Lord of the Rings Movie Review
© 2002, Wade Shiell
Hello all. Follows something I'll wager I never thought I'd be
posting, given the nature of my... opinions these last few months.
Of late, my opinion of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie has been
somewhat negative, therefore it probably stands to reason that any
account I might give of it would therefore be biased. But here I shall
attempt to comment on that which I can remember, of what I saw, in as
accurate, opinionative and impartial manner as is possible. No
promises, mind you.
Firstly, I guess it would be stupid not to point out (before others get
the opportunity) that yes, I saw the movie even after many times
proclaiming it was something I would never do. Naturally, I didn’t
break any laws by seeing the movie. Indeed, in hindsight, actually
going to view the film wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it might have
been. Of course, I suppose I’ll have to wait until I read the book
again before I can really know how much my interpretation of the
characters therein has been tainted, but by then I may have forgotten
much about the movie. Anyhow, it would seem that my initial enthusiasm
when I heard about the screen adaptation of ‘Lord of the Rings’ proved a little too much for me to dismiss. Plus, the prompting of a certain friend didn’t help keep me away, either.
Admittedly, what I saw this evening was nothing like I envisioned the
movie, in my own head at least. I can’t remember the first time I
dreamed of seeing ‘Lord of the Rings’ on the big screen.
Sometime around the age of 12 or 13 I guess. Then, I envisioned lofty
peaks, gallant warriors, and characters exactly as I perceived them in
my own head. As I aged, I saw the impracticality’s of what I wished
for, and perhaps, as a result, desired less and less to see that which
was so dear to me, be ‘butchered’ by some money hungry Hollywood
Now that I’ve seen the movie, how has my opinion changed?
Well, it’s never stopped changing, it would seem. But specifically
referring to the last few months, and my objection to the film, I would
have to say that my opinion has not changed. I think the movie falls
dramatically short of the book. Now, I would like to state here and now
that, as a movie alone, I thought ‘Lord of the Rings’ was a
fantastic piece, cinematically speaking. The computer graphics were
most interesting, the characters (well, most of them) were
interestingly portrayed, and I didn’t half mind Viggo Morgensten’s
‘Aragorn’. But, let’s be frank. This is MY opinion of what I saw, and
is of course by no means meant to be universal. Having said that, let
me re-iterate what I intended to suggest above. The movie left me more
disappointed than pleased. Though I can both understand, and perhaps
forgive, Peter Jackson for forsaking dear Tom, and ignoring the ‘true’
interpretation of the characters, I cannot accept what I saw as a
‘decent’ interpretation of the book I so dearly love. Perhaps it would
be best for me to begin with those instances I recall being mortified.
They follow in no particular chronological order.
It was the small things, I think, that I missed the most. Those things
which could have been included without much fuss. The pronunciation of
‘dwarves’ as ‘dwarfs’, I found almost insulting (of course, I’ll
probably be proven wrong here, and told that indeed it WAS pronounced
‘Tolkien-ly’ by Elrond). Obviously there is no difference in time,
between dwarves and dwarfs, therefore I see no reason NOT to have
included the previous. After all, is this not ‘Lord of the Rings’, and as such is it not fair to want to hear things pronounced as Tolkien himself thought best?
Whilst in Lothlorien, when addressing the remaining eight travellers, I
noticed that when Galadriel held Sam’s gaze, he did not blush an turn
away. A minor point, perhaps. But once again, out of fear of being
labelled a nit-picker, let me say that one, it’s *written* in the book,
and two... my opinion.
