Mellonath Legolas


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Fraud of the Rings

Among the Mellyn it is Kirinki who shares my opinion on FoTR the film at most.
On the extra broad screen, accompanied by Dolby surround sound the Orcs had been killing Boromir for almost ten minutes already. They looked really committed three crossbow bolts had already pierced the heir of the Steward of Gondor; the sword thrusts (parried as well as missed) I was simply unable to count. However, he was not going to fell to the ground and meet a valiant death apparently prevented by the directors instructions.

Camera shifted again, this time providing sight from the very middle of the melee. I turned my gaze away from the screen. I am not really squeamish partially I became simply bored by one more (Eru be praised the last) fight, and partially I got plainly dizzy. No wonder the cinema was overcrowded; the air hot and stuffy; the sound blasting through my ears, and to crown it all to watch cameras jerking and squirming was almost painful. I am aware that this technique is used to create the illusion of presence, but I personally would prefer a more detached point of view.

The nasty Uruk-hai had finally shot Boromir with the fourth bolt, and the director gave the poor devil his permission to fall, or, rather, to kneel. The fight was over. The Orcs run past Boromir in neat rows, and the Gondorean knelt peacefully right in the midst of the enemy; no one had as much as a thought to slow down the pace and kill him off at last. (So much for Tolkien declaring Orcs innate malice and blood thirst. Also Peter Jackson thinks him wrong.)

In the meantime Aragorn had made his glorious entry and was now shredding Orcs to pieces (those that dying Boromir had missed, that is). The nasty Uruk-hai turned his attention to Aragorn, although he was strangely slow to set his cross-bow into action apparently, Legolas was not the only one to run out of arrows in the most crucial moment. Time and again Aragorns adversary would take a steady grip at the front of the Rangers tunic, lift him off the ground and cast onto various trees and cliffs. Nevertheless, every time Strider would nimbly leap to his feat and brandish his sword in a most valiant manner. Hardy indeed is the race of Númenor

Aragorn finally managed to behead the nasty Uruk. I grabbed some pop-corn. There was just a bit more than a fistful on the bottom. In truth, this was one good pop-corn, though a wee bit too salty. And I had eaten it up, all of it; good for me, for many a time I was sorely tempted to throw a fistful right in the screen

Now, at last! I have been waiting for this scene for ages! Aragorn, scratched all over, was hovering over the dying Boromir. This time a make up artist had done a great job Boromir looked as pale as he ought to. I stared at the screen. So very touching Begging your pardon, though What was it they said?.. In truth, Boromir accepted Aragorn as a legitimate King of Gondor, and Aragorn himself almost forced these words out of him. That is strange, in the book the dialogue evolves quite differently Such trifles, though

A, here they are, Legolas and Gimli come in sight. Come running, stop dead and look mighty aggrieved. No dialogue follows, however. Thats smart, there is hardly any time to loose, the film is over in some five minutes. Just enough to throw Boromir into the boat (that is, in the first scene Legolas and Gimli are looking at Aragorn, and in the next Boromir, already in the boat, is rushing down the waterfall. Who has put him there, how and why this is known to Namo Mandos There are no songs, most assuredly, for the screen time is precious and is barely enough for action)

Finally, the end! Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli clasp each others hands apparently, readying themselves to chase the Orcs that have kidnapped Pippin and Merry. Although this intention is somewhat difficult to understand from their speech And the gesture looks so very familiarSeen in dozen of films, at the very least Indeed, SWP, stolen with pride

I wonder what makes me write all this. And why am I finding faults in the films end, of all parts? Well, why I am getting difficult towards the end is not hard to understand I got sick and tired of it, because not a one, I shall repeat, not a single scene in the 175-minutes long film has remained unchanged. Surely, some changes are necessary and understandable; and any rate, fiction and cinema are different art media. The very things that Professor Tolkien has told film director Jackson will show, which is not quite the same. Unfortunately, most changes became to the worst.

