December 20, 2003

The Scouring of the Thing

Colby Cosh has a brief commentary on the matter of leaving the chapter "The Scouring of the Shire" out of the Lord of the Rings movies. (This really should be no spoiler to anyone anymore.) Colby agrees with this person that it should have been left in the movie.

[THE FOLLOWING CONTENT DOES NOT REFER TO COLBY COSH IN ANY WAY]* You know, I wouldn't blame Jackson for telling people who say things like this** to raise their own dough, hire their own camera crew and actors, and filming the goddamn book to their own purist demands. Be that as it may, while it would have been nice to see every single word and scene in the books filmed intact (I do think that so far -- haven't seen part 3 yet -- the best moments in the films are the ones that are straight out of the original text, there's a thrill to them that the other scenes lack), I acknowledge that it would have taken more money than god has, not to mention infinite patience on the part of studios and moviegoers, to endure the ten-movie (each five hours long) marathon that would no doubt result. Or something like that -- I don't know. By the way, I'm not interested in arguments to the contrary; if you think it's so important that the book be "done right, unlike the way that hack Jackson did it" then you do it.

By the way, Tolkien originally started writing because he wanted to read stories he enjoyed reading, and he had noticed that there was a dearth of that type of thing about in his day. He didn't just sit and whine and complain about the inadequacy of the fiction that other authors put out. After a point complaints become redundant, and you start to look as if you are simply engaging in mental masturbation instead of doing anything useful about whatever irritates you. Of course, I understand that movie-making is more expensive than writing a book, but with the price of video cameras dropping every day... I wonder if one day people making their own movies will do to the vast Hollywood machine what blogs seem to be starting to do to the vast news media machine... (See Jeff Jarvis for more on that subject.)

But to continue, before I finally succeed in prying myself away from my computer so I can catch the bus to the movie theater, the writer that this woman (whose post Colby referenced) cites got one significant detail wrong that makes me suspect his purist credentials. This Ian Rowan states, after the Shire had been scoured:

The ruffians are driven out after a proper application of the citizen militia, and Samwise returns to his wife and daughter.

Uh. Samwise did no such thing after the thugs had been ejected from the Shire. Samwise was unmarried. What Samwise did was get married, after finding out that Rosie Cotton had been unhappy at his leaving the Shire. Samwise returned to his wife and daughter after seeing Frodo off at the Grey Havens, in the final chapter "The Grey Havens." Really, all it would have taken was for Mr. Rowan to reach behind him to his bookshelf where I assume that his copy of the novel has its place of honor. Or so I assume. Don't mess with a real Tolkien fan. [END PART ONE OF NON-COLBY COSH CONTENT]*

And yes, Colby, I have read the Appendices, and I knew that the cute hobbit names in the book were "Anglicizations" of their "real" names.

[PART TWO OF NON-COLBY COSH CONTENT]* (And you know, I haven't even touched upon Claire Wolf's end spiel about this movie being "...swords and sorcery amount to nothing more than sound and fury; an army of special effects and dazzling cinematic visions, desperately in search of a greater meaning." In other words: "this movie didn't tell me what I wanted to be told or relieve me of some possibly unrelated mental baggage so on some level it failed." Whatever. There are so many problems I have with that attitude that I don't have time right now to list them all. One day I may sit down and do so, but not today.) [END PART TWO OF NON-COLBY COSH CONTENT.]*


*Jesus. I get back home, after being lifted and transported by the viewing of Peter Jackson's great achievement, in no small part because I was finally rid of stupid fears like I would get hit by a truck or have a meteor land on me before I got to see it, and that it would suck donkey balls or something instead of being the amazing work of art that it is, and I get dragged right back down to fucking earth. Thanks, human race.

**This is not meant to be directed at the authors of this post linked here particularly, but if the shoe fits that isn't my fault. YMMV.

Posted by Andrea Harris at December 20, 2003 10:58 AM

So the premise here is "Don't ever criticize movie adaptations of literature--make your own instead?" Gosh. Perhaps Congress can get straight to work on the necessary changes to intellectual property law.

Nobody said, or would say, that every scene in the books should be filmed: the argument is that the Scouring is especially important and that it's too bad it was left out of the cycle, the first two installments of which were wonderful. Moreover, I repeatedly disavowed the trainspotting sort of Tolkien purism. Were you high, premenstrual, or both when you wrote this?

