Thursday, June 23, 2011

First Photos of The Hobbit

Over at /Film, they've posted the first stills released from Peter Jackson's upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit. Here's actor Martin Freeman as Bilbo, with the dwarves in the background:
I have little doubt that The Hobbit will be a gorgeous movie, just like the adaptations of The Lord of the Rings (despite my quibbles about some of its esthetic choices). I'm also pretty sure that, despite whatever ham-fisted deviations from the text Jackson and his screenwriters insert into it, the film will still be far more faithful to Tolkien than any movie claiming association with the literary creations of Robert E. Howard -- unless there's a sub-plot about Bilbo's family being slaughtered by goblins and how he agrees to accompany the dwarves in order to avenge them that I haven't heard about.

59 comments:

  1. "...unless there's a sub-plot about Bilbo's family being slaughtered by goblins and how he agrees to accompany the dwarves in order to avenge them that I haven't heard about."

    Dang, he guessed it!

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  2. I'm not a huge fan of Jackson's adaptation of the Lord of the Rings and I've read some things about the his planned adaption of The Hobbit that worry me. That said I do like the still.

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  3. After seeing some of his previous work, I think that Martin Freeman is a fantastic choice for the role of Bilbo. While the Disney-fied version of "The Hichhicker's Guide to the Galaxy" was an abomination, Freeman's portrayal of Arthur Dent was one of the only three thing good about that movie. (The other two were casting Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide and Alan Rickman as the voice of Marvin). I also praise his performance as the modernized Dr. Watson in "Sherlock."

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  4. can't wait for this

    'break the tables, smash the plates...'

    :)

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  5. Rudd,

    Oh, I maintain a healthy skepticism about these movies as well, but I'm pretty sure, even at their worst, they will still cleave closer to Tolkien than anything we've seen associated with REH.

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  6. Frankly, I find it hard to understand how any fan of Tolkien's work could be unimpressed by the movies. If someone had asked me 15 years ago if there would ever be a film adaptation of LOTR that was even slightly worthy of the books I would have said "no frikkin way." As far as I'm concerned Jackson pulled off a miracle. Quible all you want about little details, the movies capture the spirit of the books in marvelous fashion. They are way better than I ever would have imagined they could be...and yes, infinitely better than any of the films based on REH works.

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  7. I recently re-watched LOTR, the last time I had seen them was in theaters.
    As a Tolkien Devotee, I have problems with the films, but they're still beautiful and do indeed capture the spirit of the books.
    I bawled my eyes out all the way through Fellowship, and through the second half of Return.

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  8. “As far as I'm concerned Jackson pulled off a miracle. Quibble all you want about little details, the movies capture the spirit of the books in marvelous fashion.” I agree wholeheartedly. Peter Jackson makes some good points on the extras in the DVD that explain how good movies can be faithful to the books without being completely bound to them. While I missed Tom Bombadil in the movies, I thought his absence made no difference in the quality of the story. The LOTR movies opened doors and created a whole new generation of people interested in fantasy and subsequently our hobby. - Padre

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  9. For some reason this memory is very intense for me -- I'm interviewing for a new job at an established game company, and we're getting up from lunch. Producer asks: "What do you think of the new LOTR movies?" Me: "LOVE 'em. Adore them." Producer: "Do you think you'd feel the same way if you hadn't read the books?" Me: "But I HAVEN'T read any of the books." Producer: [agog]

    Hmmm, maybe that's actually why I didn't land that job. :/

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  10. I agree that the Lord of the Rings films looked stunning, if absolutely and completely predictable, I personally thought they got the detail right and the spirit all wrong.

    The approach seemed to be to take one aspect of a character's personality and exaggerate it to the exclusion of all else. And usually this wasn't even the most appropriate characteristic.

    Aragorn became a traditional 'reluctant hero'. Gimli, Merry and Pippin were reduced to comic relief. Denethor and Theoden were simply variations on 'grumpy old man'. Frodo was blinkered about Gollum to the point of irrationality. And Elrond was so miserable and hostile I wondered what he was even doing trying to save Middle Earth.

    I'm just sorry that Guillermo de Toro won't be directing it.

