Tag Archives: Comparison

In Defense of Beauty and the Beast

This is my final rant on the matter. Cross my heart. After this, no matter how much the remake and its lover stalk me, I’ll just let it go. I just can’t stand being barraged with post after post about how much better Beauty and the Beast (2017) is compared to its predecessor, without offering at least some defense of the reverse.

And yes, I am definitely biased, but I wanted to like this new movie. You have no idea how hard I tried to give it a chance, only to be bored, irritated, and let down at almost every turn. It’s not the worst movie ever made, but it doesn’t deserve half of the critical praise it is receiving, or the credit for “fixing” the original film.

Doesn’t anyone else remember that Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Academy Award, because it was just that moving and beautiful and well-structured?
1) The Animation Supplements Where the Acting Might Fall Short

Not enough lines of dialogue for you? Or maybe you’re just not crazy about their delivery? Just add animation!

Personally, I think most of the lines were decently acted, but the nice thing about having an animated story is that it can help carry a lot through fluid movement and even over-exaggeration of expressions.

Communication is about 95% non-vocal, and you would be surprised how much you can learn about a character by looking at things like posture, proximity, touch, and gesture, as well as facial expressions. While the remake adds a few good things such as Belle’s laundry innovation, which shows her as an inventor and innovator in her own right, Emma Watson’s flat delivery of lines and particularly her default to annoyance over fear in stressful, emotional situations makes her feel less human, whereas Paige O’Hara’s Belle and the other animated characters can be silly, but get across much more about who they are in simple gestures. The live-action cast (most of whom I have adored in other films) had a lot to convey, and probably not a lot of good direction, so when they fall flat, they really fall flat.

 

2) The Original Movie Featured Talented Singers

Emma Watson is not a singer, but that is fine if you can fake it or at least bring some character to the table. The filmmakers clearly had no confidence in her abilities, however, because they polished and autotuned all of the humanity out of her performance. She and the other actors constantly sound as though they are in a studio, not the world of the film itself, and that can be heard distinctly in the lack and diminishing of other sound effects going on in any given scene. They clearly wanted the main showcase to be the singers, so things you might hear like chickens, cart wheels creaking, and other normal town sounds are pushed to the very bottom of the master tracks, if they are even there at all.

Audra McDonald is an actual singer, and a very talented one at that, but she is relegated to “comical” narcolepsy half of the time, and her “song(s)” either get cut short or dial up the silliness that most modern listeners associate with traditional operatic singing.

While the animated singers are less polished to robotic perfection, their flaws provide character and relatability, and their voices are fitting and pleasant to listen to. Paige O’Hara is truly scandalized and outraged by Gaston’s marriage proposal at the start of her reprise, whereas Emma Watson sounds mildly frustrated, but also somewhat uncaring about the situation.

 

3) Subtlety and Symbolism (Yes, Believe it or Not, in a Cartoon)

Did you ever notice how Belle and the Beast are the only characters in the entire movie to wear the color blue? Particularly during the “Belle” musical number, when said protagonist walks through a town filled with reds and earthy hues? That was done on purpose to set the character apart visually from everyone else, which nicely compliments the song about how weird and different she is without being too overt. It also connects her to the Beast, a fellow outcast.

The new movie doesn’t seem to get that, because half of the townsfolk wear blue. It’s missing all of the nice, subtle little touches of symbolism like that, presumably because its creators either didn’t understand them themselves or assumed that the audience was too dumb to pick up on that.

Instead, it chooses to answer largely irrelevant questions, like how Belle got the Beast onto her horse after the wolf attack. Nevermind that in both versions, Beast probably should have broken Phillipe’s back.

Another example is the introduction of Gaston. He is shown killing a defenseless, harmless animal, for seemingly no reason other than that he could. Its body is then picked up by a slobbering lackey, and immediately after that, the scene cuts to Gaston standing confidently in the shadows, before he then swaggers out into the light. Film language is screaming at you that this guy is a jerk before you even hear him speak a full line of dialogue. He is subtle even in his utter lack of subtlety, and it foreshadows his latter cruelty.

