-SPOILER WARNING- (not that you haven’t had fifty years to read the book). I’ve grown used to the idea that Return of the King will not feature “The Scouring of the Shire” sequence. The filmmakers have said from the outset that the third film of The Lord of the Rings will not end the same as the book, and I’ve had enough time to come to terms with that. I can understand their rationale too, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. And something I read last night has brought those pesky reservations back to the surface.
    In the latest Official Fan Club Magazine, director Peter Jackson says: “I have always found that [chapter] sort of anti-climactic. When I first read the book, I just suddenly wondered why, after the Ring is finally destroyed, we then have another 70 or 80 pages of a completely different event. It felt wrong when I read it, so we definitely don’t have that in the film.”
    I find it worrisome that the man entrusted with bringing Tolkien’s story to the screen has completely failed to grasp the importance of that section of the book, as well as to completely disregard how meaningful it was to Tolkien himself. The Scouring shows that the evil depicted in the book was pervasive enough to affect innocent country-folk; that none could escape the evils or war, even those at the homefront. It gives our four Hobbits, tested and trained by their efforts in the War of the Ring, a battle they had to marshal themselves. And, finally, it articulates how this great epic quest ultimately ends on Frodo’s own doorstep.
    It should really come as no surprise however that Jackson is giving the Hobbits short shrift. All throughout his movies, the Hobbits have been relegated to the background so that Aragorn’s story — and with it, Arwen’s — could be built up. (Look no further than to his decision to turn a few pages of Appendix A into a major subplot of the second film, while at the same time dropping the above chapter from the third.)
    In the book, Frodo is the main character. In the movie, Frodo is an incredible wimp. Everything heroic he does in the books — attacking the Witch King on Weathertop, standing up to the Black Riders at the Ford of Bruinen, taming Gollum (making him swear by the Precious and not on the Precious) — has been stripped of him. In the first movie he cowers and drops his sword on Weathertop and is later too busy wheezing at the Ford of Bruinen to be of any use. In the second movie he’s either bickering with Sam or even drawing a sword on Sam. And let’s not count the number of times Frodo is ready to wimp out and hand the Ring over to anyone within arm’s reach — culminating so far in the unforgivable scene in Osgiliath at the end of the second movie (and which, logically, should end the entire saga right there, not that the Ringwraiths know exactly where he is and how from Barad-Dûr). After all that, the climactic moment when the Ring finally gets the better of him will hardly be as shocking as in the book. It will merely be more evidence of Frodo being a load.
    The other Hobbits don’t fare much better. In the first movie, Merry and Pippin do not form a conspiracy in which to help Sam and Frodo escape to Bree; they just run into them by accident. (Even the 90-minute animated movie managed to retain that plot point.) I always thought it was quite touching that old Bilbo, in the Council of Elrond, offered to take the Ring to Mordor, since he felt dutybound as Ringfinder. But in the film he isn’t at the Council at all.
    Jackson’s Lord of the Rings is “A Hobbit’s Tale” in name only. The fact Jackson doesn’t think the audience will sit for a protracted ending underestimates us as well as the source material. If there are people out there who can’t handle it — let them walk out of the theater. Or maybe, compromise: fade to black on the big double wedding, roll the credits, and then put The Scouring on at the end. Or at the very least, put it on the Extended Edition DVD in Winter 2004. Yes, the Shire set is no more, but I’m sure we can start a Paypal fund going for the reshoots. We need to do something though, or we might end up with another sequence as dumb as when an unconscious Aragorn floats down a river.

I happened to tape this on Tuesday, during Tech TV’s replay of Monday’s The Screen Savers. Leo Laporte and Patrick Norton are discussing HTIBs (Home Theater in a Box), and they had some interesting things to say about The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition.
    Yes, I know the audio is a bit out of sync. There’s nothing I can do about that. My computer just can’t handle it, apparently, despite all my upgrades. I’m half tempted to get a Titanium Powerbook, just for the video editing … that is, if I had two thousand bucks to spend.
    Update [2005-11-14]: I did get a PowerBook. And a G5 desktop. And since I still have the original video footage on one of my drives, here’s a new and improved and synchronized QuickTime file rather than the crappy RealVideo stream I had before…

Not showing up?  Try here.