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  11. I definitely was disappointed with the reluctant angst ridden hero aspect of Aragorn, it was so out of character for him.

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  12. Loved the movies. And looking forward to this one. Also looking forward to the new Conan movie.

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  13. There were some mediocre choices in the trilogy but I agree with Joe and Don.

    I am very looking forward to this.

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  14. They are way better than I ever would have imagined they could be...and yes, infinitely better than any of the films based on REH works.

    I absolutely agree with both these points, but I still have my worries. The LotR films were at their best when they cleaved very closely to Tolkien. When Jackson and company invented stuff, they rang very false. I've heard that there's a fair it of invention in The Hobbit films, so, naturally, I am wary.

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  15. Aragorn became a traditional 'reluctant hero'. Gimli, Merry and Pippin were reduced to comic relief. Denethor and Theoden were simply variations on 'grumpy old man'. Frodo was blinkered about Gollum to the point of irrationality. And Elrond was so miserable and hostile I wondered what he was even doing trying to save Middle Earth.

    Aragorn and, especially, Denethor struck me as particularly untrue to their inspirations.

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  16. "And Elrond was so miserable and hostile I wondered what he was even doing trying to save Middle Earth." I laughed at that comment and have to say I tend to agree. The movie was far from perfect, but still has at the top of my list of good book to movie renditions even with the tendency to simplify or recast some characters. - Padre

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  17. Wait. So they aren't using the same actor as the LotR trilogy?

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  18. "So they aren't using the same actor as the LotR trilogy?"--Nick

    Nope. Ian Holm is much too old to get away with playing a 40-year-old Bilbo on-screen for most of two whole movies. They barely got away with it for the few seconds they tried it in LotR.

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  19. Denethor was a flub, yes. But I have little trouble bringing the character material regarding Aragorn forward from the appendices and juicing it a bit to give Aragorn a character arc for FotR. Unfortunately, that arc was then replayed in TTT and then replayed a third time (even more ham-handedly) in RotK. I understand why the forging and delivery of Anduril is put off until the third movie, but I could have done without fainting Arwen and Elrond's evocations of a mystic link between his daughter and the land: the fact that she's made her choice to stay in Middle-earth and forsake immortality in the West should be all the motivation Aragorn needs not to wuss out.

    If you ignore all of that from the second and third movies, you actually have a nice arc for Aragorn that concludes at Amon Hen: he rejects Frodo's offer of the Ring (doing what his ancestor Isildur--for all of his greater might and Numenorean power--could not do) and accepts the kingship when he promises Boromir to save the White City. A nice compromise between fidelity to the books and the practice of modern screenwriting. But then I don't think FotR can be praised enough as a film: everything there works.

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  20. FotR is definitely the best of the bunch.

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  21. FotR is definitely the best of the bunch.

    Most definitely. It's the only one that's re-watchable in my opinion. The others ... ugh.

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  22. "The others ... ugh."--James Maliszewski

    Have you seen the extended versions? They're much better than the theatrical releases. Unlike the extended versions of most movies, the extra material is almost all story -- very little additional action.

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  23. There's a lot in TTT and RotK that isn't "ugh"--it's just that the innately Quixotic attempt to film a constantly splitting and reknitting narrative would overwhelm anyone. TTT can sort of handle this since we're just looking at a bifurcation (Merry and Pippin are nominally a third strand, but they're headed west to Rohan too). In that film, the only bit that really cheeses me off is the handling of the Entmoot and the tricking of Treebeard. I recognize that there's some need to throw Pippin a bone and advance his character arc--but then again he will get his chance to shine in RotK. They should have just let Merry's speech carry the day, completing his arc and setting up the insanely awesome March to Isengard.

    I always thought Faramir was a Marty Stu, so no problems with the Osgiliath stuff: in a movie, you need to visualize his internal struggle, and that takes more than asking David Wenham to twist his facial muscles a bit while a green light shines on him.

    RotK has an even worse row to hoe narratively . . . and that's another post/comment entirely.

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  24. The LotR movies were close enough for gubbament work. No real complaints here (even though I know I am well known as completely irrational and illogical as it relates to adaptations).

