Adaptation Troubles (Part Two)

My apologies for not posting all last week. I was at an academic conference that will be the subject of a future blog post, and had very little time.

Anyway, this next part in the series will cover the rest of the Tolkien adaptations (well, the ones that have come out, anyway.)

Now, I don’t intend to say much about An Unexpected Journey, but I would like to at least mention the movie in here, largely because it has a…somewhat random subplot. Specifically, Azog. In the movie, Azog is the leader of the Orcs who wants Thorin Oakenshield’s head. In the originals, while I can’t quite recall if he is even mentioned in The Hobbit, he is mentioned in the Appendices, where his death at the hands of Dain Ironfoot (king of the Iron Hills) is the crowning achievement of the battle before Moria. Also, the massive power upgrade given to Dol Gulder is mostly there to drag out that subplot, and the whole Radagast (aka “Wizard on marijuana and LSD”)  thing is also largely padding. Fact is, there is a certain logic to all this nonsense–specifically, providing tension and action and whatnot, never mind its effect on the point of the story, the characters, or the plot itself. It is my contention that there is plenty of that in The Hobbit, (and that the only reason for half the subplots is padding screentime) but what do I know?

Now, for the LOTR movies themselves.

I really don’t have a lot of complaints about Fellowship, beyond the fact that it messed up several characters. Merry and Pippin got this the worst and for no particular reason–while I do think the Two Stooges are hilarious, I rather like the fact that, in the book, they and Sam planned to go along with Frodo the entire time (such characterization also helps make more sense of their more serious moments). Also, I really don’t much like self-doubting Aragorn, and think that king-in-waiting Aragorn is a much better character. That being said, I can’t really quarrel with some of the changes made–I like Tom Bombadil, but he really is kind of random, and the movie was already three hours long. Also, I can’t say as I minded bringing the Aragorn/Arwen romance out of the appendices–although their first scene in the movie is ridiculous. Regarding Arwen: Warrior Princess: It rubs me the wrong way a little to throw out Glorfindel, who’s a pretty awesome guy, but I understand that explaining that would take time (more time than the addition mentioned below.)

Two Towers is where I start frothing at the mouth a little–and is, in my opinion, the worst offender out of the original trilogy. This is largely because of the characterization problems that occurred with, in one case, a subplot. First, Theoden, who in the movie, is transformed from Wormtongue’s puppet into a half-panicked wuss with anger management issues, as opposed to the books, where he’s an offensive minded horse lord who only retreats to Helm’s Deep when he learns the river line has fallen. Also, the exile of Eomer and the refusal to recall him is a fantastically stupid move–in the books, Theoden simply jails him. Resolving other reinforcements showing up would have taken two sentences. Also, Faramir. Book Faramir is an awesome guy who does awesome things, including rejecting the Ring without a second thought. Movie Faramir is significantly less awesome, as he just decides to take Frodo and the ring to Denethor, then, after several minutes of running around Ithilien because of it, just decides to let him go. Also, the Ents in the movie refuse to move until they’ve seen the devastation of Isengard, while in the books, they’re ready to go–well, as much as Ents are ready to do anything suddenly. Also, the entirely PJ-invented conflict within Arwen over whether to go to the Undying Lands or stay with Aragorn, while book Elrond dealt with his issues with it by telling Aragorn to reunify the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, while in the movie Elrond is all kinds of jerk.

Return of the King is also bad, although closer to Fellowship than Two Towers in terms of poor adaptation. However, characterization troubles still abound, this time with Denethor, who goes from desperate and tired old man to verging on the psychotic, while Faramir gets hit with the daddy issues hammer and leads his men in a suicidal charge. We also get the resolution of the really stupid “Will they/Won’t they” between Aragorn and Arwen. Fortunately, we finally get to see king-in-waiting Aragorn after he gets his sword back. Also, the scene where Gandalf loses to the Witch King in a fight (if you don’t remember this from the movies, it was in the Extended Editions) is really kind of ridiculous. Eowyn’s already awesome just for killing the book Witch-king, did you have to throw Gandalf in over his head when there is nothing that is over his head at that point. Meantime, Frodo goes completely OOC, kicks Sam out at Gollum’s behest, and goes into Shelob’s lair alone, thereby adding more unnecessary runtime. This was runtime that could have been used for…drumroll please…The Scouring of the Shire, which is a truly excellent ending, because it really shows just how much the four main hobbits, and the Shire, have matured, and gets the point across that sometimes you have to clean up your own house.

Unfortunately, that was far too nuanced for PJ and crew.

And I’m hitting two pages again. Next week I’ll talk about the Chronicles of Narnia adaptations (the two I could stomach watching), and the week after, I’ll discuss what ties all of this together.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness

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2 thoughts on “Adaptation Troubles (Part Two)

  1. I like your analysis of the Two Towers, well done. As for the Hobbit, the most central theme that was missing was that it was not at all seen from the eyes of Bilbo. The entire novel is about Bilbo’s journey and his own trepidations and fears along the way. I was OK with the fan fiction added as it was an honest attempt to appreciate Tolkien, even if I didn’t agree with it. Bilbo, like all hobbits, are incredible beings created by Tolkien that I feel Jackson just has not appreciated enough in these last two films. I hope the third is better.

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