Lord of the Rings: Bossfight!

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 16, 2007

Filed under: Movies 39 comments

I’m a fan of the movies, but I’m a bigger fan of the books. The movies are an amazing acomplishment, but they falter when they break from the book. There are several changes which really irritate me, either because they suck the art out of the story or because they make no dang sense. I won’t enumerate them here. I’m sure more scholarly fans have already beaten that particular horse into a fine paste. Having said that, it could have been worse. How much worse? Take a look at this bit from the special edition of Return of the King:


I am trying to imagine the munchkin that read this beautiful story and concluded that what we needed at the end was a dang bossfight. This is the sort of suggestion you might post to forums frequented by fans if you wanted to do a little trolling and get people riled up. It’s shocking that someone with such a tin ear for the work could get anywhere near the movie project. The very suggestion makes me thinks of “needs more cowbell“.

Thankfully this was nixed, although I notice the idea survived at least long enough to get storyboarded. The storyboards outline – even choreograph – the swordfight between Sauron and Aragorn.

I think back to my bit where I mused about how Star Wars would have turned out if it was run through the modern-day Hollywood meat grinder. At the time I was going for laughs and tried to come up with the most absurd crap possible. After seeing this I think what I wrote isn’t all that implausible.


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39 thoughts on “Lord of the Rings: Bossfight!

  1. Retlor says:

    Heh, maybe they could have thrown in a few random encounters and had Aragorn level up as well.

  2. Zerotime says:

    Not only a boss fight, but one of those special ones that the game does nothing to prepare you for, making sure you get utterly destroyed, over and over.

  3. Luanne says:

    My personal favorite is Arwen at Helm’s Deep. Egad, why were these sorts of things necessary? *sigh* Oh well.

    Ever read WINKLE? It’s a script for the movies that a group of TolkienOnline.com people wrote based on rumors of the changes the moviemakers were going to apply to LotR. They include a rather scary version of Arwen (Austrian accent, muscles, and all), and so this script is a big reason the scenes with Arwen fighting were scrapped.

    It’s really long, and I’m sure you’re busy, but I definitely think it’s worth reading…especially for any fan of LotR who’s a bit angry/perplexed by some of the changes made for the movies. Some very awesome person took the time to make the forum topic into a plain text file, found here: http://www.angelfire.com/sk/sharkens/winkle.txt .

    If you have read it already, my apologies for going on so long.

  4. Hal says:

    That seems like it would make a funny vehicle for the strip, though.

    Whiny players, annoying the DM with their nagging and harping, make it to the Black Gate. “This campaign has been going on forever! Are going to get this over with?” “Lord Sauron comes marching out the gate to fight the party.” “Crap.”

    It could work.

  5. Telas says:

    The greatest asset a movie director has is the ability to leave something out because the disruption it causes is not worth the “coolness” it brings.

  6. Deoxy says:

    I haven’t rad your post on how Star Wars might have been, and I don’t plan to… it would be too depressingly true (actually, I doubt it would be… you couldn’t possibly come up with stuff as bad as the Holly wood people – they’re the only game in town, and their industry is STILL managing to do badly).

    But, in defense of this particular piece of Hollywood drivel, the original fight with Sauron (depicted in the beginning of FotR as a lucky blow for the win) was Isildur and his dad and the elf king and his son in a big battle with Sauron, and they WON (with the two king’s dying, each leaving their son’s in charge), so it’s not quite as far-fetched as it might sound (though in the movie, they made Sauron so ridiculously much stronger as to make it seem ridiculous, and they made Aragorn a bit weaker, IMO – as a descendant of the guy who personally beat down Sauron, there’s a reason the wraiths at Weathertop were reluctant to fight him, another thing which gets lost in the movie, though it was admittedly always a little weak).

  7. Ryan says:

    Just one more item we can add to the list of “50 reasons why Lord of the Rings Sucks”


  8. Luke says:

    I think we can classify this as “the worst idea of the decade” category. I mean, holly crap! All things considered, these movies were actually quite faithful to the book. How the hell did this scene even get in the script?

    Deoxy – Sauron was kinda disembodied at the time. Plus this fight would be a such a huge departure from the book… There is no way fans and critics could just cringe and ignore it the way they have been ignoring the Arwen scene and all the other little things. This would be huge mistake.

  9. -Chipper says:

    Just a side comment – “More cowbell” has a wiki entry! But the entry doesn’t say what “more cowbell” has come to mean other than citing how it was used in the original skit.