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  25. Possibly I'm just a bit too attached to the books. I desperately wanted to love these films and was hugely dissapointed by them pretty much from the opening scene in which it appeared that the Super Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was forging the ring.

    There are moments that worked (the Ents attack on Isengard for example) but there was too much wrong with the whole for me to watch them now.

    I can appreciate that some people loved them, but for me they missed just about everything I loved about the books.

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  26. Hum_Con said...'m just sorry that Guillermo de Toro won't be directing it.

    Actually, I was relieved he didn't direct it and i'm a big Del toro fan. He even stated that he was never much of a fan of the books which is quite all right as he's more of a fan of classic horror like Dracula and Frankenstein and ofcourse the pulps. Will see a sword and sorcery film from him one day and rumor has it that he wants to bring the Elric saga to the big screen. With adult fantasy like Game of Thrones doing very well for HBO, the possibility of that happening is even greater now then ever before.

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  27. "Guillermo del Toro...wants to bring the Elric saga to the big screen."

    That could be awesome! I can't think of anybody better to direct an Elric movie.

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  28. Frankly, I find it hard to understand how any fan of Tolkien's work could be unimpressed by the movies.

    Speaking as someone who has some significant problems with the LotR films, I cannot possibly say I'm unimpressed by them. Do I think they made some massive divergences? Yes. Do I think they lost a lot of the important themes, spirit and tone of the original book? I certainly do. But does that make it any less of a monumental cinematic achievement? Of course not.

    That said, I'm still of the opinion that the upcoming Hobbit films are going to be little different from the LotR films, and all the good and bad that entails - though the fact that the writing team have something of a fan backing, the possibility of making some ludicrous divergence like having Arwen join the Fellowship (which very nearly happened) is higher.

    But hey, if you loved fine folks loved the LotR films, I couldn't be happier for you: I just can't be with you on it.

    I always thought Faramir was a Marty Stu, so no problems with the Osgiliath stuff

    While I won't get into the matter of Faramir's characterisation (suffice to say I disagree and think he's quite a nuanced character), the detour in Osgiliath presented further problems than Faramir's characterisation, in the form of plot holes and continuity issues. Same with having the Ents spontaneously change their mind after the Entmoot.

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  29. All I'm saying is that I don't think the films coud realistically have been expected to be significantly better than they were, and they very much could have been much much worse (see for instance the Conan movies)...

    Bringing something like LOTR to the screen is an immense challenge. Theres just no way they could have pleased everybody but they gave it a valiant effort and it won't ever likely be done better...

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  30. "Have you seen the extended versions? They're much better than the theatrical releases. Unlike the extended versions of most movies, the extra material is almost all story -- very little additional action."

    I actually quite disagree, I found out after buying the Super Duper Extended Complete Edition Box Set that I much prefer the non-extended version. There were a few good scenes added in, but for the most part the added scenes were completely pointless, or in the case of the Death of Saruman, completely stupid.

    I can't remember if Legolas' facepalm-worthy "Game over" line was cut in the theatrical release or not.

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  31. Like many others, I have a few problems with the LOTR movies (Saruman as the industrial revolution to name but one) but honesty, given the format of a Hollywood summer blockbuster I think it's ludicrous to expect any better. Hell, we're lucky that they are as good as they are, especially given the comments on the Conan trailer thread about how hard is to even make a bad movie.
    The real question about the Hobbit is will it be better than the Rankin and Bass animated version?

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  32. "...I have a few problems with the LOTR movies (Saruman as the industrial revolution to name but one)..."--Zarcanthropus

    I guess you must have that same problem with the book then too.

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  33. "...I found out after buying the Super Duper Extended Complete Edition Box Set that I much prefer the non-extended version. There were a few good scenes added in, but for the most part the added scenes were completely pointless..."--Nick

    If you feel that way about the movies, then I recommend not reading the book. It's just packed with alot more such pointless scenes. Especially all the time wasted with Tom Bombadil.

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  34. @ Ed Dover,

    Like I said it's just a rumor, not sure how far it's getting close to green lit. But I know Del Torro worked on a spec script years ago and has a multiple picture deal with Universal who has renewed the rights to the books twice already. it's no coincidence that the Elf Prince in Hellboy II looked strangely similar to the white wolf.

