Confession: I watched almost the entire LOTR trilogy in one day last weekend. The extended versions. I was up to the arrival of the eagles when I decided enough was enough and I went to bed; I grouched at myself for watching the extras attached to Game of Thrones seasons 1 and 2 before starting it, since clearly that’s what stopped me from actually finishing.
This is not the first, nor the second, nor the third time I have watched these movies. I love them. I have read the book more times than I have kept count. Some thoughts on this viewing:
1. I still do not like Elijah Woods. He just doesn’t work for me. While the Frodo+Sam bits are my least favourite bits overall, in the books, I think Woods is too sappy in the role. And given Frodo is my least favourite character, that’s saying something.
2. I was struck quite forcefully by how much of a love triangle Frodo/Sam/Gollum are. Frodo is the innocent object of Sam and Gollum’s affections – where ‘innocent’ means ‘not looking to attract either of them.’ Same is the long-time friend who has been harbouring love in his little faithful heart for a long time, just waiting for Frodo to notice him; Gollum is the slightly bad-boy new kid on the block, come to whisk Frodo off his feet. And here they are, all stuck together, Sam and Gollum forced to work together to look after the object of their mutual desires…
3. It still makes me angry that they screwed with Faramir so drastically. There is no narrative need for Frodo etc to be taken to Osgiliath, so why not allow Faramir to be the pure one the whole time? Why does he need a moment of coming to his senses? It’s a much more stark difference between him and Boromir when his struggle about whether to take the ring takes place over minutes, not over days. Grump grump grump.
4. The death of Saruman annoys me less, since I do understand it from a narrative point of view. Like the deaths of Agamemnon and Menelaos in Troy, they’re audience-pleasers. It does mean of course that there is no Scouring of the Shire, which – y’know – bit sad about…
5. … but since the ending of Return of the King can already be argued, by those who haven’t read the books, as having a multitude of mini-endings, I do understand not including it. I’ve heard arguments for finishing the film with the arrival of the eagles to save Frodo and Sam; that can’t be the end, though, partly because there needs to be that reunion between everyone, and partly because Aragorn HAS to get crowned; note the name of the movie. While I love the departure from the Grey Havens, I wonder whether the film would have been better off finishing with everyone bowing to the
hobbits. Although that would have left out Sam’s marriage to Rosie, which would have been annoying because…
6. I was thinking about the women in LOTR. Yes, I completely agree there are too few. It is absolutely a product of its time and Tolkien’s context, which doesn’t make it less annoying but it does give context. Still: Eowyn is brilliant and played magnificently here (especially of course in Tolkien’s little stick-it-to-Shakespeare moment). Arwen is crucial, even though she doesn’t have much direct action; Galadriel likewise, and aren’t we all so glad Cate Blanchett was alive to take the role? Other than that… well, there’s Rosie. There’s a fleeting glimpse of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, who could have had a bigger role with a Shire scouring. Ioreth, wisewoman and healer in Minas Tirith, doesn’t appear in the films. Those are the women I can think of who have roles of any significance in the story. So much as I don’t like Jackson taking liberties, I can see that adding a female elf who takes some action will (hopefully) be a good addition to The Hobbit.
7. There are other bits that I am still sad they missed out, but can understand. Tom Bombadil was never going to work; Freddy Bolger is probably just as happy to be out of it; Ghan-buri-Ghan would have been awesome in a tiny little cameo but would have made no sense to those not having read the books.
8. My goodness but the VFX are almost universally astounding. I adore Minas Tirith. And Fangorn.
I am very happy I own these movies.