  10. In story terms, “Frodo pushing Gollum” could be seen as even more damaging. A boss fight may be a cliche, but Frodo pushing Gollum neuters the Ring, which in turn neuters the entire story.

    Of course, I’m not really going to try to argue which way of utterly destroying the story at the very end is actually worse.

    While some of the changes annoy me and some of the changes I concede make sense, I’ve always thought it was a near-miracle it turned out as well as it did.

  11. Deoxy says:

    Oh, I agree it would be a huge mistake! I’m just saying that it’s a mistake that is easier to make (that it is, it strays less from the original material in certain ways) than, say, having the ents decide NOT to help, then suddenly noticing that hundreds of acres of their precious forest had burned without them noticing before, just to name one of my personal peeves – that’s just unbelievably stupid (though the final effect on the movie was less bad than an “Aragorn vs Sauron GRUDGE MATCH!!!” would have been).

    Oh, and that “50 reasons why Lord of the Rings Sucks” link was GREAT!! (especially the bits about how it “stole” from Willow and other films).

  12. -Chipper says:

    I love the movie trilogy that Jackson made. And I agree that Frodo pushing Gollum would have been terrible. But what we got wasn’t much better. How trite. How unbelievable. He fell over the cliff edge, but grabbed on with ONE HAND (like we haven’t seen that a bazillion times in the movies & TV)! And then hung there for a couple minutes with ONE HAND, swinging freely.

    I’d rather see Frodo lunging to save Gollum from falling & almost fall in himself, only to be saved by Sam tackling him & him initially resisting Sam, being desperate to get the Ring back. Maybe even have Frodo struggling, reaching toward the edge & crying as Sam literally drags him out. IMO, it would have better shown Frodo’s complete submission to the Ring & his grief at its loss. Oh well, that’s what I translate it to in my mind.

  13. bkw says:

    Whenever I read discussions about what a badass Sauron is, I always remember that Sauron was Melkor’s handservant.

    The conflict between the Valar and Melkor? Now that is fodder for some epic stuff.

  14. “I think we can classify this as “the worst idea of the decade” category. I mean, holly crap! All things considered, these movies were actually quite faithful to the book. How the hell did this scene even get in the script?”

    Doesn’t shock me in the least. THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS was a great movie that found a way to realize the book in a way which was both true to the source material and a powerful cinematic experience.

    But it was a false promise. THE TWO TOWERS and RETURN OF THE KING were hollow mockeries.

    There are several major problems with the movies:

    1. Peter Jackson’s inability to handle a chase sequence. This is the only problem which directly impacts FOTR, but it’s evidenced through the anti-climactic Flight to the Ford and the overly-simplistic All the Goblins in Moria. Both sequences are mispaced and mishandled.

    (Examples: Jackson takes the penultimate moment of the entire Flight to the Ford — the Nazgul almost grasping Frodo — and moves it inexplicably to the middle of the sequence. He also fails to establish a finish line for what is, ultimately, a race to safety. It would be like directing a horror movie in which the heroine is racing for the safety of a door and — instead of getting there just in time and slamming it behind her as the creature from the dark nipped at her heels — she got there several minutes before the creature did and sedately shuts the door behind her.

    Similarly, the falling staircase in Moria isn’t a problem because it’s a falling staircase (as some would suggest). The problem with the falling staircase is that it happens as the characters are running away from a BALROG. The Balrog has been successfully established as a huge threat (through McKellan’s masterful performance), but Jackson puts that entire sequence literally on pause so that our heroes can be threatened by falling masonry.)

    2. Peter Jackson’s inability to direct a battle scene. Yes, the special effects were amazing. Yes, the special effects team was able to put a whole bunch of enemy soldiers on the battlefield and provide some stunning visuals. But Jackson utterly failed to use all that technology at his disposal to tell a story more complex than “all the orcs in the world charge our heroes”. Jackson’s failure to do is all the more inexplicable given the fact that, for raw material, he was working with some of the best-written battle scenes of the 20th century.

    What makes it even worse is that, not only is Peter Jackson unable to tell a story with his battle sequences, he is apparently completely ignorant of how battles actually work. Thus he makes his heroes look like completely incompetent fools time and time again.

    (Example: A full dissection of just how badly Helm’s Deep and the Pelennor Fields were handled would be overly-lengthy, so let’s take two simple examples: First, we have Gandalf’s advice that it would be “suicide” for Theoden’s small force to occupy a defensive position. Instead, it would be best if Theoden’s small force rode out and met 10,000 orcs in the open field.

