As I mentioned last week, my two older grandsons (grammar school and middle school vintage) stayed over last Saturday to watch the trilogy in one sitting. We were gonna sit back and relax and be catered to by their grandmother (Camera Girl) while the War of the Ring unfolded on the big flat screen.
First observation, that’s a hell of a lot of movie watching time. Even breaking it up for snacks, bathroom breaks and meals, that’s a long time. Even young people started to show the strain of sitting there and watching this epic. It’s a solid eleven hours of Tolkienian viewing. At one point I started to lose consciousness and was forced to splash cold water on my face (a la Sam Gamgee in Ithilien) and down a mug of strong coffee. I think the roughest stretch was the Ents. Their slow monotonous voices lulled me into a stupor. But with caffeine and sugar we were able to persevere and win our way through.
Alright, how did the movies do on representing the main characters? Aragorn is excellent. Boromir and Faramir are very, very good. Theoden starts out a little weak but finishes off very strong. The Charge of the Rohirrim is one of, if not the high point of the movie. Eowyn and Eomer are very good. I especially liked Eowyn’s Dirge for her cousin Theodred. I read afterward that it was sung in Old English. I found it a very stirring lament without even understanding a word of it. Eowyn’s attraction to Aragorn was handled extremely well. It was neither exaggerated nor played down. It worked. Gandalf was mostly very well done. Only a few scenes weren’t spot on and those were still fine. Legolas and Gimli were played for laughs quite a bit. Maybe sometimes that was overdone. But the characters were enjoyable and added a good deal to the action. The overuse of Arwen (e.g., substituting her for Glorfindel in the Ride to the River) was sometimes annoying but the love story between her and Aragorn was on the whole a positive element of the plot. Elrond was pretty good. Galadriel and Celeborn were awful. Treebeard was pretty good. Denethor was a travesty. They turned him into a crass vindictive petty man. He was not that in the story. Sam was good. So were Merry and Pippin. Saruman was pretty good. But the substitution of his death at Orthanc to the Scouring of the Shire was disappointing.
And then there’s Frodo. Frodo was way too lame. My recollection from reading the books is that his behavior was weak and subdued, especially after the Ring began to get a grip on him. But in the movie he’s in a constant state of stupefied depression. With the exception of the scene in Moria where he gets skewered fighting the Troll he is practically a basket case most of the time. Also the scene of Frodo waking up in Minas Tirith after being rescued by the Eagles is embarrassing to watch. The rest of the Hobbits and the Fellowship are reasonably emotional at the meeting but the expressions that Sam and Frodo exhibit when Sam enters the room are down-right creepy. Granted the hobbits are somewhat childlike in their demeanor and behavior, but this bordered on feminine. Not good.
In the next part of this review I’ll go into what I thought worked well in the movies and what didn’t.