    @ Taranaich

    Do yourself a favor and put down whatever 10 year old proposed Conan treatment you found scourging on the net and read what George Martin has said about having his own little book series adapted into a TV show. You may actually learn a few things then simply just speculating.

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  35. wow. seriously. You fanboys need to get over it and yourselves.

    It just a frickin' movie.

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  37. Zarcanthropus said...

    The real question about the Hobbit is will it be better than the Rankin and Bass animated version?

    Well if you like what Peter Jackson has done already, i'm sure it will be better on many levels. One Interesting tidbit is Saul Zaentz, was the original producer( and owner of the film rights relating to TH and LOTR) of the Bakshi film is a co-producer on the new film.

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  38. " Quible all you want about little details, the movies capture the spirit of the books in marvelous fashion. "

    They fail on more than minor details and totally fail to capture the spirit of the books in every important way, in particular the characters of Frodo and most of the central characters.

    I'm sure The Hobbit will make another fortune and be another pile of badly-scripted, badly-directed beautifully designed and well-acted crap. But at least once I knew Jackson was in the seat I could stop hoping for anything decent and save my cash.

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  40. @nagora - wow. Well, I guess you better get moving on your movie-making career becuase it sounds like its up to you to do a better job of it...

    I guess "that guy" had to turn up sooner or later. :rolleyes:

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  41. Sorry to see that so many people didn't enjoy the LOTR movies. I liked them, my children liked them, and we cannot wait to see the Hobbit movies.

    Any book adapted to a movie is bound to frustrate some folks because they already built up an image in their head and it's impossible for the moviemaker to exactly duplicate that image. I think that some parts are closer to my own picture of the books, others not so close, but overall I thought that they were fun movies.

    I feel sorry for anyone who felt that some minor difference ruined the movies for them because I doubt that we'll ever get anything any better.

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  42. "If you feel that way about the movies, then I recommend not reading the book. It's just packed with alot more such pointless scenes. Especially all the time wasted with Tom Bombadil. " --Ed Dove

    Oh don't get me wrong, I'm glad they cut Tom Bombadil. I don't really have a problem with a book having pointless scenes: it's a book, I'm in it for the long haul. The movies are already long enough on their own, and I am glad such "silly" scenes got deleted such as Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas fleeing from a tidal wave of skulls. And why did they kill off Saruman? And why did Legolas kill Wyrmtongue? I liked the added scenes with Boromir, though.

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  43. "...I'm glad they cut Tom Bombadil."--Nick

    Me too. Good riddance. He utterly undermines the threat of The Ring, and so destroys the main impetus of the story. If Tolkien had been more concerned with storytelling than he was with languages, poetry and songs, he would've cut Tom Bombadil himself.


    " The movies are already long enough on their own..."--Nick

    For single-sitting viewing, I agree. But at home watching them on DVD, I can take all the breaks I need, just like when reading a book.


    "... I am glad such "silly" scenes got deleted such as Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas fleeing from a tidal wave of skulls."--Nick

    I could do without that one myself. It seems more like Jackson just indulging his fondness for horror than trying to provide more depth to the story.


    "And why did they kill off Saruman?"--Nick

    "They" didn't kill Saruman. Wyrmtongue did. Just like he did in The Scouring Of The Shire. But, because The Scouring Of The Shire is so anticlimactic, they cut it from the movies. So they had Wyrmtongue kill Saruman in Isengard instead.


    "And why did Legolas kill Wyrmtongue?"--Nick

    Wasn't that to try to stop him from killing Saruman? I don't remember. It's been a while since I watched that.


    "I liked the added scenes with Boromir, though.--Nick

    Yes. They're excellent. They show what a good guy he really was and what a tough spot Denethor put him in.

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  44. Love the extended versions and am looking forward to getting them on bluray soon. I’ve watched every minute of all the extras more than once, and find them endlessly fascinating. They go a long way to explaining a lot of the choices that Jackson made.

    FOTR is by far the best of the three, and I would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with it. My problems with the other two are very specific, and tend to rankle me more with repeated viewings.

