Mellonath Legolas


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One's True Calling


I gladly take this opportunity to express my deep and sincere gratitude to Morgan for constructive criticism and enlightening, especially in all things cinematographic. Faults, bitter sarcasm and inconsistencies are my own. 

Is there anyone here who wants to be a film director? Really? I wonder if you may reconsider. This one is not a job for a faint-hearted. And no, it is not enough to be a creative genius. Sure, you'd better have strong abilities to visualise; by the way, it is not enough to just see it yourself your job is to show what you see to your audience. Don't forget you work out of sequence; when actual filming ends, all you have is a number of disjointed shots to be assembled. Yes, it is called editing: setting together the visual flow, adding up dialogue and music. So, if you are a good story teller this won' t hurt either - especially, if there is more than one plot line in your film and you want to make a coherent whole.

Besides - no way you can dream in your lonely chamber and have your film made. Any idea how many people you are to interact with? Actors are rumoured to be spoiled and insecure; no, not these amazing characters and shining stars that greet your audience from a silver screen. Yes, now you get it right: this is your job to make them look and act like this. Precisely - coach and motivate. Yes, on the set. For hours... many hours... no, we are not talking nine to five job here.  

Any idea how much a film might cost? Sure, you may think Titanic; or LoTR, this one is no cheap either. But of course you can approach a large studio and ask for money. Piece of cake: just explain your concept and persuade these money guys. There is a small catch here - these guys, they think business. Return on investment - they want it high, you know. At any rate, they really hate to loose their money. Absolutely, you'll have to sell your concept to them. Ever negotiated a $100 million project? Let me be honest with you -compromising can hardly be avoided.

Beg your pardon? Oh, you are not a technology freak? Take it easy, not every director is; but surely you know that there is much technology involved in the modern film-making. Yes, true hi-fi, and lo-fi as well; and CGI are far from everything. Your sets are to be built, you know, and the props made No, you don't have to do it yourself; sure, there will be experts to do and supervise the job yet you'll have to understand what they talk about, at the very least.   

A-ha, you've got it, good for you! Indeed, there is quite a crew for you to supervise. Want to talk numbers? Sure, why not; there can be a hundred and even more. No, I shall not do the math for you - go to the (TORN) and count the LoTR crew members yourself. I think you'll get some idea.

"That's a job for Superman!" Yes, in a way. At least, it can explain why there are so few really great directors. Making a great film sets enormous challenges and calls for great abilities and long years of experience

What about Peter Jackson and his project? Honestly, I am at a loss as for where to start. As a Tolkien purist, I am devastated. I believe this film is a capital offence to Tolkien if taken seriously; to save myself from a heart break I can only treat it as a Hollywood fantasy parody. And this means - no one goes safe; well, with a few exceptions, maybe...

I think I should start with Éomer just to say a kind word. These moments I could see him (not too many altogether) he was actually quite pleasant to behold. In need of some grooming, of course, but who on Middle-earth is clean, I wonder. At least he cannot be accused of acting severely out of character or behaving cowardly or disgracefully. He even demonstrated certain degree of osanwe, providing horses before they were asked for. Yet I sorely missed his valiant presence in the battle of Helm's Deep. In brief, Éomer was one of the very, very rare rays of light in the shadows of Mordor.

My second positive impression was Gollum. Surprisingly close to the book, considering the degree the rest of the film departed from the original. In my mind he was very well-made, very natural looking; even mimics was preserved. Good job, indeed! Also a good actor providing voice and movements; if he becomes indeed nominated for Oscar, I would whole-heartedly support the nomination. Also most of the audience were rather sympathetic when Gollum battled his double personality.

New Zealand seems to be a very beautiful country. 

Mixed feelings

Théoden; the actor is clearly both competent and gifted. In my view equally clear was the fact that he was "running his own race" while performing. I strongly believe he was improvising (similar to John Rhys-Davis' putting in his "laddie") when he started pulling out very King-Learish lines in Hornburg ("Who am I? What am I doing here?"). I immediately recalled him being a Shakesperian actor, but Tolkien is not Shakespeare... Apparent lack of direction to make acting coherent.  

Fallen from grace

Legolas' impersonator; I am very sorry to say but Orlando Bloom's acting became a major disappointment. I believe he is not suitable for the part, being too young and insecure: he either keeps in the background or looks around (most often at Aragorn) as if waiting for instructions.  Quite a behaviour for an Elven-prince, isn't it? Another moment that really made me flinch was Gandalf appearing before the Three hunters after his resurrection. In a blink of an eye and without any prompt Legolas was on his knees, head bowed. Good grief, that was a disgrace! Some minor observations of similar sort - when Théoden orders the dead to be abandoned (after the skirmish with the Warg-riders), Legolas stares at him with an appalled and horrified look on his face, yet he does not utter a word of protest. In truth, he makes rather bleak appearance - not a calm, self-assured, valiant Elf-prince but a dismayed schoolboy barely out of his teens...  

Assorted unplesantries or "We hates him forever"

Peter Jackson seems to keep his actors misdirected or without any directions at all. Those, who are more experienced try to build up their parts themselves; as a result, no ensemble, no consistency, but more or less successful solo performances.  

Camera angles. These were very strange; it seems like her prefers either close cuts (I believe it is called so), when he forces the actors to over-act in the most unpleasant manner, or sweeping panoramic angles. These were more successful - at times; surprisingly, mostly when CGI was used (Orc army carrying torches was very good indeed). Yet most of the time the camera gave hardly any perspective being forced right in the middle of the group (of mostly fighters). When he did so in the first film, I attributed it to his desire to create "effect of presence"; in this film it became boring and monotonous, as if he did not know better.  

And for Valar's sake, even panoramic views should not betray so obviously that they were filmed using a helicopter! The very beginning could have been breathtaking (beautiful snowy peaks and the rising sun), had not the presence of a chopper being so obvious.  

Tasteless scenes - exorcising Saruman from Théoden; Gandalf fighting the Balrog; Legolas shield-surfin'; Aragorn being tended by his horse. I'm afraid, examples galore, and they are all quite on par with the Wizard's duel from the first film. Though the scene that infuriated me most was "Middle-earth porn" - Aragorn and Arwen kissing before him leaving Rivendell for the Quest. In this scene Arwen is wearing a semi-transparent gown, and when they hold each other in each other's arms, the camera concentrates on her breast. I found it distasteful.

Another scene with Arwen, less distasteful, just silly. When she listens to Elrond and cries, her tears do not run evenly down her cheeks, but drop from her nose instead. May be difficult to avoid while filming, but could be pretty easy to edit.  

Recycling. It looks like both characters (mostly Orcs) and the whole scenes became "reusable". Yes, I understand that Orcs' make up and costumes were complicated and required long preparations, but in truth, a director should know better than to believe his audience suffering attention deficiency and memory loss. Some of them may actually have a good memory (especially if it is supported by numerous viewings of the first film). I mean Lurtz; this actor has a characteristic stature, make up and weaponry which are all easy to remember. And he was beheaded by the end of the first film, was he not? This fact makes it somewhat strange to see him again leading Orc army to Helm's Deep. Also the whole scenes are re-used, such as Orcs cutting down trees, or being "hatched" from slime.  

And what conclusion may I be a-making? Well, my general impressions of FoTR came re-enforced: this film was made by (mostly) highly competent and/or dedicated people. I mean the cast and the crew.

What of the director? In all honesty, it is impossible to deny that Peter Jackson is a capable manager, at the very least, as far as technical (and probably financial) side is concerned

Purely artistic side of the film (oh yes, cinematography is an art form, after all)... My feelings are rather confused, with the negative ones prevailing. My difficulties start already with imagery; strangely, most successful images are those produced by CGI, entirely or partially. The rest (as I have pointed out earlier) makes less favourable impressions. Indeed, quite often I found myself wondering whether I was watching a wide-screen film, or a video game.

I wish I had a kind word to say about Peter Jacksons treatment of the original text, but there is none Again, my previous impression from FoTR came re-enforced the director has abused his power distorting the characters, neglecting the style and replacing Tolkiens concept by his own. With Peter Jacksons bizarre (to put it mildly) sense of humour and, compared to Tolkien, total lack of taste and measure the result is not hard to predict. Instead of an epic adventure and a high romance the audience is given an odd blend of a video game and a wide-screen action, with the ever-present set of Hollywood clichés: horrors of war, helplessness of simple folk, self-sacrificing mother, treacherous ministers and proud kings etc. etc

Tolkien purist in me is rolling on the floor in agony Dark experience of the first two films leaves me with hardly a glimpse of hope for the third Yet estel abides Arwens wedding gown must be wondrous fair to behold.  

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