- This isn't quite a full review of _The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of
the Ring_, more like some offhand observations. I saw it a couple of weeks
ago. I had deliberately been avoiding till then anything that would spoil
the surprise of the films, so I tried not to look at trailers or artwork from
the film and not to read the reviews. The first thing that surprised me when
I saw the film was how many of the scenes were simply made up. Yeah, in some
sense these scenes could have fit into the plot at the proper point, but why
did Jackson think that so much of the time that he didn't have to use the
dialogue and the scenes from the book? I suppose some people will defend
this decision as being necessary in order to make the film more "cinematic"
and to keep it within the allotted time bounds, but I didn't think it was
necessary to change things as much as he did. Furthermore, I thought his
changes were all tended to pull the tone of scenes in several different
directions. The film was more slapstick at times than the book ever was, at
other times it had people speaking more portentously than they did in the
book, and the violence was stronger in other scenes (and this will probably
get more pronounced in the second two films). Part of Tolkien's brilliance
was that he could handle this material without having such wild gyrations in
I thought the two best performances were by Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn and
Sean Bean as Boromir (even if he wasn't muscular enough to match the image in
the book). This was probably because they were simply playing two
action-hero types and thus knew what they should strive for without having to
do anything terribly challenging. In contrast, I'm not so certain that the
wizards, hobbits, and elves of the movie were done right at all. Ian
McKellan is getting a lot of praise for his performance, but for my taste
neither he nor Christopher Lee has the idea of being a wizard right. There's
too much of the standard crotchety old man in their acting. Jackson has at
least gotten the hobbits to have a consistent look and acting style, but
again I'm not sure that it's the right look and style. Frodo shouldn't be
played by someone who's 20 years old. He's stated in the book to be 50 at
the point he leaves the Shire. Even if we assume (as seems reasonable) that
hobbits age slower than men, Frodo should be the equivalent of a man in his
thirties. I thought that in general the film was cast too young.
The elves were a bigger problem. Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving are good
actors, but I never felt convinced that they were right for Galadriel and
Elrond. Liv Tyler wasn't the total disaster I feared that she would be. She
wasn't very good, but based on her previous performances I thought she would
be completely out of place. I don't think I could explain exactly how I
think elves should act like, but Jackson doesn't have an interesting
conception of elves.
There were an abundance of both close-ups and helicopter shots in the film.
I thought this was another way in which the tone of the movie swung wildly
back and forth. In my mental pictures of the book most of the scenes were
normal two-shots, because the book is mostly conversations. I thought
Jackson too often seemed to think that he was making a New Zealand
I'm convinced that the movie _The Matrix_ has been a bad effect on recent
films. The CGI effects have gotten good enough that directors think they
have to use as many as possible. I could have done with less special effects
both in the battle between Gandalf and Saruman and in the transformation of
Galadriel when she refused the ring.
At one point during the film I found myself idly wondering what time period
the look of the Shire most resembled. I decided it looked rural English
eighteenth century (and not generic Middle Ages, like a lot of fantasy).
This actually does fit one of the underlying themes of the book. The scenes
in Mordor and Isengard had the Industrial Revolution feel that matched the
Luddite themes of the book. This was only a subtext in the movie, which was
exactly what it should have been, since it isn't explicitly mentioned in the
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To: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Knossos@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2002 4:34 PM
Subject: [mythsoc] Review
>>Frodo shouldn't be played by someone who's 20 years old. He's stated in the book to be 50 at the point he leaves the Shire. Even if we assume (as seems reasonable) that hobbits age slower than men, Frodo should be the equivalent of a man in his thirties.
Since the rest of the review was subjective I won't get into agreeing/disagreeing with various points, but will make one "objective" observation regarding the above. Frodo would have stopped aging physically on his 33rd birthday, the day he came into possession of the Ring. That's the human equivalent of a 21st birthday (coming of age), so a 20-year-old isn't a bad age-equivalent.