    The whole storyline of Aragorn going over the cliff was unnecessary to me. I'm still not sure why they made that change. I had made the mistake of listening to the unabridged audio books right before seeing this one, so I was much more sensitive to the changes.

    Turning Legolas into super elf is another big issue I have. All of the combat in FOTR had a quasi-realistic feel to it. My all time favorite sequence in the movies (and maybe ANY movie) was at the end when Frodo flees with the ring and the rest of the party is left facing the Uruk Hai. That battle scene showed the most realistic portrayal of high level combatants that I have ever seen. Jackson even made comments in one of the documentaries that he tried to avoid making the combat gimmicky. Unfortunately, he completely forgot that dictum with TTT and ROTK. Legolas sliding down the shield in Helm's Deep produced a very audible groan from me in theater. It was almost as loud as the noise I made when he ran up the olyphant trunk in ROTK. Both of the scenes completely broke the mood for me.

    Finally, the treatment of Gimli in the last two films was pretty lame. I could handle the hobbits being comic foils, but turning Gimili into a walking joke machine just sucked.

    Nevertheless, I still love the movies and watch them all the way through at least once a year. I’m very excited about the Hobbit, and don’t think anyone could do a better job than Jackson and his team.

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  45. I could certainly list a number of things large and small I would change about the LOTR movies, but overall I thought they were pretty good. They'll do fine until something better comes along...

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  46. I am always mildly surprised at the dislike of the films as way. Don't get me wrong, I've read and re-read the books for thirty years, and I have taught Tolkien as an elective literature class. But I was thrilled with the film adaptations and very much looking forward to "The Hobbit."

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  47. Should have read "as well." Must be sleepy!

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  48. A lot of good comments here. I will add that just because the films are a mostly faithful adaptation in terms of plot doesn't imply that it's unreasonably nitpicky to criticize the films, especially for divergences that make the story less coherent or sensible, or contradict the themes, tone, or intent of the author. The videogamey action sequences, e.g., undermine one of the central strengths of the story (the attempt to "realistically" detail a fantastic milieu). Or the caricaturing of not only Gimli and Denethor, but especially Gandalf and Frodo (both of whom seem to get progressively more ordinary and uninteresting in the second and third films), is a substantial disappointment.

    That said, I don't think Tolkien is an infallible storyteller -- I agree that Bombadil (and Radagast) are eminently dispensable, and that Faramir is conveniently incorruptible (though the "fix" Jackson et al. invented in the films only made it worse). And while the Scouring of the Shire makes sense in the leisurely framework of a novel, it can't work in the feature film format (maybe if it were a miniseries). I think an expanded Hobbit that includes the actions of the White Council against the Necromancer is -- potentially -- a very good thing, and could -- potentially -- be better than the original. Tolkien himself knew the Hobbit was written for a children's audience, with no inkling of the later complexity of LotR, which is why he toyed with the idea of rewriting the novel entirely to bring it "into line" with the bigger picture, and give it the adult tone of LotR. (We can get a glimpse of what this could have been like in the very interesting drafts of "The Quest of Erebor", which I have to think Jackson et al. are drawing on.) However, given the action/horror genre conventions that Jackson tends to fall back on, I am not sanguine. But I'm sure it will be pretty to look upon.

    And yes, it could have been much, much worse. (Many Hollywood producers would've cast the singer Sting as Frodo's sword.) But it's reasonable to wish it were even better, more like the film Fellowship than the film Towers or Return.

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  49. And yes, it could have been much, much worse. (Many Hollywood producers would've cast the singer Sting as Frodo's sword.) But it's reasonable to wish it were even better, more like the film Fellowship than the film Towers or Return.

    That's as good a summation of my feelings as I can imagine.

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  50. of course we can "wish" for it to be better, but I don't think we can realistically expect it to be much better. The problem is that some people seem to really hate Peter Jackson becuase the films don't perfectly mesh with their own vision of the books. The guy did a fantastic job of an almost impossible task. Who knows, maybe thirty years from now some hot shot will give the trilogy another try on the big screen, but I'm willing to bet no matter how good a job that person might do there will be every bit as much complaining from a similar number of fans of the stories.