The third point I can recall at this time, though of course there are
many others (which I may or may not discuss here, now), involved the
bier of Boromir. Whilst he was at LEAST pushed over the falls, I
noticed that the weapons of his fallen enemies were missing from the
foot of the boat (I noticed some bundles at his head, which MAY have
been the missing weapons, but I don’t think so. I recall seeing only a
shield, and miscellaneous baggage). Of course, there was much about the
incidents around Parth Galen which I objected to. Most notably was the
inclusion of something not even in the book, unless I’m sorely
mistaken. The orc Saruman referred to as ‘Uruk-Hai’, seemed to be a
creation of Mr Jackson. At first, I thought that Saruman named the orc
itself ‘Uruk-Hai’, for it did not seem that there were any other
similar orcs to bear the title (ie. He seemed only to have created that
one orc, calling it ‘Uruk-Hai’, to lead his minions). Regardless of
that matter, the character itself doesn’t belong. Obviously, it’s not
Ugluk or Grishnakh, and other than those two I know of no other orc
leader mentioned at that point in the novel (other, of course, than the
orc with whom Ugluk expected to meet under the eaves of Fangorn. His
named escapes me at the moment).
I shan’t dwell on this much more, but I HAVE to object to the complete
disregard for the novel after the fellowship come ashore. I understand,
however, that what was done MAY very well have been necessary. In order
to allow Frodo to slip away quietly, and to allow Aragorn to make the
decision to go West, not East, I accept that the debate on the lawn
needed to be removed... to save time. I don’t, however, accept that it
WAS done. It’s simply mutilation. Once again, I know it’s BASED on the
book, and it’s also... just my opinion.
Moving backward a little, I would like to say I was rather taken by the
Argonath. Although I’d never imaged it precisely in my own mind, I’d
always imagined it to look something like it did in the movie. Not
precisely the same, perhaps, but it was a good looking fit. I wasn’t
fond of the absence of shoes, however.
Back a little more, to Lothlorien. The short amount of screen time
spent there was, of course, understandable IF… you consider the need to
save time. I was saddened that only a short time was devoted to Lorien,
as I felt that the movie didn’t express that feeling of rejuvenation
that would have come from a stay there. It was in, and out, from what I
saw. That’s not to say that it was suggested they only stayed there a
moment. I mean, because so little time was devoted to Lorien, it wasn’t
made clear what the eight really gained (or lost) from their time spent
And what of Galadriel? The one thing that amazed me most of all, was
the incredible deviation from the character in the book. To me, the
Lady of the Wood is a deep, intricate, caring, compassionate, mildly
passive, wise character. The image I saw on the screen reflected little
of who I imagine Galadriel to be. I saw a rather cardboard character,
somewhat aggressive, with little of the soul of she who I came to know
in the book. I’ve mentioned the ‘gaze’ scene above, so I shan’t go into
that again, save to say... it was brief, was it not? And Celeborn..
well, his was a brief appearance, which perhaps did not reflect his
character from the novel positively or negatively.
The period from the ‘Council of Elrond’ through to the arrival in
Lorien I felt was too severely compacted, for of course, there was much
that needed to be told. The journey through Moria I felt, was perhaps
not as accurate, nor as interesting, as it could have been. Now, I’ve
always considered Moria to be, wall to wall, a place of unrivalled
dwarvish brilliance. I saw vast arches, and helical stairs rising away
to invisible heights. Doors inscribed with ancient runes, and floors
paved with carefully laid stone. All of this would have shown the signs
of age, of course, but would have none the less seemed marvellous.
However, I saw very little of what I saw in my mind’s eye. Indeed, the
only time I think I saw something resembling what I imagined Moria to
look like, was the scene which showed rows and rows of columns. They
looked lovely. But the rest was.. mediocre at best, I think. As for the
bridge itself, I know it was thin due to that being an ancient form of
dwarvish defence, but I felt that it would have appeared more like Ted
Naismith imagined it, in his painting.
The scene at the west gate, was a little poorly done, also. Why destroy
the gate, when you could do what was done in the book, and have it
merely barred by the holly trees (if holly trees they were, I forget).
It wouldn’t have taken any more time. But perhaps, it wouldn’t have
looked as dramatic. As for the east gate, I always expected there to be
a broad road leading down into the Dimrill Dale. Khazad-dum was, after
all, the greatest of dwarf cities. One would expect a major highway to
facilitate the traffic which would have passed in and out of it, as
opposed to the.. rocks. And the gate I always imagined to be a little
lower down the mountain side, and surrounded by more verdant ground.
