Arwen gives Frodo "her spot" on the boat to the Grey Havens. It was about the only place in the book where Arwen had more than a line of dialogue.

#89 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 08:38 PM:

I'll wager we're going to see the Mouth of Sauron in the extended version. The role was cast and (according to Ian McKellen's White Book, anyway) filmed.

#90 ::: fester ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 08:46 PM:

CHip, I have to disagree with you on your example of Dubrovnik as a fortied city that quickly collapsed in the early 90s and Minas Tirith because Dubrovnik was reduced using heavy modern artillery using chemical energy explosive warheads instead of pure kinetic energy. Additionally Minas Tirith had not been attacked, so I agree with you it would have been consistent with history for plenty of ornamentation that is easy to fall off but there had been a long standing threat to the city that the elites of Gondor knew about as they were only several days away from their most dangerous enemy's lair and they had lost the outer works of Osiligoth.

To me I lost a little bit of the willingness to stay engorged in the Middle Earth reality when I saw the walls crumble on the first shot.

#91 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 08:56 PM:

As for Charles Laughton/Hunchback/Orc, I get the feeling he was put in to make up for the absence of an active personalized villain (Christopher Lee), at least for some of the movie. But in a way I felt he detracted from the Witch King's presence.

There is, in fact, a named Orc in the book-- at least, I'm guessing that "Gothmog the lieutenant of Morgul" is an Orc. Granted, he gets all of half a sentence in the text, but I'm happy to pretend that he's the Hunchback of Barad-Dur.

Nancy, I think you raise a good point, but in defence of Jackson, I think he grabbed a very nice moment when the 4 hobbits sit down with their beers at the Green Dragon and?for just the right pause?don't know what to say. For me that was a nice apprehension that indeed, things aren't the same.....

I agree. I liked that scene. It was fairly subtle, but effective.

Kate also noted that Sam's clothes are noticeably nicer when they return, which is good. I'm a little disappointed that the Mayor of Hobbiton doesn't get a nicer hole, but you can't win 'em all...

Another subtle bit that I liked was the fact that Theoden's comment when Eowyn comes up to him after killing the Witch King ("I know your face...") is the same as his first line after Gandalf's exorcism in The Two Towers.

#92 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:03 PM:

Fester -

The textual walls are the same stuff as Orthanc, Saruman's tower that the ents cannot hurt, stonework done "before the power and craft of Numenor waned in exile", things that are more or less indestructible by anything short of truly major earthquakes. (These are walls which have been standing for not less than a thousand years, and argueably for three thousand, at the time of the story.)

And we're told that the Witch-King makes for the gate, because, tough as it is, it is the weakest point in all that high and indomitable wall.

If it's shown crumbling from single impacts, one has to assume nasty malign sorcery is involved.

#93 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:19 PM:

"That's actually a fairly standard ambush tactic, useful for a small, well coordinated and motivated force facing a larger one. With enough troops you can suck a force in past you and cut off their retreat while encircling them -- a maneuver called a kill sack, for obvious reasons. It's also a way that a rear guard can surprise a large force by attacking it from the rear, delaying it while the main force escapes. As usual, it's a bit hard on the rear guard."

Claude: No, I understand that--but what they did at Osgiliath wasn't using that particular tactic--or at least that wasn't my interpretation. To me it seemed like they were going to wait for all the orcs to pass, so they could perform that tactic, perhaps taking out the orc force's boats, or creating cover by torching them. But instead, they merely waited a few minutes and then ran into the middle of the orc squad, without waiting for them to get off the boats completely. This had the effect of putting them smack in the MIDDLE of the attacking force INSTEAD of being at the rear or the front. Nowhere to retreat to. That's what I objected to. (Don't know if that made any sense though....*wry grin*)

RE: Realism - Isn't there some kind of saying that when you're writing fantastic fiction that you have one major "gimme", ie. one place where you can stretch things a bit. Yet to keep the audience in an appropriate suspension of disbelief, you need to balance that out with as much realism in other areas as possible. Or at least focus on the details that count instead of throwing cool-but-implausible frippery around.

#94 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 09:35 PM:

I find that I must ask -- is the banner present or absent?

#95 ::: Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 11:34 PM:

"If it's shown crumbling from single impacts, one has to assume nasty malign sorcery is involved."

My memory may be slightly off (there were some rather undisciplined and talkative 8-10 year olds sitting behind me) but I don't think the catapults break the walls of Minas Tirith, although they do mash up some towers and buildings inside those walls pretty well (which seemed a little too easy, imo).

The only things which bothered me in this installment were the continuing silliness with Gimli and the stange elasticity of the oliphaunts-- their size seemed to change between the time they were stomping on an entire horse and rider and when Legolas was climbing aboard one.

But I must say, even though I am someone who gave the books too cursory a reading too long ago these movies have summoned wonderfully unmanipulated tears at numerous times. I can't wait for Sunday's scheduled second viewing.

#96 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2003, 11:56 PM:

Patrick: How about this: we shouldn't carp that it didn't include things its author didn't intend it should include? (Although I have certainly been guilty of that myself.) Otherwise while I can definitely see (and agree with) your point it seems tangential to my point. Or at least it does to me, but my brain is weird and I can't always explain what goes on in it.

MKK

#97 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:24 AM:

I've been surprised by how many people here are willing to casually sacrifice physical logic in fantasy narratives. I'm not saying that's bad or good; I'm saying it surprises me, because I'm not willing to do that. I'll buy elves living forever, and rings having the moral well-being of an entire world tied up in them, and walking and talking trees whose language sounds like Finnish as spoken by a contrabassoon, because those are all part of the unified setup of the story. But I want the rest of the it to be grounded in logic and reality. I'll put up with a few whopping great fibs, if everything else around them is reliably realistic.

I feel the same way, Teresa. One of the most important things in fantasy is believablity, and if you've already asked the reader to swallow six impossible things before breakfast, they're not going to stomach fruit appearing in the wrong season or mutton in a world without sheep.

How far did Rohan have to cart all their timber for their ornamental beams? How did an unconscious Faramir avoid getting road rash on his face when being drug by a horse? Heck, even if he stayed on his back the whole time, how did his face stay Charlie's Angels clean? Wouldn't his dad have had some problem with his eyes if that had really been alcohol or mineral spirits in the ewer he dumped over his head, instead of the non-flamable water it acted like? And since the Witch King's dragon did actually spurt blood or ichor when it was beheaded, why didn't it spurt more, give the sheer volume of the thing, even if it was CGI? For that matter, even though the oliphants could indeed squash a man flat with their feet, wouldn't stepping on one of those pointy helms of the Minas Tirith forces hurt? It'd be like stepping on jacks with bare feet.

Gratuitous nitpicking, of course, in a movie that was nevertheless really cool.

My explanation for Golum's flesh not crisping on contact with the lava is that he was being magically preserved all these years by the magic of the ring anyway, so it gave him an extra moment of non-crispyness before being swallowed up by the lava. That, and the crisping flesh effect would have looked too gross.

#98 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:27 AM:

What happened to the Arwen who raced to the ford? Heck, what happened to the Arwen who's supposed to be Luthien come again? Luthien was one tough cookie.

I echo that latter question, except that I address it at the text of the novel. On my recent re-read of the novel--2001, preparatory to seeing the first film, first time I'd read the book in over twenty years--I was amazed at how small Arwen's role was and how shallow. There's more of her in the Appendix than in the entire text of the novel. "Trophy bride" is almost too kind to her role in the novel; she's a reward of the kingship, like the sword Narsil but with less personality or the banner but with less power.

I think that Jackson got vastly more right than wrong, and when he got things wrong, I can generally at least understand why he ended up in the wrong places. I'd have a lot more complaints with the films if Tolkien had written a book I had fewer complaints with.

#99 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:35 AM:

PiscusFiche: But instead, they merely waited a few minutes and then ran into the middle of the orc squad, without waiting for them to get off the boats completely. This had the effect of putting them smack in the MIDDLE of the attacking force INSTEAD of being at the rear or the front. Nowhere to retreat to. That's what I objected to.

I think you are right (and yes, you do make sense) and I think I'm going to be bothered by this when I see it, darn you.

#100 ::: Johan A ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 07:21 AM:

Regarding Arwen, there was a rumour going round a couple of years back that Liv Tyler had some sort of mental collapse during one of her more difficult scenes (involving riding, I think); a collapse due to being closed up in a very intense and closed miniature society revolving around a world she didn't quite grok. Some of the other actors described the shooting of the film as a magic experience, and have told us of how they identified completely with their characters and felt that they *were* in Middle-earth, so to speak. Well, except Liv Tyler allegedly couldn't understand the mindset and couldn't take it after a certain point. After this supposed collapse, Jackson couldn't use her half as much as he had intended to, she plain refused, and had to cut down Arwen's role considerably as a consequence.

I don't know if this story has been confirmed (or disproven) or if it is still just a rumour.

#101 ::: Laurel Amberdine ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 08:37 AM:

(Neverminding the movie, which I haven't seen yet and likely won't until the extended DVD comes out, and so of course I can't read large swaths of many blogs for a while...)

"Toroids" hmm? Very cute.

#102 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 08:43 AM:

For whatever reason, Jackson made a much larger deal of Arwen giving Frodo her place in the boat; "giving away her life's grace" than the text. The trivial explanation of the pre-ride-to-the-ford, post-ride-to-the-ford differences in Arwen are that she quite literally gave away her ability to be an elf, and was as such stuck in a sort of limbo until either she got dragged off to Valinor or was provided with an opportunity to die.

The version of that which trends less toward wanting to hit Peter Jackson with the biggest frozen mackerel I can find is that she's powering some substantial fraction of Aragorn's luck, and that this is very, very tiring.

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 08:46 AM:

Kevin, at first thought I'd thought that was water Denethor poured over himself, but at a second glance it seemed a bit more viscous. Now, most of the oils available in this society would not have been as clear as water (most, not all, vegetable oils have some color -- it's something I get to pay attention to as a massage therapist); but the viscosity looks more like that of sunflower oil, which is relatively clear. They probably wouldn't have had the fractional distillation techniques that result in a mineral oil as clear as what was used. Definitely a light oil, but it looks heavier than a decane.

I move back from oil pedant mode.

Cheers,
Tom

#104 ::: Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 09:40 AM:

Graydon, I noticed no one has answered your question yet. Yes, the banner was there, but not explicitly mentioned. The moment when Aragorn noticed it (and the moments immediately following) were some of more ridiculous in the movie for me.

I've decided that one of Jackson's biggest flaws as a director is his refusal to allow any (OK, most) of his characters to keep their dignity.

#105 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:02 AM:

I've been surprised by how many people here are willing to casually sacrifice physical logic in fantasy narratives. I'm not saying that's bad or good; I'm saying it surprises me, because I'm not willing to do that.

If a fantasy novel/movie breaks its own physical laws, I will have a problem. If a fantasy novel/movie breaks the laws of physics as I know them but explains why (thus providing a new logic to use, ie "The Vallar decreed it to be so" or "Elves died in Mt Doom, their magical properties effecting the lava for all time" or whatever), then I'm fine. If a fantasy novel/movie breaks the laws of physics without explanation, I'll likely note it but only get perturbed if this moment of unexplained illogic is repeated or given great focus/import.

The only nitpick that really pulled me out of the story to any great extent was wondering how Frodo found his shirt after the Shadrach incident. Did anyone catch this? Sam says that they better find Frodo some clothes so he's not running around in just his skin. The next scene shows them wearing entertainingly large orc outfits. And when they are on Mt Doom, Frodo's wearing the same shirt he's always been wearing. Did I miss a line of explanation or a brief scene where Sam pulls another shirt out of his bag?

#106 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:19 AM:

Janice -

Thank you!

Explicit mention isn't required, but, in the structure of the tale in the text, the moment when that banner breaks from the bow of the first ship of the corsairs IS the return of the king, the Heir of Elendil returned from the sea as his longfather of old came to Middle Earth on the wings of the storm.

(I sometimes suspect the entire Paths of the Dead subplot of being in the book so that that JRRT could have Aragorn return from the sea, and not over land from the north with the host of Rohan.)

My own take on the dignity issue is that Peter Jackson is indeed a hobbit, and has their flaws along with their virtues, so the he simply does not believe in nobility of character or generousity of spirit on any sort of wide scale.

In consequence, the gift giving isn't there -- Galadriel's is, but oddly undercut, as mere things and not the intangible aid and unprecedented welcome it was in the text; Theoden's gifts of armor (gifts to his sires out of Gondor long ago), Treebeard's hospitality in Wellinghall, Merry and Pippin's heartfelt courtesy in the ruins of Isengard, Theoden, Eomer, and Aragorn's recognition of what is owing to Ghan Buri Ghan, all of that is just absent, and the tale is less for that absence.

That there are still some few of the Children of Luthien in the world, folk of Numenor who have, however thinly, the blood of a divine being in their veins and the shadow of mighty gifts from the Powers of the World still on them, and that they are not altogether as mortal men, this is something Jackson has not altogether ignored but it is clear enough that it is a thing he entirely disbelieves.

Similarly, that Elrond Half-Elven is the son of a man who became an orbe9d star, the fosterling of Maedhros son of Feanor, and high among the heroes of a two thousand year long war between the elves and Sauron in the Second Age, a lord higher and greater than any king of men, that is a thing entirely disbelieved. Imladris was founded as a fortress and withstood long seige by Sauron himself in the days of its founding, and has been a seat of power as well as learning for all the long years since. That Rivendell, like that Elrond Half-Elven, is not anywhere to be seen.

I should not be wise to consider of Jackson's portrayal of Galadriel, who was the student of several angels and remembers the day when the Sun and Moon were hung in the sky in thus wise at all, for I am then caught between wrath and sorrow.

In this is also (I think) the explanation of why Gimli is made such a figure of fun; the Naugrim are awkward, prickly, touchy people, made in a dim sight of future days and a present love of craft and the wreaking of beauty to resist dominion, and so creatures of an oft-affronted dignity, but also creatures of mighty craft and grand passions. The Gimli of the text can say that his heart is given to the morning, and wake a real sorrow. The hobbit view has no sympathy for the affront and less for the dignity, and leaves behind no place for the sorrow or the passion, the will and delight that made Gimli Gloin's son Lord of the Glittering Caverns of Aglorond or had Dain die, fighting over the body of his friend, Brand King of Dale, until the darkness fell.

Perhaps in five years, or ten, or twenty, or fity, or in the time of three lives of men, someone will make movies of those books again, and do it from the angle of such knowledge, and not out of the beliefs of hobbits.

However well constructed these movies are -- and they are, the product of a real love and a very great craft -- I think I might like those future others better, for my heart also is given to the morning.

#107 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:26 AM:

Explicit mention isn't required, but, in the structure of the tale in the text, the moment when that banner breaks from the bow of the first ship of the corsairs IS the return of the king

Alas, that's not where the banner is. Sorry.

#108 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:34 AM:

I'm hoping to see the film today, so skimmed over most of the latest nitpicking (even if everyone who's carping *does* want the DVD quite avidly). For practical advice, today's San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate online) cuts right to the chase in its entertainment section (Datebook) -- *two* articles about when to take bathroom breaks!

#109 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:40 AM:

Kate --

Does the banner get there with Aragorn? (He asks, rather nervously.)

#110 ::: Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:46 AM:

Graydon wrote: Explicit mention isn't required, but, in the structure of the tale in the text, the moment when that banner breaks from the bow of the first ship of the corsairs IS the return of the king, the Heir of Elendil returned from the sea as his longfather of old came to Middle Earth on the wings of the storm.

Oh dear. I'm afraid this isn't what happens at all. I hope that's not saying too much.

