Thursday, May 04, 2006

Concerning LOTR

Now that I'm well into the Fellowship I inevitably notice where the movies have departed from the text. I'm definitely not one of those purists who think that Jackson should have just stuck with what was in the book and not try to add or change anything- that is inevitable any time you try to transfer text to film. Overall I think he did a good job of balancing his artistic opinion while staying true to the story.
My question is what is everyones' opinion of particular changes/additions/deletions to the story. Are there any changes you like more than how it was originally, or are there any changes that you think made it worse (keeping in mind that it HAD to be shortened in order to work as a film)? Is there any scene left out that could have been put back in again at the expense of some other scene you didn't like as much? Is there anything added that just did not work for you?

I liked: (not an exhaustive list)

The inclusion of (some of) the backstory of Aragorn and Arwen from the appendices. In the book itself he seems almost too perfect, and in movies characters are always more real and easier to relate to when they have flaws and normal human passions. The inclusion of that element (part of his motivation for saving Middle Earth was to "get the girl"), while much derided by many hard-core (read- nerdy) Tolkien fans, was a very good addition in my opinion.

In the same vein, the modification to Theoden's character- how he "failed" (in a sense) at Helm's Deep, then redeemed himself at Pelennor

I disliked-

The dead army winning the battle of the Pelennor for them. I think it wouldn't have taken any longer to tell the real story- that they only helped Aragorn free the slaves on the ships, and then he mustered an army as he travelled to Minas Tirith, where with his assistance the armies of Gonder (conspicuously missing in the movie) and Rohan defeated the invasion. It is always more emotionally thrilling to see the heros sweep the enemy aside (like the charge of the Rohirrim- probably the best battle scene in all of movie history) than to see an army of undead do it. This way of doing it also brings up questions like- 'if he was able to make them fight at Pelennor, then why not at the black gate?'. Definitely one of those "should have just left it alone" scenes.

I'm sure theres more, but I'll remember them as I read more...


erin said...

I have never read any of these books (please can we still be friends?) BUT I have resolved to start. In about two years or however long it takes to read the series, look for a real clever post from me about them.

JonnyF said...

Believe it or not I've only seen "Return of the King" once, or maybe twice. The others I saw a few more times, and I am familiar with the books, but it has been a long time. I might modify what I say here after I convince Katie that we need to rent "Return of the King".

I liked-
Most of the casting. Most of the characters were very similar to the way I imagined them, especially the hobbits.
The portrayal of Boromir
Battle of Helm's Deep
Paths of the Dead

I disliked-
The importance placed on the Arwen character.
The casting of Arwen (Liv Tyler looks funny)and Galadriel (she has a sort of Nordic freakiness) versus the casting of Eowyn. (Her character was the prettiest girl in the movie, much prettier than the other two, when according to the book she shouldn't have been. (Of course, the prettiest boy in the movie was Legolas.))
The role of the undead at the battle of the Pelennor.
The portrayal of Farimir, and the unnecessary bit with Farimir taking Frodo and Sam to Osgilioth.
The way the Ents had to be tricked into participating in the war of the ring.

Some of my favorite characters were left out, mostly understandable considering their relative unimportance.
Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth
The rangers and the sons of Elrond.
And one of my favorite parts was left out (as mentioned in a comment on another post) namely, the return of the hobbits to the shire.

Overall, I think Jackson did an excellent job. Up until his movies the only cinematic portrayal of the story was two movies that roughly corresponded to the first and second halves of the story, respectively. They were made by two different studios in two different styles (one was half animated, the other was completely animated). They were really bad; painful to watch really. It kind of makes me wonder why no serious attempts had been made until now. I mean, there is no fantasy story more popular, but somehow "Legend" and "Willow" were made but no "The Lord of the Rings". Oh well.

JonnyF said...

By the way, I mentioned how awful the animated "Return of the King" was. The same people did "The Hobbit" in the same style, except that they did a pretty good job. They took the text from some of Tolkien's own poems and songs in the book and put them to music for the soundtrack. (In their version of "The Return of the King" they didn't have as many of Tolkien's songs to adapt, so they wrote their own, including "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" and "Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom". I am not making this up.) Anyway, "The Hobbit" was my first taste of Tolkien's world, and I watched a few times when I was a kid. The reason I bring it up is that I saw it for sale a few weeks ago on DVD for $1 at the grocery store. I would have missed it except that now I look in the bargain DVD bucket regularly after an excellent find in January ("Batman", 1963 with Adam West). Anyway, I bought it. So does that make me weird if people are selling movies I like for $1?

