Movie Review: Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions)

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu8/11/15
This weekend, I sat through a sort of “Lord Of The Rings” movie marathon. On each night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I watched one installment of the trilogy. A glutton for punishment, I viewed the extended versions. The theatrical versions are long, being 178, 179 and 200 minutes for parts 1, 2 and 3 respectively. But the extended versions are heroic, running 208 minutes for “The Fellowship Of The Ring”, 223 minutes for “The Two Towers” and 250 minutes for “The Return Of The King”.

It should be said, I am a huge fan of “The Lord Of The Rings” books. This is, perhaps, a redundancy as who else would submit themselves to watching almost eight hours of film about hobbits and wizards. Thus I was very pleased when the original movies came out. And while they do not follow the books as faithfully as a true Tolkien fan may have liked, they were wonderfully done.

Since it had been some years since I had enjoyed the theatrical versions, I decided it was time to watch the extended versions, hoping more would be better. I am sad to report that this is not the case.

The principal fault of the extended versions is that the extra footage adds little to the overall narrative. There are a few new parts which increase our knowledge a little. But for the most part, the new footage is either completely different from the novel or eye-wateringly dull.

An example of the first is when Wormtongue stabs Saruman while they stand on top of Orthanc in Isengard. In the original film, nothing is mentioned about Saruman’s demise. And what happens in the book, is far more interesting.

An example of the later is the depiction of Frodo’s and Sam’s trek up Mt. Doom. As I watched, it seemed that at the pace they were moving, there would be no need for Frodo to destroy the Ring. By the time he entered the tunnel and threw the ring into the molten lava of the volcano, all of Middle Earth would have already passed away. Sauron, Gandalf, Elrod and the rest would have died of old age.

Let me close in a contrarian spirit whereby I will keep this review as short as the trilogy was long. My recommendation is simply this. If you love J.R.R. Tolkien, and his books, don’t spend your time watching “The Lord Of The Rings”, the extended version. Stick to the original and use the time you save by re-reading “The Hobbit”. • (3207 views)

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61 Responses to Movie Review: Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended versions)

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Thanks for the review, Mr. Kung. I was thinking one day to see the extended version, especially because all three movies seem to be a bit edited into incoherence in places. I figured the extended version would make the story flow better. Apparently not.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      To be fair, I think the extended version of “The Fellowship of the Ring” was the best of the three. I would not mind if this were the theatrical version. But the other two got lost in the weeds.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A friend of mine has them (or some sort of extended version) on his computer, and he once showed me an excerpt that included the scene in which Saruman’s palantir is tossed. That was nice (Saruman appears too little in the original). I haven’t seen any of the remaining extended material.

  2. Anniel says:

    KFZ, I’m reminded that it is time for my yearly reading of “the Hobbitt” and “The Lord of the Rings.” There is a delightful book written by a man in Russia that is the Anti Lord of the Rings. He wanted to tell the tale from the side of those with allegiance to Mordor and tried to get Tolkien’s son to allow him to publish it. His request was denied so he just put it out on his own. I think it was called “The Last Ringbearer” and the Internet version required my son to clean it up a lot. I’ll see if I can find it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You may be able to find that book here.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There have been a lot of books in recent decades trying to exculpate the villains of traditional stories — including Grendel from Beowulf (perhaps the first I ever noticed) and the Wicked Witches from Sleeping Beauty and The Wizard of Oz as well as Dracula. (Some of these are worth reading, but one wonders why there are so many such works.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        but one wonders why there are so many such works.

        Really? The loony Left and insane Libertarians make up a significant percentage of the population.

        The Lucifer/Morgoth types abound and Milton understood them. “I would rather reign in hell, than serve in heaven.”

        As there is such a market, someone will try to profit from it.

        • Anniel says:

          I’m trying to find an English translation, since my limited Russian seems to be slipping more and more. As I recall the whole story revolves around the Elves, Aragorn and Gandalf, being power hungry and wanting the story told by the victors, going after the Orcs, Southrons, and others in league with Mordor in the war. The Orcs want their side of the story told before history forgets about them and their stories of heroism.

          I have looked this up on Google, or is it Alphabet yet? I kind of felt like a dog when it chases its tail. I’ll check out Brad’s clue, and then ask my son if he can still access the book. I see it has mixed reviews, but love it or hate it it’s still fun. Let you know what I come up with.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Relating to the movie thread, as you point out, it’s long been the fashion to turn white into black, day into night, up into down, etc. Gee, as I’ve pointed out before, there’s even a song about that subject (from 1934).

          We have anti-heroes galore. A few, okay. That’s fun. It makes for a great theme. But what we are seeing now is well described by Dana in her recent article. We don’t have a chance to celebrate our culture. It’s all been defined as racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise exploitive by the Left. Our entertainment reflects that as it is often merely about shooting more holes in our culture, the more vial the more “vital” it supposedly is. If you’re exposed to enough of this, your mind, heart, and soul are poisoned. There’s always Sinatra, but even Sinatra can’t cure everything.

