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Frodo's passivity in Jackson's LOTR films

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  • Ernest S. Tomlinson
    Absolutely right, Jackson s films make Frodo a weakling. His best scenes from the books are all sabotaged or completely elided. We don t see his struggle
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 31, 2002
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      Absolutely right, Jackson's films make Frodo a weakling. His best scenes
      from the books are all sabotaged or completely elided. We don't see his
      struggle against the Barrow-wight, nor his conversations with Faramir,
      which show Frodo to be nearly the equal of the Captain in his ability to
      handle himself in a tight spot. His conversation with Galadriel is
      turned into a silly special-effects spectacle. Instead of deciding to
      leave the Shire calmly and intelligently planning his departure, Jackson
      has Gandalf practically push him out the door--you'd think that Frodo had
      never walked more than half a block from his front door in his life.

      The casting of Elijah Wood does not help. Frodo should look robust and
      middle-aged; Wood seems far too young, and (I hesitate to say) even a
      little girlish.

      The screenplay of _The Fellowship of the Ring_ insists, heavily and
      clumsily, that "even the smallest can make a difference", but the content
      of the movie belies the tagline.

      Ernest.
      --
      Ernest S. Tomlinson
      thiophene@...
    • Stolzi@aol.com
      Talk about wimpifying, Frodo doesn t even get to say that great line You shall have neither the Ring nor me. !!! Diamond Proudbrook
      Message 2 of 7 , Dec 31, 2002
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        Talk about wimpifying, Frodo doesn't even get to say that great line

        "You shall have neither the Ring nor me." !!!


        Diamond Proudbrook
      • tghsaw
        ... From: Ernest S. Tomlinson To: Mythopoeic Society Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 4:33 PM Subject: [mythsoc] Frodo s passivity in Jackson s LOTR films ...
        Message 3 of 7 , Dec 31, 2002
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          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Ernest S. Tomlinson
          To: Mythopoeic Society
          Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 4:33 PM
          Subject: [mythsoc] Frodo's passivity in Jackson's LOTR films


          >The casting of Elijah Wood does not help. Frodo should look robust and
          middle-aged; Wood seems far too young, and (I hesitate to say) even a
          little girlish.


          Frodo *is* middle-aged (barely), but his *appearance* is that of someone on the birthday he came of age (or close to that, for people who think the Ring slows aging instead of stops it). He did have to lose some weight between Bag End and Rivendell to achieve the full effect. I think we've had the discussion before about whether the lifespan difference would mean a Hobbit turning 33 would have the physical maturity of a Man turning 18/21; I've always considered that to be the case, which would mean an actor of 18/21 would be of the right *physical* age to play Frodo.

          In the movie, the 17 years between Bilbo's departure and Frodo's is eliminated so that Frodo is portrayed as *being* the age he looks. That makes a huge difference in the characterization, as someone that age is almost certainly going to be more passive, etc. (Some of my friends and I have decided to look at the movies as an alternate universe in which Gandalf discovers the truth about Bilbo's ring immediately after the Party; evidently the Minas Tirith of the movie has an *extremely* efficient library system.) I do wish Jackson had left Frodo's age as it was--if anyone could play a character who looks just come-of-age but is internally 50 years old (actually still quite young, by Hobbit standards), it'd be Wood, and I would have loved to have seen him do it.

          And I'm glad to see the "hesitation" on the one comment--IMHO whether it's true or not doesn't really affect the character, unless we're trying to fit a particular stereotype.

          --Trudy



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        • Matthew Winslow
          ... Yes! That s been my and my wife s response to Elijah Wood s Frodo: he s a pansy. ... My wife and I were discussing just this very fact yesterday, actually.
          Message 4 of 7 , Jan 2, 2003
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            tghsaw [tgshaw@...] wrote:
            > From: Ernest S. Tomlinson
            > >The casting of Elijah Wood does not help. Frodo should look robust and
            > middle-aged; Wood seems far too young, and (I hesitate to say) even a
            > little girlish.