    Second, we have Aragorn at the Field Cormallen: Not only does he calmly watch as the much larger army of Mordor pours through a narrow defile surrounding the Black Gate, where (as the movie 300 reminds us) their superior numbers would have been blunted, he waits until they have COMPLETELY ENCIRCLED HIS ARMY before charging.

    Apparently Jackson wanted us to believe that Gandalf and Aragorn were both complete idiots. There is no other explanation for this.)

    3. Rampant continuity errors riddle TTT and, to a lesser extent, ROTK.

    (Example: The classic example is the ents of Fangorn. First, you’ve got the sequence where Treebeard is taking the hobbits west and then Pippin has the clever idea of going south, instead, so that he’ll see the damage that Saruman has been doing to the forest. The only problem? Unless Treebeard was planning to drop Pippin and Merry off on top of an impassable mountain range without any adequate supplies or equipment, the only “western edge” of Fangorn he could take them to… is right next to Isengard. This is followed up by “despite the fact the ents have no idea what’s going on in Isengard, several dozen of them are standing in the treeline right next to the place”.)

    4. Laughably ridiculous moments. For example, what possibly possessed Jackson to discard one of the most noble and tragic moments in 20th century literature, and instead have a flaming Denethor run the length of an ENTIRE CITY before plunging off a cliff. That was possible the most ridiculous moment I have ever seen in a film.

    5. This isn’t a direct flaw in the film, but something that should be commented on: Jackson’s constant defense of his choices by saying “there’s just not enough time to film the entire book” is perfectly true… but it would ring a little more genuinely if TTT and ROTK weren’t padded up with countless sequences Jackson created out of whole cloth, none of which contribute to the plot.

  15. Shamus says:

    ” This isn't a direct flaw in the film, but something that should be commented on: Jackson's constant defense of his choices by saying “there's just not enough time to film the entire book” is perfectly true… but it would ring a little more genuinely if TTT and ROTK weren't padded up with countless sequences Jackson created out of whole cloth, none of which contribute to the plot.”

    Yes. I don’t begrudge him CUTTING. Sure, I’d love to see the Barrow Wights or Bombadil, but some things MUST be cut to make a decent movie. But why then add a half-hour of Arwen & Aragorn and another hour of Gimli falling over? Sigh. (And don’t even get me started on the “drinking contest” between Legolas and Gimli. Geeze Peter: What do you have against Dwarves?)

    Another thing I REALLY miss is the artful language. Too often we get modern dialog clanging into the middle of the original speech, and it sounds like an accordian in a string quartet.

  16. Shamus says:

    -Chipper: They were actually trying to do what you suggested. Frodo was hanging there in the air, and we were supposed to understand that he was trying to decide if he should climb up or let go and follow the ring. This was what the editors intended, although I viewed the scene the same way you did: As a trite cliff-hanging sequence. The idea that he was hanging there because he was tempted to let go never entered my mind. I assumed he was hanging there because it was more “suspenseful”.

  17. John says:

    I agree with everything, except the staircase sequence in Moria. That was bloody fantastic, I was laughing out loud in delight in the theater at how great that entire sequence was.

  18. Shamus said: “But why then add a half-hour of Arwen & Aragorn and another hour of Gimli falling over?”

    Jackson’s handling of Arwen in Fellowship was, IMO, inspired. Reaching into the appendix to pull out some material for her and then giving her Glorfindel’s role to further establish her as a character in the audience’s mind was important.

    In a novel you can afford to develop dozens of minor characters, imply the importance of Arwen through a few deft touches, and then have it all pay off as a revelation at the end (where her marriage to Aragorn is of significant thematic importance). I, personally, can’t imagine how you could do that in a film without the audience saying, “Who the heck is this chick?” when she suddenly appears at the end. So finding ways to integrate her character into the narrative of Fellowship without disrupting the natural flow of Tolkien’s plot was impressive.

    Thus the meandering and boring Arwen content in TTT and the completely illogical Arwen material in ROTK baffled me.

    Particularly when you could have used the exact same techniques you used in Fellowship to such great effect: Instead of Halbarad bearing Aragorn’s banner, you simply have Arwen bring it herself.

    And even if can’t make Arwen at Pelennor work (and while purists may turn purple in the fact at such a suggestion, I honestly can’t think of any reason why that would be so horrible), you could have easily had Arwen accompany Aragorn and then remain on the ships of the Black Fleet.

