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Walking To Mordor And Back Again
February 1, 2013 8:20 AM   Subscribe

For the release of the Hobbit, Lindsay Ellis of the Nostalgia Chick (previously) has decided to look back at all the LOTR films in order to analyze how they changed genre film-making, expected movie length, extended cuts, the problems of adaptation, and why Eowyn and Merry are made for each other. (Fellowship Of The Ring, Two Towers, Return Of The King Part 1, Part 2) Still need more? Then why not watch Kerry Shawcross and Chris Demarais of Rooster Teeth (previously) try to walk the 120+ mile journey across New Zealand from the filming location of Hobbiton in Matamata to the filming location of Mount Doom, Mount Ngauruhoe in A Simple Walk Into Mordor.
posted by The Whelk (29 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
. . . and why Eowyn and Merry are made for each other

I know there are shippers for every possible combination of characters, but this one has kinda blown my mind.
posted by Think_Long at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2013


There was also this wonderful walking challenge, which seems to be sadly defunct atm.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:50 AM on February 1, 2013


As always, I find Ellis' commentary interesting and entertaining. Thanks for the links Whelk!
posted by sotonohito at 9:10 AM on February 1, 2013


Think_Long: ". . . and why Eowyn and Merry are made for each other

I know there are shippers for every possible combination of characters, but this one has kinda blown my mind.
"

Without Merry, Eowyn couldn't have killed the Witch King.
posted by boo_radley at 9:22 AM on February 1, 2013


So behind every woman, there is a great Hobbit?
posted by Mezentian at 9:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


As much as people seem to enjoy the LOTR movies, I find them to be quite unpleasant mis-adaptations - - for example, they over-emphasize the role of humans in the story.

I suppose that may be a natural hazard to those of us who came to the series in book form long before the films were (mis)conceived. I had the habit of reading them every other year in my youth and still consider the series (including The Hobbit, of course) to be my all-time favorite reading experience.

Nonetheless, I'm happy that a new generation raised on the films consider them to be terrific, though at the same time saddened they can never have the same experience that I so revelled in.

I suppose that's what my father was getting at when he scoffed at rock over his nostalgia for the big band era.

Time marches on.
posted by fairmettle at 9:36 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


for example, they over-emphasize the role of humans in the story.

In fairness, many members of the audience are humans and may better identify with human characters.

And as if to balance this out, The Hobbit (the first part thereof, anyway), has not a single speaking human role. And off the top of my head, the only important human characters that come readily to mind for the rest of the story are Bard and the Master of Laketown, and that latter role is filled by Stephen Fry. I always say if you are going to out a human in your story, he may as well be played by Stephen Fry.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:43 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


My brother just finished reading LOTR with my five-year old nephew. When he got to the end part, when they came back to the Shire as heroes and with their newfound badassery made short work of the assorted dickheads who were running roughshod over their old home, my brother said he had to let the boy read, because he was too emotionally overwhelmed to continue.

That part, where they come back as heroes and set things right, even though it seems like denouement, is the emotional center and entire point of the books. And they left it out of the films.

The new Hobbit film was excellent, and I'm looking forward to the other parts. I may like it more because I prefer the story, but it may just be that I prefer the fellowship of cantankerous dwarves.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:43 AM on February 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


While Lindsay Ellis makes some of the obvious sexual and fanfic-related jokes about Merry and Eowyn, I think that the substance of her point is clear and sensible and not "fannish" at all: there was far more of a sense of a relationship - of two personalities interacting and gaining from each other - between Merry and Eowyn than there was between, say, Aragorn and Arwen.

Similarly, Merry and Pippin had a much more touching friendship than Frodo and Sam. Precisely because they had less screen time, because they bickered, because they were generally goofier and more comedic - and because, therefore, we weren't constantly being told what to feel about them, with swelling music and lingering slo-mo and one-note acting - the moments where genuine affection shone through were far more moving. Sometimes less is more.

I much preferred the moment when Pippin finds Merry after the battle of the Pelenor Fields to the endless, forced, ridiculously overblown weeping and moaning and speechifying between Frodo and Sam.