Whilst I think of it, I was rather disappointed to see barely a mention
of Bill. Both Ferny and the pony. Perhaps one of the seedy customers at
the inn was the villain, but I don’t know. As for the pony, I always
felt that his bond with Sam, or perhaps Sam’s bond with him, was a
major developmental point in establishing Sam’s nature as a kind
hearted hobbit. Perhaps we’ll see more of him in ‘Return of the King’.
I guess there’s not a lot to complain about, in regards to the journey
south from Rivendell. Of course, certain scenes were naturally not part
of what was in the book, but one can at least imagine that they might
have happened as they were portrayed. The appearance of the Crebain
could have been handled better, I think though. Of course, once again,
I can see why they appeared when they did.. though I don’t see that as
being a good thing. The whole decision about going under the mountains
was handled not at all well either. I would ask why have Gimli so
eagerly pressing the company to travel that way, but I’m concerned with
his character in general, anyway, so I shall remain silent.
Oh, it was sad to see the wargs disappear from the movie, as well as a
more thorough description of events on Caradhras. I think it would have
been nice to have seen Gandalf bring the sputtering faggot of wood to
life with his staff. But, c'est la vie.
I was not overly keen about the emphasis on Saruman’s involvement with
the trouble on the Redhorn pass. To consider that it was Saruman,
rather than the mountain itself, who was responsible for the Nine
turning back, is rather like diminishing the status of Caradhras
itself. After all, is it NOT Caradhras which is implied as being
responsible for the foul weather and furious winds, in the book? I got
the distinct impression that no such character, the mountain, existed
in the movie. But, I guess there was no place for it.
A small respite from my onslaught for a moment. Two things I must say I
did rather like, were the first image of Rivendell, as seen from some
high cliff (ie looking down on the house of Elrond, and the river which
ran through it). I can’t say off the top of my head whether or not it
was precisely true to what Tolkien imagined it to be like, but from
what I recollect from the movie, it seemed to fit very closely to the
drawing of Rivendell Tolkien himself drew (and which someone else later
copied. Ted Naismith?). The interior of the house was also very..
ancient. Not exactly how I saw it before hand. I always imagined it to
be less ‘light’, and more ‘homely’. The house of Elrond didn’t quite
seem to be what I always felt ‘the last homely house’ should look like.
But I’m not going to complain overly much.. on that point.
The second point which I was pleased with, was the pronunciation of
‘crebain’. Legolas pronounces is ‘crebyne’ more or less, which takes
into account the ‘ai’ which I always saw but never seemed to notice. As
in Maia and Edain, I can now see how it should be pronounced. I think.
I didn’t really like Hugo Weaving as Elrond. As with Galadriel, I felt
that he was more aggressive than his character in the book. Initially,
as the ‘commander’ on the battle field, he seemed promising. But
afterwards, when the lines began to change, and the scenes began to
alter (an argument to end the council?), I began to doubt. The scene on
Orodruin, at the crack of doom, although perhaps ‘realistic’ in regards
to it’s interpretation of Isildur’s reluctance to do away with the
ring, and display of ‘manly weakness’, seemed to crystallise Isildur as
essentially a flawed character, proud and arrogant, while symbolising
Elrond as the scarred and resentful sage. Perhaps they should have
chosen Sam Neill?
I think I shall refrain from commenting on Arwen, as.. well, she seemed
to get far too much commentary in the film as it stands. A small point,
however. As I was discussing with the person with whom I saw the film,
I was wondering whether or not the scene involving Arwen and Aragorn
being intimate wasn’t put there to establish their union, and perhaps
more importantly, establish why it is that, later on, Aragorn will be
so hesitant and distant with Eowyn. I can’t imagine Peter Jackson NOT
attempting some kind of romantic confrontation between Aragorn and
Eowyn. There’s something of that kind of occurrence in the book, at
Dunharrow, if I’m not mistaken.
