I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, don’t get me wrong. Don’t revoke my geek cred. I still think the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, is the best of them, and that Peter Jackson created as nearly a perfect adaptation as possible for the times. He had to abide by certain Hollywood blockbuster rules, yet managed to stretch them enough to get his vision across. The extended edition of Fellowship is excellent and worth the immense running time. Return of the King is depending on how much you like the first two, but we’ll get to that later. I revisited all 3 films with Milky, belly-slapper general, to keep me from dozing during the slow bits (12 hours of walking!).
So let’s pick them apart!
1. Deus ex machina airlines
Whenever there’s trouble, the eagles show up. There are more Eagles in Tolkien’s books than on a ’70s light rock station. They save them in The Hobbit, they save Gandalf from Saruman, they save Frodo and Sam. Why didn’t they just have the eagles fly the ring into Mordor and drop it into Mount Doom, and drop bird dookie on Sauron’s Cadillac? I stole the “airlines” from Mark E. Rogers, The Adventures of Samurai Cat, a very funny spoof of Tolkien, Lovecraft, Kurosawa, Conan, and more.
2. no little people!
All those hobbits done with CG and perspective. The only “dwarf” was Gimli, the six foot plus John Rhys Davies. The CG does give the hobbits an other-worldly look, unlike the dwarfs in Prince Caspian, played by little people Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis. It’s unfortunate. Maybe if there were more dwarfs in the story, they could have upscaled little people to be bigger than the hobbits. I’m hoping that for Guillermo del Toro’s version of The Hobbit, they do something like that for the dozen dwarfs. Let’s hope CG doesn’t make it harder for little actors to get a job, dammit. Prince Caspian may have sucked, but it wasn’t because of the little people.
3. Saying the titles
Actually this was probably an in-joke, and is sort of funny that way. Remember when movies felt like they had to say the title in the dialogue, if it was high concept, so people would “get it?” Man, I’m getting tired of all these star wars! Riggs, you’re acting like a lethal weapon of some sort! And we shall call you, the fellowship… of the ring!
4. Frodo’s slo-mo agony face
I think Elijah Wood is a good actor. Not great, but a good one. But Peter Jackson sure loved doing slow-motion whenever he suffered his myriad injuries, such as the Morgul blade, the spear from the cave troll, Shelob’s stinger, and when Gollum cavity-searched him for his precious. Watch the movies all in a row, and it will be burned onto your retinas.
5. Surfin’ Legolas
Seriously, what the flying orc was Legolas doing surfing all the time? First he surfs on a shield down the steps at the Battle of Balls Deep, and then again down an Olyphant’s trunk during the final battle. I mean, just because he has long blond hair doesn’t mean he’s one of the Beach Boys. It was silly and unnecessary- we knew he was the paragon of Elven agility when he stood on the snow everyone else was sunk in, or climbed the arrows he shot into the Olyphant’s hide. Maybe the surfing was to sidestep the obvious “light in the loafers” joke about him not sinking in the snow?
6. “Swords are no more use here”
Except for killing the Balrog, of course. At the end of Fellowship, Gandalfini tells the gang to “fly, you fucks!” when the Balrog from the depths of the earth bars their way, because “swords are no more use here.” Then in Two Towers, we get an awesome battle with the Balrog, and Gandalf kills it with Glamdring (a sword). This is probably an in-joke meant to catch over-analytic nerds, but it amuses me. Of course, Gandalf can come back from the dead, so he can probably kill balrogs with a sword up the ying-yang where anyone else would be stomped into something resembling a wet prune.
7. Goofball Gimli
Did we really need Gimli to be comic relief most of the time? He’s actually pretty bad-ass in battle. I like when he snaps the orc’s neck in Two Towers, and the battle with the cave troll remains one of my favorite fantasy combats in film. But stuff like the drinking contest was just a bit much. I know that he and Legolas really did try to kill more orcs than the other, and the movie handled their rivalry and eventual friendship really well. The rest of the stuff- “nobody tosses a dwarf!” and its payoff in the second movie, and boring Eowyn to tears when he tells her about dwarven women- is good, but the drinking contest always brings me out of the movie.
Well, those are the 7 things that bother me. What do I love best? Taters. They really handled the Sam-Frodo-Gollum substory well, including the parts like Stewed Rabbit that I thought might be left out. Sean Astin did a great job as Samwise Gamgee, but will forever be known as “Hell Bent for Taters” in my memory.
Oh, the Extended Editions are all out of print by the way; probably in prep for a big Blu-Ray release.