Dialogues, Tolkiens wonderful, exquisite style, have suffered most. I do see Tolkien turning in his grave as he listens to his most beloved characters, Elves, speak as is the way in Hollywood. Also Christopher must be in distress The old mans plight is evil indeed, him having spent half his life attending to his fathers literary heritage; with a researchers perfectionism would he make sense of illegible lines on the margins of worn-out manuscripts, every single word thoroughly scrutinised I can but hope that Professor Tolkiens Shadow should come before Peter Jackson and give him proper fright Sorry, I digress

Enough! Who cares even if Jackson and Fran Walsh have altered almost every original line in their screenplay? One ought to be open-minded indeed! Why would you not rather enjoy the characters talking Sindarin for so many minutes, without mixing up a single line? Isnt it just lovely? And the other scenes as well take Aragorn and Arwens meeting, for example. What? What feast at the Last Homely House? What have you been reading, ladies and gentlemen? As you know full well, Aragorn was picking athelas in the wood to heal poor wounded Frodo; surely you remember him leaning down, down, deep in thought, to pick these fair white flowers So very touching And all of a sudden a slightly curved blade gently touched his neck One would be thrilled to the core at the scene, to goose bumps indeed And the loveliest, fairest voice, truly Elvish, came ringing, Whats this? A Ranger caught off guard?! And what a charming, lilting laughter would come with the voice! Arwen, the Warrior Princess, had found her good-to-nothing beloved. Actually, that was then the Sindarin converse was heard, for Arwen would take Frodo to Rivendell with her, and Aragorn was all concerned about her safety by right, there were Nazgûl all around. And what a chase they gave! Noro lim, noro lim, my fair Elvish horse! What a fright there were Nazgûl to the right, and to the left and also behind! And poor little Frodo, just barely alive as he was Fear not, your Glorfindel was no match to our Arwen, brandishing a sward riding a white horse. Also skilled in spell casting, not to forget: a couple of spells (Sindarin, most assuredly) was enough for a flood. One pretty flood, let me tell you, as if in a picture By John Howe Or, maybe, Alan Lee.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, my dear purists, are you gasping still? What is it you are mumbling? Elven fading? The end of their time in Middle-earth? What kind of rambling is this, I wonder? Tolkiens mythology? You mean that for him Arwen, Evenstar of her people, was a symbol of the fading grace and beauty? And so what? Who cares about his ideas - everyone knows of him hating women and being a notorious reactionary! What is it, now? A character behaving out of character? So what, if this one is a politically correct behaviour! And remember, ladies and gentlemen, a modern woman has no use for all these evening stars! 

Sorry, I digress again I ought to compose myself, for a review should be well thought through and just The third attempt

Indeed, why am I so hard to the cinematic Arwen? True, the pouty-lipped Amazon with a neatly painted scratch on her cheek has nothing in common with a wise, noble and beautiful lady created by Tolkien. And her character is far from the only one to be altered.

The Elves seemed to have the best luck. Gil-galad, for example, disappeared from the film altogether. Good riddance indeed, just a minor character as he was, barely good enough to sacrifice himself in a combat with Sauron. Neither first nor last he was, though; sacrificing ones life in a hopeless fight seems to be a generic bad habit for Elvish leaders. Their valour be hailed in song, most assuredly that is, Mr. Tolkien may feel free to sing whether he so wishes, but Mr. Jackson is far too busy for that. Cut the Elf away, screen time being too precious to give him!

Who else is left there? Elrond? Oh yes, one more symbol, and this time this is the symbol of wisdom, knowledge, high and noble valour. What is immortal Elrond for the mortal Dúnedain, whose life is hard and perilous? The living history, the last stalwart tower; in his house the past comes to meet present and future and estel abides Aragons foster father has raised him a worthy heir of both Númenors ancient glory and Elven wisdom. At least, such is the state of things as described by Tolkien. And what of the film?

Quite different are things we can see in the film. In all honesty, they are no good at all, the things we can see, because instead of a wise and valiant leader, a healer of great skill and talent we are introduced to a hysterical coward, full of racial prejudice. Besides, this person is not very wise either.

I am not accusing Peter Jackson of deliberate distortion of Elronds character. Yet, having seen the film, having heard Hugo Weavings lines given to him by the director, this is but the only conclusion I am able to draw. Neither am I blaming the actor. He is not a Tolkien fanatic, who has spent half of his life pouring over The Lord of the Rings, he is a professional actor doing his job according to the screenplay he was given. And he is engaged in many projects; yesterday it has been The Matrix, today it is a Tolkien film, tomorrow it shall be something else

In general, in Jacksons film there are no superstars (Ian McKellen being a possible exception), but the cast are quite well-known and very professional. Apart from the already mentioned Ian McKellen (Gandalf), a renowned Shakespeare actor, there is Ian Holm (Bilbo), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Sean Bean (Boromir) and Cate Blanchette (Galadriel). Also Elijah Wood, despite his youth, is far from a novice in the film industry. And miracles happen when the actors are given original lines, even torn out of context and mercilessly edited their characters spring to life, true and strong. Unfortunately, this happens none too often. During most of the film the actors (both those already mentioned and all the rest) deliver, and that with true passion, the lines given to them by the scriptwriters. And miracles happen again, but these miracles are sad.