    I think this is the thing that frustrates me the most: Fellowship gave a false promise of what we could expect. Going into Fellowship I was expecting a passable adaptation. Instead I got a *wonderful* adaptation. So when TTT and ROTK turned in performances ranging from the mediocre to the pathetic, it was worse than if the entire trilogy had simply performed at that level.

    Shamus said: “Another thing I REALLY miss is the artful language. Too often we get modern dialog clanging into the middle of the original speech, and it sounds like an accordian in a string quartet.”

    Which is another example of this same phenomenon: In Fellowship a remarkable amount of the dialogue is actually lifted straight off the page, but in TTT and ROTK this is not the case. And even the dialogue that survives is badly distorted by the context its shoved into.

    When Gandalf says, “‘So passes Denethor, son of Ecthelion.” It’s a moment of grand tragedy. Ian McKellan gives the line an excellent reading, but when it’s put in the context of Denethor running around like a flaming chicken with his head cut off, the line is reduced to pure comedy.

    I have come to suspect these problems are an unfortunate result of how the production evolved: Apparently, when Jackson originally pitched for two movies. The first movie would largely be identical to the version of the Fellowship we got. The second movie would have conflated TTT and ROTK into a single movie. Two scripts were, in fact, written with this pitch in mind.

    Then the production got expanded to the full trilogy. Jackson and his co-writers went back in and expanded the script to three full movies.

    But what I suspect happened is that, instead of scratching their second script entirely and going back to work from the original book, they instead expanded — and, in expanding the script, they were less careful about staying faithful to the original. (After all, they had already adapted it as best they could, right?)

    I also feel that Peter Jackson is a very poor editor. For example, I love all the extra material in Fellowship — those are some beautiful scenes which I love seeing on screen. But, as a movie, the Extended Edition of FOTR is inferior to the Theatrical Edition. Its pacing is poor and its narrative is bloated.

    With TTT and ROTK, Jackson almost certainly had a freer hand in making the theatrical cuts than he did for FOTR, and thus the bloat and the hubris and the poor pacing crept into even the theatrical cuts of the film.

  19. Rebecca says:

    So, I guess I’m alone in thinking that the movies are better than the books?

  20. Shamus says:

    Rebecca: Not alone, but that is certainly a minority opinion. I can understand this. The movies ARE thrilling and epic, and despite my whining they are an incredible accomplishment. I don’t disagree with anything Justin Alexander said, but I still hold the trillogy above al lot of other popular big-budget movies.

    For those that DO like the movies best, I wonder how many read the books first?

  21. Not only was this sequence storyboarded, it was actually filmed — that’s why Aragorn is fighting a CGI troll in the Battle of Cormallen.

    The main problem I have with the movies is the absolute reversal of main character motives. Aragorn goes from a noble man who is patiently waiting and biding his time until he can prove himself and take the throne of Gondor upon the defeat of Sauron to a whiny little bitch who’s afraid of the responsibility. Oh, sure, I — ajeckamongaHUH?!?

    Frodo snaps at Sam and tells him to go back to the Shire because of some lost lembas. Oh, of cou–ajeckamongaHUH?!?

    So many more instances, and I don’t want to get pissed off trying to remember them.

    Oh — and the reduction of Gimli to pure comic relief is criminal.

    Still, the visuals of the film(s) are stunning.

  22. Yahzi says:

    I think Jackson actually improved on the book in a few spots – making Boromir sympathetic, for example. Or maybe the credit for that goes to Sean Bean.

    Rewriting Arwen’s part was just necessary. If Tolkien were writing today, his editor would have made him do it. A movie about 9 guys? What is this, The Ring of Brokeback Mountain? :D

    I agree that the last two movies weren’t as good as the first one. But all in all, it was a terrific accomplishment, and for all the mistakes Jackson made (Gandalf dies because he can’t do a pull-up? WTF? In my version, the whip is still wrapped around his ankle and pulls him down…), he did a better job than we could have dared to hope.

    Just imagine if Kevin Costner had made this movie…


  23. James Blair says:

    Gandalf didn’t fall. He let go! The Balrog was still a threat, and probably needed a being of similar power to occupy his attention for a while so the rest of the group could escape. I think the “unplanned” part was being mortally wounded in the fight that followed.

    Back when I read the books, I thought it curious that Galadriel didn’t seem all that worried about Gandalf’s fall. I was always sure that she, and perhaps Elrond, knew what Gandalf really was (I doubt the bearers of the Elven Rings would fail to notice things about one another that most people wouldn’t see). She more-or-less summoned a Giant Eagle and sent it right where it needed to be to fetch him.

  24. James Blair says:

    As for the original subject, well, it was a shame that the Mouth of Sauron couldn’t have put up more of a fight. A “boss fight” with him would not have been so out of line…

  25. Deoxy says:

    “Just imagine if Kevin Costner had made this movie…”

    I was going to make further comments about what else has been said, but my brain has just been so thoroughly defiled that I’m just going to crawl away, curl into a fetal position, and babble unintelligibly.

  26. Tola says:

    Heh, maybe they could have thrown in a few random encounters and had Aragorn level up as well.

    Wargs, anyone?

    Not to mention at least attempting to fight The King of The Oathbreakers…

    Aragorn Vs Sauron. Whilst in the books, it’s left entirely open as to whether Sauron is actually disemodied or not, this would break with the MOVIE’S plot, which has him firmly disembodied.

    I’m not saying it’s not a bad idea, it’s just…feasible. Remember, Sauron is thinking(Especially with the march on the Gate) that Aragorn has the Ring at that point. Sauron is DESPERATE to get it back, and hell, he’s more powerful than most Men anyway.

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Unfortunatelly,not all those absurdities were discarded.Legolas and the oliphaunt,for example.

  28. Nathanael says:

    “Shamus: For those that DO like the movies best, I wonder how many read the books first?”

    Me. Seriously. Those books were damn boring. Over the last 20 years I’ve tried to read them time and again, and each time the third book hurt my gut with unbearable boredom. First book was okay, second was tolerable (barely), and the third was just bland and awful. My opinion, mind you. Oddly enough, I quite enjoyed The Hobbit.

    The movies… ye gods the movies were awesome. They would be ever better if it weren’t for the hordes of drooling “OMG it wazzunt liek tha BOOkz DOOD whar wuz TOMBOMBOMBOMBOMBOMBADEEL?!” fanboys.

    I applaud Jackson for making the story interesting again. Let’s just hope he doesn’t try his hand at that bible-boring Silmarillion.

  29. Miako says:

    >Aragorn goes from a noble man who is patiently waiting and biding his time >until he can prove himself and take the throne of Gondor upon the defeat >of Sauron to a whiny little bitch who's afraid of the responsibility.

    … this is just dumb. Sending Frodo to Mordor was pissing in the wind. The battle had been lost centuries ago. There was no reason Aragorn should have expected this desperate gambit to work.

    I tried to read the books when I was about ten. Skipped most of it, actually. I liked the movies. Not going to compare the two until I read the books again.


  30. Matt says:

    “Frodo pushing Gollum” would’ve been the equivalent of “Greedo shoots first.”

    I also agree that the Arwen stuff was necessary, especially for a modern audience. Arwen’s “show up at the end and look pretty” bit from the books may have worked in the 50s, but not now.

  31. Shapeshifter says:

    Arwen vs. Glorfindel:

    Since i’m a die-hard Glorfindel fan i’ll defend his place as not just relevant but VITAL to the movie. Glorfindel’s place in the books was as, essentially, the baddest ass alive. Barring, probably, Gandalf and Saruman and Sauron. He may have, in a past life, killed a Balrog. He could 1v9 the Nazgul, and before the ring was found he kicked the hell out of the Witch King when the Witch King decided to invade. He was a one-man (elf) wrecking crew in the way Legolas never was. But, for all that he wasn’t chosen to go dunk the ring in Mt. Doom. Why not? I think as it was put in the books: even he couldn’t just walk up and force the gates to Mordor open by himself. Neither would it have done them any good to send him plus a whole army of elves along with the company. In the movie they don’t really explain this–it’s just taken for granted. Why don’t the elves go along though? Are they just kind of lazy? No, the point is that Glorfindel’s personal strength wouldn’t have really contributed and that–since he’s such a well-known entity in Middle Earth to the various powers-that-be–he would probably actually endanger the mission with his presence. “Oh look, Glorfindel stopped hanging around Rivendell and is coming straight at me… I wonder why that is…”

    That’s maybe a little more subtle than “Check Aragorn’s girl out. Isn’t she awesome?”… but it is important.

    There’s also this thing where Eowyn shows up from out of nowhere and wrecks the Witch King. Arwen replacing Glorfindel dulls Eowyn’s victory later.