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  51. The impression I get from a lot (though not all) the comments here, are that the films are getting criticized because they weren't a regurgitation of the books. This is ridiculous.

    The books needed to be adapted and as such, certain things need to be changed in order to work cinematically and still be able to turn a profit and appeal to the masses without hurting the fanboys feelings.

    Granted some things were obvious deviations, but overall just viewing them as films and in terms of telling a story they work, pure and simple.

    To have followed the books exactly would have been disastrous. And in the terms of personality, the needed to give the actors something to do; most of the characters in the book are rather plain (like Elrond & Aragorn for example).

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  52. I echo the above feelings about the Lotr films. To be honest I have always felt the same way about the books. Fellowship is great but in Two Towers the narrative gets quite muddy and I find Return of the King almost unreadable. I completely agree with PJ's decision to drop the Scouring of the Shire and put Aragorn's recruitment of the Dead on stage. However, I as so agree that the action scenes with Legolas were ridiculous and out of place. I missed Tom Bombadil slighty and the Barrow Wights quite a bit but overall I enjoyed the films.

    I have a much larger emotional invest in The Hobbit. Unlike LotR it is one of my favorites. As long as the new material adds to the narrative and does't detract I'm alright.

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  53. In my view the actions scenes with legolas (which I also didn't like) show a big problem that the star wars prequels also ran into: elves are meant to be extremely long-lived and very powerful and unique, so how do you show these special powers in film? Legolas is written as agile and athletic, so Jackson exaggerated that (rather too comically). But there's little else he could do, really, given Legolas is not a wizard.

    The Star Wars folks had this problem with Yoda. He's meant to be super-powerful so how do you show the young Yoda at work in a movie? Lucas decided to go with the "mosquito-on-methamphetamine" approach, which makes Yoda look really stupid. I would have prefered something really understated - Yoda walks into the room and all the Sith panic and flee - but that's too subtle for a blockbuster.

    I think Jackson faced this problem with Legolas and slipped up as well. But I agree with the comment upthread, the final battle in FoTR is the best depiction ever of high-level combatants doing their grim work. That was awesome. It ranks alongside the Indian ambush of the French in Last of the Mohicans as the best battle scene on film.

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  54. The so-called 'Fellowship of the Ring' movie hurted me like circumcision.

    It was in the same league than 'Conan the Destroyer', 'Super Mario Bros' or Batman movies by Joel Schumaker. But worse.

    I lack the words to convey the pain and horror that ensue when every scene, every line, every single frame is wrong at every possible level. I have nothing senseful to say indeed. This movie doesn't call for criticism, but for a proper icineration.

    Whenever I hear somebody (v.gr. my sister) praising FotR I assume it's me suffering an schizophrenic delusion. So I quietly ignore her comments.

    I don't look forward for the sequels or prequel to be any better.

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  55. I was very disappointed that the singing Orcs weren't included in Jackson's films.

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  56. If only Leonard had done a song about Conan.

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  57. Do yourself a favor and put down whatever 10 year old proposed Conan treatment you found scourging on the net

    All I've been concerning myself with lately are the scripts dating to, at most, three years ago - as in, the scripts which were being written for the upcoming project. Not sure what these ten-year-old treatments you refer to are.

    and read what George Martin has said about having his own little book series adapted into a TV show. You may actually learn a few things then simply just speculating.

    What would I learn? That Martin isn't concerned about the small stuff, like how a horse that was black in the books was another colour in the adaptation, and that if he isn't concerned, you shouldn't be? I'm sure I'd find it illuminating if it was in any way applicable to my problems with Conan, which are a mite more fundamental than the hue of equine coats.

    and that Faramir is conveniently incorruptible

    I definitely wouldn't say Faramir is incorruptible: if that were so, he would be able to take the ring to Mordor without breaking a sweat.

    No, Faramir is just wise: he knows the danger of the ring far too well to let himself have anything to do with it. Him not picking it up "even if he found it by the highway" is not an example of how gosh-darn wonderful he is, but of how he's one of the few people to really understand the insidious power of the One Ring. And why wouldn't he? He'd spent all that time with Gandalf, learning all about ring lore - and that not even GANDALF could resist corruption, even in the desire to use it for good.

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