WHEN: July 5, 2014, 8:52pm. (Week 27, June 29-July 5.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: I’ve been trying to watch Fellowship all day but don’t want to because, FYI, I hate it. Also, this is my first post-book, post-complete Peter Jackson filmography, post-extended edition viewing.
During my last viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring, I made a list of questions that still baffled me after watching the film 25 times, with intent to read the book and see if the author got around to explaining this shit. I now have those answers, and for today’s viewing, I wanted to address how each explanation Tolkien gave could have been incorporated into the film, because I clearly have the authority to adapt books into major motion pictures, what with my extensive career as a successful director and all.
HOW WERE THE RINGS FORGED?
The book: While I was hoping for some “eye of newt and dick of zebra” stuff, the description of the Rings on page 50 does not go into detail on the magical processes involved in creating them. Page 236, however, says that the secrets of magical ring production were stolen from the Elven-smiths of Eregion by Sauron.
How to explain it in the movie: Well, the book has already let me down on the mystical how-to guide I desperately craved, but I guess “ancient Elvish secret” will have to do. Still, Galadriel or Elrond could have had a line about Sauron stealing the recipe.
“I now possess all eleven herbs and spices!”
WHY ISN’T SAURON INVISIBLE WHEN HE WEARS THE ONE RING?
The book: Not only should Sauron be invisible, but from what Gandalf says of the Ring’s effects on page 46, he should be invisible forever. “And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings.” It’s worth noting, however, that Gandalf is explaining what the Ring does to mortals, and Sauron maybe isn’t one of those?
How to explain it in the movie: Look, even if Sauron can control whether or not he’s invisible while wearing the Ring, the fact remains that it’s one of the greatest tactical advantages on the battlefield you could ask for. Sure, maybe Sauron gets off on the fact that his appearance strikes fear into those that oppose him, but holy fuck, don’t deprive the audience of a bunch of dudes getting the shit invisibly beaten out of them. Show him preparing for battle or taunting the resistance and THEN make him crank that shit to full transparency. Otherwise, this blundering son of a bitch worked REALLY hard to forge a weapon that he, oops, totally forgot to use.
“Hold on, guys, it’s booting up.”
WHAT ARE SARUMAN’S REASONS FOR SIDING WITH SAURON?
The book: Movie Saruman has a really quick line about “against the power of Mordor, there can be no victory,” but Book Saruman straight up tells Gandalf his entire thought process on siding with the big hot eyeball. On page 253: “A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Númenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it.”
How to explain it in the movie: I’ll admit, that is a long time for Saruman to talk about becoming Wizard Heinrich Himmler without Gandalf belting him in the chops. I think good acting could have made the scene work, but the film unfortunately cast a couple of talentless nobodies named Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee as the two wizards. Or, since the confrontation at Isengard is never seen in the book and only explained later by Gandalf, maybe just have him sum up the basics at Rivendell instead of showing us Saruman’s big Blofeld monologue?
“Let me give you a tour of the facility, Mr. Bon–uh, Gandalf.”
WHY DID SARUMAN LOCK GANDALF IN THE TOWER INSTEAD OF KILLING HIM?
The book: Boom, one line, page 253, on how long Saruman intends to keep Gandalf at Isengard: “Until you reveal to me where the One may be found.”
How to explain it in the movie: Call me crazy, but I’m thinking a line where Saruman says he intends to keep Gandalf at Isengard until he reveals to him where the One may be found. Without it, Saruman just looks like he really really really really really wants Gandalf to be his best friend so they can do cool evil stuff together in his awesome tower fort.
“It was your turn to bring the apple juice!”
WHY DOES ELROND ALLOW HOBBITS IN THE FELLOWSHIP WHEN THEY DON’T SEEM TO HAVE ANY COMBAT SKILLS?
The book: I expected a detailed description of how Hobbits are “pure of heart” or some shit, but the book gives an even better reason… a prophecy. On page 240, Boromir describes a dream he had in which a ball of light tells him, among other things, “the Halfling forth shall stand.” Elrond is all, “Yup, that’s a prophecy, better bring the short guys,” and that’s the end of that. Oh, except Pippin can’t come (page 269), and Pippin’s all “munch a dick, Elrond,” and then suddenly he can come, no problem.
How to explain it in the movie: Look, I’ve made it known previously on this site just how much I hate prophecies, but we’re not talking about how to make the movie appeal to me. (Answer: robots, time travel, She-Hulk in high heels.) Prophecies are right at home in a fantasy movie, and that junk needed to stay in so the Hobbits didn’t just come across like naively expendable pawns in this shitty chess game.
Jesus, they even stand like chess pieces.
WHY NOT SEND ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE WITH FIGHTING ABILITIES TO MORDOR? WHY ONLY NINE?
The book: Ha, Boromir totally has a plan to get Rohan involved, and brings it up at the Council of Elrond (page 239): “Only from Rohan now will any men ride to us when we call.” He gets shot down because of that whole zombie king thing I barely remember from the Two Towers movie. Elrond seems to think it’s okay to seek aid along the way, but to be prepared in case they don’t find any (page 268), and he goes on to say, “The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy.”