    Although i don’t expect the modern movie goer to have that kind of attention span…

    Gandalf falls vs. Gandalf lets go: I’m on the “falls” side here, and let me tell you why: there’s no good reason for Gandalf to go fight the Balrog if he can avoid it. He’s not entirely sure he can beat the Balrog (and it does, in fact, actually kill him) and there’s a much, much, much more important task than beating up on some huge monster that’s hiding out underground. The Balrog wants a fight, Gandalf doesn’t. Also, that’s the way it plays out in the books just FYI.

    And actually, although thanks to proper acting the scene did what it was supposed to, i think the whole Balrog scene in the movie was really the weakest point. If i had done it the Balrog wouldn’t be some clearly defined lava monster, it would have been a great shadow with somewhat unclear boundaries. The whole scene would have gone much faster, also. About thirty seconds from “Balrog appears on screen” to “Gandalf is gone”, if i could fit the dialog into that timeframe. The whole thing is supposed to be shocking, but we get too much time in the movie to catch our breath (so to speak) that it sort of loses its power. It’s a horrific monster unlike any human or even any of the lesser monsters within LotR could possibly be. Or that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s going to steam-roll absolutely everything–except, of course, for Gandalf.

    For comparison, in the book, the distance between “Balrog appears” and “Gandalf is gone” is two pages. That’s less time than Tolkien spends on the indigenous wildlife of various places they visit.

    Also, i think it’s telling how uninspiring the fight with Sauron must have been if they could just slap a troll on top of Sauron and let it go at that…

    Let me also say that i think the movies were some of the best made probably ever, and at least in recent years. It’s just that they don’t have anywhere near the depth of the books.

  32. superfluousk says:

    >In story terms, “Frodo pushing Gollum” could be seen as even more
    >damaging. A boss fight may be a cliche, but Frodo pushing Gollum
    >neuters the Ring, which in turn neuters the entire story.

    ” ‘Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.’

    Then the vision passed and Sam saw Frodo standing, hand on breast, his breath coming in great gasps, and Gollum at his feet, resting on his knees with his wide-splayed hands upon the ground.”

    Return of the King, p 272. Four pages later, Gollum attacks Frodo again, and surprise surprise, falls into the Fire of Doom! In other words, Frodo totally did push Gollum — he just did it before they ever entered the cave. :) Either that or the Ring pushed him — it’s ambiguous which of them actually put the curse on Gollum. Still, it’s doubtful whether the Ring would have enforced a curse that led to its own destruction…

  33. Warhammer says:

    I actually felt that the best movie of the trilogy was TTT.

    FOTR was a great disappointment to me. The opening to the movie was pretty good. I understood the liberties taken with the introduction of Merry and Pippen. But you have this whole farce of a chase with the Black Riders, you short shrift Gildor, etc. There was a lot of unnecessary cutting at this point in the story. Finally, once they get to Buckleberry Ferry, voila, they show up at Bree!

    Bree to Weathertop was pretty dang good. The walking scenes were humorous and built the characters up. Then you get to Weathertop. Aragorn goes 1 on whatever with the Nazgul. Yet, later on at Rivendell he is a weenie little Nancy-boy because he doesn’t want to be king. Not only that, but if Aragorn can take on the Nazgul, even one, by himself, why does he have trouble with Orcs, Trolls, and other nasties later? But, I digress.

    Then, who comes to save Aragorn and co.? Arwen!?!?!? You could have made it Elrohir or Elladan and had them explain that Arwen sent them because she knew that Aragorn would need help, etc. Still, I can understand this due to the times we’re in, etc. Then you have the dreadful chase scene. Finally they get to the Fords, and all of a sudden Arwen has this great power to make the river flood, etc.

    Finally we make it to Rivendell. One of my favorite chapters in the trilogy is the Council of Elrond. You find out what is going on, you find out why everyone is wondering about the ring, etc. There is the debate of what to do with the Ring. Yet, in the movie, Gimli shouts that he’ll destroy it now. Get up and tries to chop the ring in two? Isn’t he a dwarf who is supposed to know about metalworking, smithing, etc., etc.? Everyone starts arguing about this that and the other, and Frodo shouts them down and says he’ll take it. Why not follow the books here guys? It helps exposition, explains the motives of everyone, and does a better job of explaining why they must go to Mordor. Additionally, you realize that Gandalf and Elrond switch personalities from the books. Elrond becomes the daring one, while Gandalf is lamenting everything and becomes very cautious. That was part of the reason why Gandalf was sent to Middle Earth to begin with. To council the Elves and other Free Peoples to be audacious and attempt to destroy the Ring. Not sit on their butts like the Elves basically did for 3000 years…

    Once Rivendell is done, the movie gets a lot better aside from the Gandalf and Aragorn switching roles over Caradrhas or Moria, the Falling Staircase, and the whole freakout thing that Galadriel does in Lorien. I can see where the Galadriel part can be shown that way, it was just way over the top.

