The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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  • Year: 2001
  • Director: Peter Jackson
  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen

Alright, here we go. It’s finally time to take a look at Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s been years since I’ve watched these (and this is my first time watching the extended cuts), so we’ll begin with…

My Original Thoughts on Fellowship

Although I perhaps have a smaller number of issues with The Two Towers, The Fellowship of the Ring is the one of the three I’ve always tolerated the most. I had plenty of things I could point to that were wrong, but I always at least enjoyed the atmosphere and the scenes of the fellowship interacting with each other. If memory serves, the two actors named Sean (Astin and Bean) were the stand-outs.

My Thoughts Today

As with Bakshi’s film, Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring begins with a prologue regarding the history of the one ring, narrated here by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). Tolkien’s book starts with some information on hobbits and begins with Bilbo preparing for his party, not going into the ring’s history until Gandalf explains it in the next chapter, but I find that both work for their medium. The film starts out with a bang, drawing you right in, while the book builds the everyday world first, only revealing the true evil of the ring once we care about the world it exists in.

I like Peter Jackson’s prologue for the most part, although I slightly prefer the wry narrator in Bakshi’s. Mordor looks appropriately threatening, and we feel the weight of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves. My biggest issue is Sauron himself.

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He’s just a suit of armor! That’s not menacing or creepy… at least not any more than a run-of-the-mill killer. This is the guy enslaving all of Middle-earth under his power? He should be an evil genius, not a killing machine. Also, when Isildur takes the ring from his finger, Sauron explodes! Seriously.

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Yes, he lost his physical form when Isildur took the ring from him, but this feels like a video game.

We are simply told that the ring came to Gollum long after Isildur’s death, wisely saving Gollum’s backstory for the prologue of The Return of the King . We see Bilbo (Ian Holm) taking the ring in a scene that The Hobbit-haters hope will never be re-edited, and we’re in The Shire.

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We see a bit more of The Shire in the extended cut, which goes a long way. If you start on the quest before making us care about what is being saved, who cares? At least show Hobbits enjoying life.

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We get a bit more Bilbo in the extended cut as well, mirroring the way Bilbo seems like the protagonist of the book in the first chapter. Ian Holm does a very nice job as Bilbo, glad to see his old friend Gandalf (Ian McKellen) after so many years. He goes a bit over-the-top in regards to the ring, where a little subtlety may have worked better, but it’s still a well-rounded performance in just a few scenes.

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We get to meet all four hobbits who will go on the journey, of course with the most focus on Frodo (Elijah Wood). I’ve never had strong feelings towards his performance one way or another, honestly. On one hand, he is too young. I know that Peter Jackson’s film compresses the timeline, and I know that the ring slows down your aging…but he’s 33 when the story begins.

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Wood was only 20 when the film came out, and his youth shows. However, he pours his heart into it and really delivers on the emotional moments. Maybe I have more of an issue with the way the character is written here than the portrayal (You’ll soon see this will be a theme.).

Samwise Gamgee is played by Sean Astin, who nails the rural, hardworking and caring parts of the character perfectly. We’ll get more of these in the later films, but his loyalty is undying from the word “Go.” It is immensely better than the oafish Sam of Bakshi’s film and the goofy one of Rankin/Bass, but it’s just a great performance regardless.

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Finally, we have Pippin and Pippin.

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No that’s not a typo. This movie has no character remotely resembling the Merry of the book, but rather just two Pippins. Barely Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) are entirely interchangeable characters, getting into childish schemes like setting off Gandalf’s fireworks. There’s even a cheesy sitcom-cut to them washing dishes after being caught by Gandalf.

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The Pippin of the book was immature and a bit silly, and while he was never this dumb, I understand running with him as a bit of comic relief. This portrayal of Merry is nearly as angering as Michael Bolton’s “Dock of the Bay.”  It’s such despicable character assassination that Oliver Stone probably blamed it on a homosexual conspiracy (That’s the real ending of JFK, not kidding). Merry in the book is portrayed as the smartest of the four hobbits, the one who knows The Shire better than the rest. He’s actually very hard on himself, feeling a bit like luggage before helping defeat the Witch-king, and he is fairly sarcastic and quippy. Again, I don’t think it’s Dominic Monaghan’s fault, because he’s probably doing what the writers wanted. I just cannot stand what the writers wanted.

There is a lot to cover in the first half of this movie especially, and I’ve spoken in length about the excised Bombadil chapters here. However, that doesn’t excuse the really bizarre editing style that exists throughout the first half of this film. What’s with all the close-ups, especially on Gandalf?

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Look, I still feel that McKellen’s performance is a bit hammy at times when he’s trying to be the powerful wizard, but I’m starting to think the editing is equally to blame.