Incidentally, I was baffled at this alteration, as well as the handling of the palantir at Orthanc. These scenes (Wormtongue throwing the palantir off the balcony and Aragorn arriving with the black ships) seem so cinematically apt in the text that I cannot understand why Jackson didn't make full use of them. If time constraints were the problem, I would have recommended ditching the largely invented Sam/Gollum conflict and showing a lot less mutant elephant.

I should add after all these gripes that I actually liked the movie the best of the three. I just haven't loved any of them. Part of that is my attachment to the source text, but an equal part is a mismatch of my aesthetics with Jackson's. I'm pretty sure that even if I had never read LotR I would have had problems with the movies.

#111 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:56 AM:

Oh Graydon. Oh, oh, oh. You're right, of course you are, and I can feel the pity of those movies not being made. But, for all I love the elves, I too am a hobbit, and love what I have.

MKK

#112 ::: Johan A ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:59 AM:

>>Oh dear. I'm afraid this isn't what happens at all.

Nope. The paths of the dead/corsairs subplot is a means for Aragorn to get more brute force to bear on the enemy. That's it, and nothing else, I'd say. The whole point is solving the problem of how to beat the enemy with too few soldiers.

#113 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 11:03 AM:

Graydon,
Perhaps in five years, or ten, or twenty, or fity, or in the time of three lives of men, someone will make movies of those books again, and do it from the angle of such knowledge, and not out of the beliefs of hobbits.

I agree. Now that the technology exists, I expect the next version will be a very long, high definition mini-series, with the right attention to special effects without dumbing down key characters.

#114 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 11:12 AM:

That there are still some few of the Children of Luthien in the world, folk of Numenor who have, however thinly, the blood of a divine being in their veins and the shadow of mighty gifts from the Powers of the World still on them, and that they are not altogether as mortal men, this is something Jackson has not altogether ignored but it is clear enough that it is a thing he entirely disbelieves.

He certainly believes it of Aragorn, but he doesn't really give the audience a reason to believe it. Perhaps Jackson takes it for granted?

For example, Aragorn's TTT tracking of hobbit movements in the middle of a horse and orc battlefield made me laugh out loud. I was not willing to suspend my disbelief - it was given no explanation (perhaps a "he's a great tracker" line, but I don't remember it; and nothing in the way of his Numenorian blood was mentioned throughout the chase sequence, which I thought was the reason behind his superb abilities in this area) and yet it was also very important for the story and repeated several times. I didn't buy it for a second. I still snort whenever I see Aragorn crawling on hands and knees, saying, "A hobbit lay here." I keep waiting for him to follow it up with, "And then Eomer's horse trampled around a bit. An orc stood here and was decapitated. Then a bird settled on this spot and took a dump." And so on and so forth.

#115 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 12:04 PM:

Graydon: considering that this thread is full of spoilers anyway--

Aragorn walks down the courtyard after being crowned, nodding to various people (shot of Eowyn and Faramir smiling, etc., which is the only clue in this release that they even *meet*). Then Legolas steps into his path, they say something untranslated, and someone behind Legolas is holding a long vertical (white) banner. And then Legolas steps aside and Arwen is revealed behind it. Aragorn looks properly gobsmacked, they kiss, people applaud.

And then there is cheesy transitional voiceover of the "oh damn, we need to get the Hobbits home quickly and we don't have much screen time left."

#116 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 12:11 PM:

I appreciate the comments, but I would appreciate more finding out if the banner gets there with Aragorn, since this has a great deal to do with whether or not I go see it. :)

Kellie -

That's what I mean about Jackson disbelieving it. It isn't there as a live thing; it is sometimes there as scattered facts, strewn roughtly about.

Aragon's ability as a tracker and a huntsman are a side effect of being taught by Elrond, Elrond's sons, various elves, and remembering about seventy years of experience clearly. But you can't get that into the shape of the man Jackson wanted Aragorn to show up as, so it isn't there.

With it went Aragorn's relationship with Elrond, and -- I begin to think -- far too much else.

#117 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 12:12 PM:

Teach me not to hit 'preview' first.

Thanks, Kate!

#118 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 12:51 PM:

Kevin, at first thought I'd thought that was water Denethor poured over himself, but at a second glance it seemed a bit more viscous. Now, most of the oils available in this society would not have been as clear as water (most, not all, vegetable oils have some color -- it's something I get to pay attention to as a massage therapist); but the viscosity looks more like that of sunflower oil, which is relatively clear. They probably wouldn't have had the fractional distillation techniques that result in a mineral oil as clear as what was used. Definitely a light oil, but it looks heavier than a decane.

Since Denethor, or at least the actor playing him, didn't start blinking from burning eyes, my guess that what was in the bucket was probably water with a little Knox gelatin added so it would pour more like oil--stage oil, since pouring grease directly on the actor and the costuming would require a whole lot of cleaning for a retake. I know, because when I was twelve, I went as Dracula for Halloween and slicked my hair back with Vaseline instead of styling gel. At least five shampooings to get anywhere near clean.

Of course, we can add in a gratuitous Tolkien explanation: What was in the bucket was oil of Mallorn nuts, clear, light and unsaturated, burning with a smokeless flame, and also an essential ingredient in crispy-fried Lembas.

#119 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 12:57 PM:

Was it hydrogenated or unhydrogenated oil? --that is the question. Does it come with the little logo of the Middle Earth Healthy Hearte Association next to it?

#120 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:07 PM:

There also is the possiblity of whale oil and spermacetti, which I believe are fairly clear and would fit the bill, and would probably not cause any eye-sting as with mineral spirits. Since Minas Tirth had access for ships, this seems reasonable.

Judging by the oliphants, I'd suspect Middle Earth whales to look rather like the ones in old map illustrations.

#121 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:08 PM:

Never mind that those on land are so absorbed in their current fight they don't seem to notice the corsairs coming in...

Many small gripes I agree with so far, but for me the big no-brainer was Gollum struggling with the invisible Frodo over the ring. We've seen what the world looks like to the wearer of the ring before, more than once. Why didn't they use that perspective? I think it could have been made utterly menacing. It might also solve the spotlight eye thing.

And one place I would ahve liked it to differ *more* from the books is in the under-foreshadowed arrival of aerial reinforcements. The eagles always seemed too abrupt.

#122 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:17 PM:

Abrupt or too deus ex machina?

I mean, if you can swoop into Mordor to snag two hobbits off of the slopes of Orodruin, why couldn't you have done that in the first place without worrying about Frodo being driven mad by the Ring? The eagles were obviously able to take the Nazgul on quite well.

But then we wouldn't have a story.

#123 ::: Anon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:49 PM:

I was going to see RotK. Now, I think I should avoid it.

Sigh. There was so much to love about TTT, but strangely enough, that made the disappointments all the more difficult to bear. From what I read here, I fear this third movie would distress me even more.

#124 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 01:51 PM:

There are two problems with that; one is the Ring, and the other one is Sauron.

Sauron can presumably do nasty things to eagles; note that the rescue flight doesn't take place until after the Ring goes into the fire. Gwahir lands after the smoke-towering version of Sauron shreds on the west wind.

The other part is that you still have to let go of the One Ring, whether from way high up (and what if you miss?) or from the edge of the Cracks of Doom, and no one but Bilbo ever managed that -- far away in the Shire, not knowing what it was, and with all the help Gandalf could give him.

So I don't think it would work, all in all. Might as well postulate Aule the Smith coming up from the sea to disassemble the darn thing.

#125 ::: Pamela Dean ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 02:36 PM:

I haven't seen this bit mentioned, and am a little curious. On the whole, I haven't much cared for the original dialogue of the film. Some lines are okay; some of the comic ones are inspired; very occasionally a serious one is right and proper. But mostly it's lame and dull, with bits of Tolkien shining in it like quartz in limestone, some well- and some very ill-placed. The shining exception to this, in my opinion, is Aragorn's speech to the army before the Black Gate. My thought at the time was, "Wow, somebody's read HENRY V," but in fact, the speech is not Shakespearean, it's much plainer. I wondered if it had been neatly cribbed from some historical source, or if my notion of what sounds good and the scriptwriters' had simply for once fallen together.

Pamela

#126 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 03:06 PM:

Theresa's point about accepting the sacrifice of physical logic brings to mind a possible sacrifice of philological logic that has been bugging me since I came to learn a little more about Tolkien a couple of months ago.

Although I am but an acorn in such matters, it's my understanding that the history of middle earth is in large part a way of explaining why the elves speak two languages as distantly related as Finnish and Welsh. But if elves, as Graydon so wonderfully reminds us, are sempiternal, why do their languages evolve at all? I'd always imagined that the driver of language shift is that new generations speak slightly differently and old generations die out. If older generations don't die out, would languages really change all that much?

I'll admit that there is unlikely to be empirical evidence on this, but there must be theories about linguistic evolution that might throw some light on this, and it seems likely that somewhere round here might know them. And it seems quite possible Tolkien himself may have addressed this question...

#127 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 03:23 PM:

He did, indeed, address the question.

Firstly, the rate of change in natural things -- and elves are natural things, originally not physically different from humans but different in spirit -- is different in Valinor and Middle Earth. (Faster in Middle Earth.)

Secondly, elves are by nature linguists. They change their languages deliberately to be more suitable to current purposes, or to sound better, or to have a more pleasing form of expression. Rather like a giant community art project, and practical if you never forget anything. (One of the points of contention between Feanor and Fingolfin involved whether or not something should pronounced with an initial "th" sound or an initial "s" sound.)

So in the deep woods of Doriath, they had different things to say than they did in Tirion, and the languages went their separate ways.

#128 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 04:09 PM:

Graydon, if you haven't gotten it yet (and I bet you probably have), then you're going to love Tolkien and the Great War, just out from H&M....

#129 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 06:49 PM:

From Johan A,
"Regarding Arwen, there was a rumour going round a couple of years back that Liv Tyler had some sort of mental collapse during one of her more difficult scenes (involving riding, I think); a collapse due to being closed up in a very intense and closed miniature society revolving around a world she didn't quite grok. Some of the other actors described the shooting of the film as a magic experience, and have told us of how they identified completely with their characters and felt that they *were* in Middle-earth, so to speak. Well, except Liv Tyler allegedly couldn't understand the mindset and couldn't take it after a certain point. After this supposed collapse, Jackson couldn't use her half as much as he had intended to, she plain refused, and had to cut down Arwen's role considerably as a consequence.

I don't know if this story has been confirmed (or disproven) or if it is still just a rumour."

Well, I've been reading/watching way-too-much of the behind-the-scenes stuff, so I have a little different take on this.

Liv did very little riding - most of the Arwen riding scenes were handled by a horse-riding double.

The EE of TTT confirms something that was long rumored - that Liv WAS originally in the Battle of Helm's Deep. In the "making of" featurettes, there are videos of her in costume at Helms Deep, and videos of her getting sword training. Peter Jackson says, "We felt it just didn't work so we took Arwen out of Helm's Deep."

While that's possible, I suspect she got really tired of the night shoots and just coudn't put up with them, or that the sword fighting was just beyond her. Or maybe Peter Jackson was right and she just didn't fit there.

#130 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 08:57 PM:

The biggest thing wrong with the movie is...

...that goddamned giant searchlight! Sauron works brilliantly in the _Fellowship_ movie, but not once he turns into the searchlight in the _Two Towers_ movie.

I asked the Ten-Year-Old who she thinks the *real* protagonist of the movie is--Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Sam, et cetera? She answered, "the ring"...

#131 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2003, 10:43 PM:

We're FINALLY seeing this tomorrow! WHOOPEE. Between family flu-like illness and my over-work in December (ask me about December at a Trade Show Publisher, but be prepared to get your ear twisted off....) we haven't been yet.

I THINK we're going to see it on the big screen at the Englewood theater tomorrow. It's a traditional old cinema house that's still got a big screen and personal, wonderful atmosphere. And dear Ghu, they're able to get first run movies somehow, at an affordable rate. Master and Commander was being shown there previously. It's a wonderful place to see movies with friends.

#132 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 12:23 AM:

Okay, we saw it. The most perfect moment of the whole film trilogy (perhaps ever captured on film period, but I do exaggerate occasionally) is when Gandalf and Pippin crest the rise and see Minas Tirith. My God.

I cried twice, when Theoden died and when everyone knelt to the hobbits. My throat was all tight and achy at the Grey Havens but I didn't cry. I always do in the book.

Yes, that cavalry charge was way cool.

I'm still thinking.

MKK

#133 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 12:48 AM:

I've been trying to figure out exactly why I found so much of TTT and ROTK unsatisfying. I think Graydon pretty much summed it up when he says:

"My own take on the dignity issue is that Peter Jackson is indeed a hobbit, and has their flaws along with their virtues, so the he simply does not believe in nobility of character or generousity of spirit on any sort of wide scale."

I'm surprised more folks haven't taken issue with Frodo sending Sam away on the stairs at Cirith Ungol. I thought that was ridiculous, as was the fact that Sam actually turned away to GO.

The whole general skewing of the story from Tolkien's view to PJ's view bothered me.

But they did the charge of the Rohirrim right (until they turned back to the oliphaunts.) And there were trebuchets. (I love trebuchets.) And Eowyn's big scene was pretty much just right.

I will forgive a lot for good moments. Not everything, but a lot. I just wish there had been a few more good moments.

#134 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 01:01 AM:

>I agree. Now that the technology exists, I expect
>the next version will be a very long, high
>definition mini-series, with the right attention to
>special effects without dumbing down key
>characters.

I think it will probably be a three-minute Flash animation. Maybe four, if they decide to expand on ancillary material.

We have sync; rolling --
Hobbit Hobbit Hobbit Hobbit
Wizard Wizard
It's a Wraith! Eeee!
Okay, that's a wrap. Namarieb, everybody, and remember the Palantir is a rental.

#135 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 02:57 AM:

"Not enough hobbits, Mr. Ford." (as opposed to too many notes)

Seriously laughing, though.

I actually thought Frodo sending Sam away worked in the cinematic sense (looking on this, as a former Other Change of Hobbit employee characterized it, as one of the other storytellers than Homer telling the Iliad) -- it separates Frodo and Sam for the Shelob sequence, which is necessary, and brings up the essential sympathy among Ring-bearers. There is not a logical reason (or a textual reason) for Frodo to believe Gollum; cinematically, there seems something important about showing (very subtly, in this case) how much the Ring affects Frodo's judgment before they get to the Crack o' Doom. Especially if we look at this from the point of view of Jackson being a hobbit in telling this tale -- this feels much more like a hobbit's explanation of how Frodo and Sam got separated, to me.

Cheers,
Tom

#136 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 07:33 AM:

John Ford,
Did you ever see that cut-and-paste parody of LOTR using clips from Humphrey Bogart movies? It's hysterical ("Take that, you flame of Udun!")I downloaded it a year or so ago--but I don't remember the URL of the site that hosted it....

Brad DeLong, what you said, man. I think of all the weaknesses of his movie, that's the one Peter Jackson ain't going to live down.

I think Frodo sending Sam home was dumb, too, but the execution of the scene was so good, I wasn't as outraged as I knew I should've been.

#137 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 11:26 AM:

Finally saw the movie yesterday. With my naturally lousy memory and not having reread the books for some years, I had forgotten how little damage is done to the Fellowship itself. Only Boromir dies (early on), and all the major deaths are ancillary characters -- though I admit, my tears welled up in the film scene when Theoden dies. In the battles, more orc makeup than bloodshed (though the cinematography was superb, and the flying heads were grim enough); the reddest items were the Steward's symbolic little tomatoes (I think they were). Admittedly, PJ wasn't going for X-rated, and JRR wasn't either. But a Scouring of the Shire would have helped.

That said, I was impressed by most of it [except the Frodo/Gollum final struggle and the Damn, It's Not Arwen With the Sword! scene]. One final reaction I can't help but mention: living in an area with dramatic scenery and seeing the film in the next town over (away from the main built-up areas in Prescott AZ), it was remarkable to leave the theater and come out onto a high plain with room enough for a Grand Battle, overlooked by distant mountains in late afternoon light, with ravens soaring overhead.

P.S. I finally got the LOTR musical theme out of my head by thinking of the one from "Exodus" -- just similar enough....

#138 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 12:41 PM:

I suspect she got really tired of the night shoots and just coudn't put up with them, or that the sword fighting was just beyond her.

I don't think LT is any great shakes as an actress, but I know of no reason to think her as unprofessional as all that. If the director calls for night scenes and swordplay, my guess is she'd do night scenes and learn swordplay.

#139 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 02:22 PM:

From what I was seeing, the cutaways to Arwen doing her Camille routine served a couple of important functions: 1. They were lulls in the battle scenes, to save us the "It's quiet; too quiet" nonsense you otherwise get in war pics to build suspense, 2. They gave us someone who was thinking all the way through that Aragorn was as important as he'd become in the end.

Besides which, even if Arwen had been a kick-butt swordfighter, having her there would have upstaged and Legolas and Eowyn. I mean, elf AND love interest--why would anyone care about the other two characters?

She worked saving Frodo at the Ford in the first film. If she'd been the one bringing Aragorn the sword, then it would have been expected she'd accompany him, thus cutting in on his pining time and further upstaging Legolas, and Eowyn again, who already had two oliphants, a dragon and a witch king between them.

What could Arwen do for an encore? Show up for Aragorn at the end, rather than being both elf and butt-kicking babe #2.

As Tolkien already showed with the hobbits, the way you keep characters from having middle or youngest child syndrome is to separate them. Merry and Pippin split off from Frodo and Sam early on. Merry and Pippin then split up, and even Frodo and Sam do for a time in Jackson's version so as to give Sam some stage time on his own.

Wanting to see Arwen more makes it more satisfying when we do see her, even if she comes off as trophy bride. Her own storyline is pretty powerful anyway--choosing to give up immortality to be with the man she loves, choosing to die so a child might be born and live? That's a bit more potent than just whacking a third CGI oliphant.

#140 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 05:02 PM:

So, I know I'm getting into the conversation a bit late, but a few things I'd like to comment on.

1) Faramir's defense of Osgiliath: The main tactical problem is that there are Too Many Orcs. Even if you manage to surround them, all you've done is surround Too Many Orcs, which isn't all that helpful. However, if you can get Not Enough Orcs away from Too Many Orcs, your main force can kill them, which hopefully leaves Just Enough Orcs. A rash plan, true, and not one with a particularly high chance of success, but when you're facing Too Many Orcs, you don't have many options.

2) Added Gollum Trickseyness. I loved this scene, for the same reason I loved the Osgilliath detour in TTT. Anytime I see or read something for the first time, my measure of how gripping the plot is is how often a little voice in my hindbrain says "They could lose." Now, having read the books several times, I wasn't expecting much in the way of actual tension and doubt regarding the progress of the plot, because what liberties could he possibly take that would significantly affect the story, right? Then Faramir gave the order, and I actually thought "My god! They could lose!" For being able to have that experience while watching a story I know almost by heart, my hat is off to Peter Jackson.

#141 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 06:31 PM:

Anon,

please don't avoid this movie based on what you've read here. We have a variety of contributors who have been focusing on individual elements that exalt or irritate them. That's what I did a couple of days ago.

See the movie for yourself. There are things I loved. There are things I bitterly regret for their absence. But I ABSOLUTELY recommend that you see it for yourself. Love or hate what you will, it'll be your experience rather than ours.

Remember, it'll be almost a year before the extended RotK comes out, and a lot longer before anyone will be able to even try to make the fussy purists' version.

#142 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 07:24 PM:

Remember, it'll be almost a year before the extended RotK comes out,

Do we absolutely know this? After all, he's got no movie coming out next Dec. to make a November release good marketing. Unless someone's heard otherwise I'd think it might come sooner. Perhaps when obvious repeat business falls off at the theatres.

MKK

#143 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 08:03 PM:

The only thing I've heard about it is that this is the extended release, there won't be a director's cut.

I don't image that it makes any marketting sense to not release a special extended edition DVD, or the combined set, but I can easily see the combined set absorbing the (quite finite) energy and time available from Jackson and the Weta Workshop crew to do the work.

So I wouldn't be on a significantly longer or more complete movie for next Christmas.

#144 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 08:35 PM:

But we already know there will be an extended edition. Jackson has said that the Saruman bits will be in it.

One assumes there will be other stuff as well, like the Mouth of Sauron.

#145 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 09:06 PM:

I apologize for the length of this comment and also for holding forth when I haven't seen ROTK myself yet. But enough spoilers have been leaked here and elsewhere for me to think I am on the right track. Furthermore, if you do not hate the Bush Administration as the forces of evil, you will not like this comment.

What Tolkien did with The9oden and Denethor was to idealize their inaction: both are quite elderly men (older than their movie counterparts seem) and clearly suffering from wanhope, despair, or accidie, in response to the overwhelming enemy they face. Tolkien's Denethor is arrogant, malicious and corrupted by power, but he retains a tragic dignity.

Jackson is not inclined to give his The9oden and Denethor any such slack, and he needs to bring down their idealization in order to throw Aragorn into relief, since he has chosen to have Mortensen act Aragorn in an understated "strong silent" way.

So Jackson's The9oden appears to be indulging in self-doubt 96 notes of Hamlet and of Richard II 96 and Denethor appears first as an unscrupulous egotist in TTT (he does think of Gondor, but he identifies himself and his interests with Gondor quite selfishly, and he baits Faramir mercilessly). Then Jackson92s Denethor goes mad in an entirely undignified way: I gather there92s a dinner scene in which he shows frightful table manners (greedy and / or messy). Then in the suicide scene he both sets himself on fire and jumps over a cliff. But Tolkien gave a tragic dignity to Denethor even in his last moments; as Jackson92s directed it, it seems we92re meant to be repulsed.

Unless Jackson's Denethor is meant to be a comment on our leaders: post-9/11 America as Gondor, and the Bush Administration as Denethor, egotistically identified as warring against evil and deranged by this war; disowning and threatening to persecute the Democratic opposition. Jackson seems to suggest that the Men of Gondor are more 93decadent94 or corrupted than Tolkien presents them; this presumably influenced the casting of Jackson92s original Faramir as a soft-faced and plain young man and as following his father92s orders like a 93good German94; fans were outraged.

It surely influences Jackson92s depiction of Denethor. Derangement and bad table manners could be read as snide allusions to George W. Bush92s alleged misbehavior out of camera range. (E.g. rumored drinking bouts; 93face down on the White House carpet,94 an anecdote of Eschaton and DU vintage.) Denethor92s deterioration is only what one might wish for any of the administration and PNACers.

Our leaders have chosen to take the Ring; have chosen to deploy overwhelming force contrary to the laws of war and international law; to murder the innocent in the name of fighting against evil; and in thus fighting evil, to dominate the entire world and thus become de facto Dark Lords.

Crazy Cold Warriors were also in the news at the time of Tolkien92s writing LOTR. McCarthy was probably a paranoiac. James Forrestal, Sec. Defense in 1947, 93a brilliant, rugged, and clinically deranged man of mystery,94 founder of the American national security apparatus, went mad (believing that communists, Jews, and members of the Truman administration were after him) and was committed to Bethesda Naval, where he jumped out of a window and killed himself. . . .(from Caleb Carr92s The Lessons of Terror 185ff.) At any rate, though Tolkien strenuously denied any modern subtext or allegory in LOTR, 1945-55 was the first, freezing decade of the Cold War and the atomic age; unless he didn92t read the paper at all, he can92t have missed it.

#146 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 09:21 PM:

Oops, forgot to activate appropriate tone of irony in the comment above. I do realize it's only a film, and that similarly detecting anti-establishment tone in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is also probably childish if you think it means something. . . I haven't yet found any bloggers in Left Polity or Tompaine claiming that LOTR is a political allegory. Must take own paranoia medication.

#147 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 09:25 PM:

OTOH, I wouldn't wish for any in the Administration or PNAC to become more deranged than they already are. Not with nukes.

#148 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2003, 09:43 PM:

WHEW . . . an absolutely exhausting movie.

The pacing and the many endings wore on me . . . but I don't see how Jackson could have been more -- graceful? -- without throwing away still more of the story.

What he DIDN'T throw away, though . . . I was sure they'd toss out the Way of the Dead, and perhaps the scene with the orcs in the tower fighting over Frodo. Instead, there they were, and wonderfully well done.

They could have played up Frodo's terrible weariness more. Age him a bit, have him use the wonderful line about butter being spread too thin. More of a sense of time passing, the others getting on with life while he lingers in pain over his memoir.

RE the floating ring . . . awww, c'mon, it was plainly resting on a little mat of floating black cinder, or whatever you call that detritus that floats on lava.

Here's one thing that bothered me, just a bit. Arwen and Aragorn sucking each other's face off. Well, we certainly know they like each other, but it takes away some of the profundity to immediately go at it like that. I'd hope Aragorn would stagger a bit, and realize what she's done.

I don't think the final judgement will be in on this one until the extended edition is out. I was very pleased with the material added to The Two Towers, particularly Faramir's backstory. Non-canonical, but moving.

#149 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 12:15 AM:

Let me also award a prize to Gothmog, the Lieutenant of Mordor, for "best unexpected character"...

#150 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 01:35 AM:

I have not seen the movie yet. Movie #1 disappointed me a little so I never got around to movie #2, and not yet for movie #3.

Of the three books, ROTK disappointed me a bit by comparison to the other two. It seems to be more "what do I need to do to resolve the plot?" and less character development, and less new kinds of magic, compared to the other two. (the madness of Denethor, and how it was brought about by his having a Palantir, being the notable exception) There seems to be a little too much "And along came a [whatever I need now to resolve the rest of the plot]" kind of writing. I came out of the book a little disappointed.

#151 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 02:29 AM:

I don't think LT is any great shakes as an actress, but I know of no reason to think her as unprofessional as all that. If the director calls for night scenes and swordplay, my guess is she'd do night scenes and learn swordplay.

My first thought on reading that (here) that she'd had a bit of trouble getting into the reported cast mindset was, "what? can't she bend a bit?" and then I got to thinking just what that would entail.

There'd be serious hobbit-bonding, and Fellowship-bonding, and Rohirrim-bonding, and where would that leave LT-Arwen? Stray elf-bonding? Please. That's a cold hearth to sit at, week after week.

So seems to me that, if that's a fair description of the working conditions, she might well be excused from immersing herself wholeheartedly over many months.

#152 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 04:08 AM:

I just had an Evil Thought. Would Waes thu Peter Jackson hael be the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Live long and prosper?

MKK

#153 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 09:24 AM:

I've seen interviews with Jackson in which he explicitly said that there would be an extended version of RotK. The seven minutes of material with Saruman is at least part of it, but he's being coy about what else might show up. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

#154 ::: spacewaitress ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 09:35 AM:

I've seen interviews with Jackson in which he explicitly said that there would be an extended version of RotK. The seven minutes of material with Saruman is at least part of it, but he's being coy about what else might show up. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Faramir-Eowyn action! Woo!

(I really like the actors that play Faramir and Eowyn, as well as their characters. I'm really hoping to see scenes of them falling in love in the extended edition.)

#155 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 02:50 PM:

Erik, for what it's worth: The Two Towers is not only more wonder-filled than the first movie, but it skillfully threaded together three different stories and arranged for an almost simultaneous climax. It's the best of the lot, cinematically.

This thread has gone on awful long, but at the risk of extending it to the point where some counter runs over and messages from the future start appearing, I feel like asking:

What project would you have Peter Jackson tackle . . . that *IS NOT SF&F?*

#156 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 03:56 PM:

Well, I've seen it now.

I found it not so much the Return of the King as the triumph of stupidity.

Not, particularly, for the elephants sixty feet high, which, along with all the other wild scale errors, can be waved off as a sort of cinematographic excess, but for inserting hollywood macho in place of bonds of oaths and the obligations of descent, and for constantly tripping the dramatic moments with pointless posing.


But most of all for taking all of JRRT's careful symbology concerning the King of Men and removing it without replacement.

#157 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 04:46 PM:

Given that most of the complaints seem to be founded in the movies turning away from the High Epic style of the books, an Evil Theory came to me this morning:

The movies depict the events as they actually happened, and the books are what you get after a century or two of myth accreting around the story.

It covers the change in style, explains the fact that everybody in the books is much nobler and more decisive than in the movies, and if you throw in the assumption of an incompetent copyist or two getting their pages mixed up, explains the whole Bombadil episode, which has drifted in from an entirely different work...

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 05:08 PM:

Stefan, why would I want Peter Jackson to waste his time on non-F&SF projects? Not like there are that many (even marginally) competent F&SF filmmakers around.

Chad, I like your Evil Theory. It actually makes a ton of sense. Explains why Gimli gets to go to Valinor in the book, for example (he's the only one who gets to who's neither ring-bearer nor Elf - and yes, I include Gandalf). A friend of mine pointed out that he went with Legolas, and suggested the cause might be "enlightened domestic partner policy."

#159 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 06:21 PM:

"why would I want Peter Jackson to waste his time on non-F&SF projects?"

I want people to stretch. It's _too easy_ to name a fantasy or SF project . . . or five.

#160 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 06:26 PM:

What should Jackson do next?

Well, he has demonstrated mastery of filming battle sequences. Here are ideas that play to this.

The Ramayana.

A biopic about Julius Caesar.

A US Civil War feature.

A remake of Gallipoli. Along the same lines, a feature about the battle of the Somme. Or, perhaps, The Guns of August.

Something about the Eastern Front of World War II; perhaps the seige of Stalingrad.

A feature about Rommel and the Afrika Corps, either from their point of view or that of the Allies fighting them.

Who knows whether Jackson's heart would be in any such project? It's my opinion, though, that at the present time he's the best-qualified director in the world to make one, and highly likely to deliver a splendid result.


#161 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 06:45 PM:

Urm...

Jackson's battle scenes are terrible, considered as depictions of battles. They may be good something-elses, but as battles they're full of people being dramatic rather than pragmatic.

#162 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 06:47 PM:

I saw this film the day after it opened, and enjoyed it very much. It
is clearly the Film of the Year. There were some annoyances in the
midst of the splendid entertainment. For example, the "Scouring of
the Shire" is completely missing, even contradicted, which violates
things Tolkien had said in his letters about that chapter being, in
some sense, the whole point of the novel.

A cheesy moment comes when Aragorn is crowned, and his elf-princess love Arwen takes his hand (and presumably becomes Queen of Gondor). Her dad Elrond smiles a goofy "look what a nice son-in-law I have" grin, even though he realizes that his daughter is comitting slow suicide. The Battle of Pelinor is one of the most amazing war scenes ever filmed -- Peter Jackson calls it "World War Zero."

Gollum is in such high resolution that a
dermatologist could probably diagnose his various skin diseases.
Shelob out-spider-monsters her cousin in Harry Potter II. There is
more humor than some critics give this credit, astonishing sets,
design, costumes, acting, and drama. After Peter Jackson does his
remake of King Kong, he will probably film "The Hobbit" as a prequel
to the Lord of the Rings series. He is unlikely to film The
Silmarillion as a prequel to the prequel...

#163 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 07:31 PM:

No one is going to film The Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien would not sell the rights. And as for the Hobbit, it's quite possible he bought them back, as I understand that there are problems trying to acquire them now, even though Rankin Bass did the animated version 26 years ago.