At last come the first rumblings from the Peter Jackson camp regarding the third and final Lord of the Rings movie. No actual stills or scenes yet, but at least the talk of actual stills and scenes has begun. The DVD release dates were announced last week: August 26 and November 18 for the theatrical […]

Last year, I thought the protest over how the title The Two Towers was supposedly an insensitive reference to terrorism (despite the fact Tolkien’s book was published twelve years before the WTC was completed). But, with this year’s movie I feel different. These guys really make a great case for the need to change the title of the final Lord of the Rings movie.
    This is actually old news, since I’ve seen references to the protest dating back to early February. But I’m posting it simply since I’m getting restless for any new word on Return of the King. Last year we had that four-minute Two Towers preview tacked onto the end of Fellowship — but this year: nothing. We’re not even getting the planned trailer before The Matrix Reloaded.
    I need new images!
    I guess I’ll have to continue contenting myself with these high-res scans from The Return of the King calendar.

I really like using IMDB as a resource, but their “Goofs” pages really irritate me. For one thing, the viewer complaints are ridiculously nitpicky. Trivial stuff like “the level of liquid in a glass changes from shot to shot” — as if people, even at this late date, still don’t comprehend that different angles are shot at different times (hours, days, weeks, or maybe months apart). Or perhaps people actually think movies really are shot with twenty cameras, all at once, like a football game.
    But in many cases the complaints are just plain wrong. One that I was personally trying to correct was in regards to a final scene in Cast Away, where, after giving Tom Hanks an SUV Helen Hunt switches off a garage light. When the angle cuts to outside, there’s a light on above the garage door. Someone actually wrote that in as a goof, even though it’s obvious Hunt turned off the garage’s interior, overhead light. IMDB corrected this by saying that perhaps the outside light was motion-sensitive! (I’m pleased to see they have since removed that goof entirely.)
    My latest gripe is with their The Two Towers listings. Along with a wealth of trivial complaints comes this doozy (presently at the bottom of the page):

•   Continuity: The hole in Helm’s Deep’s wall is not present during the wide shot near the end of the battle when the Rangers come up over the hill with Gandalf.

If this were true, it would be an incredible lapse. But it is not true. It’s a load of crap, and the proof is below.
    Here’s a tip for all you would-be nitpickers. Instead being so eager to find fault with films that you actually make stuff up, your time would be better spent actually facing the screen and watching the movie.

Click for larger view

Let us return to the continuing adventures of Gandolf Foogray, Gibley, Filden, and Marine the Hobik.
    Last year at this time, The Fellowship of the Ring was bootlegged to DVD overseas and the subtitles, which went through an English > Chinese > English translation, were laugh out loud funny. The same has happened to The Two Towers, and this site has screen grabs of the best of these subtitles — such mindboggling quotes as Gollum’s “Great to be sneeve”, Aragorn’s “U R my heart” l33t-speak, Sam’s poetic “To taitose mashem taken twist you”, and Gimli’s questionable and troubling “Bring your pussy face to my ass”.

It must seem like I have a grudge against this movie, since I pick on it so much. I swear I don’t — in fact, I’m probably overly obsessed by it. But the thing is, I discovered another goof-up in The Two Towers. First it was last year’s car in the cornfield. Most recently, it was finding out Liv Tyler showing up at Helm’s Deep. And now, I just spotted a bit of film equipment showing up in a battle scene.
    Any film is bound to have mistakes and continuity errors, and it’s a testament to the filmmakers that a movie as ambitious as The Lord of the Rings doesn’t have more. That said, pay close attention to the bottom left corner of this movie clip. You can plainly see the lens flags of a secondary camera as it dollies out of shot.