    So for me, FOTR ruined several key concepts of the books. Aragorn is emasculated (although Viggo was spot on for the role), Gandalf is turned into a big pansy, Elrond is toughened up a bit, but is hard as can be, rather than the kind, wise ruler he is in the books. Plus, Elrond who has basically served as Aragorn’s father is completely cold towards him. Elves are in their twilight in the books. They either cannot or will not fight Sauron with naked force. Normal men have great power, but most fight for Sauron. The men of Numenor, while still powerful, are a shell of their former strength and are unable to assail Sauron in Mordor.

    In the books, Aragorn falls in love with Arwen. Elrond finds out and tells Aragorn that Arwen is too good for her. He later relents and tells Aragorn that the only way that he can marry her is if he becomes king of both Arnor and Gondor. That is why Aragorn has bided his time and been so serious in everything he did. That was why he spent his time in the wild and became the great huntsman of the age.

    From this, I expected what I got out of TTT. I figured the Elves would play a large role. It mostly met my expectations. My one issue with the whole movie were the ents. Why change what happened in the books? What point did it serve? The ents that lived near Isengard knew of the destruction there. Why have them say no, have Treebeard take the hobbits towards Isengard, have Treebeard see the destruction, and then all the ents are right there? Huh?

    The other major issues were with Aragorn and Faramir. Why have Aragorn ride off the cliff? You knew Aragorn was going to live, it served no purpose. Faramir was a wasted opportunity. Faramir was written different from Boromir to show the difference between the two. Faramir was supposed to be the noble one, but the one held in lower esteem by their father. Yet, PJ blew his chance to show this. Although, I will give him credit. The scene with Faramir and Boromir at Osgiliath was great.

    Then when RotK came out I had some high hopes. After TTT I really hoped for a somewhat better adaptation. Then, you have the whole Arwen bit with her leaving and becoming weaker as Sauron’s power grew, etc. If they would have set the situation up properly and per the book, you could have had her wasting away in worry and regret, or possibly even losing hope. I think it would have been much more effective.

    After that, you have the Paths of the Dead junk. It could have been extremely cool with the same CGI effects following Gimli to the Stone of Erech where Aragorn blows the horn and calls the King of the Dead. Nope, we need to have a battle! Then, we need to have tons of skulls come from out of the mountain. What the heck is that about?

    Then, they completely miscast Denethor. Denethor was a proud man who was going to lose no matter what. He is a tragic figure. Yet, he is made out to be a buffoon, prior to his great impersonation of the Olympic Torch.

    Another chapter is completely ruined during the Battle of Pelennor Fields when PJ decides that it would be real cool if Legolas did some Mumak surfing. Sure, let’s mix up themes and show the waning of the elves by making the audience think that if there were just another 100 Legolases Sauron would be overthrown.

    Most inexcusably, Frodo sends Sam home. Their whole relationship in the movie is ruined by this. Frodo knew Gollum for what he was in the books, yet in the movies he decides to side with the shifty guy he picked up along the way who was going to kill him? This needs just a little suspension of disbelief… Sam is basically the Gunga Din of the books. He will do anything for his master. The books has a contrast of Frodo and Sam’s master and manservant relationship with Sauron and the Orcs master-slave relationship. One is based on respect and love, the other on power.

    Finally, you have Aragorn killing the Mouth of Sauron. I just don’t get this. It debases Aragorn’s character and is at complete odds with who he’s been in the movies up to this point.

    I don’t have a problem with artistic adaptation. However, in using this, it is important not to change the theme of the story. In many ways, PJ and co. did just that. Christopher Tolkein is on record as not liking the movies and I completely agree with him in that they changed the point his father was making. Are they good movies, sure, they are better than 95% of the dreck Hollywood puts out now. But, if they had adhered to the books a bit more, they would have been even better.

  34. Itse says:

    I’m a big fan of the books, and not such a big fan of the movies, but I don’t really see these two opinions as very much related, except in the sense that they are dramatically hugely different experiences, and as such require very different tastes. The only real connection is that knowing what the original books are like, it really saddens me that the movies are not great. The movies are neat eyecandy, fun action-adventures, but nothing more. They will not go down in history in any other way than the size of the production.

    I really couldn’t care less about the details. I thought Bombadil was pointless in the books, and actually the whole first book was really kinda boring, and lots of other small things are less-than-perfect. I don’t know the stories by heart. But that doesn’t stop me from loving the books like no other, since the books have so much going for them; they are a uniquely succesful mix of a war story, an epic of despair, sense of magic and awe, true heroism and a feel of truly human protagonists (even if this is somewhat paradoxical, since many of them are not human at all). In a word, atmosphere. Mood. The books touch me, but the movies only entertain.

    And the saddest thing is, there’s really no reason why the movies should fail to touch anything inside me. They have the same great backstory, they have quite adequate actors, they have everything they need financially and techically to produce true film magic, and really with the budget they have, they could’ve quite easily added the final touches. Like having a military advisor on the set to make battle scenes that don’t look stupid. And like having an actual professional screenwriter, whose credentials are a little more weighty than “I am the directors wife.” Perhaps a writer who has shown to have some sense of drama a little deeper than “dwarves are funny and elves are cool”. But they didn’t care. They created this huge machinery to produce one of the largest film epics of all time, and then they give one of the most essential jobs of the whole process, the screenwriting, to couple of relatively unexperienced people, or to put it bluntly, a couple of fangirls. That’s just inexcusable. And they obviously didn’t think that on-screen fighting could have a meaning that’s anything deeper than “killing looks cool”. They just don’t get that if there’s a story going on, the battles should tell stories too. They’re not just a bloody intermission.

    There’s ways to make great movies about books, just look at everything Stanley Kubrick did. And Kubrick rewrote the stories much more than what was ever the done with LotR. The thing is, he didn’t even try to turn the books into movies straight up. He used those books as a basis to make good movies. LotR would’ve offered great material for this, as the books with all the other Middle-Earth material offered a ton of good stuff to work with, but instead we got… well, action-adventure eyecandy.

    1. WJS says:

      Isn’t “Fancy effects wrapped around a crappy script” basically Hollywood in a nutshell?

  35. Pimped Dragon says:

    Gee hee hee “Crack of Doom”. So not going there. Oops, too late :D

  36. Parzival says:

    Okay, I’m being a necromancer here, but I had to comment.

    Someone criticized Jackson’s depictions of the battle scenes from the books, particularly the fight at the Black Gate, blaming Jackson for having Aragorn delay his charge until his forces were surrounded.

    That wasn’t Jackson; that was Tolkien. In fact, in the book Aragorn divides his army in the face of the enemy, occupying two hills and leaving an unoccupied gap between them!!! Sauron’s army then issues from the gate, surrounds the two separate, smaller forces on their hills, and then the fight begins. Utter tactical idiocy on the part of Aragorn, and Tolkien wrote it that way without realizing how militarily inept it was. PJ, at least, had the Army of the West remain a united force.

  37. Well…I’m kinda glad someone necroposted before me, so I didn’t have to!

    Just to say, a couple of nitpicky things…Sauron was definitely embodied in the books. Gollum reported that Sauron had only nine fingers on his black hand.

    And as much as I hated to admit it at the time, the replacement of Glorfindel with Arwen made sense. It only apparently robbed Frodo of one of his more powerful scenes–standing up to the Witch-King and telling him to take a hike. They shifted that to Weathertop, where it is a good bit subtler, with Frodo pulling the Ring away from the Witch-King while being run through on a Morgul blade.

    That freed up some time to establish Arwen as a presence in the movies (which I think could have stood to happen in the books, too). Making her a presence in the movie was fine, that needed to be done. (Not to say I will not flail about how her presence was established…I don’t care how sneaky Elves are, Elves on horses DO NOT sneak up on ARAGORN and pull a knife on him! Neither do Elf princesses show up one of the most powerful Elves left in Middle-Earth and a Wizard–both with Rings! by shedding a single crystalline tear that calls up a flood. I am so glad they digitally edited her out of Helm’s Deep…)

    *Ahem* Anyhow, yeah, BOSSFIGHT with Aragorn vs. Sauron…BAD IDEA. Not entirely and completely far-fetched…Aragorn had Andàºril and his Nàºmenorean ran true, while Sauron was significantly weaker (though as pointed out, clearly disembodied for the movie), but still a huge enormous gigantic bad idea.

    Not sure if it would have been as bad as the idea of Frodo sending Sam away and Sam actually leaving, since Aragorn fighting Sauron would have been merely mind-numbingly stupid, while what actually happened in the movie completely undermined both Frodo and Sam…

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