Tom Shippey

Studies of the Written Tolkien Legacy: From Analysis, to Maps, to Philosophy and Ethics, to Philology
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Merry
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Post by Merry » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:10 pm

Interesting comparison, RR. I think the two agree with each other, at least in terms of prolonging the war scenes unneccesarily while abbreviating other more essential stuff.

But what bothered me sometimes was not that the Frodo/Sam story was compressed, but that it was sort of junked up by things like the ridiculous Ghost Busters CGI at the Dead Marshes and the ridiculous dismissal of Sam by Frodo. It's almost as if PJ didn't trust his actors to be able to portray their torment deeply enough.

I like it that VM knows the books well enough to make such a critique!
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Post by Iolanthe » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:48 pm

I think the big effects shots could certainly have been reduced but I actually think that any extra time gained would have been better spent on Aragorn rather than giving more dialogue to secondary characters. I think all the secondary characters were quite well served, given the amount of story to fit it, and the character that suffered was Aragorn and his story arc.

Are Viggo and Shippey agreeing? The Prime Action (Frodo and Sam) had to be paramount (as Shippey says) and I think it did have enough time and focus in the film - despite the spurious Frodo/Sam argument - but I think Aragorn's story is also Prime Action. Viggo is overlooking his own character a bit here and what he suggests would have lost us in the wilderness of subsidiary action that Shippey warns against.
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Post by marbretherese » Mon Feb 01, 2010 1:53 pm

Surely Shippey's remarks are centred around the desirability of not confusing matters by including what he calls the semi-independent sections (Tom Bombadil etc)? that's not quite what V-M is referring to, is it? I agree with him. Less emphasis on the special effects and more on the characters. There would have been room for more about Aragorn (book-Aragorn is a man of mystery which the film almost totally failed to portray); I would have liked to see a little of Faramir and Eowyn in the Houses of Healing, just enough to tell their story. None of that need have detracted from Frodo and Sam. I did enjoy the films but the parts that grated on me were the gimmicks.
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Post by Merry » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:22 pm

I remember not quite being sure of book Aragorn until they all got to Rivendell, although it's hard to tell what I would have thought of him in the movies had I not read the books. What other parts of his story do you think the movies left out?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Riv Res » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:31 pm

Merry wrote:What other parts of his story do you think the movies left out?
:arrow: His friendship with Eomer. The complete scene of their meeting in Rohan
:arrow: How Eomer and Aragorn fought together at Helms Deep.
:arrow: The whole extended scene after the Paths of the Dead where he wrestles with coming to Minas Tirith too late.
:arrow: The scene of the meeting of Eomer and Aragorn in battle on the Pelennor.
:arrow: The true wedding scene with Arwen (who is regal and not timid).
:arrow: The scene where the newly crowned Elessar greets both Faramir and Eomer.
:arrow: Most of all...the parting of the Fellowhsip at sunset. :wink:

:D :D

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Post by marbretherese » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:56 pm

I think PJ chose (I daresay for very sound cinematic reasons) to portray Aragorn as the action hero and Arwen as his love interest. Tolkien presented them quite differently. Arwen, as Riv says, is regal, and actually quite remote in the book; Aragorn is slowly revealed as a leader, a healer, a man of destiny. That's probably quite difficult to present in a film. But I did miss it.
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Post by Merry » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:18 pm

:lol: Good list, RR! I also missed Aragorn meeting up with the rest of the Rangers and the sons of Elrond, led by Halbarad, in Rohan. Having a group like that go through the Paths and take over the ships would have made all that more believable. I imagine PJ didn't want to introduce new characters at that point, but still . . .
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Lindariel » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:42 pm

I greatly missed the acclamation of the Ringbearers at the Field of Cormallen, where Aragorn was first publicly revealed as the Captain-General of the Men of the West and the King Returned. I also missed the coronation of Aragorn as depicted by the Professor, with Faramir so beautifully executing his role -- "The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office," followed by that extraordinary recitation of Aragorn's lineage and fitness for the kingship, Ach! -- and Frodo being part of the crowning, rather than Gimli (WHY?!?!?!?!?)

I missed the entire arc of the evolution of the tremendous "brotherhood" between Eomer and Aragorn. Of all of the secondary characters in LOTR, I think Eomer suffered the most drastic reduction in cinematic presence for such an important character. Speaking as a red-blooded woman, that was such a HUGE loss, because, my God, Karl Urban was FANTASTIC as Eomer! True middle-earth eye candy. What were they thinking?

I missed a proper enactment of the extraordinary events in the Houses of Healing. For goodness sake, this is one of the most important ways in which Aragorn secures his destiny!

I also object to several abject character assassinations:

(1) Denethor -- Horribly misrepresented. Yes, the man was dreadful to his youngest son, deeply lost in his grief for Boromir, and half-mad with the blighted knowledge he received from the palantir. But the man did NOT abdicate his responsibilities to his people -- he LIT the beacons of Minas Tirith before Gandalf ever arrived, he called in all reinforcements for the White City, and fully prepared it for battle and seige. And it was CRIMINAL that PJ did not reveal the palantir in Denethor's death scene. This was just a badly, badly mangled.

(2) Gandalf -- There is no way the Wizard would STRIKE the Steward of Gondor. Not even once, much less THREE TIMES -- twice in the courtyard of the White Tree and once in Rath Dinen. Where were the guards who would have instantly hauled the Wizard off to the dungeons for striking their sovereign lord? Just completely inappropriate and off the hook. What were they thinking?