Apart from my purchase of a DVD±RW burner, this is a pretty big news story in my short fat world. Remember when we found out the role of Arwen would be expanded in The Lord of the Rings movies? There was talk she would be a “warrior princess”, that she would fight alongside Aragorn at Helm’s Deep. Many purists, myself included, were horrified at the thought that this mostly unseen character in the book would be so drastically altered. But then it was explained that this was a concept from the old Miramax days and had since been abandoned.
    Nevertheless, Liv Tyler would talk in interviews about how she had taken fight lessons, or a call sheet would be uncovered which showed she had been on the set for that sequence. Most recently Brian Sibley, author of the movie’s companion books, mentioned he’d heard the computer artists at Weta Digital talking about digitally removing Arwen from Helm’s Deep. At first he thought this was a joke, but now it looks like they might have been quite serious. The Council of Elrond.com (by way of The One Ring.net) has spotted Arwen in some freeze-frames from the climactic charge at Helm’s Deep.

http://www.theonering.net/perl/newsview/2/1042493150   [11:23 AM]

    Update: What can I say — I was bored. I created this animation of the scene in question. It’s been rumored that Arwen was converted into Legolas in some shots, so perhaps the reason Arwen may show up here (in this 400KB RealVideo file) is because Legolas is in the same shot.

Geek Week continues.
    Why bother updating my Two Towers review when others have done better? Here are some links to others’ reactions:

One of the best reviews so far, from Ain’t It Cool News
Why Faramir should not have been rewritten
Why the Osgiliath scene makes no sense
A blog about the Wellington premiere, with photos and interviews
Interview with Peter Jackson & Phillipa Boyens where they discuss Faramir

It worked out nicely. JFathers wanted to see The Two Towers at the midnight showing, Tuesday night, and I offered to work his morning shift so he’d be able to sleep in. This in turn allowed me to get out earlier than normal so I could see the 4 PM showing Wednesday. Here are some quick review notes:

JFathers complained the movie was even longer since they started showing all the previews right at midnight. I was bragging how the Star Taylor starts the movies on time but shows the previews in between. But then, dang it, I go there today, sit for 45-minutes listening to Star’s stupid in-house radio station, and then, at four, they started showing twenty minutes of previews. Is this some new fashion trend? It stinks!

My review. I’ve heard all about how the second one is better than the first, so I’ll probably be contrary in saying I like the first one. There was more “adventure” in the first one. Anyway, the movie starts with a bang, skids to a halt for a while, and then starts building momentum to a tremendous finish.

Just as I expected, the deviations from the book really bother me. Frodo is such a puss in the movie; Treebeard does little but wander aimlessly; Faramir is a much stronger and nobler character in the book; the invention of Aragorn’s watery scenic-route “detour” does little more than waste time; and Gollum sounds too much like Donald Duck. Plus, I thought it almost funny how many scenes there are where characters need to be reminded of their names and past lives. (And I can’t resist getting really nitpicky: Tolkien went to such pains to make sure all the actions and maneuvers fit to a realistic calendar. So, why is it always full moon?)

In short: much like in the first movie, Peter Jackson’s inventions do nothing to improve the movie and the storytelling would’ve been better if they’d stuck to the book. (At three hours apiece it’s not like they need to condense anything.) And with less invented scenes they wouldn’t need to put all the book’s cool scenes into the third movie (which, hint-hint, would also allow them to retain The Scouring of the Shire!).

That said, the look of the movie is just as good as the first one (of course). The costumes, the sets, the landscapes are all wonderful. The final battle is just as cool as you’ve read. The siege of Isengard is even cooler. But more amazing yet will be the Battle of Pelennor Fields in next year’s movie. And Éowyn is a babe.

Another new trend is the bum’s rush after the show. Following two different showings at the Star, as soon as the credits started to roll the house lights came on and the projector was shut off. It stinks too!

    Contributor Frolixo adds: “I think this was the hardest of the books to be made into the film. In the first one, you have a direct story line following the fellowship on their adventure. In the Two Towers, everybody is scattered. This movie really needed to be 4 hours to do it justice (omg Directors cut will kick ass).
    “Gollum was great. I actully felt pity for him just by his facial expressions. Combined with the Ents and the Helms deep, this is the best CGI so far.
    “Overall it gets a 9.5/10”