            Yes! That's been my and my wife's response to Elijah Wood's Frodo: he's a
            pansy.

            > Frodo *is* middle-aged (barely), but his *appearance* is that of someone on the birthday he came of age (or close to that, for people who think the Ring slows aging instead of stops it). He did have to lose some weight between Bag End and Rivendell to achieve the full effect.

            My wife and I were discussing just this very fact yesterday, actually. I think
            the problem with PJ-LOTR is that, with the loss of the 17 years between the
            birthday party and the departure from the Shire, Frodo /is/ really just into
            manhood, and thus doesn't have the maturity that he does in the book (as you
            point out, Trudy). To me, this was one of the first big mistakes PJ made that
            didn't necessarily have to be made: he could have easily, with just a few
            seconds of added footage, shown the passing of time. Sigh.

            I've been re-listening to the BBC LOTR production the past couple days -- I've
            all but worn out my tapes, so I'm converting 'em to CD -- and Ian Holm's Frodo
            is excellent. There's no sense of a whining-toad Frodo in there at all (as I
            find with EW's Frodo). It's the ring that makes him a bit edgy at times and
            not his own constitution. I get the opposite feeling with PJ's Frodo.

            --
            Matthew Winslow mwinslow@... http://x-real.firinn.org/
            "I do not think that the great object in life is to make everything cheap."
            --Sen. Henry M. Teller
            Currently reading: J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey
          • tghsaw
            ... From: Matthew Winslow To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 9:59 AM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Frodo s passivity in Jackson s LOTR films
            Message 5 of 7 , Jan 3, 2003
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              ----- Original Message -----
              From: Matthew Winslow
              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 9:59 AM
              Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Frodo's passivity in Jackson's LOTR films

              [Before I even quote the first part of Matthew's original message, let me say that I have no idea why my computer can't seem to keep its font size straight today. It *says* it's the same throughout the entire email, but I don't think it's going through that way. Sorry.]



              >Yes! That's been my and my wife's response to Elijah Wood's Frodo: he's a
              pansy.

              I won't repeat the pages of discussion that have been had on this exact topic (and "pansy" is usually the keyword). Let's just say there's a lot of disagreement on the subject, depending on how some scenes are interpreted, and how they're lined up against scenes from the book. Just as an example, after I had everything I was *missing* in the Weathertop/Amon Sul scenes pointed out to me, I was much less upset about Frodo dropping his sword (still not completely happy with it, but...). There's a heckuva battle going on there, but it's very different from the book's. [I started to write more about some of the positive and negative comparisons in some scenes, but that *would* turn into pages--literally. If anyone wants more, I could send a private email.]


              >My wife and I were discussing just this very fact yesterday, actually. I think the problem with PJ-LOTR is that, with the loss of the 17 years between the birthday party and the departure from the Shire, Frodo /is/ really just into manhood, and thus doesn't have the maturity that he does in the book (as you point out, Trudy). To me, this was one of the first big mistakes PJ made that didn't necessarily have to be made: he could have easily, with just a few seconds of added footage, shown the passing of time. Sigh.


              Oh, yes, I completely agree that it was a mistake to lose those 17 years. Frodo *has* to be different in the movie because of it or nothing would make sense. If he acted or reacted like a 50-year-old it would be incongruent.