Come to think of it…

 

4) The Old Movie was Dark and Scary

The Beast’s first speaking scene shows him as a towering, jagged, feral…well, beast. His early behavior and demeanor contrasts with who he becomes later on, as demonstrated when he starts walking upright, wearing nicer clothes, and attempting to eat in a polite, civilized way.

The other dark, scary visuals and tone convey a mean-spirited world that not only drives home the message and warnings to children, but also makes it more satisfying when the main characters emerge victorious and happy at the end. The bigger and more difficult a trial is, the better it feels when finally surmounted.

The new movie’s wolves are kind of scary….but that’s about it. The new Beast looks computer-generated, but not particularly intimidating. I almost don’t blame new Belle for not being even remotely afraid of him.

 

5) LeFou is Unambiguously a Bad Guy

So LeFou doesn’t live up to his name anymore…I’m not sure why we didn’t just rename him, that being the case.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: how is this new version considered a positive LGBT portrayal? LeFou clearly knows right from wrong here; he’s not as ignorant and stupid as his animated counterpart. And yet his unrequited crush on Gaston makes it okay when he looks the other way, actively choosing to leave an old man to be murdered by wolves in the woods? And then again later, when he has a chance to defy Gaston and stop Maurice from being falsely imprisoned in the explicitly (directly stated in the movie) terrible and corrupt mental institution?

Maurice being rescued in the former case and Belle arriving just in time to stop the latter doesn’t excuse LeFou for his cowardice. Sure, Gaston is clearly unstable, but there is no explicit threat against LeFou and no given reason why he can’t put a stop to the proceedings. He just doesn’t because he’s in love, and therefore that makes it okay.

Nevermind that he backs out of the castle assault at the absolute last minute and thus gets rewarded with arm candy in the end, as if he were one of the good guys all along.

 

6) The Pace Doesn’t Drag Like a Constipated Elephant

Boy howdy, does the new movie drag on at times! The original was much shorter, but still utilized effective build-up and foreshadowing.

In storytelling, particularly in film, there is a set-up and a payoff for just about every major element. The remake introduces a magical book, as yet another item that the ridiculously cruel Enchantress gave to the Beast, but it is brought up and used once, only to disappear when it could have been useful. Instead of riding off on Phillipe in her medieval prom dress, Belle could have used the book to get back to town instantaneously. She and the Beast don’t even use it to find “adventure in the great, wide somewhere,” so what was really the point of introducing it at all?

There are some decent payoff moments in the new film, don’t get me wrong, but they tried to add too much to make the story fit the longer running time, and it just makes it feel flabby. The added scenes go by too quickly, and the scenes reminiscent of the animated feature constantly remind me that I could be watching the other movie. You know, the one I already own? The one that was perfectly fine by itself, but which people were apparently complaining that it didn’t cater to modern sensibilities enough?

…Sorry. There probably wasn’t a serious demand for this, but Disney manufactured one in their attempt to restock bank accounts and (hopefully) fund more ambitious, creative projects from the studio.

 

 

7) Dehumanizing the Villagers Actually Had a Good Point

To paraphrase Lindsay Ellis (the former Nostalgia Chick of Channel Awesome), Beauty and the Beast can be read as a story of innovators being othered by society, which instead glorifies bullies and braggarts.

It’s not just about seeing the beauty within; it’s also about how people ostracize those who are different due to fear and groupthink tendencies, basic tribal inclinations of “us vs. them”. Gaston is attractive, so his behavior is not only excusable, but idolized, whereas Belle is barely tolerated because she is pretty and her father Maurice is held in complete contempt by pretty much everyone. He is tolerated even less than his daughter, and that tolerance is easily and quickly withdrawn once Gaston realizes that he can use him.

