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The Middle-Earth Films

post #1 of 552
Thread Starter 
During the week of Christmas, my wife and I revisited the Middle-Earth films, beginning with LORD OF THE RINGS and finishing with THE HOBBIT. We only briefly debated starting with THE HOBBIT, but agreed against it; like the STAR WARS prequels, they don't really work as "starters," given that they make story choices based on the assumption the audience already saw what, chronologically, should come next. Besides, the HOBBIT trilogy (and it hurts for me to describe it thus) is framed as a giant flashback occurring within LORD OF THE RINGS; and, more to the point, THE HOBBIT, again like STAR WARS, sort of hurts the "original trilogy" retroactively when viewed in numerical order.

Anyway, we're both major Tolkien nerds: we grew up on the stuff; she took notes in college in various Elvish languages; I collect rare editions of the books; we cut our wedding cake with Sting, etc. I'll stop there before I start sounding like an AICN article and mention my uncle squeezing my ass while I squealed (or whatever the fuck that was that Harry wrote about BLADE 2).

We hadn't watched LOTR since right before the first HOBBIT, and saw each film in the new trilogy as they were released, but almost dutifully. They were laborious. In any case, this was the longest we'd gone without seeing LOTR, in part because we now have a child (which makes marathons, let alone single-film viewings, a challenge). "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," and all that. We were quite eager to dive back into a world we loved very much, and the development of which began my love affair with websites like CHUD. I found that several years away both reinforced the things I enjoyed while simultaneously revealing things I'd been happy to overlook.

Here are my feelings on each film.

(And yes, Extended Editions only.)

FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: By far the best of the series in my estimation. Not only will this film remain special for being our first true realization of Middle-Earth (and for "working" when there were very valid concerns that it wouldn't), but it's also the most organic. Actors were shot on location, which lends an earthy, rooted quality. When it comes to fantasy, it's important to try harder to achieve realism, and FELLOWSHIP succeeds. The use of forced perspective and swapping in and out of Tall Paul and the Mini-Me's eliminated the need for constant digital trickery to sell the difference in stature between characters; and the use of large-scale miniatures integrated into real environments and populated with CG doubles was unlike anything we'd seen before. Jackson stayed true to the book, with changes that made sense: he increased the sense of urgency across the board, and gave characters like Aragorn genuine arcs where their written counterparts had none. Incredible Andrew Lesnie cinematography was digitally treated to become an Alan Lee watercolor brought to life; the score by Howard Shore transcended anything I'd hoped for; the casting was impeccable, even when it was outside of the box. Really as close to perfect as can be expected from a fantasy film.

THE TWO TOWERS: Of the three, this film benefits the most from its added runtime in the Extended Edition -- the theatrical version was messy and never found a rhythm. The extra forty-five minutes manage to make the film feel shorter, and in fact, it almost becomes a different film entirely. The character who benefits the most is Faramir: in the course of one scene (the flashback at Osgiliath), every change Jackson, Walsh and Boyens made to his portion of the story is completely justified (and welcome); and it enhances not only Faramir, but Boromir and Denethor, and their respective motivations. This of course raises a concern: most of what "improved" THE TWO TOWERS through the Extended Edition is necessary to the plot, which makes one wonder why these scenes had been removed in the first place, and why the "fat" was retained (Aragorn's near-death experience; Arwen flashbacks). The addition of Gollum and sizeable CGI armies pulls us back a bit from the realism of FELLOWSHIP, but amazing sets and locations like Edoras, Osgiliath, and Helm's Deep still ground us in a dirty, muddy, rainy, and absolutely believable Middle-Earth. This is also where it becomes apparent that the digital grading is being used to give each film in the trilogy its own color scheme, particularly in terms of highlights: FELLOWSHIP is the gold of twilight; TOWERS is the blue of night; RETURN OF THE KING is the white light of dawn. See the DARK KNIGHT trilogy, where this was also applied.

RETURN OF THE KING: If THE TWO TOWERS was the film most benefitted structurally by the existence of an Extended Edition, THE RETURN OF THE KING is most improved by virtue of reinstating iconic moments from the book that were bafflingly absent from the theatrical cut: the resolution of Saruman's story; The Mouth of Sauron; Frodo and Sam's capture in Mordor. However, for all its grandeur, RETURN OF THE KING feels now more removed from the two films that preceded it due to the enormous reshoots that occurred in Wellington in the months leading up to release. Characters no longer seem to be inhabiting real locations because they aren't: there's quite a bit of green screen work, and it shows. It seems almost ungenerous to criticize the film in that regard, given that nothing on the scale of THE LORD OF THE RINGS had ever been attempted, and certainly not as three gigantic films shot all at once. Yet for all the seams that occasionally show, the film still works, and still hits the emotional sweet spot. I'll never understand the complaint that there were too many endings, given the sheer size of the cast and stories to resolve, particularly since by the end, I'm not wanting to say good-bye. That wordless scene at the Green Dragon, narrated only by the hobbits' facial expressions and Howard Shore's music, is a beautiful thing, and makes one want to start the whole thing over again.

AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY: If LORD OF THE RINGS had been about streamlining the story in order to focus on Frodo, the first of the HOBBIT trilogy seemed to promise bloat from the outset -- and to focus on everyone BUT the title character. Aside from the obvious disconnect in seeing actors reprise their roles while wearing every day of the decade that had passed, the callbacks made no sense because they ought to have been call-forwards. The fact that the Ring makes Bilbo invisible is never made clear; Galadriel and Gandalf pontificate on someone named Sauron, and Nazgul and Witch Kings and Rings of Power, and none of it has any context. What should be memorable character introductions for those who will appear later on in the next trilogy -- Frodo, Saruman, Elrond, etc. -- are simply walk-on appearances without any defining iconography or score. To wit, Jackson spent the entirety of FELLOWSHIP teasing Gollum's appearance; in AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, he literally just crawls onscreen. The score is clearly cobbled together elements of Shore's earlier work, resulting in misappropriations (the Nazgul theme during the orc climactic attack, while Aragorn's coronation is played when Thorin and Bilbo hug it out atop the Carrock); and what scenes are presented with reasonable fidelity to the source material (Riddles in the Dark) are confused by attempts to reference previous films incorrectly (Gollum's schizophrenia, which shouldn't be present at this time). The dwarves are incredibly inconsistent from a design perspective, and abandoning practical FX and sets lends a feeling of artificiality. Like the PHANTOM MENACE, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is both too silly and too serious at once, and clearly the result of needless expansion. SEE: Radagast.

THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG: A film created in the editing room. There is a strain of poison -- much like the one Kili receives via the Morgul blade -- the runs throughout the lifeblood of this film, murdering any chance that it might recover; and that sickness is the bizarre, inappropriate, and completely fucking batshit Elf/Dwarf slashfic love story. Every time DESOLATION rolls out an unexpectedly good sequence that hearkens back to Jackson's earlier strengths, that fucking love story rears its ugly head again. Like ATTACK OF THE CLONES, this second installment also feels like a fanbait response to negative criticism: the emphasis on Spectacle is increased, with characters and settings from the previous trilogy appearing for no other reason than their popularity. Legolas inexplicably has more screen time than the titular character, which is both baffling and indicative of the greater problem at hand: that none of this was properly planned. One need look no further than the fact that the film stops dead in the middle (following the barrel chase) and has to work up momentum again...due to the fact that the ending of one movie has been sloppily stitched to the beginning of another. The ridiculous and unforgiveable Big Dumb Ending where Thorin stand on Smaug's face before splashing him with shitty-fake CG gold remains the series' all time low (that is, until Ed Sheeran begins singing over the credits).

THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES: With the final film in the trilogy, it becomes clear that Peter Jackson has come full circle. So much of what constituted internet chatter (and great concern) during the filming of THE LORD OF THE RINGS was a result of wrong-headed choices made early in the process that were wisely corrected. Aragorn was cast as a young heartthrob; Arwen was turned into an Elven fighter to increase sex appeal and appeal to the girls; Aragorn was going to battle Sauron in direct combat; etc. In the end, Jackson reversed those decisions, returning to the source material as a compass. With THE HOBBIT, he made those same decisions, but let them stick: Bard was cast as a young heartthrob; Tauriel was introduced as an Elven fighter to increase sex appeal and to appeal to the girls; Galadriel battles Sauron in direct combat, etc. A character like Azog -- who, in the book, was dead, and who's son Bolg vows revenge against Thorin -- is given Bolg's motivation...until it's suddenly decided to include BOTH characters with the same objective. Everything feels rushed, confused, and inconsequential...until the "defining chapter," in which the entire film is one long battle scene that still manages to feel rushed, confused, and inconsequential. The ending is wrapped up quickly (perhaps against criticism that RETURN OF THE KING took too much time), and even manages to clumsily dodge Gandalf's observation that Bilbo hasn't "aged a day" in FELLOWSHIP. Other than Billy Boyd's fantastic and completely unearned "Last Goodbye," one can't help but remember that every time we ask for something we want (STAR WARS prequels, a fourth INDIANA JONES, more ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT), we end up wishing we hadn't gotten it.
Edited by erik myers - 1/3/17 at 9:49am
post #2 of 552

Your assessments of the original LOTR trilogy is spot on, especially concerning TTT extended cut.  That was the black sheep movie that didn't quite work for me in its theatrical version.  Seeing the extended cut transformed it to the point that it's almost...ALMOST...my favorite of the three films.  Faramir is flat-out fixed in the extended cut to the extreme benefit of the trilogy as a whole.

 

That said, FOTR (theatrical or extended) is a masterpiece.  It's everything that I want in a 'Dungeons and Dragons' movie and more.  

 

The Hobbit trilogy is something where I've only seen each film in its entirety once (theatrical versions only) and in snippets otherwise when playing on HBO.  Of the three, the one that worked for me the best was DOS.  I dug the action sequences in it immensely, and all of the stuff between Smaug and Bilbo worked perfectly for me.

post #3 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by erik myers View Post

one can't help but remember that every time we ask for something we want (STAR WARS prequels, a fourth INDIANA JONES, more ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT), we end up wishing we hadn't gotten it.
I still love the fourth season of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and am very, very glad we got it.
post #4 of 552

Odd to think it must be getting on for ten years since the last time I sat through the LOTRs. I'm very interested to see how they hold up, and to finally catching up with Hobbit 3.

 

I agree with you about the Two Towers EEs, but the ROTK EE to me always felt over indulgent. Several of the added scenes just felt hokey or redundant, some of them undercutting scenes that worked well enough in the original version (the ghost army, the changed context of "For Frodo!").

 

The Fellowship EE is mostly for the better, but I much prefer the understated intro to Hobbiton with just Frodo and Gandalf chatting, without the extra narration and Bilbo stuff.

 

Re: the ROTK endings, the problem for me is they kept hammering on the same basic emotional notes, to the point that I was ready to move on even before the weepfest at the docks started. And I can't help feeling the main reason they ended up "I'm back" was because it was the end of the novel, not so much because the film really needed it.

 

I didn't end up bothering beyond the first two Hobbit films, but even so, I've never been particularly upset about them. The first two were baggy and distinctly lacking the old LOTR magic, but still basically watchable. I'm sure I'll plow through the EEs one day. Frankly I've never been convinced there was ever a masterpiece of a movie to be made from The Hobbit.

 

Jackson's been very quiet of late, I hope the ordeal of the Hobbit didn't break his spirit.

post #5 of 552
I enjoyed the Hobbit movies for what they were, and it might be because I don't hold LotR trilogy with any sort of reverence.

The Followship of the Ring is without a doubt the strongest movie of the originals, but the Two Towers was such a bore to me incomparison and I'm still watching the end of Return of the King. So I hold the Hobbutts to the same level of scrutiny that I do those two movies.

I have also never read any of the books.

That said, Fellowship blew me away when I saw it in the theatre. It's incredible.

I do own all of these movies, both the theatrical and extended versions, and I have poured through all of the appendixes. I appreciate how big productions like these were and how there will never be movies like these made again with such an attention to detail.

It makes me laugh when the production designers spent so much time creating a Kryptionian alphabet for Man of Steel for absolutely no reason.
post #6 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul C View Post
 

I agree with you about the Two Towers EEs, but the ROTK EE to me always felt over indulgent. Several of the added scenes just felt hokey or redundant, some of them undercutting scenes that worked well enough in the original version (the ghost army, the changed context of "For Frodo!").

 

I agree the added scene with the ghost army undermines the reveal later in the battle.  But I like the idea that "For Frodo!" changes from "Let's buy him time" to "We fight in his name, even though it seems hopeless" with the addition of the Mouth of Sauron throwing down the mithril armor.  I think it elevates the elation of the moment when they see Sauron go down.

 

The one moment that absolutely should have been in the theatrical version though is Gandalf's confrontation with the Witch King.  They build the Witch King up as Sauron's main weapon, with Gandalf uncertain what will happen when he's unleashed ... and the theatrical cut never does anything with it.  It's certainly not so long a scene that it would have hurt the already long running time, and it gives a more desperate context for the arrival of the Rohirrim.

 

That said, I think Return of the King earns its bloat.  The story expands away from the little band of nine that gave Fellowship its sense of intimacy; that was never coming back.  LOTR is a story that, much like its creation, grew and grew and grew to a grand climax.  I think the film version is worthy of that.  And I wouldn't lose a single ending either.

 

As for the Hobbit films, I'm slowly warming to them as pleasant enough time-wasters.  I still gnash my teeth at all the Dol Guldur business, the Azog/Bolg nonsense, and anything with an elf not named Thranduil.  But watching the documentary on the Battle of Five Armies EE, I came away with the impression that these weren't tossed off money grabs.  People poured sweat and effort into these; even Jackson, who didn't want to do them in the first place, seems to have come around, although too late to rescue the whole thing from the bloat that had set in.  They are in no way good adaptations of the book, but I wouldn't put them in Star Wars PT territory.

post #7 of 552
I loved the hell out of the LOTR films; they're not perfect (I never did care for the various divergences of TTT/ROTK from the books - Aragorn's solo quest in TTT particularly is just a bad way to pad out the runtime with generic ACTION!!! in a film that, as erik noted, already suffered from poor pacing and significant missing chunks in the theatrical cut,) but they're damn good and far better than we could ever have hoped for from a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster adaptation. I don't know what magic allowed that to happen, but I'm glad it did.

The Hobbit movies, on the other hand, make the baby Jesus cry. I sat through the first one and came away with nothing but trepidation; the second was such a slog that it nearly defeated me and I'd probably have walked out of the theater if I hadn't ridden with my family. Still haven't seen the third, and I don't plan to. It's amazing that we're still at the point where I can say without reservation that the '70s Rankin-Bass film is the best cinematic adaptation of the story.
post #8 of 552
Thread Starter 
Agreed on the "For Frodo" moment: the suicide mission has now become a sacrifice beyond hope, and Aragorn is prepared to die in the name of one who (he thinks) gave his life in the same manner. For me, the EE adds emotional heft.
post #9 of 552

The Hobbit movies have moments that elevate them to something reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies at their best. Maybe my favorite scene from the latter trilogy is in The Desolation of Smaug when Thorin and Co. are floating down the river, between Mirkwood and Laketown; they catch their first glimpse of the Lonely Mountain through the mist, and a beautiful, touching, hushed reverence falls over all the Dwarves. A magical and perfect moment. But alas, such moments are few and far between.