I swear, you could easily have fit Saruman's death scene into the third movie (and with it a better sense of closure for that character) into the third movie if you just trimmed out about half the scenes that basically went something like this -

"Oh Mr Frodo."
"Oh Sam."
Weepy stares exchanged. Slow music plays.
"Oh Mr Frodo. It's like all those great old stories."
More weepy stares. Elijah Wood pulls face like man releasing enormous quantities of fluid from bowels.
"Oh Sam."
...
Repeat ad nauseaum...

Lindsay Ellis is also really good on what she calls the "forced PJ conflicts" - that is, the awkward inclusion of new and unnecessary clashes between characters. Faramir is a particularly egregious example, but the idea that Frodo might tell Sam to "go home" when they are half they way up the side of a mountain in Mordor also always struck me as preposterous. They are in one of the most dangerous places in the world, they barely got there together, it's not like they're down the pub and Sam's getting a bit lairy.

And yet... I still love those movies.
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:51 AM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


lucien_reeve: " Elijah Wood pulls face like man releasing enormous quantities of fluid from bowels. "

Relief?
posted by boo_radley at 10:13 AM on February 1, 2013


I'm with fairmettle. I didn't think the LotR film trilogy was great by the time it wrapped up, and a friend of mine has suggested that Jackson got a lot of help from Bashki's animated feature to keep FotR from ringing as false as the latter two movies did. Even though I didn't really love the film trilogy by the time it was over, I accepted that it had been and thought it might be an interesting enough thing for my son some day. I also accepted that it probably had an industry-changing effect, and I believe it'll be in film studies courses in 100 years.

My son's nine, now, so pretty much the same age as I was when the Rankin-Bass Hobbit first aired on network t.v. We took him to see Jackson's version, and my reaction to that was a lot more hostile and less muted than it had been to the LotR movies. I think Bilbo and Thorin were both pretty badly mishandled, I think it was a mistake to try to create a tonal match between the LotR movies and the Hobbit movie, and I think Jackson did an even poorer job of respecting the source material this time around. I'm not one of those "has to be just like the book" ninnies, but I think Jackson went too far.

I'd have preferred a director with a lighter, more respectful touch, even at the expense of New Line selling box sets of movies that go together better because they came from the same production team.
posted by mph at 10:17 AM on February 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


but the idea that Frodo might tell Sam to "go home" when they are half they way up the side of a mountain in Mordor also always struck me as preposterous.

worst single moment of the whole LOTR movie thing. Makes the final movie even longer, and doesn't improve on anything.

The essential conflict between Frodo/Sam happens later in the book, when Frodo realizes that Sam has put on the ring (briefly), which Mr. Jackson + team have removed from the movie, thus also removing that excellent scene from the book where Sam undermines the conflicting Orc armies by invisibly stabbing various enemies, getting them to turn on each other etc ... This whole prolonged chunk of Return of the King is a blunder from Jackson + team, which is only redeemed because, meanwhile, the battle for Minas Tirith is going on (the best part of the movie).

And so on. I'm not a LOTR-movies hater at all. But it is interesting that its worst moments cannot be laid at Mr. Tolkien's feet, but those of the auteur who later gave us King Kong.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it was a mistake to try to create a tonal match between the LotR movies and the Hobbit movie

Exactly. They tried to make the Hobbit have that "epic fantasy" feel of the LotR, but it's really not that kind of story. They just ended up making it bloated and extremely uneven in tone.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:31 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Disney commercials... make me... something something.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:34 AM on February 1, 2013


the problems of adaptation
David Finkelstein has interesting things to say about Peter Jackson and the "adaptation industry" from, of all things, a book-history perspective. [Slightly s/l. Sorry.]
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went back and watched Fellowship after seeing the Hobbit and was surprised how different the first hour of it is from the rest of the trilogy. The rest of the Jackson quadrilogy (so far) is epic in scale, slow and somewhat distant from its cast. The first half of Fellowship is nothing but relentless fear. With Gandalf especially it's a slow build from concern and suspicion to stark terror and paranoia. The focus is on the isolation and helplessness of the characters as individuals rather than the fate of nations. All that intensity goes out of it when they hit Elrond's house. The personal stakes are never as high again.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:16 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


fairmettle: "for example, they over-emphasize the role of humans in the story."