Nick said...


Nick said...

Another thing I notice as I read along in the fellowship is that I like how young the hobbits are in the movie, whereas in the book Frodo is 50, and Sam is his young 39 year old servant. In the movie, their youth lends them a little more innocence and vulnerability, and also helps in the believability of their close friendship. The four of them come across as four buddies. It just wouldn't be the same to watch the adventure of an old 50 year old hobbit (basically the same age in appearance as Bilbo at the beginning of the fellowship since the ring preserved him from age)

That said, I don't think I'll mind seeing an older, 50 y/o Bilbo when the hobbit comes out, since the book makes it very clear that this was an older hobbit ready to be settled down for the remainder of his life. That's part of the humor of the story is to see this old hobbit being tricked into this adventure that in the end makes him young.

randy said...

So I'm not sure where this post will leave me (nerdy or just uneducated white trash), but I'll make it anyway. When I first moved to Austin, I had a lot of time on my hands. I thought that a good way to spend it would be to read, and what better to read than LOTR, right? So I began.

What happened next sort of startled me. I found that I actually liked the movies better than the text. It was almost the same reaction people have to movies when they've already read a book that's been turned into a movie--and the movie just doesn't live up to the text in their minds.

I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps the reading was too laborious for me. Perhaps I lost my thirst for intellectualism. Perhaps my mind was lazy. I found the text over-bloated with songs and poems. With strange wordings and a completely different feeling than that cool/dark/dangerous world I'd come to know in the movies. It just seemed a lot different, and I simply didn't enjoy reading it as much as I thought I would. That said, I never got all the way through the second book (Helm's Deep).

So how much has my status sunk in your eyes with this confession?

Nick said...

Nerdy uneducated white trash!!!

I watched the first two movies, then read all the books, then watched the last movie, so I'm somewhat in the same boat in the sense that when I imagine the world of Lord of the Rings, I see the movie in my head. I don't really have a favorite- it's kind of hard for me to mix mediums like that in terms of liking or disliking something more. If I want to enjoy a quiet (4 hour long) evening with Jenny, We'll watch Lord of the Rings. If I want a quiet evening alone, or am bored on the train, I'll read it. They both have their moments.

You're right, they definitely have different feels to them, and the books are almost laborious in how much description of nature and the inclusion of all the songs. This time I'm trying to read them a little different than I usually do. Whenever I read, I tend to just race through the book (see my previous post titled Driving Miss Lucy), trying to get from one plot element to another. This time I'm trying to slow way down and actually read all the descriptive language and poems and songs since I know the plot by heart anyway. As I do this, I find I am able to break away from the images of the movie I see in my head and replace them with my own version of what the book could look like. Slowly but surely I'm reclaiming the imagination that TV stole from me.....

Jenny said...

Randy, your courage has moved me to a confession of my own. I've been reading this post for a while, and have always hesitated to comment, mainly because, (are you ready?) I've never read them either. (Stunned silence, particularly from my other half.) I started them when I was ten and made it about halfway through the first one before I skipped into the second half of the second one and, after a few chapters, decided I wouldn't finish them. I find this curious for several reasons. First off, the decision to not finish a book is one that I rarely made, especially as a kid. That same year I read, and finished, my father's behavioral biology book, Gone with the Wind, and the entire Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club series in print at the time (I actually cultivated a sleep-over friendship with a girl I didn't particularly like in order to get invited over so that I could read her books all night--she had a complete set of both series--snuggled in my sleeping bag with my nose up against the nightlight in the wall. Wow. This is getting more confessionary than I originally planned.) But for some reason, LOTR just didn't grab my attention (or rather, my attention had been grabbed and rather ruthlessly abused by the aforementioned tween texts).

In my defense, I should note that I have listened to the third book on CD on one of our road trips up to Seattle. It made for good listening. The narrator even sang the songs, which made them, well, song-like. But I'm afraid LOTR might turn out to be one of those things I'll eventually be forced to get around to reading (just like those Star Trek movies Nick had me watch before we could continue dating ...) in the hope that I will then understand, if not Nick, at least this thread, better.

