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Review

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  • WendellWag@aol.com
    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
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 10, 2002
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      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
      tone.

      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
      travelogue.

      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
      book either.

      Wendell Wagner
    • Trudy Shaw
      ... From: WendellWag@aol.com To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com ; Knossos@yahoogroups.com Sent: Sunday, February 10, 2002 4:34 PM Subject: [mythsoc] Review ... Since
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 12, 2002
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: WendellWag@...
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com ; 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.

        --Trudy


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • David S. Bratman
        ... Oversimplification (though one which Jackson may have made). The Ring has a preserving effect, but your aging process doesn t suddenly screech to a halt.
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 12, 2002
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          At 05:37 AM 2/12/2002 , Trudy wrote:

          > 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.

          Oversimplification (though one which Jackson may have made). The Ring has
          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.

          David Bratman
        • michael_martinez2
          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
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 12, 2002
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            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.
          • David S. Bratman
            ... But they re based on something. ... I do not say that non-Shire hobbitoids had the same concepts of coming of age, or the same ages if they do. (We can t
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 12, 2002
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              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-
              >of-age at 33 issue is taken too seriously by many people. It should
              >not be identified with a biological point of maturity.

              I do not say that non-Shire hobbitoids had the same concepts of coming of
              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
              behavioral facts:

              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
              solid argument.

              David Bratman
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