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Things happen really fast in the first half of the movie, even with the extended scenes and the chapters that were cut, and there doesn’t feel like there’s much room to breathe. BOOM. We’re leaving Hobbiton. BOOM we’re outrunning the ring-wraiths out of the Shire. BOOM we’re in Bree. It takes less than 45 minutes to get from Hobbiton to Rivendell, and this is the extended cut!

There are great moments here, sure, like Frodo and Sam seeing the elves passing through the Shire on their way to the Grey Havens…

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Or the first encounter with a ring-wraith…

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But atmosphere is often sacrificed for simply getting from Point A to Point B. When the hobbits meet Aragorn (known as Strider then) at the Prancing Pony, there should be some mystery as to whose side he’s on. We get the disorienting feel of Bree just fine, but give us some time to develop the feel more. Also, we get Merry and Pippin getting into more trouble, with Pippin just giving out Frodo’s real name to a random bar patron.

I’ve had issue with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn in the past… but I don’t blame the actor as much anymore. Giving him an arc is fine, but giving him the arc of “Should I become king or not?” is kind of silly. We know what he will decide, even if we haven’t read the book, so it’s just being long-winded and makes him look like, after all these years, he still isn’t ready for responsibility. I mean, maybe if they made him an Animal House-type character who just refused to settle down it could work… if it was a screwball comedy. However, he’s just somber all the time, so why does he have such an issue with responsibility? I understand his doubt to lead the Fellowship after Gandalf’s death, and I got that in the book and in Bakshi’s film, but his overall doubt towards responsibility doesn’t really work.

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I’ll criticize the performance a bit though, because I don’t believe there’s a kingly man hiding under there. With John Hurt, you could tell he was both able to survive in the wild, but also had an air of dignity and strength about him. With Mortensen, I only see the ranger.

When they get to Weathertop, we get a fairly effective sequence where Frodo is stabbed, even if it doesn’t hurt as much as it did in the Bakshi film.

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Isn’t it weird that the stabbing was more effective in the cartoon? However, it’s still an imposing scene and we feel the darkness surrounding Frodo. Wood plays Frodo as a bit helpless throughout, but it’s understandable here. The next few days on the road to Rivendell are handled quickly, with Arwen (Liv Tyler) coming, picking up Frodo, and crossing the river and causing a flood to stop the wraiths.

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In this rushed 40-minute sequence, we also see Gandalf visiting Saruman and getting imprisoned in the Tower of Orthanc.

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Christopher Lee lends his deep voice and imposing demeanor to Saruman, and it’s one of the best things about the film. Lee actually wanted to play Gandalf (which would also have been great) but he was deemed too old. There’s a small change to Saruman’s character here, in that while the book Saruman really only wanted to have the ring for himself and had no plans to be a servant of Sauron, this one fully aligns with him.

Instead of simply locking Gandalf in prison, Saruman has a wizard’s battle with him, throwing each other across the room. It’s more dramatic, I guess, so I won’t make fun of it too much. It’s just a tad overblown.

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Gandalf is eventually saved by the eagles, though, and everyone is reunited at Rivendell.

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As I’ve said before, each volume of The Lord of the Rings is divided into two books, and the second book of Fellowship begins with Frodo awaking in Rivendell, although the movie is not yet at its halfway point. However, from this point on, The Fellowship of the Ring feels like an entirely different film. It comes into its own and, while not perfect, is really truly wonderful.

So what changes? Well, for one, that abysmal editing is cut way back on, giving the scenes much more room to breathe. I mean, just look at the beauty of Rivendell.

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I love the contrast of Rivendell’s beauty against the ugliness of the quest ahead. We see that, should the ring return to Sauron, even places like Rivendell will not stand. Hugo Weaving seemed a really odd choice at the time for Elrond, but sometimes weird casting choices like this really work. He’s not the first person you’d think of as an elf, but Elrond is half-man too, remember. Elrond is fascinating, because this duality leads him to be both ageless and world-weary, and I get both of these from Weaving. I think he’s really underrated.

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Honestly, even though we have moments with every member of the Fellowship, the second half of this film could easily be subtitled Boromir. From the moment Sean Bean rides up to the council of Elrond, he steals practically every scene he is in. Honestly, this is the one time in any version of The Lord of the Rings where I feel someone actually improves on the character from the book.

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In the book, Boromir has characterization sure, but he is basically just the Steward of Gondor who falls prey to the ring. He quickly realizes he is wrong, but soon after, he is killed by orcs while defending Merry and Pippin. It’s a basic fall-and-redemption, but we see little of the heights he fell from.