Fair point, although one of the major themes of LOTR is the passing of the elder races and the coming of the dominion of Men.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the Two Towers video, am I the only one who gets annoyed when the Hobbit gets called a children's book? In some ways it's more sophisticated than LoTR. Look at Gandalf. In LoTR he's one of many messiah figures. In the Hobbit he's a low-powered Machiavellian schemer. He can't even get an audience with someone mid-tier like Beorn without resorting to trickery. By the end of the book you realize that he's been subtly manipulating everyone to secure Gondor's northern flank in the war he's seen coming. The Hobbit was written for children (and adults), LoTR was written for adolescents (and adults).
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:59 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


He can't even get an audience with someone mid-tier like Beorn

Who knows how Beorn ranks in that world? He's as mysterious as Bombadil. And probably for the same reasons (that is, a leftover from early drafts that Tolkien never properly made a place for in his mythology).
posted by straight at 3:20 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did none of you all watch 'A Simple Walk Into Mordor'? It's (surprisingly) good. Highlights include Americans chasing sheep and cows, bemused Kiwis and their accents (as one myself, I appreciate this) and up-close blister popping. LOTS of up-close blister popping.
posted by maupuia at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2013


Yeah, I've been watching it. It's pretty hilarious. I can't really tell if these dudes have ever gone backpacking before. They don't seem totally inept, but they sure whine a lot.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:24 PM on February 1, 2013


It made me want to take a hike in a cloak and vest actually.
posted by The Whelk at 4:26 PM on February 1, 2013


Hobbit foot overshoes as well?
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:36 PM on February 1, 2013


I have size 12 feet with no arch, so...yes.
posted by The Whelk at 4:38 PM on February 1, 2013


Five minutes into that 'Walk into Mordor' series and I am really hoping to see those two idiots shot out of hand for worrying stock.
posted by Catch at 5:54 PM on February 1, 2013


Did Lindsay branch to her own site? If so, congrats to her! She long far outshone 'that guy with the glasses' or whatever his name was. Not that he was bad, but she wasn't the 2nd fiddle type.
posted by Theta States at 9:12 PM on February 2, 2013


Yeah Chez Apocalypse is a side umbrella site for a lot of TGWTG/Blip Video people to all be hosted at a single place related but away from the Nostalgia Critic's portfolio.
posted by The Whelk at 11:59 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank, The Whelk, I really enjoyed these. Great commentary, good humour - kinda what I wish those Red Letter Media Star Wars commentaries had been. This is my first exposure to Lindsay, and I find her quite delightful.

Also, Frodo's fall count: brilliant.

fairmettle: [the films] over-emphasize the role of humans in the story.

In what way? Humans are featured throughout the book. Aragorn is as central a character as Frodo, after the breaking of the Fellowship. And from that point on, the kingdoms of Rohan and then Gondor are central to the unfolding of the story.

I'm happy that a new generation raised on the films consider them to be terrific, though at the same time saddened they can never have the same experience that I so revelled in.

I tried reading LotR when I was in my late teens, and didn't get past the end of the first book, for whatever reason. Then, five or ten years later, I saw the film of Fellowship and, as a result, got hooked on the books. Now I'm a bona fide Tolkien nerd. After countless reads of LotR, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, HoME and plenty more Tolkien scholarship, the films sadden me due to all the changes from the book, but I'm still grateful that they sparked the flame in me.

philip-random: that excellent scene from the book where Sam undermines the conflicting Orc armies by invisibly stabbing various enemies, getting them to turn on each other etc

You're misremembering. When invisible, Sam only listens to and follows the orcs back into the tunnels near Shelob's lair. Then he becomes separated from them, and by the time he reaches Cirith Ungol, the fighting among the orcs is pretty much all over. There are only a couple left, one of whom Sam confronts (visibly) and fights with in defence of Frodo.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:18 AM on February 3, 2013


Between Lindsay Ellis and the guys at Red Letter Media's show Half In The Bag (they did the Star Wars Episode 1 review that was as long as the movie, and far more enjoyable than the movie), I have learned an incredible amount about film as a craft in the past few years.
Thank you three for your highly amusing insights.
posted by Theta States at 9:51 AM on February 5, 2013


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