How to explain it in the movie: The Council of Elrond is painfully long in the book, but the movie’s Fellowship origin basically consists of Frodo saying he’ll take the Ring, a bunch of weirdos saying they’ll come along, and Elrond saying, “Ha, there’s nine of you, have fun.” I can’t believe I’m saying this flick needs to be longer, but seriously, there should have been more discussion on the matter at Rivendell.
“Bottom line: we’re skullfucked, do whatever you want.”
WHY DO SARUMAN AND GANDALF KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN MORIA BUT GIMLI DOESN’T, AND WHY DOESN’T ANYONE TELL HIM?
The book: Gimli knows. Everybody knows. Glóin lays it all out at the Council of Elrond, page 234. He doesn’t mention the Balrog by name, and Balin’s death isn’t confirmed, but everyone generally understands that things are shitty in Moria. Here’s the extent of Gimli’s mourning when he sees Balin’s tomb (page 312): “Gimli cast his hood over his face.”
How to explain it in the movie: I get that they wanted to have Gimli get a revenge boner over his dead cousin, but he really shouldn’t have been surprised. Make Gimli more worried and anxious as they move through Moria, because he’s expecting death but he just needs to confirm it. And then when he gets to the crime scene, he just says, “Shoulda known. And now you fuckers are all gonna pay.”
“Check the facts, check the axe, bitches.”
WHY DOESN’T GIMLI KNOW HOW TO GET INTO HIS COUSIN’S PLACE?
The book: Moria’s goddamn huge. Gimli’s never gone in this particular entrance (page 289). He’s even the one that gets the riddle on the hidden doors wrong (page 297).
How to explain it in the movie: A single line where Gimli tells the group that he’s never been in this way before so he doesn’t look like a useless idiot.
“Oooooh, pretty moon doors!”
WHAT’S THE WATCHER IN THE WATER’S BACKSTORY?
The book: Nothing. Goddamn nothing. He attacks on page 301, they find his nickname in a Dwarf book on page 314, and that’s all we know about him. He’s just a random monster.
How to explain it in the movie: Sigh. You know, there’s a clip in the special features claiming that they designed the Watcher in the Water’s tentacles with fingers so he could wear the Ring himself, and wow, they overthought the hell out of that.
“Rawr! I protect Moria! Or I work for Saruman. Or I’m hungry? Whatever. Grr.”
WHY DID GANDALF LET HIMSELF FALL DOWN THE PIT IN MORIA?
The book: He doesn’t! HA! Book wins forever! Page 322: “He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. ‘Fly, you fools!” he cried, and was gone.”
How to explain it in the movie: JUST DO THAT. Nowhere does it say, “Gandalf held on, then he thought, ‘You know what? Fuck it,” and let go, leaving everyone to wonder if the old shit was just suicidal.” Ooh, he martyred himself so the gang would keep going without worrying about him? Well, he just comes across like a dick who gave up and traumatized everyone. I think the real reason Peter Jackson changed it is because “fly, you fools” sounds too silly with extra vowels.
“Flyyyyyyyyyyyy, you fooooooooooools!”
GALADRIEL? JUST… GALADRIEL. WHAT’S HER DEAL?
The book: Um, everybody thinks Galadriel is really friendly and nice? They don’t even freak out that she can read their minds (page 349); Boromir basically says, “Eh, kinda weird, but she probably has good intentions.”
How to explain it in the movie: Don’t make Galadriel a fucking creep. She’s a disconcerting weirdo from the very beginning, whereas she seems lovely in the book, which makes her crazy flip-out over the Ring come as, oh, I don’t know, a surprise? Fun fact, people like to be surprised in movies! Book Galadriel is a sweet lady who had one moment of temptation, whereas Movie Galadriel is industrial-strength crazy. I was extra baffled in the extended cut when everybody seemed so smitten with her after leaving Lothlorien. I would have gotten the hell away from that nut basket ASAP.
“YES. TAKE SOME OF MY HAIR. LOVE ME.”
WHAT’S THE ARGONATH?
The book: They’re gates (page 380). They’re the Pillars of Kings (page 383).
How to explain it in the movie: Whatever. I just hate how Aragorn points and says, “The Argonath.” Say, “That statue is called the Argonath,” so I don’t think the kings or the canyon or your finger is called “the Argonath.”
“This is Steve and Eddie Argonath from the doo-wop group The Argonaths.”
WHAT EXACTLY IS FRODO’S PLAN WHEN HE GETS TO MORDOR?
The book: He has none. Sam gets in the boat and away they go (page 397).
How to explain it in the movie: They did. Nice work, movie.
BONUS QUESTION: Why does Sam run into the water when he can’t swim?
The book: Once again, kickin’ ass. Sam is actually running along the bank and tries to leap into the boat and misses (page 396), because only a dumbass runs directly into the water when he can’t swim, no matter how much he loves the guy canoeing away from him.
How to explain it in the movie: Find a location with an actual bank to run along? But barring that…
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
Cue up “I’ll Be Ready.”