The remake has one scene where it attempts this point, when a younger girl is curious about Belle’s donkey-laundry contraption and Belle tries teaching her how to read, only to be yelled at by the child’s father. But a major conceit of the original story is that Belle is the only person to offer the Beast a serious, genuine redemption, in a world that completely shuns and reviles him. The new film goes out of its way to humanize the villagers, including Gaston and LeFou.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad idea – I think that seeing a film where Gaston is actually the hero might be very interesting – but in the context of the original Disney story, it weakens the clear, unambiguous warning that bullies should be discouraged and intelligence and uniqueness should be accepted and celebrated. Because the curse is now specifically said to have caused people to forget the castle’s existence, the story hand waves away the villagers’ responsibility for their fear mongering and attempts to harm others, whereas in the original, they are driven away and never seen again.

It fixes one problem while creating and effectively ignoring another. I don’t think Belle was automatically dismissive of the villagers; no, clearly they dismissed and belittled her first, and she realized that she cannot change their attitudes. She can only persevere and be herself, and she wishes for a world where such a task is easier, but more exciting and challenging as well.

Who among us hasn’t felt misunderstood and left out at one point, left only with the option to try your best to blend in?

 

You see, when it comes right down to it, Beauty and the Beast (1991) is not without its flaws and problematic elements. But it was a quaint little story with well-paced and well-chosen scenes, which did exactly what was required of them and sometimes no more than that. Fairytales are meant to teach one or two basic lessons in creative settings and situations, but the animators and other filmmakers somehow managed to imbue their adaptation with so much more depth and meaning, far more than anyone would think possible.

The remake, meanwhile, is padded with logical indulgences, and “character development” that is brought up briefly and then never expanded upon, making it seem like superfluous details. The Beast’s tragic backstory and makings of his monstrous new attitude? Barely touched upon, and then forgotten. The significance of Belle’s mother? Not really relevant, and certainly not used to add some connection between her and the Beast, who also had a strained relationship with his parents.

When you watch a film enough times, you start to notice plotholes and logical issues that you once could have glanced over. A good movie is not one that has no issues at all, but simply one that can distract you from them effectively until a few more viewings. Was the original Beauty and the Beast really that distracting and terrible, or is it just that that we’ve all seen it so many times and done all of the jokes and criticism of it to death?

All of the questions that it tries to answer were being supplied by my imagination back in the day. Why was the castle staff cursed along with the Beast, when they technically didn’t do anything wrong? Probably because they kowtowed to his every whim and lead him to becoming extra spoiled and contemptuous of basic human worth when no title or status was attached to it. Why would the Enchantress curse a little boy for one mistake? Probably because people aged faster in the past and children were basically regarded as mini adults once they reached a certain age.

How did Belle get the Beast on her horse if he was unconscious? …Who cares. That’s not what the focus of the story is. It’s fun to crack jokes about, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s unimportant. What is important is that Belle saves Beast’s life, just as he saved hers, and they begin to act more conscious and considerate towards one another as a result. Belle is probably the one person in Beast’s life who has repeatedly said no to him and meant no, and he slowly grows to appreciate and respect that about her.

More than any of the previous remakes, Beauty and the Beast is trying to be the original film, when it clearly doesn’t understand half of what made it work. It’s also trying to update some elements, but not trying too hard, or else we might have had something different and new.

I have tolerated and even genuinely enjoyed some of the other live-action remakes thus far, but at the end of the day, this latest movie drives home what hollow cash-grabs they really are. In the case of the Disney Princess films in particular, they are just new vehicles for selling sparkly dresses and merchandise to little girls under the guise of strong, female empowerment.

Clearly nothing like their original iterations, right?

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Character Studies: Sherlock vs. Sherlock

So, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downy Jr. Which of the two is the better Sherlock Holmes?

 

Like many such questions, the answer need only boil down to individual taste. Both actors play the same fictional character in a similar way; sometimes quirky, sometimes downright eccentric, but always with a killer wit and a British accent. Both Holmes’ portrayals also have a playful, on-again-off-again relationship with his sidekick, Dr. Watson, and while both have their share of very thinly-veiled homoeroticism (one version is a bit more obvious about it than the other), Sherlock Holmes and his partner in crime-solving are always congruent with mainstream, unread ideas about the character.