              IMHO, Frodo is the character suffering the most from the need moviemakers seem to have for providing "character arcs"--another term I've seen about as often as I want to. Aragorn comes in second and Faramir third (only because he has less screen time). The idea seems to be that the characters *end up* similar to the way we know them in the book, but the audience has to be shown them *getting there*. So we start out with a very young--and therefore naive and dependent--Frodo (his entire character development in the first movie is to get him independent enough that he can leave the Fellowship, so his decision to do that takes up a good part of the movie from Lothlorien on), Aragorn as the reluctant king (who accepts his mission at the very end of the first movie by donning the Gondorian vembraces--in the movie universe, of course, Gondor's the only place he'll be king of), and a Faramir who's tempted by the Ring (can't say much about him yet, but I'm sure in the last movie he'll turn into someone much closer to Faramir in the book). Oh, I should have put Gandalf on that list, too--Gandalf the Grey's weakness against Saruman is emphasized, I assume, in order to make more of a contrast with Gandalf the White, which, I guess, could be considered Gandalf's "character arc," even though it happens all at once. Whether any of this actually makes audiences identify more with the characters is beyond my ken, but it seems to be a widely accepted belief in moviemaking. IMVHO, if it were more emphasized that all of the central action in the story takes place within a bit over six months, so much emphasis on "character arcs" wouldn't be necessary, but maybe that's considered difficult to do with movies that the audience will see over a spread of two years.

              I do want to say I've come to terms with the way these things are being done in the movies as movies, and IMHO they've been handled with pretty good internal consistency--with the possible exception of Faramir, who seems to have been the victim of not only a character arc but also some bad editing. It's not that I consider them bad movies (so far, fingers crossed), but I think everyone has some regrets about how they could have been better, and I certainly do. My main frustration with the "character arc" situation is that I think the *actors* could have done a beautiful job of showing us fully developed characters with whom the audience could still identify, if the script had been written that way. (With Viggo and David W., I'm going on what I've seen of them in these movies, and a bit of faith in what other people have told me about their work. OTOH, I've seen 18 [so far] of Elijah's movies and have no doubts about his ability to deliver whatever kind of character the script and the director would have called for. -- Yes, you could say I was a bit "centered" on making sure he could handle my favorite fictional character when I watched every movie of his I could lay my hands on between the time his casting was announced and the FotR movie was released. I ended up being quite impressed.)

              Regarding the "few seconds of screentime"--I realize I'm putting my foot into *very* hot water here, but I do think the Bakshi movie had some good points. People laugh at that "seventeen years passed quietly in the Shire" exposition--and it could certainly have been better done--but at least it was there (and we have Gandalf telling Frodo he "looks the same as ever"). The "few seconds of screentime" I most wish had been included in the current movies is the revelation of the Conspiracy. Bakshi showed how it could be done quickly, on the road, without the need of Crickhollow, etc., still using part of Merry's beautiful speech and still giving us a creditable reason for the other hobbits to be coming with Frodo. I think I know why the Conspiracy was eliminated in the current movies (the speed and urgency of Frodo's departure is super-increased--there wouldn't have been *time* for a Conspiracy!), but it certainly leaves some motivation holes.

              --Trudy



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            • Ernest Tomlinson
              ... From: tghsaw To: Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 6:49 PM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Frodo s passivity in
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 8, 2003
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "tghsaw" <tgshaw@...>
                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 6:49 PM
                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Frodo's passivity in Jackson's LOTR films


                > Frodo *is* middle-aged (barely), but his *appearance* is that of someone
                on the birthday he came of age (or close to that, for people who think the
                Ring slows aging instead of stops it). He did have to lose some weight
                between Bag End and Rivendell to achieve the full effect. I think we've had
                the discussion before about whether the lifespan difference would mean a
                Hobbit turning 33 would have the physical maturity of a Man turning 18/21;
                I've always considered that to be the case, which would mean an actor of
                18/21 would be of the right *physical* age to play Frodo.

                I've always accepted this as well; when I said that I thought that Frodo
                should have looked middle-aged, I meant that he should have looked maybe
                thirty-five, not fifty. I had forgotten, though, about the
                "well-preservation". Certainly there would have been some maturity in
                manner if not in looks, though?

                > In the movie, the 17 years between Bilbo's departure and Frodo's is
                eliminated so that Frodo is portrayed as *being* the age he looks. That
                makes a huge difference in the characterization, as someone that age is
                almost certainly going to be more passive, etc.