post #10 of 552

The Hobbit films are at their best whenever it remembers it's, y'know, about the Hobbit - especially when Bilbo and Gandalf are in the same scene. The scene where Bilbo and Gandalf talk about Bullroarer Took in AUJ is such a smart way of incorporating that great bit from the book, and the scene where Bilbo runs down the hill to join the party is such a joyous release from being cramped up in Bag End (Shore's score is really allowed to shine there as well).

post #11 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dent6084 View Post
 

The Hobbit films are at their best whenever it remembers it's, y'know, about the Hobbit - especially when Bilbo and Gandalf are in the same scene. The scene where Bilbo and Gandalf talk about Bullroarer Took in AUJ is such a smart way of incorporating that great bit from the book, and the scene where Bilbo runs down the hill to join the party is such a joyous release from being cramped up in Bag End (Shore's score is really allowed to shine there as well).

 

That quiet moment between the two of them at the end of the battle in Battle of the Five Armies almost single-handedly redeems the entire enterprise.  And to think that scene almost had dialogue until McKellen convinced them they didn't need any.

post #12 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post
 

 

That quiet moment between the two of them at the end of the battle in Battle of the Five Armies almost single-handedly redeems the entire enterprise.  And to think that scene almost had dialogue until McKellen convinced them they didn't need any.


Yeah, that's the other scene that immediately came to mind. Freeman and McKellen played off each other so well.

post #13 of 552

Bilbo's farewell to the dwarves plays really well too, despite the fact that he really only had meaningful screen time with two of them.

post #14 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Dickson View Post
 

Bilbo's farewell to the dwarves plays really well too, despite the fact that he really only had meaningful screen time with two of them.


Man, I wish Ken Stott and James Nesbitt had had more to do. Both did really well with comparatively little time.

 

Stott's reaction to the door opening on the Lonely Mountain was genuinely moving.

post #15 of 552

I find the hate the Hobbit movies get to be a bit silly.  I quite like all of them.  This isn't the incomprehensible mess of the prequels.  Sure it's got bloat for days, but it's based on such a fantastic framework, who cares?  Yeah the CG is pushed further than the first movies to it's detriment, but it's never Attack of the Clones.  There's so much good going on there that I love.  Come ON.  Martin Freeman KILLS it to the point that I don't think I'll ever picture young Bilbo as anyone else.  He's WONDERFUL.  

post #16 of 552
I like the Hobbutts.
post #17 of 552
It still boggles my mind that the LOTR films got made at all. Had anyone ever made an entire feature film trilogy all in a single production before that? Has anyone aside from PJ done it since? I guess the Star Wars PT kind of was, it just didn't feel like a single production because the movies were 3 years apart. PJ kind of cranked his out in one fell swoop so there was only 2 years between the release of the first and last.

In other news, I honestly don't even remember if I saw the third Hobbit movie.



EDIT: Duh
Quote:
Originally Posted by erik myers View Post

... nothing on the scale of THE LORD OF THE RINGS had ever been attempted, and certainly not as three gigantic films shot all at once.

I'd say "That'll teach me for posting before reading the entire OP" but that would mean lying to you guys and I love you too much for that.
Edited by Bucho - 1/3/17 at 9:53pm
post #18 of 552

They did Superman and Superman II at the same time for the most part, but a trilogy?  Don't think it's been done.

post #19 of 552

The Matrix sequels and Pirates 2 and 3 were filmed back to back. But LOTR and The Hobbit are the only times a trilogy has been shot like this, I believe.

post #20 of 552

It's a mind bending accomplishment.  Does anyone have the detailed story on how they convinced New Line to let them do this?

post #21 of 552

Well, there's the great story that after Miramax told them it had to be one film (after originally greenlighting two), they let Jackson/Boyens/Walsh pitch it around town only to have everyone tell them they would greenlight if it was condensed into one film. Finally, they go to New Line, go through their pitch, and Bob Shaye, the head of New Line leans forward, says something like "I don't understand why you're pitching two films" - Jackson has an internal panic attack, believing this to be the end - "There's three books. This should be three films!"

 

However, that story is kinda bullshit, as it turns out. Shaye did consider that, but he was more interested in having it be three films for economic reasons:

 

http://www.theonering.net/torwp/2013/06/11/73279-10-things-you-know-about-the-lotr-movies-that-arent-true/

 

As for filming all three at once, the decision to do that is far murkier.


Edited by Dent6084 - 1/3/17 at 9:02pm
post #22 of 552

I'm an established defender of the Hobbit movies. All of them. Thranduil is one of the best characters in the whole damn thing; Bilbo actually has some meaningful interaction with roughly half of the Dwarf-cast; the Dwarf-Elf romance doesn't bother me at all because A) Killi is smokin hot and B) elves have weird repression issues.

 

Bard doesn't get enough credit, and FIVE ARMIES is one of the darkest, most fatalistic blockbusters ever committed. (note that the theatrical cut is an indefensible mess, but the extended adds enough that the whole FUTILITY angle the movie is going for is allowed to breathe, and it makes a tremendous difference.) Much of that is surely due to Jackson's mental state when trying to force it together, and its a fair question whether its appropriate to take a beloved childrens tale and turn it into this blood-splattered deathmarch of a movie.

