Bad writing in the LOTR movies

Discussion in 'J R R Tolkien' started by Siberian, Jun 10, 2009.

  1.  
    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I was rewatching FOTR after rereading LOTR... Big mistake, because it made some of the bad dialogue even more noticeable. And not just in terms of style, but overall meaning and character development. As a friend of mine put it, the biggest problem with these adaptations is that Jacksons, Boyens and Walsh think that they can write better than Tolkien (and they actually say in the DVD commentaries that Tolkien got this and that wrong and they know better. And this is coming from the fans of the books, presumably :mad: ). The best scenes are the ones that stay closest to the books (mostly conversations between Gandalf and hobbits), but it's getting inferior once they start to deviate significantly or add their own, supposedly superior, stuff (it's getting progressively worse in the other two films, as they diverge from the books even more, but I haven't watched them again yet).

    Some random examples from the top of my head:

    Arwen: What's that? A ranger caught off guard?

    Nazgul: Give up the halfling, she-elf!
    Arwen: If you want him, come and claim him!

    I guess this is supposed to be a B-movie version of Arwen the Barbarian princess.

    (Boromir) Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no King!

    This is so wrong on so many levels, but even forgetting the books... We've been told that Aragorn has "chosen exile" and then, thanks to the rude and interfering movie version of Legolas that "he's the heir to the throne of Gondor". So what does that make Boromir? An usurper? A son of the usurper? Additionally, Viggo's Aragorn appears the weakling because he's afraid to unite the people of Middle-earth even thought he's the only that can. And the talks about "same blood" and "same weaknesses" makes me gag. Tolkien's Aragorn may have his self-doubts but he's never weak. Aragorn is both humble and dignified but the screenwriters fail (or don't want to) convey it. But hey, Tolkien got it wrong, you know.

    Gimli: Nobody tosses a dwarf!

    The beginning of Gimli the buffoon.

    Aragorn: Let's hunt some orc.

    And this must be the B-movie version of Aragorn the Commando.

    Compare it with the text:

    With hope or without hope, we will follow the trail of our enemies. And woe to them, if we prove the swifter! We will make such a chase as shall be accounted a marvel among the Three Kindreds: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Forth the Three Hunters!

    Even if this line might be too long for a movie, it's still possible to come up with a shortened and maybe even more modern version that still doesn't sound cheesy.

    For the record, I'm not into any kind of writing, and English is not even my first language, but you don't have to be a chef to know when the food is, well, rotten :D
  2.  
    pyan

    pyan Fortiter et recte! Staff Member

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    This is my single biggest complaint about the films (except for the omission of The Scouring of the Shire, of course.)

    Having read the books so many times, the dialogue from them came leaping into my mind at lots of pivotal points in the story: and then, instead of using JRRT's honed words, written, rewritten, edited, proofread, rewritten again until they were exactly what the author wanted, we get some banal, flat, and sometimes downright wrong dialogue written by some hack scriptwriter that thinks they know better than Tolkien...:rolleyes:

    Some lines are so bad (Gimli's line quoted by Siberian above, for instance), that I fully expected George Lucas to be credited, if that's the correct word, with the screenplay...
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    Stylus

    Stylus Easily blunted.

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    Just be glad they cut out the "yee-ha!" that must surely have followed that line.:)

    It worked so much better, when changes were needed, when they moved Tolkien's original dialogue from one character to another (Wormtongue using Gandalf's insights about Eowyn, Treebeard talking like Bombadil) - it may not have been the intended speaker, but it had the same feel.
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    thaddeus6th

    thaddeus6th Active Member

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    Hehe, there are some dodgy bits in the films. I'd echo the irritation with the lack of wrapping upon Saruman's story as per the book, especially given that the ending is (from memory) about 30 minutes of gradually increasing tedium.
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    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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  6.  
    HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    Most terrible bit of butchery, in my view, is the exchange between Eowyn and the Witch-King. Where was the "Come not between the Nazgul and his prey, or he will not slay thee in thy turn" etc, or "Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me." I was waiting with baited breath for those thrilling lines. I can't remember exactly what they replaced them with because my memory contains only a howl of anguish at that point, but I have every reason to think they were crap.
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    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    Actually, it's one of the scenes that at least attempts to follow the books. Compared to others, it's even passable. Unfortunately, it's overshadowed by mindless action and as a result looks very mundane, as if slaying the ancient evil is no big deal. Certainly less important than Orlando Bloom's antics (do you hear the fan girls screaming?)
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    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I really don't understand why they couldn't do it for EE, if not the theatrical editions. What's another 20 minutes to the Tolkien fanatics? :)
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I personally adored the films, but the dialogue did grate in places. The examples given above threw me momentarily out of the movie and back into the theater. Ouch!