Posted by: Colby Cosh at December 20, 2003 at 03:20 PM

I knew going in that the only glimmering of the Scouring we would see were in Galadriel's Mirror. I wish it had been in, but as I was sitting there watching RotK I realized they would have had to add an extra hour to the film, or cut something else out if it wasn't longer. Plus the extra time to explain how Saruman got there.

I think we needed six movies! :)

Posted by: Ith at December 20, 2003 at 04:19 PM

I would have liked to see the Scouring too, but in the context of the movie it turns out to be dispensible. The ending worked pretty well even so. Frodo's and Sam's terrible march across Mordor was drastically foreshortened, but again it works for the movie version. There is sufficient to show their suffering and will to continue despite it all (especially Sam's). The plot changes in ROTK were more judicious and better chosen than those in The Two Towers. To compress what was left of the trilogy into a three and one half hour movie was a major problem and Jackson pulled it off very well.

My carping is minor. Denethor got a hatchet job done on him. The changes to two scenes made them less moving or funny than the ones in the book. The death of Theoden was better in the book version, more moving. The scene of Merry and Pippin as doorwards of Isengard was funnier in the book version. I also missed Prince Imrahil and his knights from Dol Amroth, dammit.

On the whole the achievement was AWESOME. If LOTR doesn't sweep the Oscars there is something wrong with their standards and judgement. Andy Serkis ought to get Best Actor for Gollum. How can it miss Best Special Effects? Best Director? Should be sewn up.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at December 20, 2003 at 07:29 PM

Michael, you're the first person (other than my equally LotR crazed friend, Margie) who has mentioned Imrahil! I missed him too, even though I figured there wasn't much of a chance of seeing him. I really missed Elrond's sons even though I knew there wasn't a chance in hell of seeing them.

Posted by: Ith at December 20, 2003 at 07:34 PM

You know what, Cosh? Your comment is getting an email from me.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 20, 2003 at 08:44 PM

Making our own's coming.

Gollum was mostly a computer animation. Another ten years or so, and you will be doing him on your PC. Instead of Sim City, it will be Sim Middle Earth (Jackson).

I can see stars licensing themselves for do-it-yourself movies. You'll be able to buy and download a Viggo or a Miranda template, (with extra royalties due if your film is a commercial success... )

Elvis lives!

Posted by: John Weidner at December 20, 2003 at 09:08 PM

After seeing the first two movies I sat down and re-read the Lord of the Rings. The first time in many years, but the tenth time overall. Unfortunately from a movie perspective the trip back and the scouring of the shire is a separate story, probably demanding its own 90 minute to 120 minute movie. There have been any number changes to the story that were changed or left out. (Arwen versus Glorfindel carrying Frodo across the river, the whole Tom Bombadil subplot.) These probably made it a better movie. For me the movie has only enhanced my own mental images. I'm looking forward to seeing the Return of the King over Christmas.

Posted by: Rodney Dill at December 20, 2003 at 09:42 PM

Were you high, premenstrual, or both when you wrote this?

Way fucking unnecessary there, Colby. I'm really bummed to see you descend to that.

Posted by: ilyka at December 21, 2003 at 04:02 PM

Yeah, I missed Elros and Elrohir too, not to mention Halbarad and the Dunedain company. Again, in the context of an already complex movie they were dispensible characters.

It is the nature of movie adaptations of books, even the best ones like LOTR, to lose much of the richness of the book in the course of adapting the story to the screen. This cannot be helped. The one show I saw that was almost verbatim from the book, and very well done too, was "One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich." You know how short that book was, sort of like an extended short story.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at December 21, 2003 at 11:07 PM

On the matter of Gollum, Andy Serkis acted the part in the location scenes, then went and did the same scenes back in the motion-capture studio. The computer program then masked the computer-generated figure of Gollum over Serkis' figure in the scenes. IIRC Jackson commented tha Gollum was the most actor-driven character of them all.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at December 21, 2003 at 11:11 PM

Like Haldir, we'll always remember them -- if we read the book :)

(which I'm currently rereading)

Posted by: Ith at December 22, 2003 at 12:09 PM

The software used to create Gollum--Maya--is already available on the desktop. Your XP or OSX or Linux machine could already help you make your own Gollum, provided you knew how to operate the program, which ain't easy. I've fooled with it myself a bit.

Posted by: Bryan at December 22, 2003 at 05:04 PM