          This darkness, this bizarre obsession with self-abuse, is reflected in our culture and in our news. Nothing good or wholesome is trusted. It’s all considered a joke. And anything that has the look of good or wholesome is assumed to be a front for darker motives. What is supposedly real is the corrupt, the dark, the debased, the evil.

          There’s no room for light and optimism, let alone a Sinatra ballad. Rap music is the celebration of grievance, violence, and racial hatred. And they call it music.

          I won’t read that anti-LOTR book. I’ve no time for that garbage. Just give me five minutes more.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Anniel, I don’t recall how many times I have read “The Hobbit”, but I have read “The Lord of the Rings” five times, including the appendices.

      It would be good of you to expand on the anti-Lord of the Rings book. Was it pro-Sauron?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Although Tolkien denied any allegorical intent, Sauron has been compared to Hitler — and could just as easily be Stalin (note that Mordor was the Shadow in the East, and the great slave-worked fields around the Sea of Nurnen could easily remind one of collective farming and the Aral Sea).

  3. William Clement says:

    I thoroughly enjoy the books. So much so that I have them unabridged on CD so I can listen at work. I also have the expanded versions of the movies. Was disappointed by their portrayal of Aragorn compared to the book, as well as some of the other liberties they took. Still, by themselves, they’re not too bad.

  4. Rosalys says:

    To me, “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is an excellent example of the importance of good film editing. I have read the books only once, a long time ago, and recently listened to the audio books (only once) so I am not as familiar with the fine details that the rest of you are. Aside from the fact that he may have left this out or not quite clarified that, Peter Jackson made two beautiful movies that left me wanting more. Perhaps overwhelmed by the success of parts one and two, in part three he gave us more – twenty minutes more – and I actually found myself glancing at my watch. It’s not that my attention span is short (I’ve watched “The Ten Commandments” many times without getting bored and it’s twenty minutes longer than “The Return of the King.”) It was way too long. Sometimes it’s best to leave some film on the cutting room floor. (One memorable snippet that annoyingly comes to mind has Legolas doing battle while standing atop some grotesque creature, at an angle which defies the laws of gravity.) Now don’t get me wrong. I still liked it a lot; To me it just wasn’t up to the standards of “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers.”

    The old saw, “less is more,” should have been applied to Jackson’s next EPIC effort, “The Hobbit Trilogy,” which had no business being a trilogy! There were elements in the first two parts which were wonderful and could have made an excellent movie had all the superfluous crap been removed. I didn’t bother paying to see the third installment at the theater. My husband recorded it when it became available on TV for free and I sat down to watch it with him. About ten minutes in I picked up a book and read, glancing up now and then, only to wince painfully at what I saw.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The old saw, “less is more,” should have been applied to Jackson’s next EPIC effort, “The Hobbit Trilogy,” which had no business being a trilogy!

      The moment I heard that Jackson was to make a trilogy I immediately suspected he was just milking the subject for money. I have nothing against making money, but sometimes a person can just become piggish.

      When I saw the first part of the trilogy, my suspicion was confirmed. I have not seen the other two. Somethings are too much, even for die-hard Tolkien fans.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I was surprised that diehard Tolkien fans didn’t do what the diehard comic book (sorry, “graphic novel”) fans have long done, and that is to pretend that the movies based upon the “graphic novels” are great. Kudos to Tolkien fans (haven’t seen the movies myself) for not playing the pretend game. I guess when you have the books, you don’t need to. Still, I am surprised.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I was surprised that diehard Tolkien fans didn’t do what the diehard comic book (sorry, “graphic novel”) fans have long done, and that is to pretend that the movies based upon the “graphic novels” are great

          Perhaps it is because Tolkien fans are literate.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Maybe. But I assume those who read comic books are literate as well.

            I’ve read LOTR once and thought it was a great book. I’m not sure I’ll read it again because of the “been there, done that” factor. But it is good. Maybe by “literacy” you mean the upper crust of good taste…as opposed to those adults who still read Batman. And, if so, there’s something to be said for that.

            Still, I think fanboyism knows no boundaries. I wouldn’t doubt there are LOTR fans who protect the movies with the same gusto that Star Trek fans protect the awful series, “Voyager,” or the generally awful movies. It’s a sub-culture thing, an identity thing. And I tend to think the LOTR movies themselves garnered a popularity beyond their merit. But that is typical these days and not unique to LOTR.

            And even after reading the books, I don’t quite understand the popularity of the movies. I like the books (and The Hobbit), but the movies, while entertaining in parts, never seemed to work as a whole. But they were championed as if this were Citizen Kane x 3. I never understood that.

            So I think there is a bit of fanboyism involved in the movies. No one need apologize for the books because they are quite good. But I’ve always wondered about the blockbluster appeal of the movies. I watched a couple of them more than once, and own one of them (I forget which) on Blu Ray. There is a grandeur in these films missing is most other films, if only because of the outstanding cinematography.

            But I think one of the problems with the movies is that it seems to come down to walking, walking, walking, and then a big battle. The same thing befell the truly awful Narnia move #2 (if memory serves) which barely followed the book and devolved into little more than an excuse for an epic special-effects mega-battle at the end. Speaking of which, as big of a fan of I am of the Narnia books, the #3 film was probably even worse, a terrible mush of a screenplay from what was one of the best of the books and should have made for an exciting film.

            Well, it’s not easy to translate good literature into film. But it does seem easy to make mega-blockbusters of little artfulness. No, I don’t think the LOTR movies are anywhere that bad. But they never seemed as good as the acclaim they received.

            By the way, I met a guy the other weekend who works for Pixar and admits that Cars 2 sucks. Never seen it, but so I’ve heard from others.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              And even after reading the books, I don’t quite understand the popularity of the movies. I like the books (and The Hobbit), but the movies, while entertaining in parts, never seemed to work as a whole

              I think a large part of their popularity lies in the special effects and costumes. The films give many people the opportunity to have a clear picture of what Middle Earth looks like. I suppose this gives them a feeling of closeness and lends a sort of reality which they would not otherwise achieve.

              I am generally disappointed with film adaptations of most books I have read.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Well, don’t get me wrong, I thought there was a lot right with the movies as well. Sean Astin as Sam was a brilliant piece of casting. Orlando Bloom was terrific as Legolas. Brad Dourif is unsurpassed as Wormtongue. Christopher Lee plays evil very well. I can take or leave Ian McKellen as Gandolf. I wasn’t blown away. But I did unexpectedly like pretty-boy libtard Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. Yes, he was too pretty for the role. But I think he came off well playing the hero. Sean Bean is very good.

                But I had a hard time swallowing down Frodo. Bad bit of casting there. He always had that stupid pained look on his face and it always came across as bad acting, not the ever-present drain of the Ring.. When the central character is weak, you have a problem.

                I can understand the desire to see the book come to life. But there is way too much emphasis these days on style over substance. This is why I give libtard Viggo such credit. He carried the weight of the character and made him seem real. Frodo did not. He was, at best, an after-school-special actor. Lucas made the same mistake with the awful Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker…soon to be surpassed in suckness by Hayden Christensen.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                I pretty much agree with everything you say except I found Ian McKellen something of a disappointment. Perhaps this is because I always thought Richard Harris would have made a great Gandalf.
                But he became Dumbledore in a fairly successful movie series.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                A friend of mine once stayed up late to see the movie version of When Worlds Collide, being a big fan of Philip Wylie. After it was over, he cried over the waste of time.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Maybe. But I assume those who read comic books are literate as well.

              Whenever I hear something about comic books, I recall a chance meeting I had almost forty-five years ago.

              The best teacher I ever had was my tenth grade English teacher Mrs. Edwards. I think she stayed only one year at my school and moved on.

              A couple of years later, the June after I graduated high school, a friend and I went to Europe.

              In one old hotel/pension in Switzerland he and I were leaving our room when a door across the hall opened. (The hall was more like an atrium with a large metal stairwell in the middle.)

              Out of the door walked Mrs. Edwards. Some coincidence!! Of course I ran over and said hi. During our discussion, it came out that her husband was an M.D. and was doing his military service in Germany. While there, Mrs. Edwards went to work with the Army to teach remedial English to soldiers. She had tried several ways to do this effectively, but had not had great success until she came upon the idea of using comic books. After that, things started to progress.

              Rightly or wrongly, the association with adult illiteracy and comics has stayed with me.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I saw the first part of The Hobbit on TV (Family Channel, I think), and no doubt will watch the other parts when they turn up there. That’s how I see most movies these days.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I wouldn’t mind seeing the first part. I saw that it was on Red Box the other day. But I just have this intuition that I’m going to be bored. Maybe I’ll watch it just to do a review, inspired by nothing more than the impulse to slow down to see the wreck on the side of the highway. Or maybe I’ll like it. Who knows?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      To me, “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is an excellent example of the importance of good film editing.

      I quite agree. And although I kinda-sorta thought the movies were okay (Frodo was badly cast and was a constant annoyance), the editing was horrific. The same thing happened to David Lynch’s “Dune” — a movie I like. But it’s disjointed. Clearly as with LOTR, trying to capture that long novel into a relatively short movie, and make it flow right, is difficult (thus kudos to the near miracle of the “Les Miserable” musical and libretto).

      There’s actually an extended version of “Dune” (I own it on Blu Ray) that fixes it up a bit. Unfortunately, the gods of editing were still a bit angry, for some of the better scenes in the original movie were cut out. God only knows why. My editor, my editor, my kingdom for a good editor.

      From what little I understand of movie-making, an editor can make or break a film. Or I should say “the editing of a film” because I would imagine the director and film producers have some say in the process.

      My impression of the LOTR films was given by Randall in “Clerks 2”: This is a funny (if juvenile and obscene) sequence from that movie. Don’t click here if you don’t like foul language and some obscene references.

      The movie does seem like an endless shot of people walking around.

      • Rosalys says:

        “(thus kudos to the near miracle of the “Les Miserable” musical and libretto).”

        I must be weird, because I’m the only person I know that hated “Les Miserable.” I listened to the audio book in my car, and had trouble understanding how this ever got to be called a “classic.” The characters were cardboard and the plot was stupid with holes in it that you could chuck an elephant through. (But I thought it might make for great opera!)

        I didn’t see the musical on stage, but I did see the movie. I thought I might like the musical, because I had at least heard the music and will agree that the music is quite wonderful. But I didn’t. I hated it. I just couldn’t get beyond that stupid story.

        However, “Les Miserable” the movie, did answer one question, that being, “Should Russell Crowe ever be cast in a musical?” The answer is a resounding, “NO-O-O!!!” Augh!! He was gawdawful!

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I’ve read the unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s book, and it’s amazing how in a couple hours, they’ve captured the gist of it in the musical. Yeah, it might by necessity have to skip around a bit, as it does. But do at least give a look and listen to the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary with the dream cast. It’s way better than “Cats” which I still haven’t the vaguest idea what anyone saw in that.

          Colm Wilkinson *is* Jean Valjean. And Philip Quast is an amazing Javert. And although Wolverine surprisingly doesn’t completely suck eggs, the movie loses a bit with the very weak Russell Crowe hacking his way through the part of Javert. Not sure who the guy bribed to get the part.

          Reading the long, long, long (did I mention “long”?) novel by Hugo was a near religious experience for me. It’s an amazing book and an amazing musical. I’m not sure where it rubs you wrong, but it is an amazing work of art. It even can survive Crowe…barely.


        • Timothy Lane says:

          We had a modest excerpt in one of the readers for French 1 in high school, titled “Les Chandeliers de l’Évêque“, though it included more than that episode. As far as I know, that’s all I’ve ever read by Hugo.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” is a punishingly long book. I did not get through it without doing a little bit of skipping. But I tried my best not to. I kept it to a very minimum. The man definitely needed an editor.

            But it’s a surprisingly deep book. The story as it unfolds is conventional enough. But looking over your shoulder at all times, in the guise of Valjean, is a cosmic Goodness which pervades the book and the story.

            Imagine the poisoning blacks and others get from listening to rap all day long. That is like sticking your soul in a blender. “Les Miserable” is the opposite. But it requires patience. I’m not sure I’ll ever read it again. But once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. And it took me quite a long time to read. One doesn’t read it as much as one stews in it.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Like Brad, I have read the unabridged version of “Les Miserables” and found it a good book. But I am someone who likes long books, if they are good. (Why else read the complete Churchill bio which means I will have read about 10,000 pages of narrative plus hundreds or thousands of pages of endnotes as well.)

          That being said, if most movie adaptations of famous books don’t succeed, how much more so must this be the case for “musical” adaptations?

          That being said, I love musicals. “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music” come to mind, but I don’t see how a musical could do any great literary work justice.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Note that The Lord of the Rings is a single novel divided into 3 volumes simply to keep the size of a book from being too large. This is also what happened with the 3rd volume of Dumas’s Musketeers trilogy (which was inspired by a fictionalized autobiography of Charles de Batz, Sieur d”Artagnan), which is normally divided into The Viscount of Bragelonne, Louise de la Vallières, and The Man in the Iron Mask.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            but I don’t see how a musical could do any great literary work justice.

            I don’t think Alain Boubil and Jean-Marc Natel / Claude-Michel Schönberg were the first to try to create a libretto and music. But what was achieved is nothing less than a near miracle. What they did was capture the moral essence of it while, of course, not being able to include every plot line and character. A thousand writers could work for a millennium and not likely surpass it.

            And, by the way, that leads me to believe, despite its mega-blockbuster status, that we’re still waiting for someone to do real justice to Lord of the Rings. I don’t think Jackson nailed it. Not even close.

            And it’s not enough to just cut and paste from the book, which is usually the problem. You’ve got to find a way to tell the essence of the story in a different medium. That happened in regards to the Les Miz musical. I don’t think it happened, but in spurts, for LOTR.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Timothy said:

    After it was over, he cried over the waste of time.