Ian McKellan has opined that he thinks The Hobbit would be better as a mini-series, being too episodic in his view for a theatrical feature.

#164 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 07:39 PM:

FINALLY saw it this afternoon.... finally, finally, finally. WOW!

I loved it. I wept partly because I'm so grateful Jackson was true enough for me to be carried along. At first viewing, I didn't have any WTF did they do that? moments. I will likely see it again at a matinee on the big screen before it leaves town.

I've still got to digest what I saw....

#165 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 09:51 PM:

Moments that were clearly better in the movie than in the book, first of a series:

The sallying-forth of the Witch-King and his army from Minas Morgul...

#166 ::: Mastadge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 10:07 PM:

Ugh. Mount Doom was clearly andesitic in orgin, but there was basaltic lava flowing from it. Ruined the whole movie for me.

#167 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 11:11 PM:

Okay, Stefan, I am glad you refined that as a challenge to -us,- not Jackson. It came perilously close to the "Hey, this guy is an artist! Now he can grow up and do -real- work" meme that we are All Too Familiar With.

(And who would have expected this from the director of "Meet the Feebles?")

Alan talked about battles; I'm thinking in terms of landscapes. Possibly a Kipling story. John Wesley Powell's expedition would make a tremendous film (arguably better than Lewis & Clark, though that would be swell too). Maybe there could finally be a good movie about Marco Polo (I know of three, all of which are not only bad, they have really goofy casting as Polo -- the Gary Cooper version has an edge over the Rory Calhoun [?!?] and Horst Buchholz verson for having Basil Rathbone, but that's about it). There's also loads of unfilmed Sabatini out there, or THE SEA HAWK could be done in sound (there's an excellent silent version, but the Flynn film is totally unrelated to the book).

And my unrelated namesake director was planning Doyle's THE WHITE COMPANY, with Lawrence Olivier and David Niven and . . . John Wayne. At least now we wouldn't have to worry about it starring John Wayne. It's unfortunate about Niven and Olivier.

If someone wants to make an epic about the transcontinental railroad, I'm right here to write it. Any transcontinental railroad. (I once planned a novel trilogy on the UP/CP, Canadian Pacific, and Trans-Siberian, but I have many other books not to finish first.)

And if we're going to be naughty and not exclude Our Beloved Wossname (and we are), something by Vance would be nice. BIG PLANET is too episodic, but "The Last Castle" would be nice. He -might- be able to do Discworld.

#168 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2003, 11:36 PM:

RE: things we'd like to see as films.

Raum, by Carl Sherrill. It was a very good work, very well written. The only thing is that the only person I can visualize doing Raum, the demon(narrator) is am actor who is now dead and I can't recall his name right off the tip of my tongue. The actor who was the Paladin cowyboy actor...his name has just flown away from me....

Paula

#169 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 12:18 AM:

What next would I like to see Jackson try?

It's twice as long in number of books, and each is longer. Full of battles big and small. Epic in scope. Twisted in some very interesting ways.

The Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett.

Cheers,

#170 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:01 AM:

"The only thing is that the only person I can visualize doing Raum, the demon(narrator) is an actor who is now dead . . ."

In a few years, we'll be able to ask "And this is a problem _how_?" without being flip.

John quotes someone imaginary: '"Hey, this guy is an artist! Now he can grow up and do -real- work"'

One of the best things about Jackson's LOTR: People are going to realize that fantasy film making CAN BE real work.

#171 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:33 AM:

"Paladin" was the late great Richard Boone, who was in a lot of westerns but was definitely a lot more than a cowboy actor. (Heck, Paladin was no cowboy -- he was a San Franciscan art connoisseur who spoke several languages, including Chinese. Of course, he also killed folks for money, but San Francisco is an expensive city.) He was good in crap movies ("The Kremlin Letter"), as a hero or a villain, and was a quite convincing Dark Ages feudal retainer in the interesting-but-ungreat "The War Lord," which had a lot of less than convincing performances in it.

I can think of a few actors who could fill the same sort of role; Ray Liotta comes to mind, as does Robert Davi. (The fact that I've been playing a certain wildly popular computer game probably skews my thinking. DeNiro could do it, but deNiro can do lots of things.) Davi (he was the villain in the second Timothy Dalton Bond picture) strikes me as one of those actors who, like Boone, is always good, often much better than his material, but for some reason never gets to be a "star."

Inevitable geeky aside: Boone had worked for producer Sam Rolfe in "Medic," the series Rolfe did before "Have Gun." Rolfe went on to create "Man from UNCLE," which I am given to understand has vague fannish associations, but if I said more I'd have to send April Dancer to embarrass you to death.

#172 ::: Iliya Zilberter ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:42 AM:

Brad DeLong is right on. It is evident that many of you are missing the forest for the trees. Hearing people say that a certain omission ruined the whole film, or that the film is not worth watching because of relatively small inconsistencies is a bit disheartening. Considering that there was no way for jackson to follow the book exactly, I think he did a fabulous job with his adaptation. If you want to experience tolkien's account of Middle-Earth word for word, then read the book and stop griping about the movie.

#173 ::: Iliya Zilberter ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:43 AM:

Opps, I meant to say mastadge. Or, in any case, the guy who wrote: "Ugh. Mount Doom was clearly andesitic in orgin, but there was basaltic lava flowing from it. Ruined the whole movie for me."

#174 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 02:23 AM:

Word, Iilya.

Successfully adapting a novel to film is *tough work*. If you end up with watchable movie and still retain a *fraction* of original story, it's an accomplishment.

Why is it important to fans that a favorite book be adapted to film?

I suspect the answer is validation. A movie is a sign that a story or character is a success. If done well, a large share of the public will share the fan's delight and emotional investment in the sub-creation.

Most fannish talk of adaption devolves to speculation about who will do the special effects (did fans in the 50s - 60s hope George Pal would notice their favorites?), or wish lists of actors.

_Forget_ the actors and special effects work for a moment. Without a decent _adaption_ they'd just be a pretty scrim on a lurching, incoherent mess of a movie.

Step back and consider the job Jackson took on.

Coming up with a script that could *convey even the broad outlines* of this staggering work, and be *entertaining*, and actually be *moving* at times was a monumental effort.

If you want the subtleties . . . "...read the book and stop griping about the movie." . . . because that's not what film is for.

#175 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 05:01 AM:

My first reactions to the film, plus links to some more reviews, here.

no one but Bilbo ever managed that --

Giving up the Ring without a struggle? Sam did it. It's one of the moments in the film when I was holding my breath, because I love it so: Samwise Gamgee, the hero who doesn't know he's a hero, the only Ringbearer who ever gave up the One Ring only for the asking of it.

What do I want Peter Jackson to do next? Easy: I want him to do the Mary Renault Alexander trilogy, Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games. Jackson's proved he can do epic films of magnificent quality: and I've always wanted to see the life of Alexander, based on Renault's epic trilogy (and Renault left her own copious notes in The Making of Alexander). Hell, if Jackson can get the funding, I'd love to see him do the whole Renault history of classical Greece, The Praise Singer, Last of the Wine, The Mask of Apollo, and then the three Alexander books.

#176 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 05:32 AM:

What next? Send Jackson and Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyer copies of Red, Green and Blue Mars. The story of a fellowship (actually a set of overlapping fellowships), amazing landscapes, extraordinary buildings (labs in the wall of Echus Chasma, the space elevator), war, murder, scheming, romance. Mythic scale. Set pieces -- the fall of the elevator, the burning of Carr, the escape down Valles Marineris, the flooding of Burroughs. And a constitutional convention that constitutes as remarkable an intrusion of committee as the Council of Elrond.

Unmodified Martian landcapes probably hard to come by in New Zealand, but there are doubtless nice alpine landscapes for early stages of terraforming. Besides, Wellington is more conveniently situated for filming in Antarctica than any other film making centre on the planet.

Cameron had the three books optioned at one point but I think they've reverted; and better Jackson than Cameron anyway (though I'm a bigger defender of Cameron than many).

#177 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 09:07 AM:

Hmm. No one has mentioned Book of the New Sun.

Or Ringworld.

Hmm.

I hope my gripes haven't been seen as quibbles about translating the book per se. What really bothered me about this film—as an editor—was the inconsistent pacing: rushing sequences where he shouldn't have, and dragging out sequences where he shouldn't have.

#178 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 09:07 AM:

Stefan,

projects for Jackson? I agree about The White Company. Umberto Eco's book, Foucault's Pendulum. Kathryn Neville's The Eight. Any part of Peter Whimsey. (And, yes, I know it goes into F&SF, but he might be able to do some terrific things for Lord Darcy, The Movie.)

Or, as an original project, the story of Douglas Bader, a pilot who lost both legs in an air crash in the early thirties, and went on to become one of Britain's top aces in WW II. He was shot down over Germany late in the war, and after his third escape attempt wound up being sent to Colditz. That could make a pretty cool movie.

Utterly unrelated, but Nancy just pointed out a site to me for a movie due out next summer. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow looks like a classic thirties or forties movie serial done up for lots of fun with a really neat cast. Check out www.skycaptain.com for the trailer.

#179 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 09:38 AM:

What would I like Jackson to work on next? I'd like him to do an original work, not based on a book, something spectacular and beautiful, or small and complex -- or both. He might be able to manage that.

Failing that, I've always thought that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress had potential. Getting 1/6th gee right, though, makes it almost impossible.

#180 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 10:14 AM:

Stefan, Iliya --

My take on the movie is not that there are little bits missing, or things not quite the same; that's fine, that's a necessary part of the process of adaptation. My take on the second two movies is that they have huge swathes which run counter to the intent of the text.

Not 'in some other direction', or 'in comment or ammendation', but against.

(Oh, and Sam does have trouble giving the Ring back when he's asked for it. Very clearly, and he doesn't actually let go; he just doesn't fight when Frodo grabs it.)

#181 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:29 AM:

(Oh, and Sam does have trouble giving the Ring back when he's asked for it. Very clearly, and he doesn't actually let go; he just doesn't fight when Frodo grabs it.)

Sure. He's reluctant. But he still takes it out of his pouch and holds it out to Frodo to let Frodo take it - which is way better than Bilbo managed. (I didn't say Sam did it effortlessly - which wouldn't have been very heroic, anyway - I said he did it without a struggle.)

#182 ::: Janice Dawley ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:40 AM:

Stefan Jones wrote: If you want the subtleties . . . "...read the book and stop griping about the movie." . . . because that's not what film is for.

Subtlety may not be Jackson's forte, but quite a number of films by other directors have been noted for this quality. I think it's a perfectly valid criticism of the LotR films =as films= that they are at times heavy-handed and coarse. We who have read the books know that they can't be blamed for this (at least most of the time), and occasionally feel compelled to cite examples. By this it shouldn't be assumed that people with complaints are ignorant of What Makes a Good Movie. We might just disagree with you.

#183 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 12:00 PM:

Lydia Nickerson: Failing that, I've always thought that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress had potential. Getting 1/6th gee right, though, makes it almost impossible.

Another of Jackson's proven talents is the creation of New Zealand infrastructure for his projects. (Weta Workshops, for example, seems to have sprung full-grown from his brow.) Is a New Zealand space program, developed in support of filming on location on the Moon, so far-fetched?

#184 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 12:20 PM:

Don't know if any of you have heard, but there are plans underway to film THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (I think it is) in New Zealand, using Jackson's production company but he won't be directing it. Then possibly more movies from the Lewis series. I'm sure you can Google it and get the full story. Any comments on that?

(P.S. Someone may have already posted the link, but there's a very silly mock Redneck/ Fundamentalist review of LOTR over at www.landoverbaptist.org/beliefs.html)

#185 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:04 PM:

If anything, The Book of the New Sun is more unfilmable than The Lord of the Rings--there's more event, more density of language, more weird digression which still has to be kept to maintain the tone of the story, more things which depend on the written word remaining written than filmic.

(Wolfe might deny that his work is denser than Tolkien. Wolfe would be wrong.)

However, that doesn't mean that there couldn't be a superb film of it. Lots of it is very visual, and I was struck on my last re-read how cinematic is the last scene, with Severian standing in the Atrium of Time hearing mechanical heralds call his name.

But what I'd really like to see Jackson tackle is Absalom, Absalom. I have a gut feeling he could do a version that isn't a travesty (unlike the screenplay that Faulkner wrote).

I don't think we need another Stalingrad film; the 1995 film Stalingrad is close to perfect. But if he wants to do one, I want to write it. And I'd pay money to produce Mike Ford's transcontinental railroad film.

#186 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:09 PM:

Yonmei --

A couple hours versus sixty years does seem to allow for a certain difference in difficulty, and I do wonder how you define "struggle" in this context.

Also, there is a real difference between Bilbo letting go of the Ring, letting it fall, and Sam's acceptance of Frodo's reclaiming of it. Active moral acts are different from passive ones, at least in Middle Earth.

#187 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:42 PM:

CAP ALERT!

The "Christian Analysis of American Culture Ministry" dissects the Return of The King:

http://www.capalert.com/capreports/lotr-returnoftheking.htm

ROTK rates a Zero in the Wanton Crime / Violence and Offense to God categories.

I'd explore this site to see if any movie ever made rated a perfect score (100 in each category), but it's too early on a Monday.

#188 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 01:48 PM:

Alan asked, "Is a New Zealand space program, developed in support of filming on location on the Moon, so far-fetched?"

Well, actually, yes. Alas.

#189 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 02:07 PM:

Well, I'm sure everyone here has seen comparisons between the budgets of various big epic movies and various small space projects, right? The two budgetary regions definitely overlap more than they used to.

#190 ::: wombat ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 03:02 PM:

CapAlerts has, in fact, given two movies the "perfectly acceptable" rating of 100: "Mary Poppins" and something called "Who Gets the House". Evidently the former escapes the calumny of witchcraft by handwaving the eponynous nanny as (wait for it...) an angel.

#191 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 03:04 PM:

NEW ZEALAND COLONIZES MOON

"[bleep,] Says NASA Director; "Cool Beans," Say Unnamed NASA Engineers

Filming Begins on Peter Jackson's "Major Tom" Project; Sergio Leone scheduled to shoot "Once Upon a Time on the Moon"

"[bleep,] it's all [bleep]ing bullet time up here," says Actor

Maori Casinos PLC to Open Megaresort Within Four Months

#192 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 03:09 PM:

Being an angel might let Mary off the hook . . . but if flying around weightless via the power of laughter isn't rank sorcery, I don't know what is. (HAH-Hah-hah-hah!)

#193 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 03:18 PM:

Possible next film projects for PJ:

Add my vote for Red/Green/Blue Mars, or perhaps Antarctica (which would make a great miniseries).

Of course, one could actually make a good movie from a Robert Heinlein novel -- so far the best effort is Destination Moon, with Puppet Masters and some unintentional plagiarism in the original Star Trek as distant also rans. I am still bummed how Verhoeven/Neimeier Robocoped Starship Troopers (and there is even a sequel in production with the same screenwriter -- oh dear). How about Glory Road, or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?

And Earthsea, perhaps? I am sure that I has been posted around here but there is a site for the new Narnia project, which has Douglas Gresham as a producer.

#194 ::: wombat ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 04:19 PM:

Meanwhile, I feel contractually bound (in a state of insufficient light) to link this, which would be presumably even funnier if I understood more of the legalese. Don't miss the comments.

#195 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 04:21 PM:

Just for the record, I'm pretty sure that whoever "mastadge" is, his or her comment that

Mount Doom was clearly andesitic in orgin, but there was basaltic lava flowing from it. Ruined the whole movie for me.
--was intended as a sly joke about some of the sillier nitpicks to be found in discussions like this. Complete with the obligatory note of self-dramatization: look at me, my sensibilities are so refined that the Whole Movie Was Spoiled For Me.

We've all done this. I've done it. Mastadge parodies it so elegantly that no one is to be blamed for taking the jape literally.

#196 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 05:01 PM:

re Jackson's next adaptation.

How about some Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon?

Ooh. Or Consider Phlebas, Use Of Weapons, or any of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.

#197 ::: Oliver Morton ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 06:04 PM:

Jeremy Leader wrote
Well, I'm sure everyone here has seen comparisons between the budgets of various big epic movies and various small space projects, right? The two budgetary regions definitely overlap more than they used to.

The entire ToTR trilogy apparently weighs in at $350m, approx; that's a touch less than one of the two Mars rovers due to land in January

Teresa, a thousand apologies for misspelling your name.

#198 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 06:35 PM:

A couple hours versus sixty years does seem to allow for a certain difference in difficulty and I do wonder how you define "struggle" in this context.

Well, um, physically, I guess. How do you define "struggle"? To me it has strong overtones of a clear physical resistance which I definitely saw in Bilbo - a struggle far more intense* than the simple reluctance with which Sam holds out the Ring for Frodo to take it. But he does take it from his pouch and hold it out to Frodo. True, he doesn't physically let go of it as Bilbo does: but he does hand it over. (Which is, now I think of it, a neat and unobvious parallel between Sam and Smeagol: Smeagol driven to murder by just a glimpse, Sam having had it in his hand and in his possession being driven to a fighting madness - but for others: "For Frodo! For the Shire! For my old Gaffer!"** but then he hands the Ring over, to Frodo, which is something no other Ringbearer ever did. It makes me wonder if Sam could have dropped it in - maybe he could: he hated it so much for what it had done to Frodo that maybe he could have brought himself to destroy it. But before you jump on me, no, I wouldn't have wanted it to happen any way other than it did. (Except for making the invisibleFrodo/Gollum fight scene at the end look more like a proper fight than it did. And except for the bit where Gollum sinks slowly into molten rock, which reminded me of the end of Aliens 3, which was Not A Good Thing.)

*and sure, sixty years versus two hours explains something of that - though from The Hobbit we know that Bilbo wasn't able to hand it over or talk about it after not much longer than Sam...

**which gives me to wonder if PJ was still planning the Scouring of the Shire when he filmed that scene.

#199 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 07:02 PM:

Yonmei --

As I saw that scene, Sam had to actively struggle to keep his hand out, and drew it back several times before Frodo managed to grab the Ring.

#200 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 09:01 PM:

Jackson and company claim that after they do King Kong, they want to go back to making smaller movies again. Like Heavenly Creatures.

It seems very important that Jackson really have an interest in the concept before he goes off and makes a movie about it. I wonder if he has any interest in The Left Hand of Darkness....It's relatively little, and I know Ms. Le Guin was working on a screenplay herself about 10 years ago.

Or I wonder if they'd read The Sparrow...

#201 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 09:22 PM:

I agree with Chad Orzel
(Sunday 4:46 p.m.)

The movies depict the events as they actually happened, and the books are what you get after a century or two of myth accreting around the story.

The "Steward's family" plotline -- Boromir in FOTR, Faramir in TTT, the new "Sons of the Steward" scene in the extended TTT, and Denethor and Faramir in ROTK -- was the saddest part of the films. I ask myself why I'm crying over relatively unsympathetic characters, especially in the Jackson version, but I always identified with Gondor, and the Steward and his family are Gondor, in its decadence. I had trouble believing in Aragorn, both in the books and as played by Mortensen.

I came upon Gondor and Minas Tirith when I read the trilogy at 12 and was imprinted; it drew me to write some rather derivative fantasy in my teens, and then to study the Roman Empire and Byzantium. In the Jackson film Minas Tirith and the palace look extremely Byzantine (if we can imagine a Byzantium without Christianity -- I don't want to discuss the crypto-Christian subtext of Tolkien and / or the films)

I also come from a neurotic upper-middle-class family, the sort that pressures its children academically and in other ways; who in that situation wouldn't feel like Faramir? And Jackson's is more real. And you have the suspicion that -- despite Tolkien's idealization of Denethor's youth in the appendices -- the young Denethor might have been like Faramir; T. says that he loved Boromir more, "perhaps because they were unlike."

The old Denethor is largely ruined by his power and privileges, like many other "decadent patricians" in the Roman Empire -- when one strips away the sensational exaggeration in Roman sources, that's what you have. I'm not trying to make excuses for his arrogance and mistreatment of Faramir, but Jackson's version of Denethor in ROTK is so pathetic. He's meant to be repulsive as well -- the dining scene -- but I think I can offer a reason why it's there. I don't know if it's Jackson's, of course.

In Tacitus' Histories, an account of the civil war in 69 C.E., four emperors claimed the throne in that year; Tacitus flatters the one who lasted, Vespasian. The other three, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, were pathetic: Galba was old and could not command his army's loyalty; Otho lost a major battle and committed suicide; Vitellius was allegedly a glutton, who, when he was losing his war, spent his time dining in a garden, ignoring the war that he was losing ( Hist. 3.36). A sensational tradition accumulated, exaggerating the size of Vitellius' banquets and their cost to the empire (and his own consequent size). (There is also an anecdote in Ammianus Marcellinus' history of the Later Roman Empire about Lupicinus, a Roman general who had to be roused from a banquet to receive news that the Goths had crossed the Danube.)

Scarcely anybody eats anything in the Steward's palace in Tolkien's ROTK, and Denethor remains in possession of his faculties to an intimidating degree, which makes his inaction seem less well explained.


#202 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 09:26 PM:

Mastadge meant that as a joke?

Er ...

I knew that! I knew that all along. Joke. Right. Laughing on the inside the whole time. I mean, everybody knows all lava flows in movies are basaltic, right? Moves faster, looks more dramatic. Wasn't going to say a word about Rivendell sitting for four thousand years on what looks very much like a limestone formation, next to a watercourse, with more water running straight through the buildings. No wonder they've got on-site ruins. Also wasn't going to say that the real scouring in the movie takes place at the foot of Helm's Deep's outer walls when the spring runoff hits.

Besides, Mount Doom looks awfully dark-colored for an andesitic formation. Must have been a joke.

#203 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 10:10 PM:

Sara -

I'd say, if you're trying to figure out why something has gone wrong in The Lord of the Rings, look for the excess of pride.

That scene in the movie works very well, I think, as Denethor's pride; he is angry with a world that is so ill-ordered as to take from him the son he loves best, or thinks he needs more, and he is making a very complex point about his self rule and lack of concern with that meal.

I would myself have prefered the Faramir of the text, more gracious, and more gentle, very much.

Teresa -

The Rivendell we see is obviously the summer houses, built only three hundred years ago; the serious fortress is still around somewhere, but it's so gloomy...

#204 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:15 PM:

Is "pride" simple?

Tolkien writes a drama by Aeschylus; Jackson chooses to film a drama by Euripides. This also goes for the characterization of Theoden.

Many nineteenth-century classicists couldn't stand Euripides, as he disrupted their conceptions of heroic myths and legends.

Of course, as a classicist I probably shouldn't be holding forth on an epic inspired by medieval literature, and apparently most appreciated by those who like medieval literature and legends. OTOH, as a historian I'm usually regarded by literary classicists as a simplistic reader.

#205 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:33 PM:

Sara -

All virtues and vices are simple.

That doesn't mean they don't have complex results, but pride is, very simply, setting your own worth or desire as inherently greater than that of others.

And, well, Tolkien's Middle Earth isn't really Medieval; it's got some bits of that in it, but the strongest historical elements are Germanic heroic -- Beowulf and Volsungasaga. You can't do Medieval without the Christian cosmology, and there is not really very much of that in Middle Earth, it's intended to not contradict a later revalation, but not more than that.

(Not a classicist. Not a historian. Views about literature possibly odd.)

#206 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:40 PM:

Things that were better in the movie than in the book...

The beacon fires. Definitely the beacon fires.

And--to disagree with our esteemed and learned hostess--the Witch-King of Angmar in the movie looks much more like the Witch-King of Angmar than does his counterpart in the book...

#207 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2003, 11:57 PM:

Scarcely anybody eats anything in the Steward's palace in Tolkien's ROTK...

Oh, now that is interesting, considering how deeply the food=comfort and stability theme runs through Tolkien. (It's more blatant in The Hobbit, but LotR has it too.)

#208 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 12:38 AM:

I92d like to see China Mie9ville92s The Scar made into a movie; it92s full to bursting with powerful visuals. Perdidio Street Station too, but The Scar even moreso.

Teresa 97 That92s elven limestone. The coral it92s made of was left behind by immortal polyps that had gone to the west. It can withstand millennia of water erosion, and it glows to warn you when orcs are about.

#209 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 01:00 AM:

As I saw that scene, Sam had to actively struggle to keep his hand out, and drew it back several times before Frodo managed to grab the Ring.

Really? Well, I've only seen it once: will look out for that when I see it again (sometime in the New Year), likely. I don't recall that, though - my recollection is of Sam reluctantly holding out the ring, but not of several grabs-and-misses.

#210 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 03:26 AM:

Graydon is right that there's a hesitation in Sam/Sean Astin's presentation of the Ring to Frodo/Elija Wood. However, the impression I came away with was that Sam was very afraid of what giving the Ring back to Frodo would do to Frodo.

Given Jackson et al.'s other changes to the reactions of people around the Ring, I don't doubt that the filmmakers wanted us to see Sam wanting to keep the Ring. And that was certainly there. But the strongest emotion I saw conveyed was Sam's completely justified fear for Frodo.

#211 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 03:53 AM:

I've always balked a bit at posting here, being a babe in the woods, but I might have a different perspective.

I'm someone who came at fantasy from improbable angles and actually put off ever reading any of the LotR until the movie was announced. At that point I had to hurry through them or risk the constant ridicule of my peers for all eternity.

Now, I am not a slow reader. It rarely takes me more than a day to finish a Pratchett, unless I'm specifically savoring it. I can also breeze through a Kim Stanley Robinson in less than a week. Even something more classic like Henry James doesn't take all that long, but it was everything I could do to slowly finish the trilogy over months. Sure there were some sections where I'd be turning pages under the covers, reading by streetlights, avoiding my family to go read, but there were other sections I could only get through five pages at a time.

What I noticed most about the first movie was that they had left all those bits out. All the parts about traveling and worrying, and talking about worrying, and packing. I also noticed that instead of over a month to read it took me a mere three hours and change to watch.

The third movie had a different feel for me, but I think it was that RotK the book had fewer scenes I had to wade through. I was very pleased during my reading to stumble upon Faramir (the unexpected sympathetic heartthrob), and Eowyn (the girl who saves the day). I had been waiting all series for people like these. I have to say that in the movie Eowyn got her justice even if Faramir didn't seem to quite manage.

But that's not the point. Getting exactly what you get out of the books isn't the point.

I went to see it at midnight, in a rather junky theater populated largely by teenagers with nothing better to do. (It is such a junky theater that it was not even a third full for the midnight showing.) These kids are even younger than I, and so they probably didn't grow up on this as their bread and butter. Heck, it's probable that the whole story didn't mean much to some of them before the movies came out. Some of them likely didn't know how the movie ends. And yet they sat through three hours without wisecrack, without any snide remarks or hooting--and I have to say that's a first for this theater. It was the polar opposite of the midnight premieres for that other franchise.

The point is that now it can be understood, (if not as gracefully) by people who don't have the time or patience to devote a chunk of their mental lives to a great, if flawed, book.

And after the movie we stayed for the credits and watched the kids file out. I could sort of tell that they get it now... even if they didn't get the old school, classic experience. They get "it," the awe surrounding the entity "The Lord of the Rings."

Or something.

And after all this heavy crud, I will end with an only slightly exaggerated account of my first literary discussion of the book series.

"So I read Lord of the Rings."
"What did you think of it?"
"Well, there weren't enough girls in it... but there were elves, which is close enough."

#212 ::: Jean Lansford ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 05:50 AM:

Yonmei, Graydon:

As I saw that scene, we were viewing Sam through Frodo's paranoia. Sam's reluctance seemed to me more a reaction to Frodo's hunger for the Ring, a moment of asking himself, "Should I really let this thing destroy him further?"

#213 ::: Jean Lansford ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 06:08 AM:

Oh, almost forgot. I was quite pleased that Sam never put on the Ring. That had always bugged me: Frodo is warned never to use the Ring because putting it on will attract the attention of both Sauron and the Nazgul. But Sam wears it right under Sauron's nose without incident?

#214 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 09:06 AM:

I'm somewhat mollified by this:

Lewis failed to mention the equally surprising pertinence of superficially unrealistic elements in the Lord of the Rings. Here are a few that suggest the influence of 1914971918: the sweeping surveillance of the Eye of Sauron, the moments when reality shifts into dream during those long marches, or into nightmare in the midst of battle, the battlefield dominated by lumbering elephantine behemoths and previously unseen airborne killers, the Black Breath of despair that brings down even the bravest; the revenge of the trees for their wanton destruction.

The last word may go to Siegfried Sassoon, a quintessential Great War writer:

"I had seen something that night which overawed me. It was all in the day's work97an exhausted Division returning from the Somme offensive97but for me it was as though I had watched an army of ghosts. It was as though I had seen the War as it might be envisioned by the mind of some epic poet a hundred years hence."

The irony is that the man who did envision it this way was fighting in the trenches at the same battle.

From Tolkien and the Great War. Makes me think better of the movie.

#215 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 09:57 AM:

Jean, Kevin --

I think that's what Sam is thinking, all right, "it's going to hurt him worse", and I don't see any reason to believe that this isn't the way the Ring would go for Sam, to try to get him to decide that he, Sam, can decide that Frodo is more important than Frodo's understanding of Frodo's duty.

Jean -

In the book, Sam's putting on the Ring gets a Nazgul dispatched, and it very nearly catches them. Sauron has to assume that they've retreated out of Mordor, afterwards, for the rest of the plot to work, but I didn't find that too much of a stretch. (Alternatively, Sauron assumes that it was some sort of trick, and that the real Ring is with this Aragorn person who is so obviously and traditionally challenging him.)

#216 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 11:56 AM:

Wasn't going to say a word about Rivendell sitting for four thousand years on what looks very much like a limestone formation, next to a watercourse, with more water running straight through the buildings. No wonder they've got on-site ruins. Also wasn't going to say that the real scouring in the movie takes place at the foot of Helm's Deep's outer walls when the spring runoff hits.

Elrond had one of the Three, so Rivendell was sustained by that power. Kept the limestone in place. And of course it began to crumble as soon as that power was diminished by the passing of the One. Likewise Lothlorien's flets.

I can't explain Helm's Deep. Except that in Jackson's version there were elveses there, too.

#217 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 12:12 PM:

I was disappointed that Sam never wore the ring in the movie. In the books, he92s the only person in all of Middle Earth92s history to feel the ring92s power yet give it up willingly. (Bilbo has to be badgered into it by Gandalf.)

#218 ::: Jean Lansford ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 12:38 PM:

Graydon:

You've unmasked me. *g* I'm one of those people who just can't get into the books enough to retain more than the general outline, even shortly after rereading them. It's interesting, though, that none of the people I've talked to since seeing the movie last week recalled the Nazgul being dispatched, either.

#219 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 12:55 PM:

Kellie: "If a fantasy novel/movie breaks its own physical laws, I will have a problem. If a fantasy novel/movie breaks the laws of physics as I know them but explains why (thus providing a new logic to use, ie "The Vallar decreed it to be so" or "Elves died in Mt Doom, their magical properties effecting the lava for all time" or whatever), then I'm fine."