Other than some minor (well, not minor, but less outstanding than other
features) points, I felt that the trip from Bree to Rivendell was
perhaps not as bad as it could have been. Well, until they encountered
Arwen, anyway. It was short, and in that I feel, lay the need to trim
down quite a bit of what was in the book. Hardly any time was spent in
the Ettenmoors, and the poor trolls barely got a mention, and then by
image only. I felt that the camp at Weathertop was, however, another
instance where it could have been possible to be a little more
accurate. Why site the attack on the summit, when it could have just as
easily been in the dell, where it belonged? And why mention Frodo’s
anxiety with the fire, when there was no such anxiety in the novel?
Indeed, such concern seems contradictory, considering that Aragorn
makes the point that fire would aid, rather than do the hobbit’s harm,
in regard to defence against the Nazgul.
One thing that I was wondering about, centred on the horse ridden by
Arwen (I know I said I wouldn’t mention her, and I shall try not to).
She called it ‘Asfaloth’ at one point, and spoke to it, saying ‘Noro
lim’. Asfaloth is of course, the name of Glorfindel’s horse. So for the
purposes of the film, do we assume that the right horse is featured,
but the wrong rider, or the right rider, but the wrong horse? For I
shan’t accept that Asfaloth *wasn’t* Glorfindel’s horse. If they found
it necessary to omit him, they should have omitted his horse, too. But
it was ‘nice’ to hear the phrase ‘noro lim’, not that I know what it
literally means. Some command of swiftness, I would imagine.
In deleting Bombadil from the movie, I think I worked out that 4 entire
chapters were also deleted, from ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’ to ‘Fog on the
Barrow Downs’. It’s sad once again, that no mention of Tom, nor of the
Barrow downs could have been made, but once again, I can accept that
they had to be removed, at least to conserve time. Still, I don’t think
there were any other chapters in the first volume that were skimmed
over completely. Just those 4.
After leaving Hobbiton, I think the entire journey to Bree was rather
horrid. The way Gandalf left with them, but didn’t continue with them
(of course, he had to leave to see Saruman, but this was supposed to
have happened long before Frodo departed.. much went awry there, too!),
the way they met Merry and Pippin, the lack of any encounter with
Farmer Maggot. And most of all, the altercation with the Black Rider. I
really don’t see the need (though once more, I see the purpose of
injecting ‘action’) to have included that. It introduced too many
questionable elements. To suggest that the Hobbits could have outrun
the Nazgul who were there (I’m assuming it would have been five or
there abouts, but who knows?), seems preposterous. When faced with the
delicious proposal of snatching the Ring, so close at hand, I would
think that the Nazgul would have displayed a greater degree of power
than they did. I mean, why were they still atop their horses, if they
were having so much trouble laying hands on the Hobbits? It’s a matter
which I feel could be a great source of debate, so I shall for the
moment leave it be at that.
Finally, at least as far as ‘nit-picking’ those major elements of the
film which I can recall, there’s what was set in Hobbiton. Though I
could be mistaken, I got the impression from the way the shadows fell
over the door of Bag End, that it faced west. I always assumed Bag End
faced the south. But this is not concrete in my mind, so I shall let it
The party itself was about as good as I think it could have been.
Perhaps a little rustic, like the entire description of the Shire
seemed to be, but not too bad. I didn’t mind the fire works, though
they were a little loud. And the Dragon didn’t dive into the Water!! Or
did it explode over the water in the book, as well? I can’t quite
The speech, and the absence of knowledge on Frodo’s part, I really
wasn’t thrilled with. Perhaps it would have been more difficult to have
made it so that Frodo knew of Bilbo’s coming holiday.. I don’t know.
But the whole instance left me a little peeved, as you might expect.
Why wasn’t there any flash of smoke, or a bang? Nothing! Just a
disappearing hobbit, and no more.