    LOL. Never saw “When Worlds Collide,” but a few movies I’ve seen left me wishing I could get that time back. Actually, more than once I’ve bailed on a movie after just 15 minutes. For a lot of movies, you can kind of see where they’re going and get the general vibe.

    But LOTR isn’t one of those, although truth be told, I was bored with the battle scenes. With a few notable exceptions, it was just an orgasm of movement and special effects. It lost any kind of a human (or elf) scale. I just tend to close down at the spectacu-ramas that modern filmmakers engage in when doing battle scenes. Say what you will, but Lucas (or whomever) got it right in Star Wars (the real trilogy). He didn’t lose the human scale.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I was bored with the battle scenes.

      Then don’t even think of watching the extended versions. I sat there thinking they really overdid it. And much of it was simply too fast to keep up, just a blur. I don’t know if they were trying to show the audience the “fog of war” but it didn’t work for me.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    KFZ said:

    I pretty much agree with everything you say except I found Ian McKellen something of a disappointment. Perhaps this is because I always thought Richard Harris would have made a great Gandalf.
But he became Dumbledore in a fairly successful movie series.

    I would have loved to have seen Harris as Gandalf. Ian came off just a little too much like a Kindergarten principal. But I refrained from saying any more about Gandalf because if there is one area most LOTR-ers agree upon, it’s that Ian McKellen is beyond great as Gandalf. Like I said, I thought he was okay.

    Speaking of which, they had some good casting in Harry Potter, including Harris, Maggie Smith (an inspired, if easy, choice), and especially Alan Rickman. Daniel Radcliffe is okay, but hardly an inspired choice. Ron was weak, although I thought Emma Watson was okay. Much like the Narnia movies, the first was good and then fell off from there, although the Narnia ones really went off a cliff. Tom Felton was great as Draco Malfoy, as well.

    Without good bad guys (Rickman, Felton), I’m not sure Harry Potter would have been a critical success. But you could have shown dog turds dressed up in witches hats on screen, and at that point in the books’ cycle of popularity, it would have been a blockbuster.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Good villains can really make a movie or TV series. Just think of the ’60s Batman and Wild, Wild West series. Both had an excellent slate of often-repeating villains.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I agree. Villains are everything. Without Darth Vader, Star Wars is just about a whiny kid who doesn’t like to farm.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I watched the first hour of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” on Blu Ray last night. And I’m watching it from the standpoint of a self-contained movie, as if I’d never heard of the book (which I read once a couple years ago).

    And as a movie so far, there’s nothing wrong with it. And I don’t mean to damn it with faint praise. But the truth is, so far, there’s not a lot to positively like about it. The only dwarf with any recognizable personality is the one with the double (split) beard (and I can’t remember his name…Balin?).

    We’re getting some back-story that I don’t think was in the book. And from what I can see, that works okay. But it seems to lead to telling a different story, giving a different feel from that of the book. Instead of simple lives unfolding onto the grand stage, you get the grand stage first. I’m not sure that’s as thematically effective, but is standard story-telling these days.

    And I think Thorin is the heir to the dwarf throne or something. But he’s kind of stereotypically dull.

    And I think Master Kung is more correct in his underwhelming praise of Ian McKellen. I said that he was basically “adequate.” In “The Hobbit,” he’s downright dull. McKellen tries to effect the sparkle of mysticism and a kind of eccentric authority, but it doesn’t work. I don’t warm to this character and I could care less about him. The same to a large extent with Martin Freeman as Bilbo. There’s little bad you can say about him. But there’s nothing magnetic (even in regards to effecting the simple and humble magnetism of a Hobbit) in his portrayal.

    The scenery is good. The special effects are good. And this story has just begun (partly a result of spending way too much time in Bilbo’s house at the beginning). We’ll see where it goes. I said I won’t compare it to the book and will treat it as a self-contained movie, so my expectations will be adjusted accordingly. But it’s already clear there is not a real Hobbitesque air to this movie. This is going to be Big Action (from what I’ve read) with lots and lots of gratuitous battle scenes. For today’s low-attention-span audience I would expect nothing less. But in his books, Tolkien would slow them down and doll them up with poetry, songs, and such…which I sometimes found a little dull. But I did understand he was trying to create an overall effect.

    It doesn’t seem that this movie is going to create anything like the magnetic and airy charm of the book. It will likely be an action film with dwarves. But so far, in the first hour, I wasn’t checking my watch. I wasn’t bored, except for the overstay in Bilbo’s house at the beginning. I’ll try to watch the rest tonight and report back.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I watched a little more of the first installment of “The Hobbit” at lunch. The troll sequence is completely changed from the book. And that was, to my mind, not particularly a great sequence anyway in the book. But what they’ve done here you’ve seen all too often in other movies. Same shtick, different day.

      And in this sequence the problem with this film begins to crystallize. The attempts at humor are all tone-deaf. This is the kind of stuff that would no doubt make a ten-year-old giggle if he saw it in a Percy Jackson film. But anyone with a slightly developed sense of humor is going to roll his eyes, not laugh.

      One of the things that makes movies such as “Toy Story” so good is the humor. And this humor is solid enough to touch those of all ages. Much of it seems specifically directed at adults as a sort of “thank you” and a pay-off for sitting through the movie with their kids. There’s none of that in “The Hobbit” so far. This is all dull, juvenile (at best) humor.

      The weakness of the actor playing Bilbo is showing more and more. There’s really nothing there, and this is the lead character. And I thought Frodo was bad. Frodo at least could pretend to have a real emotion.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This concept of adding humor aimed at adults to something we would think was meant for kids reminds me of something a friend once mentioned about an old Looney Tunes cartoon in a medieval setting, with a drunkard knight named Sir Osis of the Liver. You could get some references like that in the Three Stooges as well.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Yes, there were some funny jokes aimed at adults in that BB shtick.

          I ran across a review of “The Hobbit” that I think gauges the flaws of this movie as succinctly as possible:

          It just smacks of lazy cliché writing. The acting that goes with it is not good either.

          So many movies today are that “lazy cliché of writing.” I think it is indeed a cliché writing. But to be more specific, these aren’t clichés drawn out of “Casablanca” or “Gone with the Wind.” These are specifically juvenile clichés of an ill-developed sense of taste.

          As this same reviewer concluded: I went to watch an engaging movie and I got a cartoon.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        When I saw the 1st installment of “The Hobbit”, I recall not being impressed. But to my mind, the most damning fact about it is that it left such a slight impression on me that I cannot recall, virtually, anything about it. I am left with just a vague feeling that it was too long and not really worth watching.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Mr. Kung, I finished “An Unexpected Journey” last night. And I finished “The Desolation of Smog [sic]” this morning.

          Long story short, the second movie is a little better. But both are basically LOTR prequels, not renditions of The Hobbit. Just know this going in if you watch them. Whether this extra material was added to pad it into three movies, or he wanted to tell a larger story, I don’t know.

          And this is where I’m going to lose many of you, and I know that. Many of you probably don’t notice the crap because you’ve gotten used to it and may even like it. Most of you have heard of a film category called “Film Noir.” Apparently nobody at the time set about to create a “film noir.” But it was a kind of dark style that caught on and was retroactively applied, thus a genre (one of my favorites) was created.

          And if we look back in twenty or thirty years to the 1990’s and a decade or so further, they’re likely to come up with a retroactive film category called “Film Doofus.” It’s the kind of movie where the special effects are spectacular (and usually overdone), the characters and stories are weak, and everything is driven by about a couple dozen well-used, stale, and mostly juvenile cliches.

          The Hobbit movies are full of such cliches and thus these movies look like just about every other action movie you’ve seen of late. Maybe these cliches were exiting once when Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger first did them in the 80’s or early 90’s. But now these movies look as if they are put together by artificial intelligence computers that automatically pick and choose from a collection of Film Doofus cliches stored on some hard drive.

          One of my favorites (and this is subtle, but has been mentioned in some of the reviews I’ve read) is that “mean-faced” look of Thorin. And that’s all he’s got. Every time the camera pans to him, he puts on the mean face. There are so many more cliches such as that — the movie pole-vaults from one to the next — that I could list them for you. One could create a whole catalog and then mark them off when you see them in other movies.

          And the cliches aren’t even any good. It’s one thing to have a tried-and-true cliche such as the cat jumping out from nowhere in a scary movie. But these Film Doofus cliches are just plain moronic and stupid.

          Oh, and if you do watch these movies, know that you’re watching a live action/animated movie. It’s almost funny when it cuts between long-shots of little obviously computer-generated dwarfs (and Gandalf) running around. I’ve heard part of this jolt is caused is because the animated parts are 48 frames per second (or something like that) and the live action shots are the usual 24.

          You’ll find none of the deft pacing as you see in LOTR. Jackson is completely ham-fisted with this one. He just turns it up to a Spinal Tap 11 and goes with it. The best action sequence involved the eagles escape from the trees. And this scene, like most others, barely resembles the book. In fact, if you’re really familiar with the book, you might wonder where the book is in all this. Because I’ve read it only once, and even then a couple years ago, I have a vaguer memory of it, thus Jackson’s breaking faith with the story is less jolting.

          Still, I’ll try to take it to the end and watch the third installment. As long as you know going in this isn’t The Hobbit, and is more a LOTR prequel, you’ll likely do okay. It’s kind of fun to see some favorite character return, including Orlando Bloom. I don’t think his character was in the book, but I could be wrong. But even it it was, I don’t think he was in this much of the story. The same with Galadriel and Elrond.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Galadriel didn’t appear at all. The Mirkwood elves did, but without anyone being named, so it’s reasonable to include Legolas there (though not at Rivendell). Elrond did play a significant role when they were at Rivendell, and was the one who translated the moon letters.