Unless... (pet peeve time here) ...unless they only reveal the new logic after we see it in action. "Yes, Timmy, as we all know, a werewolf can't climb a tree. Let's go home and eat cake." And of course, up to that point, they were all acting like the werewolf could climb the bloody tree, and they were all sweating silver bullets right up to the anticlimax.

Okay, nothing to do with the movie. Just had to say.

Here's a swell thing for Jackson to film next: I, Claudius. Huh? Huh? Huh?

#220 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 01:58 PM:

Kip, I believe that falls into the "Ex Deus Machina" category of providing logic necessary to understand why Things Are Different In Fantasyland. A very good pet peeve to have. I would classify it as not in keeping with the logic already set up in the world also, something sure to piss me off. Bend the rules of physics plenty, but tell me why I should believe it and keep it bloody consistent.

Regarding Sam's ring troubles. I was under the impression that Sam for just a few moments wanted to keep the ring. Afterall, during that scene, the focus is on Sam, obviously befuddled - I felt in a "I can't understand why I want to keep this" sense. And Frodo's voice changes to that distant, distorted quality that Sam's voice had during a few bits of TTT when the ring was having a strong influence on Frodo's actions. I took that to mean that the ring had worked its magic. I think it also possible that he didn't want Frodo to have to bear the burden either. But if that were the only case, then I would've expected more focus on Frodo's haggard appearance and feverish desire to repossess the ring.

Here's another reason why: Faramir. Look at what they did to his character. The original reason for all that was because PJ & Co realized Shelob couldn't go in TTT, and that left Frodo and Sam wandering around without a whole lot to do. They needed an obstacle. Enter Evil Faramir. Plus, they also reasoned that it would be murder to the films to have built up this all-consuming, horrible, malicious scrap of metal that even Gandalf and Galadriel had Issues denying, be suddenly dismissed with "I would not want it if it lay by the road side"? The only person who even remotely came close to this sort of refusal in the movies was Aragorn, and he seemed to have a Gandalf-ish "don't tempt me" reaction - not in words but in facial expressions and closing Frodo's hand around the ring. If they went and did all that to Faramir, why is it impossible to think they wouldn't have done it to Sam for the briefest of scenes? In fact, it seems contrary to the rest of the films to think that Sam wasn't tempted by the ring and didn't want to keep if for himself.

Actually, if it turns out they didn't intend for Sam to be tempted by the ring, then I'm going to get pissed about Faramir all over again. I still sigh whenever I hear his scenes on the BBC's radio version of LotR.

#221 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 02:19 PM:

Avram, I'd still give it to Bilbo. Gandalf's pressure on him wasn't really that extreme. Bilbo and Sam are the only people ever to give it up voluntarily, however reluctantly.

But they should have had him wear it. It's important.

But then, we're talking about folks who Missed The Point to the extent of leaving out the Scouring. So whaddaya want. (Maybe Sam with the ring will be in the extended version.)

#222 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 02:35 PM:

Xopher, Frodo quite voluntarily offered to give it up twice (Gandalf, Galadriel) and did hand it over to the Council of Elrond, with the understanding he would've walked away if the Council had decided someone else should take it to Mt Doom.

#223 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 03:01 PM:

Offering doesn't count. Otherwise you have to count all the times Bilbo said "Well, all right," and then put it in his pocket.

And if the council had said no, we're going to give it to someone else, would he have walked away? Never tested. Maybe he would have pounced on it, screaming "Noooooo!" And had to have it wrested from him (but probably not at the cost of a finger, not at that point).

Besides, we're not talking about setting it on a table here. We're talking about surrendering the Ring. I stand by Bilbo and Sam as the only people ever to do so. Fond as I am of Frodo.

#224 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 03:25 PM:

On geology: We all have different bits of physical reality that read for us in greater and lesser detail. One person's (blobs of color in a jug) is another person's (somekinda cut flowers in a raku-fired thrown and paddled cylindrical form), is another person's (vase of "Alchymist" roses, introduced 1956, blooms once a year in early June), is another person's (freshly-cut flowers on the table, how nice).

The geology of Peter Jackson's Middle Earth doesn't bother me, not the way the botany does. That, I have to actively ignore.

I expect there are people watching RotK who are bothered by obscure details involving the horse-herds of Rohan. There may be some who have the kind of mutant ear for accents that can geographically place all the actors in the film the minute they open their mouths and start talking, and who consequently know those people aren't from Gondor or Edoras or Alqualondeb or Bree. Who knows what else I'm missing?

It's like reading newspapers. When the story's about a subject you know, you're startled at the errors. The rest of the time, you read it in the faith that it's better to know something slightly inaccurate than to know nothing at all.

#225 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 03:51 PM:

Xopher, true, but I do wonder if either Sam or Bilbo would've acted differently had they been in the Crack of Doom. Every time I see FotR, I want to shout at Elrond for not shoving Isildor into the lava or something. But no, telling Isildor to throw it in gives Elrond a guiltfree excuse for the next two thousand years. "I told the man to destroy it. But did he? Nooooooo. Nobody listens to Elrond Halfelven." And then whenever someone has the gall to ask, "Well, why didn't you wrestle the ring from him and destroy it?", Elrond gets all miffed and mutters, "It was his job. Does Elrond Halfelven have to do everything?"

My point: the ring knows it's near destruction and will kick its powers into high gear, and that's the only chance Frodo had to show whether or not he could actually surrender it. It prevented Isilidor from destroying it, and it may even have worked a little magic on Elrond to prevent him from doing more to force its destruction then as well. It doesn't make Frodo blameless, but I also don't think it makes Frodo less of a hobbit than Bilbo or Sam.

#226 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 04:11 PM:

Brad de Long: Of course, Tom Bombadil is secretly the Witch-king of Angmar, as I'm sure you're already aware.

#227 ::: Paula Kate Marmor ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 04:39 PM:

I expect there are people watching RotK who are bothered by obscure details involving the horse-herds of Rohan.

Am I the only one who thinks the wonderful astonishing magical beacon-lighting sequence has the higher peaks on the wrong side of the beacon-hills? (We're flying west on the northern fringe of the mountains - peaks should be on the left side, valleys on the right...) My sense of geography keeps wishing PJ had flipped those sequences (he isn't averse to flipping scenes left-for-right when it suits his sense of composition).

But I loved that flying west and outstripping the dawn...

#228 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 04:50 PM:

Many of those beacon fires were in places one could neither lug the logs nor keep the snow off them nor survive the climb to light them, come to that, cool though the sequence was.

The horse-herds are actually pretty good; I'm assuming they came mostly from New Zealand and Australia, which would give them the right mix of working breeds to provide medium cavalry mounts. Some of the horses are clearly having fun when the Rohirrim charge at the Pelannor, which is in keeping with the craziness encouraged in cavalry mounts.

#229 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 05:02 PM:

Kellie, I certainly wouldn't call Frodo "less of a hobbit"! Bilbo and Sam weren't tested with carrying it for weeks through deadly terrain, in constant fear of capture, after taking a Morgul-blade wound, and (in the book) after keeping it for many years. Sam had a few hours of deadly terrain in fear; Bilbo had the keeping for many years. Only Frodo had both of those and the other factors.

Only at the end did he fail. Under like circumstances, it seems plausible that Sam would have failed much sooner (no way to be sure). Not for nothing is Frodo lauded as THE Ring-Bearer (though others are called ring-bearers).

Graydon, A friend of mine, watching the movie Hair, said "those aren't police horses" when the police appear on horses in the be-in scene. She had the pleasure of anticipation for a couple of minutes, knowing that these Lippizaners (sp?) were going to do dressage any moment. Which of course they did.

#230 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 05:41 PM:

I still think that Jackson made a mistake with Faramir, and that it was not necessary. The interactions with Faramir are tense, with Frodo trying to act innocent while having absolutely no good reason to be where he is, trying to convince Faramir to let him go without telling Faramir the things he needs to know to let Frodo go. I think that Jackson could have gotten significant comic mileage out of Sam's slip of the tongue, and his subsequent scolding of Faramir. Add to this the interactions with Gollum (and, do leave in that scene with the terrible beating the men at arms give Gollum)and you've got a nice lot of footage. As I recall, the Ring is never even shown, and that can be used as part of the visual reasoning for why Faramir isn't tempted. Properly put together, I think this gives you a solid ending, puts Frodo, Sam, and Gollum on their way to Cirith Ungol with proper dread, and leaves Faramir who he should be. I continue to think that the film would have been stronger if there had been one person had an opportunity, but did not seek the ring, or at least temptation by the ring.

On the other hand, I have a lot of sympathy with Jackson about the Scouring of the Shire. Structurally, it's a damn mess for a movie. The Scouring is a completely whole story in itself. It's got enough detail that you could build a quite credible little film out of just it, using a couple of flashbacks to explain who Saruman and Wormtongue are. Heck, if one were so inclined, one could leave them as unidentified boogie men, and the story would still hang together structurally. That's a nasty lump to try to append to a three and a half hour movie, onte that's actually the climax of a ten hour movie, when you're busy weaving in endings for almost a dozen important characters, whose endings are of different kinds, and in different places. If you add the Scouring of the Shire, you tip the balance of the piece, and it becomes more hobbit-centered and the larger epic is actually thrown into shadow, which in turn makes Frodo and Bilbo's departure for the Grey Havens an anti-climax. I was surprised at how well RotK, without the Scouring. The book needs it -- Tolkien is pursuing different philosophical points than Jackson. As above, so below is something vital to the Tolkien universe. Jackson is trying to get through the telling of this one, great story, just once.

#231 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 05:57 PM:

While I mostly agree with you, I think he could have left in some good bits (maybe not a chunk as huge as the Scouring) by leaving out some pointless or even stupid bits. Like Theoden clanging every man's sword. They should have arrived and instantly fallen on the Mordor army, with no stupid ceremonial bits. Hello, there's a war on! And they were LATE.

That's the sort of thing we got in exchange for, say, the Saruman wrapup at Isengard (which would have had to be shortened, even so).

#232 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 06:02 PM:

Tom Bombadil would definitely be the Witch-King of Angmar in the Joss Whedon version of LOTR. In the Steve Brust version, he might secretly be masquerading as Merry Brandybuck, or the same person as Goldberry in the Ursula Le Guin version, or ....

#233 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 08:33 PM:

Sam: Mount Doom at last... Look out, it's Gollum!
Gollum: My Precioussss! Where is my preciousss?
Sam: You can't have it! It's evil.
Gollum: Nassty tricksy hobbit hides preciousss! Where is preciouss? Where?
Frodo: I... I got rid of it.
Sam and Gollum: You what?

[title card: "a nice house in the suburbs of London"]

Paul: What's that, son? Looks expensive.
Ringo: It's just a ring. Some fan mailed it to me.
Paul: Looks like gold. Somebody likes you!
John: It's too small, you know. It won't fit on those banana fingers of yours.
Ringo: Yes it will. Here, look...
George: Hey, where's Ringo?
Paul: Where's Ringo?
John: Where's Ringo?
Ringo's voice: Help!

#234 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 09:12 PM:

Ok Kip, does that mean that Victor Spinetti is now playing Saruman and Roy Kinnear is Grima? And is Leo McKern playing Sauron, the Witch King or Denethor?

#235 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2003, 10:30 PM:

I think Spinetti would still have to be the same guy as he was before. Why, with a ring like that, he could -- dare I say it? -- Rule the World! After all, the whole LoTR cycle has just taken place, with the Jackson cast. This pretty much takes us into a fourth movie, which is already cast (otherwise I'd be looking for ways to drag in Rowan Atkinson and Robbie Coltrane and and and). Only, of course Mother Kaili is going to turn out to be another incarnation of You-Know-Who (not to be confused with He Who Must Not Be Named More Than Twenty Or Thirty Times Per Story), which will give Scotland Yard no end of difficulty.

Anyway, it's time for me to go check the TV guide and see if it's time yet for the 24-hour marathon of A Doomsday Story, my holiday favorite about this little guy who wants nothing but "An Eye of Sauron Supreme Evil 5000-year Invisible Power Ring with a Malevolent Consciousness inside and this thing which Tells Time," and everybody tells him, "You'll rot your soul out!"

#236 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 01:36 AM:

In terms of Jackson missing Tolkien's themes, here's the one that I was hoping to see and was disappointed at not getting: After the fight on the slopes of Orodruin, Sam having Gollum at his mercy, and finding that there is pity for Gollum in his heart. (I can hear Sean Astin saying, "I can't do it....Go away! Be off!") The time spent on hauling Frodo up the cliff could have been used for that, instead.

(It would also have been nice to have Frodo's, "If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.")

#237 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 01:10 PM:

Kip W:

Very clever of you to figure out where the Beatles got their magic. I always figured that they were a collective reincarnation of Orpheus (in Hindu mythology, one god can manifest as, for instance, three brothers, one of whom is half the god, and the other two each one-quarter god).

But, looking at it your way, were the Rolling Stones a little too close to Sauron, and had to blood sacrifice a founding member? In which case, the Beatles had to lose Stu Sutcliff for what reason? Pete Best, ditto.

Was Jimi Hendrix a Wizard? There's a new comprehensive biography of the Stones, and some reviewers have noted that it's more fun to read than Beatles' biographies, becuase the Stones (a) were the bad boy counterparts to the Beatles, and (b) reign on Earth, whereas (to paraphrase) John Lennon and George Harrison have already sailed West...

So are the Bonzo Dog Band connected to Tom Bombadil? Are the Stones called that because they were corrupted by a Palintir? Does the Tolkien song "The Road Goes Ever On and On", which were even hear excerpted in Peter Jackson's films, somehow connected to Rolling Stones, or maybe Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll?"

Again, clever idea.

#238 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 05:51 PM:

Very very late comments

1) "spotless white tents" - I actually noticed that in Aragorn's tent, there are what look like old, scrubbed bloodstains splattered over the door, as though they were flung there during a battle. I was duly impressed by the touch.

2) SPOILER: Newsweek had a cover story on LotR about 2-3 weeks ago which included a spoilers sidebar noting what additions to the EE have been revealed. Saruman is one; the Houses of Healing is another.

#239 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 06:42 PM:

>>Many of those beacon fires were in places one could neither lug the logs...

Eagles.

#240 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 06:54 PM:

Well, leaving aside the 'ooh, cor, our beacon has been glaciated' problems, and the 'nine out of ten people attempting to light this beacon have plumetted with the torch in their teeth prior to lighting anything except the forested lower slopes of the mountain' problems, just what kind of rate do you suppose the Eagles of the Misty Mountains -- who live in a completely different mountain range hundreds of miles away! -- work for?

If it's, say, an equivalent mass of sheep to the logs you want lugged, this is not obviously of net benefit to the early warning system, since half your huscarls will consequently have to get through the winter on dried peas. (and with old blankets, patched clothes, and chilly families as the price of wool spikes.) This leaves them disinclined to listen to you when you want them to fight orcs and rather less than effective even if they do heed the call.

Not convinced.

#241 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2003, 08:09 PM:

Yeah, as much as I loved the look of the beacon-fires, I did wonder just how they fueled and maintained most of them.

I also wondered if anybody actually lived in Minas Tirith. I mean, we saw lots of people, but the buildings looked unlived-in. And where do they get their food? There92s a big city, and an empty plain, and a small town on the river, and nothing else for miles around. I guess maybe you don92t last long outside of city walls that near Mordor, but it still looked real odd.

#242 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 10:37 AM:

Minas Tirith is at the eastern end of an east-west mountain range. Rohan is to that range's north. The bulk of Gondor is to the south, and is comprised largely of fertile farmland.