 

But I accept it for what it is, and ultimately I find Thorin to be a far more interesting lead than Aragorn - his redemption is one of the ballsiest sequences in recent memory - and I generally prefer the Dwarves to the Hobbits (all blasphemous, I know). I also treasure every minute given over to Gandalf the Gray in these three movies. 

The only real sour note, for me, is the fact they abandoned the totally bitchin Misty Mountains theme over some bullshit copyright claim. The audience is, quite simply, owed that theme once we get to the end and see Thorin off in his noble death. That we don't get it is fucking garbage.

 

The Two Towers always struck me as the most prominent movie to be entirely directed by a Second Unit. Which is somewhat unfair, but I get the real sense that Jackson was so overwhelmingly pre-occupied with material for RotK that his involvement in TT was perfunctory. But hey the Riders of Rohan crush both those films, and its Karl Urban's best role by quite a bit. Everything involving Faramir and Denethor is aces, and Boromir is probably my favorite fictional character out of anything.

 

That's about how I feel on the subject.

post #23 of 552

My introduction to Lord of the Rings was seeing a play of the Hobbit when I was a kid with my school.  I didn't expect much and I was blown away by the fact that it was a full on play, with a giant functional Smaug head and everything.  I also appreciated the effect of using christmas lights to show Bilbo's invisible form.  Basically I had a blast and loved it, and I remember that experience fondly to this day.  It's a great story for children, and the movies took those memories and made them better if possible.  They made the Bard a character I actually gave a shit about.  When he's using his son as the bow and he says "Look at me" while he lines up his final bolt for Smaug.  The river barrel scene being turned into a surprisingly fun and exciting action scene with Elves and Orcs.  Hell the Albino Orc and Thorin relationship I even like.  The Orc is a cool CG character and has a neat look.  Not to mention by the end of the films I feel like all of the dwarves are distinctive enough that I know them all.  

post #24 of 552
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dent6084 View Post


Man, I wish Ken Stott and James Nesbitt had had more to do. Both did really well with comparatively little time.

Stott's reaction to the door opening on the Lonely Mountain was genuinely moving.
Agreed that Stott and Nesbitt were great in their roles, but let's face it: they received more screen time than most of the others.

Increasing Balin's prominence made sense in context of the books; but every time Nesbitt opened his mouth, I kept asking myself why there was so much focus on Bofur. If anything Dori was the dwarf Bilbo was constantly chafing against in the book, and they barely gave Hadlow any screen time.
post #25 of 552

I love The Lord of the Rings films, but Fellowship is definitely the best. Seeing that when I was 12 is probably my favourite film-going experience - the swooping shot of the opening battle and Sauron smashing his way through the Last Alliance amazed me the way I understand people were affected by the Star Destroyer moving into frame in 1977. 

 

You get a sense that Fellowship was the film that the most time was spent on: 

 

  • no dodgy effects stick out. 90% of these films looked, and will continue to look, amazing, but in TT and ROTK there are moments - the wargs, the mumakil, Legolas's stunts, some CGI stunt men - which looked rushed back in 2002 and 2003. There are less conspicuously artificial shots in FOTR than the others too: we get lots of excessive sunbeams and elaborate CGI falls in the other two.

 

  • the changes to the book are intelligent and efficient: Saruman and Arwen's increased roles are improvements (!) on the book, as is the greater sense of urgency gained by losing stuff like Bombadil and Gildor. In TTT and ROTK, some of the changes - Aragorn's vision quest, Theoden's petty hemming and hawing about Gondor (in TTT he refuses to ask them for help, then in ROTK, in a line intended to build tension, asks why Rohan should help those who did not help them), Sam and Frodo's falling out, the Army of the Dead carving through Mordor's army - are less successful. I do like a lot of them though.

 

  • there aren't any cringey bits of dialogue - in Fellowship, Gimli is an effective bit of comic relief, but they ended up running with that way too much - and cliche and repetition starts to creep into a lot of Gandalf's dialogue towards the back half - "The board is set - the pieces are moving" - "We come to it at last - the great battle of our time." - "It's the deep breath before the plunge" - "The battle for Helm's Deep is over - the battle for Middle-Earth is about to begin".

 

  • because the story is far more streamlined at that point, the writers don't need to rely on different characters suddenly doing voice overs: it makes sense when it's Galadriel and Elrond having a psychic conversation; it seems a little silly when Faramir and his lieutenant are planning strategy over a map of the entire continent with only capital fortresses marked; it's totally non-sensical when Frodo suddenly pops into do some narration about how much they all love one another after the crowning ceremony, 

 

I feel bad for saying all that, because I still love TTT and ROTK - they're just a little messier. You can see some of the strings, which almost makes you admire it more.

