I really loved this movie and want to say that up front, before I launch into my main problems. The emotion, the spectacle, and the music were superb. After the first viewing, I came out with a smile of relief, and after the second time I was bawling. I think I was so worried that first time that I couldn’t properly sink into the emotion of the story. Frodo and Sam were definitely the best but they also gave me my biggest problems.
- . Frodo would never have sent Sam home, no matter how much he fought with Gollum. You could see that Frodo wasn’t really angry with Sam but just did not know how to keep them from each other. I admit that this does allow for dramatic tension and places Frodo in the caves alone with Shelob, which is scarier, but Frodo comes off looking more gullible than he should be, rather than the wiser and more merciful hobbit.
- When Frodo goes back to grapple with Gollum after his finger was bitten off, the emphasis moves away from Frodo’s mercy and the hand of providence as the reasons the ring was destroyed. This could conceivably be ameliorated in the Extended Edition if Frodo says it would not have been destroyed but for Gollum and asks Sam to forgive him as he does in the book.
This is also the problem with the lack of Frodo/ Saruman scenes in the Shire, where
Frodo’s real growth is shown and not just his loss. Where is the mercy?
As you can see mercy is a big theme for me. It was set up well with Gandalf’s comments about Bilbo’s pity and about Gollum having some part yet to play, and we do see Frodo acting mercifully toward Gollum, but then that theme is almost dropped. As I said, this can be remedied in the EE, so I still have hope.
Other than these things Frodo and Sam were perfect. Elijah and Shaun captured the essence of Frodo and Sam’s relationship completely. The scenes on the mountain were tender and traumatic. This was big time acting in a dramatic departure from the usual roles of tough words and attitudes that are the male movie norm. Both of those young men deserve every bit of our thanks for stepping outside the bounds to give us the Frodo and Sam that we know and love from the books.
The next most effective scenes were all the emotional scenes involving Pippin and Gandalf. Pippin’s singing and the scene in the balcony were heart breakers, but my favorite was the death/white shores exchange between them. To my mind, this was a perfect movie adaptation: it did not occur in the book, but preserved the feeling and intent that would have otherwise been lost in a movie. We really needed this theme and Peter Jackson delivered.
Other problems that come to mind are:
- The time crunching toward the end of the trek was just awful. How did they get across all those miles so fast with Frodo in such bad shape? How did they get those orc suits off? The casting away of Frodo’s sword and Sam’s pots was too emotional a moment to miss. You could almost feel the chop chop going on at the black gates. Why on earth did Aragorn turn around and say “for Frodo!” unless they had just seen his mithriel shirt and thought him dead? I’m sure lots of this will be fixed in the EE. Oh well, we’ll just have to wait.
- Eowyn and Merry just jump up from their wounds in the movie, but the trailer showed Eomer weeping on the battlefield. We’ll wait for that too I guess.
- Farimir and Eowyn just met at the coronation, but she was looking at him sort of lovey-dovey for a girl that just had her heart broken. I guess she’s a quick healer.
- I’m ok with no Shire battle, but Saruman is sort of a big empty spot. I don’t want to see him go splat on a spike in the EE, but we need some closure. I’d rather have him and Grima accost the hobbits on the way home or in Bag End and get what is coming to them as in the book. So much for my mercy.
Any other changes were small to me, since I am most interested in the heart and soul of the movie, and it has a heart and a soul. I say hooray for Peter Jackson. Middle Earth now lives in pictures as well as words. I loved the movie; I will love the EE more, but long live the books, where Tolkien reigns supreme.