I'm taking a break from being in the basement (spring cleaning) and trying to recoup some energy before I tackle the 12 bins of clothes that are now in my dining room. (Should listen to some music. Or an audiobook. Or talk to myself. Or all at once.) To do something highly productive and with extremely broad appeal: write my thoughts on re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring for the 4th time. I just finished it last night. So:
Tolkien kills me. Either with occasional arch weirdness (Aragorn is pretty good at stuffy sayings; no examples come to mind, unfortunately, but I'll make sure to be on the lookout in the next book), or about ONE THOUSAND words for natural features/formations (I assume some of them are due to his masterful background in linguistics, and also probably from being the type to tramp about the forest, but probably also some steeping in naturalists that were so very popular around his time, or before his time, or blah blah blah) (and no examples, yet again, though a crap-ton of them showed up as the Fellowship was paddling down the Anduin), or THE BEST THING EVER, quotes! Of which I have one, not because that's it, but because I keep repeating it to myself:
Frodo to Gandalf: "I am not made for perilous quests!"
Me too, Frodo. Me too.
Narrative Disconnect Which I Blame Solely on Myself
I enjoyed reading it again. Highly. But - since the last time I read it it was... dangit! A decade ago! HOW DiD THAT HAPPEN?! ...and because I've watched the movies probably at least a half-dozen times in that span (though possibly more; these are the extended editions, it must be noted), and all the Hobbit movies, I confess that I was partially dismayed when long-ass scenes from the movie, which I expected to be as drawn out in the books, were only maybe a page or so. Not that I blame Tolkien. Because that would be ridiculous. No, I blame myself. I actually get frustrated, when watching the movies sometimes, by what they leave out, or shorten, or generally do a disservice to. (That's for another post, though don't hold your breath.) So it's not like I'm constantly comparing it to the movies. But it's clear to me that the movies have become a very beloved companion, or part of the entire LOTR experience. It is what it is.
I also have noted how fast the narrative does move - it seemed like it took me ages to get through it, on my first read. And I loved this. I was also fifteen. I'm assuming my reading has sped up a smidge since then. But even in 2007... I felt like it took me forever to read it. Probably because I had fewer late nights sitting up reading it, having pregnancy insomnia/usual night-owl behavior. I LOVE that it did take me about two weeks to get through it. And one of the reasons I started re-reading it again is because I'd like to finally tackle The Silmariilion (sp?), so I need to know my essential Great War O' the Ring stuff. I need to know my STUFF. But at this rate, I will be done in a MONTH. ...but I also have a play to write in 6 weeks, so maybe I will enforce a break. *SOB*
Character Comparisons, Part I
Part of the fun of having the movies is getting crotchety and also waxing meh or rhapsodic about the actors/depictions of the roles as compared to expectations of them. Amongst my family, many opinions are shared, and a few are not. Let me just note that I don't hate/loathe/despise any of the actors, per se; nor am I saying they suck as actors in these roles. This is about casting. And to some degree, writing. And to some degree, the limitations of filmmaking. So:
Elijah Wood's good. He's not a terribly compelling character in the book, so I don't expect him to be, in the movies. He holds up to the description of him. He's the best kind of hobbit, basically. Though he does kind of annoy me when he laughs. I don't entirely buy it.
Perfection. Not as bristly-eyebrowed, or chimerical, as in the books, but Ian McKellen just owns it. Gandalf is mysterious in the books, yet utterly humane. But it's hard to show a crabby old man/wizard on the screen. Like elves.
Legolas is kind of a punk in the book. Not badly, but I don't get the strength of character in the book they way I think Orlando Bloom conveys, though the movies do a good job keeping him an interesting, but background-ish, character. I've been enjoying watching Bloom's "elf choices" of reactions in the movies, lately. Didn't notice them before. Some of his movies are action-flick ridiculous, but I enjoy most of them, all the same. I'm ok with action. To say the least. More on this later.
John Rhys-Davies does a good job in the movies, but I get a little put out with the blustery, quippy shtick he has in them (though I blame this on the writing, not him). He's a solid dwarf. The end.
No complaints whatsoever. Solid depiction by Christopher Lee.