Nick said...

I would just like to say that I am shocked and appalled that you have not read those books. JonnyF- I think we need to have her take our LOTR course, and possibly give her a diploma if she passes.

JonnyF said...

This will pose an interesting challenge, i.e. we have to make up our LOTR course before we can have Jenny take it. We would also have to come up with phony credentials to qualify us as experts. You should be "Official representative of J.R.R. Tolkien" and I will be a "Knight of Dol Amroth" or something like that.
Our Star Trek course consisted of the following: watching the movies. Will we need to do something more for this one? Perhaps a written test with questions on parts left out from the movies?
By the way, do you guys still have that Star Trek course certificate? Ah ... fond memories. That reminds me of our Southridge 5k run flyer, duct tape wars, and "quotation" "marks".

erin said...

I just got a speck of sentiment in my eye and had to shed a little tear of nostalgia.

Jenny, I just finished Gone With the Wind and am on page 8 or so of the first are you with me or are you with me?

erin said...

Now I am on page 114...and yes, I still have a job. I can't believe how nervous I am as I read it! I agree with Nick about the youth of the movie vs. age of the book aspect. I'm already biting my nails and breaking into cold sweats and the Hobbits are only having lunch in a wheat field! Morgan and Alison and Nick and Jenny will understand, though. Remember when we had to take one of those movies in two parts because I couldn't handle it? High blood pressure, probably. I'm just saying that I like the book, but to be completely honest, I don't know that I would like it as much if I didn't like all you folks as much. And that's about as mushy as I'm going to get today.

Morgan said...

Speaking of erin and LOTR, I wish everyone could have been there when she saw the giant spider in the third movie. It's pretty much one of the funniest moments I can remember. I don't remember if our neighbors called about all the screaming, but they probably should have.

Jenny said...

Erin--it looks like I'm with you ... I'll begin today and keep you posted. (Someone's got to keep their head about them in all this suspense and excitement :)

Jon--yes, I still have the certificate. I even know where it is (dowstairs, box on the bottom left corner of the bookshelf.)

Nick--I could reply with I'm shocked and appalled you haven't yet read Holy the Firm or Invisible Cities, but I'll restrain myself ...

erin said...

Hooray, Jenny! "Through the mist, through the woods, through the darkness and the shadows..."

I remember when Al was finishing the last book and Gollum bit Frodo's finger off--there was some screaming there, too, wasn't there? And speaking of that spider, I saw the real one on my bathroom wall this morning--it was the size of Milwaukee.

Nick said...

Actually, I have read Holy the Firm

Jenny said...

You have? When did this happen?

Nick said...

About 3 weeks ago when you were working on the journal. I told you at the time that I was reading it.

It was ok, but not quite as good as LOTR, though I suppose thats comparing apples and oranges, or maybe comparing chocolate to hay.

Jenny said...

Oh. My lapse in memory can be explained by the fact I was working on the journal (something that only happens four times a year, but when it happens, it happens. As in it takes over my entire live for days at a time throughout the course of a month. Consequently, I have no memory of any normal things during that period.)

Comparing Tolkein with Dillard would seem to be a bit of a stretch at first. Stylistically they differ greatly--Tolkein's an enthusiastic novelist while Dillard tends to do better with personal fragments, essays, and reflections. But they do share some interesting thematic points: both are concerned with the natural world and spend a great deal of time observing and describing it in their works; both invoke an implicit sense of shared history--Tolkein's mythological and Dillard's Judeo-Christian world-views; both question individual worth and morality; and there's more but Karlene's at the door to drop off some music.

Nick said...

I just finished LOTR, the Hobbit, and the silmarillion. That last one is the history of the first age that the appendices in the return of the king only mention in passing. Included are the story of the creation, the tale of Luthien and Beren (that Aragorn refers to in the movie), and the war against Morgoth (who was Sauron's master) by the elves, dwarves, and what men there were at the time. Its much different from the others in the sense that the book is not one story, its a collection of short....not quite stories, not quite histories, but kind of a combination. The closest thing that compares would be the icelandic sagas (just in case you have THAT handy...). I really like it, and highly recommend it to anyone, especially if you like getting backstory and background information.