What do I mean by that, you ask? Well, what does the average person who has never read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle know about Sherlock Holmes?

…If you answered something along the lines of, “he’s weird, but very smart,” that is probably correct. As long as a portrayal sticks to that basic description and comes across as fairly likeable, the average movie-goer is satisfied.

Let’s look at some of the basics of each role:

Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a bit more suave than his scruffy Downey counterpart, and while he too has many funny lines (usually revolving around his misunderstandings about social norms), his writers explicitly label him as a high-functioning sociopath. Because of the TV show format (every episode of the show is as long as a full-feature movie), we are allowed to see his flaws more highlighted and expanded upon, as he struggles to relate and care about others beyond the potential of challenges and amusement. The movie, on the other hand, mostly uses Sherlock’s faux pas strictly for humor, and virtually nothing he does has lasting consequences on the relationships in his life.

 

In both versions, Holmes is also heavily compared to Professor Moriarty, a criminal mastermind whose intellect is frequently described as being on par with that of Holmes himself. He was less prominent in the original book series, but has since become a major enemy and foil to Sherlock, contrasting what little humanity he can sometimes feel with wanton cruelty and depravity, emotionalism that is expressed and directed in socially-unacceptable ways.

It is heavily implied that, had these men chosen a different path in life, they could very well have switched places.

Interestingly enough, Movie Moriarty contrasts with Downey’s character by literally being everything that Downey isn’t; suave, debonair, perfectly blending in with the world around him. This man contributes to society by teaching and donating, rather than assisting the police force and insulting them the entire time.

TV Show Moriarty, on the other hand, is fairly underwhelming at first glance. He blends in too much until his villain persona is revealed, and that appears to be very immature and almost child-like, as he giggles, wastes time, and occasionally has to stop himself from full-on, screaming rage.

 

TV Show Moriarty was built up and kept a secret more effectively  than Movie Moriarty, whose voice gives off enough presence by itself. Listening to him speak to Irene at any given time, you know pretty much everything you need to know about him on an almost instinctual level, before his face and machinations are truly revealed.

TV Show Moriarty had a bit more ease with which to hide, as the show is set in modern day and deals with themes like abundant, fully-integrated technology. He almost seems to revel in his anonymity, and the ease with which he can disappear, spy on, and command other people, whereas the movie’s character sits calmly and quietly, pretty much right up until the very end, like he is playing a difficult but engaging game of chess.

 

Smooth, maybe, but a little too traditional.

This gent is more of a typical mustache-twirler villain – an upper class Snidely Whiplash, if you will – while his TV show counterpart is less polished, but new and interesting. And how he relates to Sherlock is a bit more compelling than just “we’re not so different, you and I.”

A point goes to the TV show!

 

Sorry, boys.

But hey, that’s a nice segue! Let’s now consider the Dr. John Watsons.

Depending on whom you are, you might get a kick out of the fact that Bilbo and Smaug are now awkwardly flirting and solving crimes together. They have good friend chemistry, as Watson seems to have his own Diet-Sherlock tendencies (like being bored with the peaceful, post-military life and longing to go back to the excitement and bloodshed). He’s interesting and compelling, definitely, but personally, I’m just not sure he can beat Movie Watson, who tends to be a little less lost and befuddled and more drily witty and irritable. His bickering with Downey, as well as the fact that his partner keeps dragging him back into crazy Sherlock world no matter how much he tells himself he wants to escape, is adorable and hilarious.

Here, at last, I award a point to the movie. Props to you, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.

 

But what about the brother character? Another figure who is close to Holmes, bringing out his complex personality through their interactions with one another?

 

Mycroft Holmes is also similar to Sherlock in many ways, but in the movie he seems to have a good relationship with Sherlock, while in the TV show it is clearly strained, perpetuated more by a grudging need for favors than genuine care and respect. Here, we can definitively say that the brother serves a very real and defined purpose in one version while being mostly superfluous in the other.

Movie Mycroft doesn’t challenge or change “Sherly” in any meaningful way; he’s just there for the sake of the plot, the humor, and the very necessary scene where he talks to Watson’s new wife, unashamedly naked.