Here, we see Boromir’s initial desire to use the ring, but it feels more selfless than in the book, even if it’s essentially the same motivation. He wants to help his people of Gondor defeat the forces of evil, but we sense a goodness in him. Bean’s Boromir is incredibly kind to the hobbits, whether it’s teaching them sword-fighting

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Or trying to give them time to grieve after Gandalf’s death.

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He’s a good fighter, but he also has an air of nobility about him… something missing from Aragorn’s characterization. It makes me wonder if Bean would have been a better Aragorn. Boromir is understandably at odds with Aragorn, but it’s never cliched and there isn’t a sarcastic “Yes, your majesty” moment, thankfully. They just have different outlooks and these clash a bit.

Boromir also has what is among my favorite line-deliveries in all of film. When the Fellowship is being attacked in the mines of Moria, Boromir looks out at the enemy before slamming the door and dryly tells Aragorn, “They have a cave troll.” I just love the ironic way Sean Bean says it, because it is with the same slight annoyance one could complain about having too much sauce on pizza. It cracks me up every time.

The battle sequence in Moria, slightly annoying cave troll and all, is really effective. While Peter Jackson can tend to throw in battle scenes for no reason and drag them out endlessly, this one has a purpose and feels real. It takes multiple members of the Fellowship to take down one cave troll. It may look a bit silly, but I like that it’s not just another easy enemy to take down.

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The nine heroes defeat a few enemies, find a chance to escape and run and run until they’re surrounded on all sides by orcs. The only thing that gets them out is the Balrog showing up.

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As many forced battle scenes as there are in these and the Hobbit films, this one is really handled well. They’re genuinely all doomed until a greater evil appears. We don’t just see nine heroes taking on 2000 orcs or something.

The Balrog sequence looks great to this day, but it shows off one of my issue’s with McKellen’s performance. When he tries to show power, he just sounds like a confused old man.

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When I read the “You shall not pass” lines in the book, I don’t hear them as shouting, but rather as a cool confidence. This is exactly how William Squire delivered them in Bakshi’s film, and how I imagine John Huston would have too (Okay, he never did, but I still hear it clearly).

Speaking of over-the-top, let’s talk about Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).

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I love the look and feel of the Lothlorien scenes, but the Mirror of Galadriel scene has some serious issues. First, only Frodo goes and looks into it, not Sam. In the book, this served as Sam’s surefire moment of never turning back, as he saw what was to come in the Shire and considered leaving, but ultimately focused on the quest at hand. I might let this go, if it wasn’t for the scene where Frodo offers Galadriel the ring. Instead of acknowledging the temptation but rejecting it, she does this stupid heavy metal growl and threatens Frodo.

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Something being over-the-top doesn’t automatically make it more dramatic or scary. It often just makes it look stupid. Cate Blanchett is a great actress, but this was just a weird directing choice that didn’t work. Since she only has a few scenes in this movie (besides the opening narration), it sadly leaves a mark.

Upon leaving Lothlorien, the Fellowship sails down the river Anduin in what is one of my favorite moments in all of the film. As rushed as the first half of this film is, here we’re just soaking up the gorgeous score and the stone statues of the kings of old.

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When Aragorn knows it is time for the Fellowship to choose its course, he lets Frodo have some time to think it over. Boromir comes to Frodo and sympathetically—and then not so sympathetically—tries to take the ring.

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The second half of this film plays like a Shakespearean tragedy with Boromir’s character, and here we see his fall complete. He is now under the ring’s grasp enough that he would harm Frodo to get it. However, he almost immediately sees the error of his ways when Frodo escapes.

At this point in the book, Frodo goes on his way in the boat (joined soon by Sam), but we get a final scene with Aragorn here too.

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This is probably Viggo Mortensen’s best scene in the whole movie, saying that he would have gone with Frodo all the way to Mordor, but ultimately understanding the power of the ring is too strong and that Frodo must depart. The goodbye is cut short when Aragorn sees Frodo’s sword glowing blue, signaling that orcs are nearby.

Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) do play a part in this film, but they are fairly secondary characters until The Two Towers. They are both great fighters, and they do some damage in the battle sequences, but especially in regards to Legolas, we see very little. The final battle sequence is fine, but it’s not at as harrowing as the one in Moria. We do feel a bit like Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are just playing a video game some of the time. That said, Boromir’s death protecting Merry and Pippin is absolutely heartwrenching.

Adding a bit of The Two Towers in the ending makes perfect sense. We don’t want to have Boromir in five minutes of the second film only for him to be bumped off. This completes his arc and sets up the remaining characters’ for the next film. Merry and Pippin are taken by the Uruk-Hai, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are off to find them, and Frodo and Sam have gone to Mordor… if Frodo can actually get in the boat.

Seriously, Frodo just stands there, RING IN HIS OPEN PALM, debating whether to go.

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Come on man, show some resolve. