Bored of the Rings

21 September, 2011

We liked cold beer before refrigerators existed.
This week I finished watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I've never read the books and only ever seen Fellowship years ago. So I finally made myself sit through the whole thing.

So be forewarned, I'm not a fan of Fantasy or Magic. It always feels like cheating to me. The writer can always bail himself out with a magic spell or a loophole in the magic logic. It never really makes sense, they rarely make the rules clear enough for us to really understand it, and all too often the battles come down to people trying to "out magic" each other. For example, the Matrix sequels frequently have Neo and Smith trying to punch the laws in physics in half. Once you leave behind our physics, how the hell are we supposed to know if that really hurts or does any damage? Or in Revenge of the Sith, when Yoda and the Emperor just force push against each other.  It's not visual, it fits more into a video game where you have attributes you are pitting against each other, but movies shouldn't come down to dice rolls and tilting at wizards.
They call this guy Lord of the Cock Rings

So let's get on to it.

1. Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a complete misnomer.

A. Who is the Lord?
 I've asked three people and gotten three answers: Frodo, Sauron, Aragorn. So yeah.

B. Rings?
 It's called THE ONE RING. "But there's all those rings of power, and the One Ring, rules them all." - I was told. Yeah, I remember the 8 minutes of exposition that preceded the 30 minutes of Shireness before the initial incident. See, the problem is, in the entire 47 hours of the trilogy, you only ever see the One Ring after that beginning. It's all about this one god damn ring. So why not call it the Lord of the Ring? Or better yet, The Cock Ring.

C. It is not a trilogy.
It's one big movie. It's a good 30-40 minutes into Fellowship before anything really happens. Once the ring is destroyed, there's another 30 minutes of crap. This only makes sense if it's taken as one 9 hour long movie.

2. What are the Two Towers?
Two Towers. Three Balls?
Seriously. Watched the movie and I don't know. There are towers all over the place. If you check the Wiki you'll find this:

The meaning of the title itself, 'The Two Towers', was changed. While Tolkien considered several possible sets of towers[12] he eventually created a final cover illustration[13] and wrote[14] a note included at the end of The Fellowship of the Ringwhich identified them as Minas Morgul and Orthanc. Jackson's movie names them as Orthanc and Barad-dûr, symbolic of an evil alliance out to destroy Men that forms the film's plot point.

So the book and the film titles actually refer to different towers. Thanks for clearing that one up.

3. Wait, isn't this whole thing about destroying a ring?
After Fellowship, the fellowship just splits up and really it's just Frodo and Sam doing the whole damn thing themselves. Gollum sort of helps, but what the fuck is the rest of the story for?  Aragorn, Legoland, Faromir, the Riders of Rohan, all of these sub-plots...I just don't understand why they matter. If destroying the ring destroys Sauron and all his forces flee and apparently are vanquished, then all these epic battles they go through are for what? If they just destroyed the ring faster they wouldn't have needed to fight. As far as I can tell, we spend a good 4 hours with these subplots just so they can create a diversion at the last second to allow Frodo and Sam to sneak into Mount Doom, requiring impeccable timing, except that they have no idea where Frodo is and so it's just dumb luck. Ok?

I'm not saying the sub-plots were bad, I actually enjoyed them far more than the time we got with Frodo, it's just that they don't seem to be really helping accomplish the entire goal of the "trilogy." It was especially jarring  when we'd have a 40 minute mini-movie about Aragorn trying to become king, then cut back to, oh yeah, Frodo and the ring and shit. Forgot all about that.

4. Frodo and Sam are fucking boring.
I'd like someone to Two Towers and Return of the King and cut out anything that doesn't have Frodo and Sam in it. Every scene of them hits the same notes. Frodo is tempted by the ring. Gollum schemes to get it. Sam is on to Gollum. That's really it. Everything they go through for two movies is basically just one of those three things. If you were to watch it all in a row it would be so obvious how much it sucks. They hide the suck by sandwiching it between all the other sub-plots. Basically nothing changes. Sam and Frodo are great friends. Here and there Frodo gets a bit jealous or Sam wants the ring, but never to a huge degree and we all know how it's going to end up so there's no suspense or anything. There's just no reason to have 2 hours of this, it's horribly boring.

5. For Fucks Sake Frodo.
Someone's been eating Taco Bell again
So of course, they get all the way to a bridge into Mt. Doom and Frodo gets to the end and holds the ring out to destroy it. It's obvious he isn't going to just throw it in. Frodo puts the ring on. Shit. Now Sam watches invisible footprints make for the exit. Think about Sam's dilemma. If there's anything we know about Samwise "Mr. Frodo" Gamge, is that he really loves Frodo. I mean, pretty homoerotically even. He's loyal, he'd do anything for Frodo.

BUT, what if the only way to destroy evil once and for all is for Sam to kill his best friend? Jesus christ, that's a dilemma and absolutely fits how the characters have so laboriously been set up. That's how I would have ended it. Frodo makes for the exit. Sam fights with invisible Frodo for the Ring, but once it's clear that he can't get the ring, he makes THE DECISION. He throws Frodo into the fire of Mt. Doom.