Other than what I’ve written above, although I started by saying that I
was only going to detail ‘minor points’, there are only a few instances
which further irk me in any great detail. The overuse of Saruman and
Isengard I think could have been left out. But I guess I can understand
that, simply by isolating Saruman to ‘The Two Towers’, and a little of
‘Return of the King’, it would have been a little harder to incorporate
him as a major character. But then again, compared to others, he’s NOT
a major character.
As sleep descends upon me now, and threatens to take with it the last
vestiges of what I can remember I wanted to discuss about the movie, I
shall quickly write them down. As a whole, ‘Lord of the Rings’
was somewhat hollow. Although the actors seemed to, mostly, play the
characters they were given, well enough, compared to the novel I felt
that the movie lacked ‘soul’. I couldn’t sense there being anything
outside of what I saw. When I read the book, no matter where I was (in
Middle Earth, that is), I could always imagine, say, the desolate
plains of Dalgorad, or the tumultuous falls of Rauros echoing in the
Emyn Muil. But there was none of that, for me, when I saw the movie. If
the characters were in Moria, there was no outside world. If they were
floating down the Anduin, I could sense no rangers stalking the woody
slopes of Ithilien.
Oh.. one last gripe, before I forget it. During the Council, Boromir
mentions that Aragorn is ‘only a ranger’. That’s a rather poor comment,
don’t you agree? If Boromir knew of the existence of the rangers in
Arnor, you’d assume he’d know where they had descended from. Even if he
didn’t know specifically that Aragorn was the heir of Isildur, you’d
still think that he wouldn’t have made the ‘only a ranger’ comment,
based on the fact that rangers were descendants or the Dunedain of old.
And one more ‘last’ point before I go.. the characters, as a whole.
Now, I mentioned that I felt that most of the actors portrayed they
characters they were given, well enough. That doesn’t mean I felt the
characters themselves were anything special, however. Admittedly, the
fact that many more times than once the characters from the book were
altered and placed in different situations and contexts, would no doubt
have made it hard for any actor, even the best, to have made the
character they were to portray resemble the same from the book.
Nonetheless, they still weren’t the characters I’ve journeyed with so
many times, and have come to know, see, and enjoy in my own personal
In hindsight, is my experience with ‘Lord of the Rings’ on film
going to dramatically affect the way I see the story, written down? I
can’t say that I know at this point in time. I’m tempted to say that I
perhaps over reacted a little, and that things won’t be quite as bad as
I felt they would be. But, I can’t be sure. I’ve now visions of Elijah
Wood in my head as Frodo, and thatched rooves in Hobbiton where once
there was tile. But I wasn’t left completely unchanged for the worse.
One thing I think I noticed after having watched the film, is that my
view of the book, that is, what I see.. mountains, rivers, people.. has
always been somewhat two dimensional. Perhaps the movie will allow me
to see a little more depth now. I guess I’ll have to wait and see, when
I next read ‘Lord of the Rings’.
To close. Whilst not being as bad as I had perhaps thought it might be,
the movie was certainly not as good as I hoped it might at least be.
Wooden and hollow, and yet in places both deep, beautiful and thought
provoking, I won’t say I’m NOT sorry the movie was made, but I don’t
resent it’s coming into being. At least, not at this juncture. No
doubt, a few days to mull over in my head what I saw, and the emails
which I shall no doubt enjoy reading from you all, shall change the way
I see the film, at this point in time.
But in the end, there really is no book, nor is there a film, which accurately describes ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
For me at least, it shall forever exist most acutely in my mind, where
the grass of Rohan smells the sweetest, the heights of Caradhras are
most dizzying, and the dogs chew bacon rind in front of Farmer Maggot’s
fire. Anything else, book, movie or sound, merely enhances and renews
those images that are already there.
I wrote that immediately after seeing the flick, and I finsihed at 3.30 in the morn, so forgive any odd comments :-)
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