Not only Elrond and Arwen become changed beyond recognition. Almost everyone transforms, too Galadriel turns into a sinister sorceress one should better avoid; Merry and Pippin, sons of the most decent hobbit families, full of youthful mischief but brave and devoted friends become a pair of silly young rascals. Gimli, son of Gloin, comes as a self-conceited, uncouth figure

I was sad when I watched the film (that was why I kept to my popcorn to avoid biting my nails in bitter disappointment). I felt sorry for myself, and for all those bound to share my feelings (there are quite a few of them, as any Tolkien forum on the Net would witness), and I was sorry for those who had made the film in good hope that the audience would like it.

The film has consumed incredible amount of human labour. Chain mail, as well as the other armour was made by hand; weapons, accessories, garments everything was hand made, the smallest bottle at Bilbos Birthday party included Flowers in Bilbos flower beds and vegetables in his kitchen-garden had been planted a year before the actual shooting began so that they had time to put roots. I have heard that it took seven years to make the shooting ready

And then a sacrilegious thought comes to me Nay, indeed, two sacrilegious thoughts. First, how it could happen that during seven years of work Peter Jackson could not find two weeks to read Tolkiens Letters. Jackson is not the first to shoot The Lord of the Rings; attempts had been made while Tolkien was still alive. He read the screenplay and criticised it quite mercilessly; yet he made detailed comments, in those very Letters. There exist already three editions of this book printed in 1981, 1985, 2000, and it is widely available at any bookstore, as well as on the Net for those who like e-commerce better. So, should Peter Jackson have read Letters he would have been aware what the author would have considered most important for filming; which changes and omissions (and Tolkien was pretty well aware of their necessity) the author would have accepted and which he would have fought mercilessly. Jackson would have known the most important thing Tolkien would have loathed having his characters changed. 

No one is obliged to trust my mere word. But why cant we listen to Tolkien? In a way, he is still speaking with us, I do earnestly hope that in the assignment of actual speeches to the characters they will be represented as I have presented them: in style and sentiment. I should resent perversion of the characters (and do resent it, so far as it appears in this sketch) even more than the spoiling of the plot and scenery. (J.R.R.Tolkien, Letters, 2000, Letter 210 p.275)

Sounds rather convincing, does it not? Still, I can hardly claim that Peter Jackson has not read Letters. Yet even if he has, little attention was paid to it, apparently. Why? And if he has not read the book, why not?

Let us put the issue on hold, though, and go back to my second sacrilegious idea. The Lord of the Rings is a very expensive film to produce. Different figures are named, yet most often one mentions $ 300 million for all three films together pretty much money even for Hollywood. What could this money be used for, especially since Peter Jackson is rumoured to be rather economical director?

Unfortunately, I am quite ignorant when the film industry is concerned; hence my ideas are hardly more than mere speculations. And yet  CGI is an expensive technology, but these expenses are inevitable.

Hand labour, which I have mentioned already, is pretty costly, too. And now I cannot help asking this question why were all the props hand-made?

The argument that actors perform better being surrounded by super-duper props I can only treat as rubbish. A professional actor is a professional because he or she can fence with a green branch as if it were an elven sword of Gondolin. Moreover, a pro would convince anyone that he is fencing with nothing less than a Gondolin sword. Let us take, for example, Gandalfs battle with Balrog. Do you really think that Gandalf was looking at a Balrog while filming? Nothing of the kind; there was nothing remotely resembling a Balrog, not even a small picture. The only thing available for the actor was a yellow tennis ball, to follow with his gaze. As we see, this fact did not disturbed Ian McKellens professional performance.

Any conclusion? I have but one expensive props is but the directors whim, because Peter Jackson wanted to make a posh film. Well, this is his right.