 

I firmly believe that all of the bad stuff in The Hobbit films is the 70% of them that constitutes bloat and padding. Cut everything that's not in the book - bar, as was mentioned earlier, the lovely non-dialogue scene between Bilbo and Gandalf, and Bilbo and Smaug's extended dialogue, which I think is as good as the stuff in LotR - and you'd have a film almost as good as LotR (The Hobbit can't be as good as LotR, because The Hobbit story is, by design, much lighter and fluffier). But all the stuff that's bad in The Hobbit (deep breath) - Legolas, Tauriel/Kili, the Laketown rebels, Alfred, boring CGI chases - is stuff that's only in there to make it longer, which could be removed without any issue.  

post #26 of 552
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Freeman View Post

I find the hate the Hobbit movies get to be a bit silly.  I quite like all of them.  This isn't the incomprehensible mess of the prequels.  Sure it's got bloat for days, but it's based on such a fantastic framework, who cares?  Yeah the CG is pushed further than the first movies to it's detriment, but it's never Attack of the Clones.  There's so much good going on there that I love.  Come ON.  Martin Freeman KILLS it to the point that I don't think I'll ever picture young Bilbo as anyone else.  He's WONDERFUL.  
I think the fact that they had what you rightly call a "fantastic framework" and then broke it is the problem so many people have.

Agreed on Freeman. He deserved a better film where he wasn't sidelined to service characters who weren't supposed to be there (Legolas, Radagast, Azog), or who were created for no reason, and to the detriment of the story (Tauriel, Alfrid).
Edited by erik myers - 1/4/17 at 4:16am
post #27 of 552
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zhukov View Post


The only real sour note, for me, is the fact they abandoned the totally bitchin Misty Mountains theme over some bullshit copyright claim. The audience is, quite simply, owed that theme once we get to the end and see Thorin off in his noble death. That we don't get it is fucking garbage.


Given that Shore had to recycle so many LOTR themes in AN UNEXEPECTED JOURNEY (likely the result of the late decision to restructure the movies into a trilogy), and also given the fact that Plan 9 wrote the "Misty Mountains" theme, I often wondered if the theme's inexplicable disappearance in the second and third films was a conscious snub on Shore's part. After all, there wasn't much in the way of new content in AUJ, and his relationship with Jackson was already strained after the constant reworking of ROTK. The less said about the KING KONG situation, the better.

The copyright anecdote is interesting. What's the source?
post #28 of 552
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RexBanner View Post

I love The Lord of the Rings films, but Fellowship is definitely the best. Seeing that when I was 12 is probably my favourite film-going experience - the swooping shot of the opening battle and Sauron smashing his way through the Last Alliance amazed me the way I understand people were affected by the Star Destroyer moving into frame in 1977. 

You get a sense that Fellowship was the film that the most time was spent on: 
  • no dodgy effects stick out. 90% of these films looked, and will continue to look, amazing, but in TT and ROTK there are moments - the wargs, the mumakil, Legolas's stunts, some CGI stunt men - which looked rushed back in 2002 and 2003. There are less conspicuously artificial shots in FOTR than the others too: we get lots of excessive sunbeams and elaborate CGI falls in the other two.
  • the changes to the book are intelligent and efficient: Saruman and Arwen's increased roles are improvements (!) on the book, as is the greater sense of urgency gained by losing stuff like Bombadil and Gildor. In TTT and ROTK, some of the changes - Aragorn's vision quest, Theoden's petty hemming and hawing about Gondor (in TTT he refuses to ask them for help, then in ROTK, in a line intended to build tension, asks why Rohan should help those who did not help them), Sam and Frodo's falling out, the Army of the Dead carving through Mordor's army - are less successful. I do like a lot of them though.
  • there aren't any cringey bits of dialogue - in Fellowship, Gimli is an effective bit of comic relief, but they ended up running with that way too much - and cliche and repetition starts to creep into a lot of Gandalf's dialogue towards the back half - "The board is set - the pieces are moving" - "We come to it at last - the great battle of our time." - "It's the deep breath before the plunge" - "The battle for Helm's Deep is over - the battle for Middle-Earth is about to begin".
  • because the story is far more streamlined at that point, the writers don't need to rely on different characters suddenly doing voice overs: it makes sense when it's Galadriel and Elrond having a psychic conversation; it seems a little silly when Faramir and his lieutenant are planning strategy over a map of the entire continent with only capital fortresses marked; it's totally non-sensical when Frodo suddenly pops into do some narration about how much they all love one another after the crowning ceremony, 

I feel bad for saying all that, because I still love TTT and ROTK - they're just a little messier. You can see some of the strings, which almost makes you admire it more.

I firmly believe that all of the bad stuff in The Hobbit films is the 70% of them that constitutes bloat and padding. Cut everything that's not in the book - bar, as was mentioned earlier, the lovely non-dialogue scene between Bilbo and Gandalf, and Bilbo and Smaug's extended dialogue, which I think is as good as the stuff in LotR - and you'd have a film almost as good as LotR. The Hobbit can't be as good as LotR, because The Hobbit book is so much lighter and fluffier. 

I've often wondered about the original plan for THE TWO TOWERS and RETURN OF THE KING. The trailers for the former showed plenty of content that was shifted into the latter, all of which suggests that the film was meant to hew more closely to the book's structure: Gandalf and Aragorn and company would visit Isengard and then return to Edoras; Frodo would be attacked by Shelob and captured by the orcs. Technically, the films are faithful to Tolkien's timeline as presented in the Appendices in a way the dual narratives in the books themselves were not, but it robs us of the huge cliffhanger at the end of TOWERS...and results in a ROTK that's in excess of four hours.