 

Ugh…the point goes to the TV show, once again.

Finally, I address Sherlock Holmes himself. While Downey’s character is amusing and does more than enough to fluidly carry the rough-and-tumble films to their full 130-ish minutes, Cumberbatch is better at delivering dialogue and coming across as more socially stunted than just a generally eccentric weirdo. His movements still have tons of energy, and his face reflects the same speed and excitement of his thoughts as well, but it never really comes across as too hammy or played-up for the camera. It seems more natural and plausible, which helps to ground the story when it goes off into downright otherworldly sinister schemes and towering crime organizations.

Also, Sherlock uses certain book plots as a basis and changes them up a bit, which, while not the most faithful way to adapt a story, may intrigue book lovers enough to draw them into the show.

 

Some episodes drag a little, though, so you win some and you lose some.

I’ll happily go see a new movie if one comes out, but face it: Downey’s version is almost as cartoonish as Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective.

If only they’d had Vincent Price…

 

*None of the images in this post belong to me. Thank you for reading.

Fellowship of the Ring: Book vs Movie

Recently, I reread The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for fun. That got me thinking about the movies, as anyone who has seen both versions can’t help but compare the two as they go through. I can’t definitively say who did the story better, although I do think J.R.R. Tolkien put more love, thought, and effort into it, as he is the creator. Sometimes a new person in a different decade can expand on an author’s original ideas, in ways that he or she never thought to explore.

Both he and Peter Jackson should be commended, however, for their contributions to books, films, fantasy, and franchise overall, and I thought I’d examine some key differences between the versions today. Even the extended edition can’t cover everything, and Jackson had to somehow make the movies his own while still being relatively faithful to Tolkien’s original story.

So here we go!

 

What You Lose By Only Watching the Movie

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  • Realistic time-passage. The book may be a lot slower, but events tend to happen at a more natural pace, especially given how disorganized each party was before the Council of Elrond. Lots of time is spent resting, talking, and walking,

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Yeah, yeah, I know, but this load of walking offers many more details and, for some, more subtle and nuanced character development.

  • More interaction with Middle Earth as a whole. People that we see in passing (such as the wood elves in the extended version and the men/hobbits of Bree) are engaged in conversation, and a lot of history about them is expanded on in great detail.
  • Songs, poems, and lore. Another element that adds realism to a fictional world is storytelling. Bilbo in particular is a gifted lyricist and writer, and he shares many tales that lend culture, history, and ideology to the diverse cultures and races the characters encounter. It really shows Tolkien’s detail and passion for the world he created, and even those who might find parts of it boring must at least admit that his skill and intelligence is admirable.

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  • Sam’s cleverness, and his great fascination with elves.
  • More details that inform Frodo’s character. His parents died in a boating accident when he was twelve, and after almost a decade living in Buckland before being adopted by his cousin, Biblo. Bilbo leaves when Frodo turns 33, adulthood in hobbit years, and Frodo begins his journey with the One Ring at nearly 50 years old. He is very close with Merry and Pippin, who are younger relatives of his, and he has a good sense of humor and fairly quick wit.

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In addition, Frodo impresses many of the elves he meets by demonstrating what Bilbo taught him of their language. He is smart and practical, for the most part, and despite being afraid and feeling out of his element, Frodo also demonstrates great bravery and loyalty to his friends. Elijah Wood’s Frodo gets less time to shine, unfortunately, and in many moments where Book Frodo would have attempted to fight, he just drops his sword or falls over, leaving others to do most of the work. Both Frodo characters are endearing, curious, and brave, but Book Frodo has more time devoted to him, for better or worse, and the medium allows us to see some of his thoughts occasionally. It’s unfortunate, but no movie would have been capable of doing him perfect justice.