However, Peter Jackson was not always that extravagant Superstars are pretty expensive, and as we have seen, there is hardly a single superstar engaged in the film. Majority of the cast are not very well known, many of them are very young. It is easy to get the impression that Jackson cast the actors who a) would not demand very much money; b) would agree to spend one and a half years filming in New Zealand, and c) would obey directors instructions without questioning them.

And there is something in the wind That Sean Connery had been offered to play Gandalf, and refused, demanding a fortune for the job, and he would not bargain. This is widely believed to be a pretext, the real reason being Connerys refusal to spend eighteen months in New Zealand. Or could the director be the reason?

One more thing Viggo Mortensen was not a first choice Aragorn. The actor accepted the offer having no idea whom he was to play. He read The Lord of the Rings aboard a plane on his way to New Zealand.

Still, he makes quite passable Aragorn. And so does Sean Bean who plays Boromir. Gandalf and Saruman are very good indeed both Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee are just too experienced and talented to spoil their parts. Also Bilbo (played by Ian Holm) is absolutely wonderful; he may very well be the only canonical character in the film. Yet seeing these experienced, talented people save the film leaves certain bitterness. One cant help feeling that the actors perform quite below their own potential and by all means far below their characters potential. Also results are gained not due, but despite the screenplay.

What is going on? Nothing much; instead of Middle-earth by Tolkien it is Middle-earth by Jackson that comes to the silver screen. But are they of equal worth, these two worlds?

Middle-earth as created by Tolkien is a world that is logical. What I mean is that everything going on in The Lord of the Rings has its reasons and consequences and these reasons and consequences are shown. Or, what is even more exciting, a reader is given an opportunity to find answers. Council of Elrond, as it is presented in the book, demonstrates an analysis of a situation worth of any modern secret service. Events that have taken place during the last six thousand years are discussed (not as bad as it sounds since many of the participants at the Council have clear memories of the events having taken part in them). Archives are rummaged, witnesses are heard, even if from the very beginning their information seems quite irrelevant. Discussion (courteous, reserved, and respectful) is carried out, and as a result a plan is made almost desperate, at first sight, even insane; and yet the only one possible under the circumstances.

Can anything like this be said about the cinematic Council of Elrond? Hardly. First, a lot of information that Tolkien chooses to present at the Council, when nothing distracts readers attention, Jackson forces on the audience much earlier without any connection with the discussion. Following the debate becomes quite a chore.  

Second, there are words and actions of the characters. Tolkien makes them grounded psychologically and socially; it means that every character in the book acts according to his own personality, his life story, customs and traditions of his race and kin. And I cannot help mentioning the absolutely brilliant speech characteristics, which Tolkien creates for the characters. To take an Elf for a Hobbit, for example, is nigh impossible; moreover, it is just as easy to tell apart Sam from other hobbits by his manner of speech. What about the film, then? Nothing much, Hollywoodish is spoken freely, from time to time Sindarin is heard It is very difficult to make any impression of these strange guys who have gathered at Elronds place for some odd reason (and by the way, Elrond is none too thrilled to have them in, but this has been discussed already). In other words, development of the characters and well as of the plot is not to be expected.

I will, however, by no means claim that everything in the film is bad, illogical, poorly done. I may not thus offend very many committed, talented and hard-working people who have given themselves to the project. Actors performance has been already discussed; exquisite props also comes as the films major advantage. I am very ignorant in CGI, yet as far as I can judge, it was very well made. And, the last but not least this film is incredibly beautiful. The sets are awesome, be it lovely Hobbiton, the bucolic Shire, or Rivendell full of autumn sadness. New Zealands grand landscapes are breathtaking. Music is wonderful.

This film could have become a masterpiece, yet a masterpiece it is not. I fail miserably trying to evaluate it. Fantasy is a tough genre; its pieces are either very good or bad. Or really awful.

One thing is clear, though the film cannot be compared to the book. Small wonder The Lord of the Rings was written by a talented scholar, a man of a vast life experience and high integrity, kind and keen. As a result, the book is wise and just, full of bittersweet sadness As for the film, its separate well-made elements were not combined in a coherent whole (which the task of the director and director only). Besides, to every good element there are five or ten elements of rather questionable quality, to put it mildly. As a result the film badly lacks taste.

I dearly love Middle-earth as created by Tolkien. And it is with sad confusion that I watch Middle-earth made by Jackson. I have no intention to accuse Master Peter of anything. But I cannot stomach stale bread. Especially after lembas.