Not really "problems," per se, though I can only imagine how audiences would have lost their minds over "dead Frodo."
post #29 of 552

Another thing I love about Fellowship is how, simply through virtue of how the story works, there's such tonal progression and variation in the kind of scenes we get. We spend a lot of time in the Shire, move into farmland, Bree, real wilderness, mountains, an underground city, a tree kingdom, etc, with the threat always escalating and changing. By the time of TTT and ROTK the shit has hit the fan, so it's all intense threat all the time - we don't have time for the prolonged, ethereal horror of the wraiths or the building sense of dread from Boromir. Everything - and this isn't a flaw in the story or the film-making, just a natural consequence of the story progressing - is more immediate and in your face. Fellowship benefits from it getting to be the 'quiet' one. 

post #30 of 552

The very beginning of the whole thing - Concerning Hobbits - is the strongest and most moving sequence. It is flawless (aside from some very dodgy fireworks compositing, which always earns a sneer), and the first strains of that theme are enough to get me mildly emotional.

 

Not that its all downhill, but its an incredible high to glide this thing in on. 

post #31 of 552

A big part of Fellowship's power, for me, was sitting there slowly realizing, "Holy shit, they pulled it off."  That was never going to be there for Towers or King because they'd already proven they could do it.

 

And while it's not the simplest of tasks, I really think the three films work best viewed in a single sitting.  The progression from cheery pastoral to unfamiliar wilderness to WE ARE DOOMED works really well when you let the three films flow one into the other.

post #32 of 552

Lot of shade for TTT in here.  I love that movie from the ridiculously-awesome opening scene, thought that the theatrical was one of the best paced 3 hour movies I'd ever seen, and Helm's Deep is still one of the greatest action sequences ever (skateboarding Legolas and all).  

post #33 of 552
Thread Starter 
No shade from me. I love the movie to bits. I just don't think the theatrical cut gels the way the Extended Edition does, simply because so much was removed. If I have any complaint, it's what I said at the beginning of the thread: the stuff that was cut should have been in the theatrical version, and the rest should have been saved for the "rounder" cut.
post #34 of 552

Speaking of Shore, as much as I can sympathize with those who think the ending of ROTK is too long even though I disagree (and think it's kind-of a self-inflicted wound because of the use of fades), I would not cut a single moment of that because of Shore's music. I mean, this:

 

 

That is just magnificent. As much as people laugh at the bed scene (and yes, it is quite cheesy), that's some of the finest scoring in the entire series, and that's saying something. He practically makes that whole extended climax work by sheer force of will (and adds considerably to the moments that do resonate - the coronation/"You bow to no one," the Hobbits toasting in the Green Dragon, the Havens, to name a few).

 

Also, this track features some of the best use of the Gondor theme, which has always kinda been my favorite, even though picking a favorite from an almost comical embarrassment of riches is quite daunting.

post #35 of 552
My God but that series was a wealth of musical riches. Wish to hell that Hollywood would give artists like Shore more opportunity to kick ass on that level.
post #36 of 552

I know that Fellowship is likely the film that stands up best on its own... but really, Return of the King will always be my favorite.  Because it's got Sam's gentle heroism.  That and it's got some of the grandest (most awesome blockbustery) moments.

 

The music throughout the entire trilogy is glorious.

post #37 of 552

Gentle heroism?!  They gave him a "Get away from her you BITCH!" moment!

 

But it was awesome... I love Sam so much.  

post #38 of 552

yeah, and it's still gentle!

 

NO MATTER WHAT!!!

 

always so polite!

post #39 of 552

Sam was kind of a bitch to Smeagol.

 

I mean, he was right? I guess. Would Smeagol have betrayed Frodo if he hadn't been sold out to Faramir?

I took the Riverlings rejection of Gollum in TTT to be genuine. I guess once they get to the Cracks of Doom, its irrelevant, whoever has the Ring is gonna be consumed by it and try to save it. But maybe Smeagol would have embraced the junkie's death and just dived in with it to save Master. I don't know.

 

We sure did get pretty far in this conversation before talking about how truly great that beedo fucker is. AUJ does nothing but to further humanize the character. Riddles in the Dark is so good.

post #40 of 552
Thread Starter 
Strongly disagree on Gollum's portrayal in THE HOBBIT, as well as the execution of the sequence in general.

Bilbo was supposed to be terrified, and, for the first time on this journey, completely alone. Armed with a weapon he doesn't know how to use. Groping blindly, seeing nothing. Then this terrifying...thing...emerges from the impenetrable darkness, with only its eyes visible. This thing is wicked, crafty, sly, and deliberate...and it wants to EAT BILBO. Calling itself "my precious" is SCARY. For my money, Brother Theodore's vocal performance of this particular scene remains the best.