            There are a few references to outside events. Gandalf leaves the party near Mirkwood — and it later turns out that he and others were driving the Necromancer (Sauron, though the name isn’t used in the book) out of Dol Guldur. And there are periodic references to the wars between the orcs and dwarves (and even that Dain had killed Azog, father of Bolg).

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              My brother was watching over my shoulder as I watched part of #3. And Galadriel was hitting The Evil One with a big-ass wizard-sized volume of spells. And my brother said, “They must have liked this so much in LOTR that they’re doing this scene again.”

              There are a lot of scenes in this prequel to LOTR that have “padding” written all over them. (This may have been one of the side stories that you mentioned…driving Sauron out of Dol Guldur.) They’re just trying to stretch it out to fill a proper LOTR-length time.

              Obviously Jackson has included some text outside of the book (or in the appendix). One site says he got most of it from The Quest of Erebor.

              I’m not against that effort, although perhaps using the name, “The Hobbit,” isn’t truth in advertising. But I can see where a more complete, well-rounded story could become a trilogy. But he lost the kind of artfulness he had in LOTR and he’s done something with “The Hobbit” that is quite less than a masterpiece.

              But….this leaves you hoping that someone someday will create (if they haven’t already) a great version of “The Hobbit” that is true to the book. As far as I’m concerned, there is a precedent for this with the Sherlock Holmes stories. People fiddled with all kinds of lesser interpretations until the definitive version starring Jeremy Brett.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Stop showing off by displaying your good taste. Next you will be telling me David Suchet is the definitive Poirot.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I have a lot of the posthumous Tolkien material, including Unfinished Tales, but I don’t recall too much about Erebor. There was also some, as I recall, in the appendices to Return of the King.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            If I can find the last two installments for free, I might watch them. Otherwise, forget it.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              “Forgetting it” is good advice. I’m about 35 minutes in the third installment. Nothing special here. The second one at least had some good action sequences in it. Jump right to that one and forge the first and I’ll let you know about the third when I’m done

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Stop showing off by displaying your good taste. Next you will be telling me David Suchet is the definitive Poirot.

    Mr. Kung, I haven’t seen better than Suchet. 😀 But then, I haven’t read those books. I have nothing to go on in regards to authenticity. But I have read every Sherlock Holmes book or short story. Brett nails it, as do (to varying degrees) his two Watsons (Burke/Hardwicke). Lestrade is also a smart bit of casting and acting.

    Every year around Christmas or Thanksgiving I cue up one of my favorites: “The Blue Carbuncle”. It can be found on the boxed set, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. Rarely are these boxed sets worth the money. I consider this a bargain at $38.00 for a DVD. It looks as if you can also buy them per episode for $1.99, including The Blue Carbuncle.

    You can diss Sinatra. But I won’t hear a bad word against Brett (the vampire episode and some of the later ones notwithstanding).

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As a frequent attendee at the Holmes-Doyle Symposium held annually in Dayton by a local BSI scion society, I can say that Jeremy Brett was indeed highly regarded by most, perhaps all (including me). Cathy Gill, who tended to take a humorous look at the Canon, once did a piece that started out by noting her dismay at the thought that Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Brett’s role in the movie My Fair Lady) as Holmes. So she did a piece showing the similarities between Henry Higgins and Sherlock Holmes.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I have read a good number of Christie’s books and short stories. I do not find her to be a very good writer, but the stories have a degree of interest. In my opinion, Suchet’s films are better than the actual books, in most cases.

      I consider Conan Doyle’s writing to be pretty good and, until Brett’s series, I don’t believe any film did him justice.

      I agree about the vampire episode. But I believe Brett was ill when he made the last few films. He died of heart disease, as I recall.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I haven’t seen that episode, but “Sussex Vampire” is a long way from my favorite Holmes story anyway. (The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes has some very good stories in it — “Thor Bridge” is a masterpiece, “The Lion’s Mane” is the best of the stories not written in first person by Watson, and a few others are at lest decent — but also a lot of others that I’ve only read once.)

  9. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Following up on the related topic of the LOTR prequels (LOTRp aka “The Hobbit” trilogy), I finished the third part last night.

    There’s an aspect to this in that what I didn’t like in LOTR (the big, over-the-top battle sequence) I didn’t like in the prequels. Still, as many reviewers have pointed out, the laws of physics were mostly observed in LOTR. In the LOTRp, Legolas (a character that I like) is turned into a sort of ninja.

    I honestly don’t know what happens to people like Spielberg, Lucas, and Jackson. They forget the genius that went into making something special (Star War IV, V, and VI, Raiders of the Lost Ark, LOTR) and take some kind of left turn to a more vulgar, nose-picking, yute-oriented aethetic. It’s as if they went to a film school that had only one rule: If “X” is good, more “X” is better. And that pretty much describes what is wrong with their later movies in existing series (or creative efforts…obvious “The Hobbit” and Star Wars I, II, and III come before).

    More action. More special effects. More one-liners. More putting as much motion on the screen at one time as you can. And I haven’t the foggiest reason why they cave into this lower aesthetic when the earlier one was not only cinematically better but a sure money-maker as well. We can suppose that these directors become surrounded by the lower and duller tastes of those yutes coming up through the movie industry. Perhaps it’s just too much to fight this dumbed-down and democratized taste and so they just punt, leaving a lot of this stuff to the supposed Wunderkinds who surround them.

    I don’t know. I’m just guessing. But there has to be some explanation when even diehard LOTR or Hobbit fans hate the movie and actually, in their own way (and God bless them for it), are asking for the cinematic equivalent of less-is-more. But you don’t get that in LOTRp. You get more-is-more. Always.

    I think the ultimate review of LOTRp is something Mr. Kung said: “But to my mind, the most damning fact about it is that it left such a slight impression on me that I cannot recall, virtually, anything about it.”

    I think the same thing applies to me. Having just watched this, I’m already forgetting it. It’s just a blur. It was sensory overload. It all meant nothing. And the problem wasn’t the stupid elf/drawf love story that was bolted on and not in the least setup to be plausible. It wasn’t Legolas turning into a ninja. It wasn’t the non-centrality of the Bilbo character (who I warmed to a little, but I still wouldn’t have cast that guy). It wasn’t the un-memorability of the dwarves, except for one or two. It wasn’t the bad jokes. It wasn’t the obvious padding to turn it into a trilogy. It wasn’t the bland acting. It wasn’t the cartoonish (truly a central element of this) bad guys. It wasn’t how the original story, even when it made it in, was changed so much.

    It was that it had no soul. You don’t care about any of these characters. This isn’t a movie, it’s yet another roller coaster ride. And at the end of a roller coaster ride, if you don’t puke it’s considered a success. But no one seriously contemplates a roller coaster ride for depth and meaning. LOTRp is ultimately forgettable in this regard. It can be entertaining if you are in the mood for a roller coaster ride. But that’s about it.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I finally finished the last of the extended versions tonight. My brother and I have been watching an hour here and there after work. It took a while.

    One of the problems with “director’s cuts” and extended versions is that they can interrupt the flow of the film as new pieces stand out. Lucas hacked up the original Star Wars trilogy to a large extent. Some of the editions or clean-up work was good. But generally if there was a quiet place or blank spot in the background, he felt compelled to junk it up.

    In “The Fellowship of the Ring” the inclusions are about as seamless as you could hope for. I think they have improved the movie and I couldn’t tell you offhand what was new and what wasn’t. I haven’t seen the movie that many times. But it works very well.

    In “The Two Towers,” the extra material is a little more noticeable. At times, as in “The Return of the King,” they do a better job of holding the story together and giving you a sense of place. I’m not absolutely sure it was new (but I think part of it was), but there’s a nice scene when Aragorn (I think) first approaches Helm’s Deep and you get a sweep of the vast valley. And there may be some extra narration scenes that do a better job of giving an overall sense of the movie and what is going on.

    But certainly more of the footage in “The Two Towers” stood out…and I’d said most of it was a welcome addition. I think there was quite a bit involving the Ents, one of the better parts in the books which I think now are done better justice in the movie. This is a very nice movie until about three-fifths into it when the Frodo storyline and the battle scenes begin to drag it down a bit.

    Despite the many Academy awards (which is recognized as being for all three films), I think “The Return of the King” is the weakest of the films by far. And the additions just tend to lengthen it without enlivening it as they did in “The Two Towers.” The battle scenes (not really my thing) are the least interesting parts of the Lord of the Rings movies, and this last movie is filled with them.

    I can’t say that my opinion of the characters was changed one way or another. Certainly you get a more filled-out Gandalf. And one of the flaws of this movie which has nothing to do with the extended bits, and it’s something that hit me while watching it in HD, was the very poor performance of Gimli. Yes, the voice acting was fine but his face seemed so gummed up by make-up and prosthetics that he couldn’t articulate facial expressions, particularly in and around the eyes. A major flub if you ask me.

    But the major accomplishment of the extended versions is that I don’t think in any way you can say they ruined the movies. If you like the movies, you’ll probably enjoy that they last longer and show a little more. And one of the prime flaws of the original movies was that they seemed a little chopped up and disjointed as you go from storyline to storyline and back again. I think the transitions were smoother this time, if only because a little more time was spent in each storyline. You weren’t jerked so much back and forth.

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