                It isn't just that. Yes, one of my big problems with J-Frodo is that he
                seems to be pushed around too much, and when he _does_ make decisions, they
                seem forced and impulsive (q.v. "I WILL TAKE THE RING [now SHUT UP
                already!]" at the Council of J-Elrond) and not cool and deliberate, as the
                real Frodo's decisions are. But Jackson even makes J-Frodo _physically_
                weaker. Frodo was gravely wounded at Weathertop, but remained conscious and
                able to stay on a pony for seventeen days. J-Frodo is gasping, cyanotic,
                and at death's door right from the start--I guess that his endurance, as
                well as his courage, had to be sacrificed so that Liv Tyler could say, "If
                you want him, come and get him!" (By the way, hasn't some variation on "if
                you want him, come and get him" been a hackneyed cliche of action movies for
                years? Does it become fresh again if a "she-elf" on horseback says it?)

                More damaging throughout is J-Frodo's almost complete lack of physical
                self-control where the Ring is concerned. Tolkien is careful to frame the
                earlier scenes where Frodo feels impelled to put on the Ring in moral and
                emotional terms. Even when he yields at Weathertop, it is clearly a moral
                decision, and his physical actions are deliberate. Only near Minas Morgul,
                amid the great madness and evil of Morgul Vale, do we first see Frodo's
                physical actions compelled from without: he starts to run up the gleaming
                road to Morgul until his friends collar him, and he sees his hand move
                against his will towards the Ring on its chain. J-Frodo, by contrast, shows
                almost no self-control from the beginning, whether he's near or far from
                Mordor or Morgul. Right from the start, he's sweating, eyes glazing over,
                Ring and ring-finger trembling centimeters apart. Of course you may argue
                that it was necessary to translate what in the book was largely an internal
                struggle into an external one, but the effect is devastating, especially
                when it happens at Osgiliath: if J-Frodo is a hair's breadth away from
                caving to the Ring _there_, just because a Nazgul[*] flies over, what's he
                going to be like when he gets to Mordor?

                [*] Is "Nazgul" a singular, plural, or collective word? Does it have a
                declension?

                > And I'm glad to see the "hesitation" on the one comment--IMHO whether
                it's true or not doesn't really affect the character, unless we're trying to
                fit a particular stereotype.

                I know a word like "girlish" is loaded. Frankly, too many of the words we
                use to denote strength (or weakness) have a sexist tinge, and I should well
                consider such words before using them. But (to use a differently loaded
                idiom) Elijah Wood, at least as he's made up for the role of J-Frodo, is too
                much the "pretty boy". On my joke of a personal website, you'll find a
                couple of pictures I put up, one of Elijah Wood as Frodo, one of Charmian
                Carr as Liesl von Trapp from _The Sound of Music_. To my eyes, they look
                altogether too similar (others have agreed and disagreed.) But I don't
                think I'd be making such unflattering remarks if J-Frodo showed some guts
                which belied his delicate looks. He doesn't.

                Ernest.
                http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~et/
              • tghsaw
                ... From: Ernest Tomlinson To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2003 12:14 AM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Frodo s passivity in Jackson s LOTR
                Message 7 of 7 , Jan 11, 2003
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                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: Ernest Tomlinson
                  To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2003 12:14 AM
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Frodo's passivity in Jackson's LOTR films


                  >I know a word like "girlish" is loaded. Frankly, too many of the words we
                  use to denote strength (or weakness) have a sexist tinge, and I should well
                  consider such words before using them. But (to use a differently loaded
                  idiom) Elijah Wood, at least as he's made up for the role of J-Frodo, is too
                  much the "pretty boy".



                  Oh, that clarifies things; thanks. I never would have connected "girlish" with "weak"--to me it means "effeminate," which is why I made the comment about stereotypes. And in movies I've always equated a "pretty boy" with a male character whose only role is to lounge around looking good--and also not necessarily connected with weakness (especially if the script calls for him to take his shirt off). I'm not trying to start a discussion on the true meanings of slang terms (!), just to say that in this case differing definitions seem to have caused some misunderstanding on my part.

                  --Trudy



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