Ugh. I just can't. It's not Sean Astin's fault. I blame the writing and direction. But what I've noted in the books is a distinctly master-servant relationship that translates into something way different in the movies (low-grade homoeroticism, basically - of which I have no problem with, in itself, I just find Sam & Frodo's relationship kind of obnoxious). I understand why this wouldn't be appealing to contemporary audiences, this master-servant aspect - but it's there, in the book. And not offensive, at least to me (Tolkien doesn't really do a class-difference thing, it's just clear that Sam serves Frodo because they are different and because Sam is his employee, essentially, and he takes his promises very, very seriously). But it does Sam's character a disservice, in the movies. In the books he's kind of in a class by himself; the other hobbits are more refined, as hobbits go. He's earthy and practical and funny and wise in his own way, and kind of the everyman in this very different world. He's just more of a simple, whiner-kind-of-guy in the movies. And I don't like his hair.
PURE BLISS! JUST PURE BLISS. Funnier in the movies, though amusing in the books. Funnier and more relatable, as well. Go Billy Boyd! I love you!
Super-solid. I love Dom Monaghan in the movies. Makes a great counterpoint to Pippin, as is also in the book. He's as hobbity as the rest of the hobbits, but he shows that streak of Brandybuck heroism and seriousness of purpose.
Sean Bean is great. I find his humanity and seduction by the ring extremely moving in the movies. As the fight at the end of the movies is not at the end of the 1st book, I can't compare, yet, the extreme memorableness of his death, but he's a great character, and well-conveyed. A strong counterpart to the movie's Aragorn; there isn't as much distinction in the books.
My family and I disagree. Yes, the dude who plays Agent Smith (I love this actor but forget his name, and am not going to look it up) is not elf-beautiful, but how, exactly, can a filmmaker portray an elf without getting into CGI, a la Avatar? So they picked interesting-looking humans that convey beauty and/or strength, and slapped on some wigs and elf-ears, and made them speak all huskily (I find this face-meltingly irksome a lot of the time) and draw out a lot of syllables and stuuuuuuff. I can see how this would be hard, this casting. I think Elrond looks sufficiently stern and serious and striking.
PERFECT. No complaints whatsoever. But, um, he's also CGI. But Andy Serkis gets it.
No. Just no. I love Cate Blanchett, but Galadriel is my least favorite portrayal in the movies. She's beautiful, and pale, but just too human. Too too human. Not just in how she looks, but how she acts. I don't blame Cate. (I blame the writing and direction. Though let me just say, I DO love the movies and I am not unhappy with the writing and direction, overall. Just in parts.
....um.... not really cut out to make commentary on this... I'll save it for another time...
Right on. Man, I love Ian Holm. He's just good. (Relatedly, but rather off-topic, I love Martin Freeman as Bilbo as well.)
Okay, I confess, 90% of why I wanted to write this post was/is because of Aragorn as depicted in the books and movies. This is one character that the movie doesn't just do justice to: Viggo Mortensen's Aragorn transcends Aragorn in the book - as in the 1st one, though I am suspicious of it not continuing in the other two (or volumes III-VI, if I'm being accurate).
In this read, the problem I've had with book-Aragorn is that I don't get the sense of majesty about him that I'm supposed to Part of this is just my age, probably, and my general lack of reverence (though I do revere this books, I do I do). I'm sure I felt reverent and awed the first time I read them. But in the book, he's not terribly different than Boromir, or Elrond. He's kind of snippy, even, to the hobbits - quite a few times. Like he's mildly impatient about dealing with those who are not as old and Numenorean as he. I don't dislike him in the books; he's just not standout.
However. In the movies. He is so incredibly, profoundly important to the whole experience. He is humble without being dangerously vulnerable. He is self-aware without ego. He's heroic in entirety. He's compelling and kingly in his service and defense of those he serves, and in how he shares knowledge and goodness freely. AND, he says "Let's hunt some orc" WITHOUT IT BEING LAME. Quite the opposite. I've read about how Mortensen just threw himself into the role. That's clear. I don't really want book-Aragorn; I miss movie-Aragorn when I'm reading. I realize that this could be a preference thing, in that I just prefer a dramatized, complex portrayal of him on film - but I think that that's a reasonable thing to want, in a book, too. We have our Frodos, our Luke Skywalkers, and they are important to the narrative - but it's the complex heroes, the Aragorns, the Han Solos, that we remember far more.
THERE YOU GO.
And now I have some energy back, so it's time to crack open those bins! (And then, maybe, The Two Towers!)
p.s. all opinions are my own and not meant to be some sort of standard. Also: if I misspelled names or failed to capitalize... oh well. ;)