One thing that can--and has been--debated quite a bit is the movie's decision to (seemingly; it's not stated specifically) excise the 17 years between the Party and Frodo's departure, which makes Frodo not only physically barely-21, but also less mature in other ways. Cinematically, the reason behind this seems to be so that the viewer sees him mature over the course of the three movies.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- At 05:37 AM 2/12/2002 , Trudy wrote:
> Since the rest of the review was subjective I won't get intoOversimplification (though one which Jackson may have made). The Ring has
>agreeing/disagreeing with various points, but will make one "objective"
>observation regarding the above. Frodo would have stopped aging physically
>on his 33rd birthday, the day he came into possession of the Ring. That's
>the human equivalent of a 21st birthday (coming of age), so a 20-year-old
>isn't a bad age-equivalent.
a preserving effect, but your aging process doesn't suddenly screech to a
halt. Here's what the book says about Bilbo: "Time wore on, but it seemed
to have _little_ effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was _much the same_
as at fifty." And here's what it says about Frodo: "As time went on,
people began to notice that Frodo also showed signs of good 'preservation':
outwardly he retained the appearance of a robust and energetic hobbit just
out of his tweens." I read that as the equivalent of a man in his 30s who
still gets carded, a strikingly youthful appearance rather than a rigid
maintainance of his exact appearance at the time of the Party; notice the
"just out of". I don't find a 20-year-old actor out of place for Frodo, as
long as he's mature-looking for 20, and can _act_ more mature still. It's
Bilbo whose actor is much older than the character should look. (Ian Holm
just turned 70.)
Gollum now, he probably doesn't look anything like what he did when he
first got the Ring, so at least over a longer period "stopped aging
physically" isn't an adequate description.
But I agree with your age-equivalent calculations. Numenorean Men, now,
Unfinished Tales makes clear that they grow up and decline at the same rate
as normal Men: their expanded lifespans are a stretching of their
middle-years. So Aragorn was as mature at 21 as any Man. But Hobbits not
coming of age till 33 gives one pause. As their average lifespan is 100,
and the traditional human span is 70, multiplying hobbit ages by .7 gives a
decent enough result: Pippin at 29 should be seen as about 20; a
33-year-old hobbit should be seen as about 23; a 50-year-old hobbit should
be seen as about 35; the Old Took should be seen as breaking 90.
Incidentally, I once saw a 6-year-old girl playing Bilbo in a stage play of
"The Hobbit", and an amazingly good performance it was too. But that was a
long time ago: she'd be about 30 now.
Apologies for not saying this earlier, but I found Wendell's original
"Review" post on the film to be entirely cogent, perceptive, and to the
point. I agree entirely with about 80% of it, and don't really disagree
with the rest.
- The tweens and coming-of-age-at-33 tradition were Shire conventions.
Tolkien never said or implied that all Hobbit communities shared
them. He explained some of the differences between Gollum's people
(the Stoors of the Gladden Fields) and the Shire-folk in one of his
letters, especially concerning how families were governed and
birthdays were celebrated. Gollum's people did not observe the
custom of giving out presents to celebrate one's own birthday, but
rather of receiving them.
Gollum's folk are sort of the antithesis of the idealized Shire
culture, but they serve as an example of the variation Tolkien
conceived of within each race. Even the Dwarves and Ents experienced
variation in appearance and points of view.
Hobbits are really no different in that respect. I think the coming-
of-age at 33 issue is taken too seriously by many people. It should
not be identified with a biological point of maturity.
- At 10:26 AM 2/12/2002 , Michael Martinez wrote:
>The tweens and coming-of-age-at-33 tradition were Shire conventions.But they're based on something.
>Hobbits are really no different in that respect. I think the coming-I do not say that non-Shire hobbitoids had the same concepts of coming of
>of-age at 33 issue is taken too seriously by many people. It should
>not be identified with a biological point of maturity.
age, or the same ages if they do. (We can't make up our own minds between
18 and 21.) And I certainly don't maintain the .7 figure as a rigid
calculation: it's a useful rule of thumb, no more. But I think that the 33
is one piece of evidence in a consistent case that Hobbits age more slowly
than we do, across the board. Here's some relevant biological and
1) Hobbits reach a hundred as often as not, so their aging process
definitely differs from ours in an extended direction. Tolkien says Bilbo
was "old even for Hobbits."
2) Pippin seems awfully immature for 29, by our standards.
3) Bilbo and Frodo both go on their Adventures at about 50. Both of them,
notably Bilbo, who didn't have a Ring until then, seem awfully young and
spry for 50, by our standards.
4) If there's a human society that has its coming of age as great as 33, I
don't know of it. Indeed, many societies (especially primitive and rural
ones) often have comings-of-age that seem surprisingly young to us.
This isn't proof: Hobbits don't exist, so nothing is proof. But it's a