    Eowyn and the Witch King was one of those scenes for which I, too, was waiting with great anticipation. It's so thrilling in the book, and it fell flat in the movie. Not just the dialogue but the way it was directed and acted.

    I found that all of my favorite scenes from the book disappointed in the movie (except Gandalf on the bridge of Khazad-dum), while things that left me unmoved in the book often brought out unexpected emotions (for instance, Boromir's death -- not his speech in Aragorn's arms, but where he was dying and still fought on -- where every arrow that went in broke my heart, and every time he rallied I felt an unreasonable surge of hope, even though I already knew very well how it would end), and I thought the changes were very good ones.

    Actually, in most of the scenes that I found surprisingly good no one was talking.
  10.  
    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    Except it was almost ruined by the obligatory Hollywood "NOOOO!" :mad:

    It's due to Sean Bean's acting, I think. He actually manages to make Boromir more likable than in the books, despite the typical inconsistent treatment.

    Isn't it very sad, considering how talky the book is?
  11.  
    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    Speaking about the Scouring of the Shire. The following is from the 2002 interview:

    [SIZE=-1]"There won’t be a downbeat ending because it’s not there". A bit of stunned silence in the room. I find myself still in denial. Peter goes on to explain how he knows that the SOTS was important to Tolkien, that seeing the English countryside destroyed was a big theme but that they did not plan to end the film this way. He said that’s why they paid a sort of homage to it in the mirror of Galadriel scene. He also said he found it the most awkward chapter personally. But he stressed that in order to make a film like this of Frodo and The Ring and his journey to Mordor, you "just couldn’t do it".[/SIZE]

    ---

    And that's the root of the issue. PJ doesn't seem to understand one of the major themes in the books... none of them, really.
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    Dozmonic

    Dozmonic Member

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    Some good posts here that I agree with in part.

    Eowyn and the witch-king was a great scene with great dialogue that was massacred. I love that in the book, I love it in the BBC's radio play, but in the film... ;-(

    I dislike how Legolas is not the ancient being viewing the rest of the company as children. He barely says anything of note and does the horrendous surfing a shield down the steps and skiing down the oliphant trunk. The only part I liked was his strange jump onto the horse, I felt that was in keeping with elven agility.

    Faramir, why oh why did they change his character so? He was the symbol of hope that not all man could be corrupted by the ring, even with all that was at stake and so close to Mordor. Yet Jackson said that Faramir being like that made no sense, I disagree a lot with this.
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    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    And how about

    "You have my sword. And my bow. And my axe".

    This is so D&D
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    Sephiroth

    Sephiroth Causa Scientiae

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    Couldn't agree more, Dozmonic...with your last point, particularly. The character assassination job on Faramir was the single thing I found hardest to deal with in the films.

    The 'lighthouse beam' of the Eye of Sauron, reducing his terrible presence in Barad-dûr to some crass special effect, was almost as bad; but since this thread is about the writing, I shan't say any more about that.
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    Boaz

    Boaz Thaphireth!

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    The bad writing in the movie scripts was in both the dialogue and the characterization of the... uh, well, characters. Okay, so I'm not Tolkien either.

    I can forgive the dialogue changes for the sake of expediency much more readily than I can for the character assassinations commited upon Aragorn (murdering the Mouth of Sauron during parley... are you kidding me?... and also Aragorn let Gimli lounge upon the throne of Isildur...), Faramir (kidnapping Frodo to Osgiliath... what the...?), Treebeard (he did not want to go to war?!?! he's the one who talked the other ents into it...), Denethor (paranoid and distraught is one thing, but he was batty from the get go), Eomer (so he wasn't assassinated, he was just the blond guy who never said anything), Gimli (I don't think Tolkien intended for him to be the Chris Farley of Middle-earth), Legolas (young instead of old), Merry (went to the Black Gate? i don't think so... I've already seen one moronic hobbit, yes, but what about second, idiotic hobbit?), Pippin (personally responsible for almost everything...), Elrond (did he often to travel to Rohan on weekends? he saw the damage that Thingol wrought upon Luthien by trying to manipulate Beren so there was no way he'd repeat that mistake...), Arwen (Red Sonja?), and Gandalf (told Pippin to light the beacons? told Pippin that he'd someday go to Valinor? these sound more like the schemes and lies of Melkor, to me.).