Instead, Gollum saves Sam from having to do any thinking, or anything at all, and attacks Frodo. Gollum bites off Frodo's finger and gets the ring for himself.

NOW, if Gollum puts the ring on and goes invisible and makes for the door, perhaps Frodo pushes him into the lava and destroys evil, but has to commit murder himself to do it. This isn't as good as Sam killing Frodo, but it at least makes Frodo make a decision. On the Wiki, it says they thought about ending the film like this, but decided that Frodo pushing Gollum would be too much like murder. Oh...guess we don't want our main character to ever have to do anything questionable.

Instead what happens is that Gollum gets the ring, then for no apparent reason he just slips and falls into the lava. Now, this could have been done better, say Gollum bites Frodo's finger off and the ring and finger end up at the very edge of the ledge, and in his haste, Gollum dives for it, his greed carries him over the edge and into the fire. That at least makes sense. But no, they went with Gollum getting the ring, jumping up and down to celebrate, then slipping.

Jar Jar Gollum
For fucks sake, the whole point of the damn movie was for Frodo to destroy the ring. He failed. He was tempted, took it for his own, then was attacked by a creature that took it from him and then happened to fall. Yay. That'd be like if at the end of Star Wars, they get the Death Star plans to Yavin just in time to launch an attack. Then all the Rebels are either killed or desert, leaving Yavin to be blown up. But then Imperial Captain Jar Jar Binks drops a power orb and accidentally destroys the Death Star. Yay, we did it everyone!

6. This movie ends 9 times. I counted. Fade out, fade out, ride into the sunset, fade out, slow motion, fuck you, we're still going. It's finished! No Sam, there's still some room left. God this is tedious. You know what would have made it better? If Sam had killed Frodo. Then we see him go back to the Shire and be both celebrated as a hero and depressed as fuck that he killed his best friend. At least there's something interesting there.

7. Nobody dies in this god damn movie.

No main characters really die. Gandalf dies kinda and comes back to life. Boromir does die, but is quickly replaced by his brother, so I'll give you a half for that one. Other than that...the only character we care about to make the ultimate sacrifice is Frodo's ring finger. That's it. All the hobbits make it, the movie ends with a bunch of weddings and kids. Jesus, I thought the books were based on World War I/II, where entire graduating classes were wiped out by gas attacks and machine guns. The whole idea of the great quest is that not everybody comes back, and those who do carry memories and the burdens of the men that didn't make it.   If everybody made it back fine then it wasn't a great adventure.

But that was his nose picking finger!
8. The whole diversionary attack at the end makes no sense.
So having defeated Sauron's army, Aragorn, Legoland, and Gandalf and others are just hanging out hoping Frodo destroys the ring. The problem is that Sauron's defeated army has retreated to Mordor to regroup, putting them right in the way of Frodo. So, having no knowledge of Frodo's whereabouts, he could be dead, the ring could be on his rotting corpse inside a spider for all they know, they decide to mount a suicide attack against Mordor just so that Sauron's army and eye are diverted allowing Frodo and Sam to make the final leg of the journey. This requires incredible timing between two groups that have zero contact with each other and don't even know if each other are alive. The window of opportunity is tiny.

So basically Aragorn and the army he leads is looking at a tiny chance of success and certain death whether they succeed or not. Gimley sums it up as much, and they just joke it off like, what else are we gonna do? So they go and do it. I guess they're big heroes so they'll do the big heroic thing. But they take with them an army, and what was the last movie and a half about? Oh right, getting the various groups to band together. It's scene after scene of tensions and in-fighting between different groups on the good side. They bicker and resist standing up against the evil forces of Sauron, but when they have a slim chance of success and absolute certain death, they're like, yeah alright, why not?

9. What does Sauron want?
I had this same problem with Harry Potter. Okay, I get it, Sau-Ron and Sau-Ru-Mon are bad guys. Their names sound evil, they look evil, they're armies look evil. Got it. So...what's their goal? What does Sauron want besides power? I mean, Aragorn wants to be in power. But he's good. Right? So if they fail and Sauron takes over the world...then what? It amazes me that you can go 9 hours and never really characterize the villain in any way. Harry Potter had the same problem. If the evil soundingly named, evil looking Voldemort has his way and gets power and destroys this wizard school...well then what? It's set in modern England. Does he become Prime Minister Voldemort? I have no idea what the bad guys goals are beyond "to get power." Great. Thanks guys.

When I'm Prime Minister, I'll make Creep the National Anthem
A Russian writer named Kiril Eskov wrote a book called The Last Ringbearer, which takes tLotR to be history as written by the victors. He tells the other side of the story, about Mordor which shied away from the unending conflicts amongst the rest of Middle-Earth and stayed to themselves. Mordor became more technologically advanced and began an industrial revolution, hence all the mines and forges and such, and the other groups all realized that Mordor, with their advanced technology, might gain an advantage so they ganged up on them and called them evil just because they had the fires of industry burning in their country. Sounds about right to me.

So those are my main criticisms. I know everyone will say that I have to read the books and find flaws with everything I said. Go ahead, but I'm approaching these things as films and how they stand on their own. I don't think they do. I think if the whole trilogy was cut down to about 4 hours, maybe it would work. But as it stands, I can't call this anything but Renfest porn.

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