  •   Aragorn’s sword is re-forged immediately. There is very little build up to this, unlike in any of the movies.
    • Various scenes and characters from the book. Tom Bombadil, Glorfindel, the Barrow Downs, time in the Prancing Pony. As you might expect, to add drama, suspense, mystery, and urgency, Jackson switches around the placement of some scenes and completely omits others. Some other moments that are told in passing in the book get more direct screen time in the movie, which, while interesting and definitely an effective use of the visual medium, sometimes lose exposition and the thought process of the teller. Some motivations change, depending on the needs of the plot, but that can also subtlely or drastically change a character.

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    • Answers to various questions. What has Thorin’s company been up to since The Hobbit? Who are all of the people at the Council of Elrond, and why are they important? Why did Balin go to Moria in the first place? And what’s up with those damn eagles? Anything you wanted to know and more is revealed in the book, and while the tone of The Hobbit was sillier and less weighty, it bridges the gap between the two stories fairly nicely. Certainly better than The Hobbit movies, anyway.
    • Aragorn’s more diplomatic, “kingly” side. In this book, he’s still just a Dúnedain ranger, not a true king yet, but you see snippets of what he will be like. He is scraggly, but wise and well-spoken with the people he believes deserve his respect. When he takes charge of the Fellowhsip, and the elves of Lothlórien insist on blindfolding Gimli, Aragorn tells them that everyone will go blindfolded, even Legolas. He respects their law as much as he can while honoring his companion at the same time, even if Legolas is indignant about it.

Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn is a little too gruff and scraggly, in my opinion, but he’s a fine enough choice.

  • More of Gollum’s skillful and creepy tracking of the Fellowship.

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  • Some good, old-fashioned elf-dwarf cattiness. Especially once they reach Lothlórien. Good lord…it’s kind of hilarious though. The elves really need to check their privilege.
  • The sense of accomplishment you get when you reach the end.

 

What You Lose By Only Reading the Book

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  • Urgency. The pace slows to a crawl at times, and characters rest for waaaaay longer than you think they should, given the threat. At one point, Frodo becomes suspicious of being followed by a creepy rider dressed in black, but thinks it’s totally necessary to sit down and chat with the older farmer he knew from childhood and have dinner with his wife. At best, it can come across as silly, but at worst, it absolutely kills the tension.

Peter Jackson occasionally adds closure and genuine pay-off by shifting scenes around, even those from other books in the series.

  • Natural dialogue. Similarly to the urgency issue, characters in the book are needlessly polite and wait very nicely for people to finish, whether they are having a disagreement, an exchange of thinly-veiled insults, or simply have new information that contradicts the current speaker. Hardly anyone politely interjects, when you would think that time is of the essence. Some characters actually bring this up during the council meeting, which is hilarious, but also suggests that Tolkien knew he was spinning his wheels and continued anyway, maybe because he couldn’t think of how else to get that exposition in. This is a killer for some readers, making parts that should be interesting needlessly tedious. As much as I love this book, I am perfectly willing to admit that.
  • Orc scenes/dialogue. Other than some vague “shouts” from their enemies, the orcs in the book don’t get any lines. We also don’t get much description of how Saruman is prepping for war, and nothing so far about how Uruks differ much from regular old orcs.

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  • Great music. Howard Shore’s score is absolutely amazing. It’s perfectly atmospheric to the scenes, and he used actual Sindarin (Elvish) for some of the songs. When this film came out, I thought I could not possibly love Enya any more than I already did, but I was prove wrong. And I’m okay with that.
  • Great landscapes. How much tourism has been driven to New Zealand from this movie alone? If but I had Kim Kardashian’s vast riches for a hideously expensive royal wedding, I’d go to where they shot Rivendell and pay them to set up whatever else they needed to make it complete, then invite the cast to dress up in costume and show up in the crowd.

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Yes, I’m a dork. What else is new?

  • Great casting. Elijah Wood. Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, who actually met J.R.R. Tolkien, in addition to being a general badass in life and acting alike. The costuming is impeccable, although Sauron the Dark Lord is a bit over-the-top. He matches his lair, though, so that’s good. There’s no mistake that he’s wholly, irredeemably evil.

The only one who looks a little out of place is Hugo Weaving as Elrond, but unbeknownst to strict film-viewers, he is actually only half-elf, so his harder features can be forgiven. What might not be forgiven in light of this is his harshness towards Aragorn for trying to court his daughter.