Tolkien's geography is often implausible, but this particular question is actually reasonably well addressed.

#243 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 11:27 AM:

Jackson's depiction of the beacons is cinematically dramatic and exaggerated ... but the concept is an old one. Remember the opening of Aeschylus' Agamenon in which a sentry sees the light of the signal fire relaying the news of Troy's fall?

#244 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 11:28 AM:

s/Agamenon/Agamemnon/

#245 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 03:04 PM:

It's not just the fuel and maintenance -- it's the staffing. How to keep at least one person, with the ability to make serious fire pretty much instantly, at each one of those stations, for years, and have them respond that quickly....

But it's still damn impressive cinematically, and I'll let Jackson get away with that one.

Thank you, Kip and Claude. Thinking of Roy Kinnear as Grima is a great way to expand my Christmas cheer. He was a lovely character actor (I think my fave performance of his was in _Juggernaut_, where he plays the entertainment director on a ship with large numbers of serious bombs attached -- allowed him serious room to play with the absurdity of his role within the context of the role).

#246 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2003, 11:07 PM:

Thinking of Roy Kinnear as Grima is a great way to expand my Christmas cheer. He was a lovely character actor....

He was. Who can forget his Dickensian cameo in one Hammer's classics: Taste the Blood of Dracula.

("And may the Devil take good care of you.")

#247 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 09:35 AM:

Comments having finally seen the movie:

fester: I'll concede Dubrovnik and high explosives (although I don't have the physics to argue how much more damage shells do (in the calibers the Serbs had) vs how much easier it is to move equipment that does the same damage as seige engines). But Minas Tirith had arches, fer chrissakes! The parts that crumbled were clearly city rather than fortress (note the dialog -"Fall back to the fortress!"- appears here as well as at Helm's Deep).

...Arwen is revealed behind it. Aragorn looks properly gobsmacked, they kiss, people applaud.

And I was expecting that from the moment the elves appeared with the banner, and the first thing I thought was "Kalvan! Never hug a girl wearing armor!" Aragorn is in ceremonial armor with pointy bits all over; that close embrace is going to hurt.

Graydon: I think you overstate the case against Jackson; my reaction to RoTK's battle scenes was that Jackson understood World War I better than Tolkien did, where Tolkien had too many unbelievably noble characters. But I do think that Jackson vulgarized unnecessarily in various places (e.g., starting with making Merry and Pippin irresponsible idiots -- which would be politically believable in the scions of a powerful house, but that part of the book disappeared from the film). But^2 I wonder whether he thought this was the right way to do it, or just the way that would prevent his megafunding from being pulled; I don't love the books as I did in 9th grade, but I can't think of anything anywhere near so grandly unaccommodating to current entertainment that has been done as a top-of-the-line film instead of a budget production.

sara: Jackson's Theoden originally was ensorceled, not indulging in self-doubt; this was one of the points that took TTT off first place on my Hugo ballot. But I think you're wrong about Tolkien being unable to ignore the Cold War; he had tenure at a major British university, so he didn't have to pay heed to anything outside his specialty.

And I decided sometime during this discussion that I don't care about the missing Scouring, and I think Tolkien may have been wrong about it being the point -- because there is no loss! They come back, a dozen hobbits get killed kicking Men's asses, and the Shire is renewed better than before -- complete with a miraculous Elven tree. The Shire is too far away to be affected by the War -- think the U.S. during either World War (what actually happened, not what the paranoids thought would happen) -- so Tolkien plays the Saruman card to make something happen and then tosses it. There are no ruins, there aren't any villages with no males whole between 16 and 46 (which Tolkien certainly would have been familiar with if he didn't completely bury himself in his pastoral fantasy after World War I), there's no sense that anyone but Frodo (who has a physical scar to amplify his memories) has PTSD. IMO, the one minor cost to dropping the Scouring is that Sam's becoming mayor is implausible: someone who is a gardener to the well-off (not even an independent farmer, let alone a craftsman or publican) and a well-practiced supporter is not going to make the step up to Mayor without the obvious promotion of coming home a hero.

Most desired book=>movie? Merchanter's Luck, as a personal favorite that is filmable. The climax (penultimate scene in the book) would rock with good actors and direction (maybe Jackson would try to overdo it?); establishing the backstory would take the skills he and his writers have shown.

#248 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 10:59 AM:

Chip -

I don't find anybody in Lord of the Rings unbelievably noble. (Or, for that matter, particularly notably noble of character.)

If you believe, if everyone around you believes -- if the world you dwell in is one to strongly encourage such belief, as Middle Earth is far more than this contingent world of ours -- that moral standing counts, acting noble, being of noble character, is a soundly pragmatic and rewarded and reinforced strategy for holding power.

Even in this contingent world of ours, I don't believe the axiom that nobility of character is always either a lie or a disadvantage helps anybody. (Or can be demonstrated to be factual.)

The battle scenes in the movie are just silly with impossibilities; those thousand ton elephants, impossible things with seige engines, and all the truly bright moments, shining with grief, are gone from what was filmed. We don't get the Rohirrim singing as they slay, Eomer thinking to draw all the riders together in a sheild wall and fight on afoot until all have fallen, the banner, "I knew not then that you were a man foresighted", the actual (and much cooler) use of Grond by the Witch-King against the gate of iron with posts of steel that is the weakest point in a wall the forces of Mordor do not have the skill or the power to break. We don't even get the dead being frightening; the book dead need no weapons, because an overmastering fear runs before them. These dead are a sort of green disease, and there is nothing of the strange dignity they have in the text, either; we don't get the king of the mountains breaking his spear over his knee, and the dead fading away from sight, we get Gimli making vilely dishonorable suggestions and no sense of ritual instead.

#249 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 12:11 PM:

And yet it works, for innumerable people. Graydon, do you have any theories about why that might be?

#250 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 02:01 PM:

It92s 92cause they92re made with elfin magic.

#251 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 03:13 PM:

Very probably, becuase either they didn't go in with a list of favorite cool things, or the list of cool things they went in with were there on the screen.

None of my favorite cool things were, which is bound not to help. (Not one of the things I'd identify as return-of-the-king symbology in the text happened in the movie. Which is lots of what I'm grumping about, above.)

As for the silliness of the battles, I don't think most of the audience is seeing it that way, won't have the visceral knowledge that you don't hold a heavy war bow at full draw for long -- you can't, if you can it's not heavy enough -- or that you must not stop with cavalry once you are observed moving into engagement, or that trebuchets can't throw that mass, or all the other little fiddlin' details that tangle the feet of the cool images.

I suspect that the images are also meant to work better for someone who is getting their associated images of what the restless dead are like from something both more recent and more visual than The Waking of Angantyr.

#252 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 05:56 PM:

Arwen in the books always annoyed me, I didn't know the term "trophy bride" at the time, but what Betty Friedan was irked at in The Feminine Mystique, is rather like essence of Arwen felt to me. So, the film version in ROTK didn't bother me all that much--it didn't do anything postive for me, but again, the role of Arwen has annoyed me for most of my life.

I wanted less time spent with the Shelob scenes and more of the shadow on Eowyn and her healing. I also wanted more transition turning Aragorn into king and such, and I wanted the Palantir scene with Aragorn, instead of "just what -did- happen with that Nasty Thing that was there, anyway? It gets looked into by a hobbit, and then whacka-whacka Gandald admonishes him, and into the wizards robes it disappears. What't the big deal?

The Riders of Rohan massed -- yes. The charge again spears, hmmm.... not as willing-suspension-disbelief-straining to as the charge at the bottom of the slope at Helm's Deep, so I concentrated on the Spectacle and told the inner Critic to swallow hard.

That orc--yes!

I liked the the art that was showing with the credits scrolling over it.

I wanted to see Sam's departure as the last to leave.

The film felt choppy to me, as if there were pieces that belonged in there that had been clipped out to keep the runtime down. Especially there was the scene with Eowyn and Faramir together, if I hadn't remembered that that happened, it would have jarred me out of the movie.

The beacons -- straining away trying to fabricate a support structure-- what about underground tunnels and storage facilities, and fatwood stored in them? I was stationed inside a mountain decades ago..... and there was one of the times I was on duty in there when talking to someone on a radar station on a mountaintop in California, who was describe the fires burning away on other mountains in the vicinity.

Up at Thule supplied came in during port season (along with merchant marines getting into bar fights, which didn't occur the rest of the year I was up there).

For that matter, which it's not the same thing, along the former Silk road, there are human-made underground waterways, with big holes for light and air enroute. The people who maintain the water tunnel go down through those entrances, and walk through the underground watercourse checking the condition and keeping it repaired and the water running--and it's been done that way for thousands of years.

Mountain rock is probably harder (maybe, I don't known what the material is that got tunneled through, -manually-) but in Middlearth there had been magicked, dwarves, Men of ancient lineage, wizards, etc. .. and the old mining tunnels in Colorado originally had been dug by hand, and some of those go long and deep.

#253 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 06:27 PM:

MO, the one minor cost to dropping the Scouring is that Sam's becoming mayor is implausible: someone who is a gardener to the well-off (not even an independent farmer, let alone a craftsman or publican) and a well-practiced supporter is not going to make the step up to Mayor without the obvious promotion of coming home a hero.

In the books, maybe, but one of the things I like most about the movies' treatment of the hobbits is that it mutes the class politics, which I find fairly loathsome. The Shire of the films doesn't seem as stratified as the Shire of the books, so it's not as big a leap. Put that together with the fact that Sam comes back from his adventures with the friendship of kings and money in his pocket (his clothes are noticeably better in the ending scenes in the Shire than when he started), and I can buy it.

Interesting point about the Scouring, though.

As for the battle scenes, Kate and I saw the movie again this afternoon (well, the show started at 11:50 am-- and was packed), and I see just enough concessions to allow me to rationalize the complaints away. The catapult stones aren't shown damaging the main wall, but mostly smash ornamental bits, and the line of Orc pikemen clearly wavers before the Rohirrim hit it (even Gothmog the Lumpy looks scared), so I can pretend that's why they didn't do more damage. The eighty-foot elephants are still a little silly, but they're worth it for the look on Theoden's face when he sees them coming, and orders another charge anyway. (The look on his face when the Witch-King attacks is priceless, too...)

The only warfare element that makes absolutely no sense to me is the fact that Aragorn is on a horse for his big "Men of the West" speech, but on foot when he says "For Frodo" and charges. I can't figure that out at all.

Much better on the second go-round, by the way. The first viewing suffred a bit from both knowing the books (and thus being distracted by things that were left out) and having seen the changes made to the first film (and thus fretting that they were about to mangle the story in a few places). Knowing in advance that it isn't a travesty (Graydon's comments aside) made it much more enjoyable.

#254 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 08:58 PM:

Paula: Arwen in the books always annoyed me, I didn't know the term "trophy bride" at the time, but what Betty Friedan was irked at in The Feminine Mystique, is rather like essence of Arwen felt to me.

Normally I don't like arguing that material outside a story is important -- but when 30% of the last volume is appendices (most of it backstory) it just can't be ignored. This is especially interesting in the case of Arwen, because there were grumbles (perhaps from people who had not read all of the last book) about showing the love interest between Aragorn and Arwen in the first movie; one of the appendices makes clear that this had been going on for decades before Frodo stepped out of the Shire.

I suppose "giving up immortality for love" could be read as only slightly less anti-feminist than "trophy bride", but I don't think that's a fair reading of the book.

Chad: a fair point on the muting of class in the movie (and one I should have gotten after grumbling that Merry and Pippin were played as a couple of random tearaways). I'm not sure how much the friendship of the king would have counted for -- note that even the old man who was happy to see Gandalf and his fireworks (at the beginning of FotR) was dourly unimpressed when the hobbits returned -- but in the movie's society a little money and self-confidence could have carried Sam further.

#255 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 10:27 PM:

I'm not sure how much the friendship of the king would have counted for -- note that even the old man who was happy to see Gandalf and his fireworks (at the beginning of FotR) was dourly unimpressed when the hobbits returned -- but in the movie's society a little money and self-confidence could have carried Sam further.

True, the grumpy old man isn't impressed, but four years pass between that scene and the scene where Frodo's writing about Sam's election. A lot can happen in four years, with creatures as hasty as hoobits.

#256 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2003, 11:08 PM:

Chad -

I don't think it's a travesty. I think there are some unnecessarily stupid things in it. I think the return of the king, as such, isn't in it at all. Maybe they'll manage to fix that in the longer version, I don't know.

#257 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 02:40 AM:

Apparently there's about a full hour of cuts that will be restored for the longer version, including Mouth of Sauron (radically changing the tenor of the final scene with Aragorn's "For Frodo" charge), and many other explicit Aragorn-to-King moments. I'm hoping that the extended edition will help the movie's pace - for such a long movie, it was choppy and abrupt except where I wanted things to progress a little faster. The parts where I wanted to linger flew past before I had a chance to get properly weepy.

I'm still thinking that the first movie is the best, because of its intimacy and because of Boromir, but I don't get any of my Rohirric poetry that I love so much, and that I think Bernard Hill speaks very well. It's nice to segueway from the books and the movies into reading Heaney's translation of Beowulf, and now I'm pondering which translation of the Edda to get.

#258 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 09:23 AM:

First, get the Rebsamen translation of Beowulf, which is much, much better than Heaney's. :)

I have hopes for an extended version, too, but there are a bunch of things they'd have to replace to get the important elements of the Return of the King back in there -- the banner breaking from the lead ship, "turn your face from the green world to where all seems barren and cold" (finding the sapling of the white tree), the recognition and obedience of the dead. They can put in the challenge to Sauron, 'the hands of the king are the hands of a healer', the cries of the heralds marching to the Black Gate, and the acclaim of the populace, but not those first three without replacing big scenes.

More Rohirric poetry would definately have been a good thing. Miranda Otto gets major points for doing such an excellent good job of the lament for Theodred in the extended second movie, and I would have liked much more of that.

#259 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 11:08 AM:

Am I the only one who thought that the grumpy hobbit, who reluctantly smiled at Gandalf's fireworks and hmmph'ed at the hobbits' return, was female?

#260 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 11:28 AM:

Someone here will know this. Reforging Narsil, done in a technically correct fashion or not?

#261 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 11:42 AM:

My armorer's-apprentice friend says not. At length, and heatedly.

#262 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 11:51 AM:

Kate -

Enormously not technically correct, the reforging of Narsil.

Not even the right hammer (armorer's hammer, not a sword smith's), but the sparklies I took to be evidence that the banging on the anvil was there purely for purposes of meditative focus, and the real work was getting done by some sort of elvish craft involving pure thoughts.

#263 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 11:55 AM:

Kate -

There are, in the Fellowship movie, two grumpy hobbits, the first male, the second female. We only see the male one giving the returning heros the Doubtful Look on their return in the RotK movie.

#264 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 12:37 PM:

That's what I thought about Narsil--considering that they had a swordsmith on staff, I can't imagine why they didn't get it right, but it looked weird even to me.

And the Doubtful Look hobbit at the end of RotK looks female to me, darn it, or at least ambiguously gendered. Anyway.

#265 ::: graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 12:57 PM:

Kate --

When you really reforge a sword, you might well wind up melting it down, beating it back to bar stock, and starting over. There's an Icelandic saga reference to a guy who filed one to powder and fed it to chickens before re-refinging the metal from the inevitable by-product of this process. (As a means of nitrating the metal, and making it harder, this actually makes sense.)

You are very unlikely to try to just weld the bits back together; finished swords are ground down from their final forged state, so you don't have enough metal there in the pieces of a finished sword to go through the process of making a whole new sword, you'd have to add some metal.