(3) Aragorn -- I am forever grateful that PJ had the sense NOT to include that horrible Mouth of Sauron scene in the theatrical release. In my opinion, he should never have included it in the Extended Version either. Aragorn would NEVER decapitate the unarmed messenger of his enemy who has emerged to engage in parlay before battle. It just is not done by any person with any kind of honor. They destroyed Aragorn's nobility with that stupid, stupid adolescent move. This is not the action of a man who says, "When have I been hasty or unwary, who have waited and prepared for so many long years?" The Professor's rendition of that scene was so much more powerful. Again, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
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Post by Merry » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:35 pm

:lol: Totally agree! I hate the jumping on the bed scene, too.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Riv Res » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:47 pm

Pardon me please, if I take a different tack here. One of the earliest points that Shippey makes in this chapter was a huge Aha! moment for me. Shippey's knowledge of every aspect of Tolkien's work and his ability to vocalize what I am thinking and feeling when I read, is one of his most valuable and (for me) endearing qualities.

Here, for example, on page 370, he nails a point that always niggles at me when I read and re-read The Lord of the Rings.
Much more serious is the question of "the canons of narrative art," and here I cannot help thinking that there must have been several occasions where Jackson's scriptwriters said, in effect, 'but we can't do that' - occasions where Tolkien himself seems to forget, or ignore, some of the very basic axioms of narrative. One of these is 'show, don't tell.' Tolkien's narrative is on occasion unusually talkative, ready to bypass major dramatic scenes, and quite ready to leave the reader, or viewer, 'up in the air' ...
Shippey goes on to tell about how long it took Tolkien to explain about the Ring, starting with The Shadow of the Past and not clarifying until the reader finally got to The Council of Elrond - a full 12 chapters later - and 17 years in Middle-earth time. :shock: Shippey makes the same point about other crucial events...
In the book the Grey Company disappears from sight on page 773, and reappears almost sixty pages later (829), in a way which further remains unexplained until this time Legolas and Gimli start to tell the story, again in flashback a further thirty pages later (856).
This postively drove me crazy as a reader, where I found myself leafing through future chapters to see it Tolkien ever sorted it all out, and then when I really started studying Tolkien, I was just as frustrated when I could not find passages I wanted for the very same reason.

Reading Shippey, the thought occurred to me and I wondered why in the world (how in the world) I ever finished the book and fell in love with the story...a love that has lasted a lifetime. It didn't take me long to realize that I didn't care about Tolkien's lazy, haphazard style of putting his story together. I was so completely captivated (entranced?) by Tolkien's words - his literary style and command of language, and especially the way he so eloquently endowed his heroic characters with noble and honorable and lovable qualities, that I didn't care what I had to wade through to find out all about them. By the time Tolkien had the Fellowship splitting apart at Parth Galen, I already trusted that eventually all my questions would be answered...but...I must admit that I grew very impatient with all the wading through that I had to do. :wink: :lol:

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Post by Merry » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:15 pm

Beg to disagree, RR. I don't see it as lazy or haphazard at all--I think it's brilliant! I don't have my copy of the Shippey article with me, but I think one of his main points is how Tolkien used this 'interlacing' method (that Shippey wrote about in one of his books) to simulate for the reader what the separated members of the Fellowship were going through, not knowing what was going on with the rest of the gang or how it would turn out. So they had to trust in Providence and just do the deed at hand and live in hope. To me, not knowing what was going to happen added much to the suspense and excitement of the story.

As I read it, Shippey's main criticism of the movies is that they don't do this as effectively as the books, right?
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by bruce rerek » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:24 pm

http://www.radiocity.com/events/lord-of ... -1009.html
For those interested, the event will take place next October, so it will give most a chance to plan for it. Last year's showing of the Fellowship Of The Ring was truly a wonderful experience.
I too have a little trouble with more than a few heavy handed editing or total recasting of who said what, where, and by whom. The version that will be showed with orchestra will be the release that first came to the theaters.
The experience was still magnificent.
Bruce
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Post by Merry » Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:44 am

Look, everybody: bruce rerek was here! Welcome back, old friend!

I've read reports of the last event and it does sound wonderful.
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

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Post by Iolanthe » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:19 pm

Welcome back, Bruce :wave:.

I'm torn about how the 'interlacing' works with first time readers. I can see why that has the effect that it does, and it does put you for a while in the shoes of the characters you're following, wondering constantly how the others are getting on. But when I first read the book that benefit was lost on me and every time the focus shifted I was going 'Whaaaaat?????' and keenly feeling the loss of whoever's story I was following until I got fully into the one that had replaced it. I remember flicking through the book endlessly to see when a storyline reappeared. If I was flipped to Frodo and Sam I'd start off working out how long I'd have to go until Aragon et al came back, and visa versa.

Now I wouldn't have it any other way :lol: . I thought the 'interlacing' worked very well in the films, especially towards the end of RotK where PJ managed to keep the suspense ratcheting up while juggling several events coming to a head at once.
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

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Post by marbretherese » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:37 pm

When I first read LOTR I found that the interlacing of the various stories, while it could be frustrating, actually upped the excitement for me. I managed to resist the temptation to look further ahead in the book even though I wanted to, at least for most of the time (OK, I had an idea that Gandalf might not be lost in Moria forever and I wanted to see if I was right :D ). I don't think I'd describe it as lazy or haphazard - Tolkien's mania for detail makes that seem unlikely - the readers experience a series of cliffhangers which in my own case just made me love the book more.

Edited to add: welcome back, Bruce!!
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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