    There was also some great portrayals of our beloved characters. Sam's desperate fight against Shelob. Grima's slimy-ness. The battle of Smeagol and Gollum. Bilbo. Boromir. Strider. All of these were particularly well done, in my opinion.

    That being said, the movies were not made for the enjoyment of anyone on the Chronicles Network. The movies were made for the voluntarily illiterate masses who watch South Park and MTV for lessons in philosophy and cultural values. They are the ones who would devour soylent green, err, I mean Peter Jackson movies and ask for more.

    I think I can admit that if I'd never read Tolkien, then I'd have loved the movies. Action, romance, epic wars, grand panoramas, memorable characters, orcs, hobbits, a huge demon, righteousness, struggle, and redemption. But the changes of characters and stories near and dear to me were too much for me to like the movies.

    Now that being said, I doubt that anyone could do The Lord of the Rings and satisfy the majority of real Tolkien fans. We'd nitpick (okay, I'd nitpick) it to death... just like I've done here.

    <sigh>
  16.  
    The Procrastinator

    The Procrastinator 1 Candlepower Brain

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    I enjoyed the movies as adaptations and because how likely are we to get a better version on film? They are pretty to watch, which is one of the points of movie-making, after all. But lets face it I have to agree with much of the above. Several characters received The Pooh. (Don't get me started on Faramir and Treebeard.) Much of the dialogue could indeed have been done by George, by George. Those who truly love the books will always find fault with these films. In comparison with the books, there is much fault to find. But think of it like this - because of the films, more people are reading the books. And those with the nous to appreciate the difference - will.
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    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    The problem is that the same team is also writing The Hobbit script. So my hopes are rather low. Already it's split into two parts.... probably to show the Battle of the Five Armies for half of the second movie :(
  18.  
    Boaz

    Boaz Thaphireth!

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    I know sales of The Lord of the Rings went up during and after the movies, but I personally don't know of anyone who read Tolkien for the first time because of the movies. Oh, I know people who started to read Tolkien and I know people who started to re-read Tolkien, but I don't know anyone who finished. They either could/would not finish the books or else they bought the BBC radio production on CD and listened to it in their cars.

    My impression is that Peter Jackson's story has been heavily impressed upon contemporary society to the exclusion of Tolkien's story. People say things like, "I felt bad for Earwyn, she was led on by Eragon." and "Why did the elf chick get sick?" Society believes that only a few minor changes were made from the original story... and that all were for the better.

    I agree that a main fuction of film is to be pretty, to please the eye. And the movies had more than I'd hoped for... The Shire, Moria, the Balrog, the Argonath, Aragorn turning to fight the Orcs at Henneth Annun, Moonrise over Ithilien, Edoras with the White Mountains behind, Minas Tirth, Theoden's charge at the Pelennor Fields, etc... Because of the strength of the incredible visuals of the movies, they won't try and make another film version in my lifetime.

    Maybe I'm bitter because my niece and nephews will become familiar with the films before I can read Tolkien to them. Maybe I'm also ticked off with the atrocity that was Prince Caspian...
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    thaddeus6th

    thaddeus6th Active Member

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    Ahem. I read LoTR and then the Silmarillion after seeing the first film.

    The balrog was very very well done.

    Regarding the modernisation of the story, I think it came across with the Witch King's rubbishy death, where it seemed to be me to be done as a piece of feminist propaganda rather than her happening to be a woman who was also a warrior.
  20.  
    Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I've met some folks on the Internet who read the books after watching the movies but not in real life. Yes, the sales went up, but I wonder how many new readers became life-long fans because of the movies.

    I think that in the eyes of the public it's just an epic swashbuckling popcorn movie with some boring parts.

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