The movie junks all this. In Jackson's version, it's a serio-comic scene taking place in a well-lit cavern, with Martin Freeman doing his Martin Freeman thing, and Andy Serkis doing the Cute Sméagol/Bad-But-Still-Cute Gollum act from LORD OF THE RINGS. There's nothing scary or particularly menacing about the character, who is played for laughs repeatedly throughout. Most damaging is the way the film misappropriates the schizophrenia angle, which shouldn't even factor in at this point in the narrative. He still has the Ring; he's still all Gollum, all the time.

From the perspective of film making, I get why the sequence had to be brightened up, but it's too much. HFR 3D probably factored into it quite a bit. It looks like a set, and Bilbo never journeys far enough down to sell the idea that he's miles and miles from light or help or hope.

(Plus, they ruined the "Time" riddle by truncating it, which I absolutely cannot forgive!)

Zhukov, you never told me the source of your claim that there was a copyright issue surrounding the use of the "Misty Mountains" theme in the following HOBBIT films. Where did you hear/read that?
post #41 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by erik myers View Post

Zhukov, you never told me the source of your claim that there was a copyright issue surrounding the use of the "Misty Mountains" theme in the following HOBBIT films. Where did you hear/read that?

 

Its possible I hallucinated it!

Nah, I very definitely saw some random speculation that they just didn't want to pay Neil Finn whatever he was asking for. Nothing concrete, but the reasoning that officially made it out there - that hey, we're actually done with this theme because they already got to the Misty Mountains, moving on - that doesn't really make any sense at all. You gotta at least reference it when the dwarf bros are waxing poetic about their love of home. Its the whole point!

That whole discussion is lost to the mists of time, unfortunately. Closest I can get you in this note from wikipedia:

 

Quote:
 

 

Very curious! And given its the only other piece of music that would present any kind of competing copyright claim, I guess the speculation makes sense. Especially cause its just so goddamn good!

 

Just like Riddles in the Dark! Making it scarier would go against what its trying to accomplish there: show Bilbo as a bit scheming, and Gollum as a bit sympathetic. It pays off far better, in the long run, then if its just ol shithead Gollum being mean. Big picture!! And its hilarious!

post #42 of 552
Thread Starter 
But wouldn't making Gollum scarier make his pitiful and pathetic state in THE TWO TOWERS more poignant? More affecting? Like an actual character arc...?
post #43 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zhukov View Post
 

Would Smeagol have betrayed Frodo if he hadn't been sold out to Faramir?

 

I always thought the way Frodo handled that was pretty poor.  All he had to do was say, "Smeagol, you're not supposed to be here.  We have to go with these men, but it'll be all right."  Gollum might not have been okay with it, but that had to have been a better plan than, "Hey, trust me" and then Faramir's men just jumping out and grabbing him.

post #44 of 552

Frodo didn't really seem like the dude for the job, honestly. He kinda got carried the whole way. And then literally carried! And then he still almost fucked it off.

 

lol Frodo. 

post #45 of 552
I never really liked Elijah Wood in that part. Too much wide-eyed concern and distress and fear.
post #46 of 552
Thread Starter 
Movie Frodo attacks Gollum at the Crack of Doom, causing the latter to fall in; and then, hanging from the ledge, consciously rejects The Ring, which ultimately destroys it.

Book Frodo tells Sam to fuck off, claims the Ring, and is a bystander during its destruction.

Technically, Book Frodo committed high treason, and could be considered guilty of war crimes. Jackson made a great effort to absolve him of this (which is the right choice for the film, but far less interesting, particularly in terms of Frodo's subsequent self-alienation and ultimate exodus from Middle-Earth).
post #47 of 552

It's been a while, but... I don't remember Frodo rejecting the ring on the ledge?

post #48 of 552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul C View Post
 

It's been a while, but... I don't remember Frodo rejecting the ring on the ledge?

 

He looks back like he's willing to let go and fall into the lava to be with it again, then he hears Sam's voice and decides to live.

post #49 of 552
Thread Starter 
Right.

In the film, The Ring still floats on the lava surface unharmed so long as it has another willing victim.

Frodo chooses to ascend, and The Ring melts.

His rejection of it is literally the complete opposite of his actions in the book.
post #50 of 552
I've seen a lot of folks praise how Jackson shifts character arcs so they are more satisfying/engaging in blockbuster terms.

I'm not sure why folks tend to state that as a positive, necessarily. Certain changes are arguably welcome and others just layer a Hollywood veneer on a decidedly un-Hollywood narrative.

Sure, sure, I know we wouldn't have it at all if Jackson hadn't been able to make something classically Hollywood out of Tolkien. But, whatever the benefit of making those changes, shouldn't many of those changes at least be seen as necessary evils?

Wouldn't the ideal adaptation preserve more of the spirit of Tolkien's work? His LOTR is really kind of a mythic downer. At best, it can be described as a bittersweet. But it's an epic about the fading of a mythical world, a world in which victory over evil always comes with some pretty heavy sacrifices and caveats.

Maybe I'm just living up to my role as one of CHUD's resident cranks, so feel free to categorize this post as Sands being Sands. But I grew up fascinated by Tolkien and his world and, the older I get, the more I appreciate and love just how idiosyncratic it is.

And, yes, good Hollywood epics are rare enough that I should probably just set all that aside and praise Jackson for what he did do. Nevertheless, I just don't really have it in me to get very enthusiastic about Jackson's artistic victories here.
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