I can't see any of that being photogenic enough for the very literalist version of 'reforged' they seem to have been after, even if throwing all the bits in a crucible would have been cool.

#266 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 02:15 PM:

I suppose "giving up immortality for love" could be read as only slightly less anti-feminist than "trophy bride", but I don't think that's a fair reading of the book.

I don't either, but it may be one of those (many) things difficult to manage onscreen. As I recall, death is "the gift of Men," so where Elves are immortal, and sail into the West when they are ready to leave the world, the fate of humans in Middle-Earth is to become something else when they die. While what that is, is not clearly known, it is not considered to be a lesser fate; it's my impression that some Elves at least considered human death to be ultimately a better deal as it included being right there with the Valar instead of living at a step removed in the West. I may be mis-remembering what I've read, however.

Arwen's trade-off is not so much that she'll have to die instead of live forever, but that in dying as a human she will of necessity be forever separated from her kin. This would matter more to them than it would to her, in the long run, and so the Elves would lament her leave-taking as a real and lasting loss.

(Aside: since when Elves were killed, either in battle or accident, they were deaddeaddead, their willingness to risk their lives in Middle-Earth wars shows just how seriously they viewed the Morgoth/Sauron threat, that it encompassed all the world, not just Middle-Earth.)

#267 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 02:38 PM:

Gee, Graydon, you mean Hollywood got something WRONG? Perish forfend! :-)

Any movie that contains anything that you know anything about, if it's not absolutely familiar to the general public, will make you cringe by how wrong they get it.

But they were Elvish smiths. They aren't bound by poor Mannish methods of reforging a sword. They stuck the bits together with such precision that the metal didn't know it had ever been broken...and as for the edge, they hammered it finer than any grinding could achieve.

Handy things, immortal fantasy races. They aren't subject to normal physics or anything.

pericat, when Elves are killed they go to the Halls of Mandos; they're "bound forever within the circles of the world." Humans go on somewhere else, and even the Valar don't know where. This is called the Gift of the...um. Whatever Elves call humans, which escapes me at the mo, and I'm not near my LOTR to check.

When Aragorn died, Arwen said "If this is the Gift of the [thingie], it is bitter to receive!"

I get a sense reading Tolkien that the High Elves, at least, needed to expiate their sins that got them exiled in the first place...getting rid of Sauron was one way to do that. Note Galadriel's song ("I sang of leaves...") in which she states that no ship would come for her; she's not allowed to return to Valinor yet. I suspect this is partly because she keeps one of the Three, but she wasn't pure during the Troubles, either...can't remember if she took part in the Kinslaying or if she was born later. Drat it, I really need that Complete Works of Tolkien CD-ROM.

#268 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 02:45 PM:

Pericat -

Elves are part of the world, and when their bodies are destroyed their spirits go to Mandos (which is a place; the Valar who gets called Mandos is actually Namo) where they get new bodies after a time. There are a few exceptions (Feanor's mother Miriel, who gave up her body as an act of will; Feanor himself, who is such a special case that the Valar do not feel able to judge him, so he's in there until the One judges him at the remaking of the world) but as a rule, elves killed in Middle Earth wind up in the Uttermost West again. There is a line in a Silmarilion story about Finrod Friend of Men, that 'Finrod walks by Finarfin his father in the streets of Tirion'. It's the live exiles who cannot return to Valinor, but only to Tol Ersea, the Lonely Isle.

The downside is that the world has a finite lifespan, and neither the elves nor the Valar know what happens to the elves when the world is broken and re-made as it ought to have been, without the malice of Morgoth.

Men go beyond the world, to dwell with the One. What happened with Luthien and with Arwen is that they gained immortal souls. (Though Luthien, being half Maia, might not have been entirely like an elf to start with. We don't know.) Since Middle-Earth predates any of the revalations of the One to men about what this process entails, pretty much everybody in Middle Earth doesn't know what the death of men does; it's a long step in the dark.

#269 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 03:08 PM:

Xopher -

I must indeed abide the Doom of Men whether I will or nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Elves say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive.

Galadriel was on the right side at the Rape of the Ships at Aqualondeb, but she was one of the leaders of the Rebellion of the Noldor, those who did not want to submit to the authority of the Valar and felt that they would be better off going back to Middle Earth and founding their own kingdoms and realms.

She refused the general amnesty after the War of Wrath, and it wasn't until she'd spent the second and third ages opposing Sauron and refused the One Ring when it was offered to her that she was permitted to return to the West.

#270 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 03:15 PM:

Whups -- that first section should of course be in quotes. Thought I'd included html quote tags. That's Arwen to Aragorn as he lies down and prepares to give up his life.

#271 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 03:22 PM:

Graydon, Xopher, when I get confused, I get seriously confused. Appreciate the corrections.

#272 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 03:24 PM:

Graydon:
I don't think it's a travesty. I think there are some unnecessarily stupid things in it. I think the return of the king, as such, isn't in it at all. Maybe they'll manage to fix that in the longer version, I don't know.

I think we just approach the books in such radically different ways that communication on this point is all but impossible. You seem to regard as absolutely essential bits of the books that I barely even notice (it took me a while to realize what banner you meant), and you decry the lack of realism on some points (the results of the cavalry charge), while lamenting the loss of bits that strike me as even less realistic (the singing Rohirrim).

If it's all right with you, I'm just going to pretend that you're a space alien tapping into the Internet via a compromised communications satellite.

Klaatu barata nikto.

#273 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 04:29 PM:

Chad --

Just keep in mind that, to a good first approximation, as weird as I seem to you is as weird as you seem to me.

The Rohirrim singing is perhaps not realistic (though people in battles have done some blessed odd things), but it is heroic; it, and the extracts from the Mounds of Mundburg poem we get in that same chapter, are some of the most entirely cool heroic bits in all of JRRT's writing, which is saying a great deal. I would have liked for them to be in there.

Nor did I think I was decrying the realism of the results of the charge -- those were good, the orcs broke and ran when they decided that the guys on horses weren't stopping for anything -- but rather the folly of deploying in line at the halt when you're under observation. If they were going to take away the darkness and the surprise and the dawn sunlight and the golden sheild, they should darn well have found a different place to put Theoden's moment of decision.

#274 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 05:22 PM:

Real soldiers in real wars have sung on their way into battle. Not elaborate songs, just a 'paean', but they were singing at the charge, not just yelling. FWIW.

#275 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 06:26 PM:

I'm fond of this existential chant . But wait. We all know this was terrible schlock, not high Tolkienesque tragedy.

#276 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 07:06 PM:

I have a theory that Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon actually takes place on Middle Earth (Rather than at the end of World War II in Europe as it claims).

Supporting evidence can be found in the following common features between the two books:

People who live in holes in the ground

People involved in engineering technology who run around in tunnels and sing strange songs

Smuggling of pipe-weed by tolerated by wartime government

Tentacled beast as guardian of water-boundary

Use of psychics to predict or influence outcome of war

As if this weren't enough, the official source of Lord of the Rings authorized merchandise is lotrshop.com. In case you didn't notice, lotrshop is an anagram of Slothrop! (That's the name of Gravity's Rainbow's protagonist)

Coincidence? You decide...

(Parallels between the plots of LOTR and Pynchon's Vineland are left as an exercise for the reader)


#277 ::: David Eppstein ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 08:06 PM:

Kate, the old grumpy hobbit looked female or ambiguous to me, too, but I'm pretty sure it's the same one as the old Proudfoot who says "Proudfeet!" in a very male voice at Bilbo's party.

#278 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 10:27 PM:

Kate, the old grumpy hobbit looked female or ambiguous to me, too, but I'm pretty sure it's the same one as the old Proudfoot who says "Proudfeet!" in a very male voice at Bilbo's party.

I shall have to look, thank you.

#279 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2003, 11:31 PM:

Erik Nelson, that is surely the comment of the week on either Making Light or Electrolite.

#280 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 01:02 AM:

And Lenny, thank you for the existential chant, and its contextual brethren. I find they're best without further explanation. The story implied is greater than the story told.

#281 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 03:03 PM:

Erik Nelson: I agree with Patrick. You have determined a truly stupendous parallelism.

In "Invitation to a Beheading", by Vladimir Nabokov, there is a too-true discussion of what English Literature departments were becoming. He suggests that Professors would one day take pairs of utterly unrelated books, pretend that they had the same author, and psychoanalyze that author for the range of style and content exhibited.

There are more obvious reasons than your brilliant ones for connecting Tolkien and Pynchon. For instance:

"[Tom] Shippey points out, however, that 'the dominant literary mode of the 20th century has been the fantastic,' citing as evidence such works as George Orwell's '1984' and 'Animal Farm;' Kurt Vonnegut's 'Cat's Cradle' and 'Slaughterhouse-Five;' and works by Thomas Pynchon, Ursula LeGuin, and William Golding. Like Orwell, Vonnegut and Golding, Tolkien was a combat veteran, and like many of his contemporaries he saw the fantastic as the best form for assessing the changing moral landscape brought on by the horrors of modern, mechanized warfare...."


Thomas Pynchon - Gravity's Rainbow; and
J. R. R. Tolkien - Silmarillion: both first published in the 1970s, both bestsellers.

J. R. R. Tolkien died in 1973 -- the same year as the Nebula Award for Best Novel went to Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

BTW, Pynchon will do his character's voice on The Simpsons! In an episode scheduled to air on January 25, 2004, where Marge writes a novel and gets endorsements from writers playing themselves, including Tom Clancy and Thomas Pynchon, the Pynchon character is portrayed with a bag of his head, and Pynchon himself will be doing the voice.

There is an on-line Concordance to Gravity's Rainbow. Dare somebody grep that [unix slang] against a Tolkien concordance?

See:

http://www.hyperarts.com/pynchon/gravity/index.html

#282 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 04:25 PM:

The grumpy hobbit who first scowls at the returning hobbits is indeed the same one as who first smiled and then (when his wife caught him) scowled at Gandalf's child-pleasing fireworks, and yelled "Proud feet!" during Bilbo's farewell speech. He appears in the credits of ROTK as Odo Proudfoot.

#283 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2003, 04:34 PM:

That's the right name for the shouter at the birthday party.

No doubt he's an ancestor of LeGuin's heroic anarchist. Which is startling, because it would put Middle Earth out at Tau Ceti.

#284 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2003, 04:44 PM:

I just wanted to distinguish the usage of "Epic" for the Peter Jackson Trilogy:

As I wrote in my 365 Kilobyte online dictionary of Mystery (with literay, legal, police, criminalistic terminology)
http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateMystery/defs.html

Epic: (1) in formal critical use, an Epic Poem is synonymous
with a Heroic Poem in these criteria:
(a) Long;
(b) Narrative;
(c) Serious or great subject;
(d) Elevated style;
(e) centers on a heroic or nearly divine person;
(f) tribe, nation, or human world hangs in the balance.
(2) Folk Epics, or Traditional Epics, or Primary Epics, sprung from oral
traditions, history, legends, as with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, or the
Anglo-Saxon Beowulf.
(3) Literary Epics, or Secondary Epics were highly-crafted imitating Primary
Epics, as with Vergil's Aeneid, Milton's Paradise Lost, Keats' Hyperion,
Blake's Prophetic Books, or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
(4) By analogy, a prose work or film sharing many of these criteria.

In contrast, the Hollywood usage is roughly synonymous with "overpaid" when used of a star, direcftor, or other "above the line" personage. (Correct me if I'm wrong, John Ford!)

#285 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 07:50 PM:

Anyone who has seen the movie but not this parody should go do so at once.

#286 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2004, 10:49 PM:

I come late to this party...and late to seeing the thing. I was dragged out of watching RotK by two emergency calls from my Mother, and after the second one, just after Angmar fell, I decided not to go back in. Generally, though, I agree with Graydon. I loved the production design--I've thought well of Alan Lee for decades, and I'm delighted to see him get such a vast space to see his work realized--, thought well of the pagentry, and hated the script, which, it seems to me, made all the characters less than they were in the books.

And this sent me to rereading the book to get the bad taste out of my mind. I find I miss the language of the book and that set me to wondering how it might have been done better. I think, to begin with, there would need to be more segments. And it surprised me, this reading, how much of the book takes place in intimate settings, with small groups talking. There were vast battles and landscapes--Tolkien is fond of cities as destroyed landscapes--but much of the book is focused on characters. And I love the language--I'd want a narrator and, since this is my vision, I think I'd be willing to stop the action for the characters to declaim those wonderful speeches. All of which goes very much against the grain of a great deal of cinema but--why not? Perhaps a less grand production and more thoughtfully scripted production would work.

#287 ::: genibee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2004, 03:10 PM:

I think the great deisgn (thank you, thank you, thank you, Alan Lee) of things like costumes, and weapons, and other anthropological stuff, set against the fantastic backdrop of New Zealand, would have made the movie for me, even if all the actors had been horrible and the script botched beyond belief. I do think the movies were fabulous, but I also mentally take the bad parts of the movies and correct them. I also feel that there are pieces where the movies added to the books: Boromir's depiction, Pippin's singing, etc.

On the other hand, just about the only value I find in the Harry Potter movies is from whoever did the set dressing and location scouting, plus true happiness with Snape and Lockhard. The rest of the actors were fine, but both films felt lifeless. I spent more time looking at details in the background and going, "ooh!" Maybe the new director will remedy this.

Now on the lookout for the Beowulf translation reccomended by Graydon...

#288 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2004, 05:57 PM:

Okay, not sure if anybody posted this yet, but...

Gollum's Bling Bling

#289 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 08:46 AM:

Graydon (December 19, 2003 10:19 AM) I sometimes suspect the entire Paths of the Dead subplot of being in the book so that that JRRT could have Aragorn return from the sea, and not over land from the north with the host of Rohan
Also 'the Harrowing of Hell' or perhaps just saving some of the 'good' ancient souls in Limbo (I think Adam & Eve) that Christ was supposed to be doing during those three days he was dead.

There are a couple of Christ-images in the book: Frodo being the sacrificial version (giving up everything to save 'the world of men' (Men being the ones given the Doom (or fate) of Death); Aragorn being the triumphant one of the second coming - when He is to take over from his 'stewards', being the Church heirarchy(sp?) & the rulers of the world.
Remember the Divine Right of Kings? Dunno if US people get to study that - if you are old UK Empire it's part of the history you study leading to the Civil War (UK) & the Bloodless (or Glorious) Revolution of 1688. The idea being that God gave the monarch a sub-god sort of vice-presidential position (stewardship).

Sorry brain slowing, that's not a good explanation. I'm off to bed.

Still I got two cars that belonged to my late partner & had been sitting abandoned in his backyard for 18 months back into working order over the weekend, then went to a public 'conversation' between our State Premier (=Governor) & a visiting British playwright (Stoppard) in the Town Hall wearing my fancy gear with grease still embedded under my nails.

PS: Have been waiting to go to RotK with friends, who have been sick for the last few weeks, so I'm trying to not read some bits.

#290 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 12:11 PM:

Epacris : I believe that "the entire Paths of the Dead subplot" was one of the most explicitly autiobiographical parts of LOTR. I believe that J.R.R. Tolkien said and wrote that he had such an experience while in The Great War.

What he denied was that any subplot represented World War II. Or III...

Though Peter Jackson referred to the Battle of Pelinor as World War Zero...

#291 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2004, 01:44 PM:

So I finally saw RotK, and I agree with Graydon. It was bloody terrible. Jackson treated the story and the characters without respect, something I really didn't expect after the not-actually-awfulness of the first two movies. One scene sums it up for me, the one where Pippin offers his sword to Denethor. Jackson has Gandalf treat this (and Pippin) as absurd; that was unforgivable. So was the whole movie. (IMO, YMMV, of course.)

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