Also, I love that John Rhys-Davies is taller than pretty much anyone else in the cast, but he’s a dwarf, so he ends up looking shorter than everyone.

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  • Great effects. I truly believe that a healthy mix of practical effects and CGI is the way to go in movies. This is less relevant in this film, but part of what makes Gollum so convincing and lifelike is that Andy Serkis is really there, interacting with the people talking to him. In most strictly CG fare, the characters typically never meet each other’s eyes, if they’re even looking in the right general direction to begin with. It doesn’t fool me, it’s not very immersive, and it only looks so impressive standing next to things that clearly don’t mix, with different structures and textures.

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  • Arwen getting some development and screen time. Because otherwise, this story is one big sausage fest. Which isn’t really a problem for me, but the addition of a capable, badass female character gets no complaints from me. And her romance with a main character is actually in the book, if only more subtly hinted. She wasn’t created from thin air and then forced into a stupid love triangle for no reason.
  • Boromir gets less to say, but he’s much more likeable. At the risk of “spoiling” The two Towers, it’s as though Jackson sucked out some of Faramir’s likability and gave it to Boromir…while completely missing the point of Faramir’s original character. But that’s another story!

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Boromir really gets to bond with Merry and Pippin, making his sacrifice at the end all the more redeeming and endearing. The little morons went and wasted it immediately, but still.

Boromir is presented in the movie as arrogant and naïve, but misguided. The One Ring still seduces him, and it’s very similar to the book, but we get more scenes showing that he cares about his people and just wants to defend them as best he can. It’s more implied in the book, but as a result, the most personality you get out of him is just that arrogance and naiveté, less clearly motivated. Sometimes subtle isn’t always better, and I get the sense that the first son of Denethor was not terribly popular with Tolkien himself.

    • The adorableness that is Pippin. large

He’s less young in this version and more of just a thoughtless idiot, but he’s still cute. He and Merry actually have personalities that aren’t confusing and interchangeable, even if they do come off a little less braze at times.

 

    • Frodo doing the chicken dance.

 

  • The Ring Wraiths are much scarier. It’s hard to imagine the imposing, hissing foes from the movie just walking up to the Old Gaffer and even remotely casually asking him where Frodo is. But that is how most people recount speaking to the black riders, even if they seem a bit shaken or their dogs were sent off scurrying. I like the movie wraiths better because they ask questions or swing their swords. They seem sinister and imposing without seeming undignified, whether it’s by their demeanor or their encounters with people on the road.
  • Fight choreography. Before Gimli’s height or Legolas’s archery became a running joke, they were just straight-up badasses. Fights can be flowing and energetic, almost like a dance. It’s not as gritty or chaotic as it might be in real life, but there’s certainly an art to it. In the book, you get very little description of strikes.
  • Showing, not telling. This is pretty standard for film, but acting has to clarify thoughts in place of narration. This allows for some brilliant, even powerful subtlety, like Gandalf’s hilarious posturing when trying to open the Doors of Durin in Moria, or Frodo’s silent exchange with Merry and Pippin before he leaves in the end. Not everything needs to be spoken aloud, and that is one place where realism comes into play in movies.

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One thing missing from the book and movie is moral ambiguity on the part of the villains. There are good guys and there are bad guys, and otherwise, there may be a few characters who are misguided or harmless and confusing. Tom Bombadil in particular reminds me of someone you might find in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But the antagonists are all ugly and rotten to the core. They vary by race or level of depravity, but there appears to be no possible redemption for any of them, which doesn’t ring true in the real world. It’s a comforting idea – that evil exists, but good will prevail in the end – but it’s not the most challenging of concepts.

That said, Fellowship of the Ring is still an amazingly creative, in-depth story, and the film is the best mainstream adaptation we could have hoped for, despite its flaws. If you like it (or especially love it), you should definitely try to read the books at least once. My parents let me see the first movie (I was about ten when it came out), but then they made me read each book before I could see the film version.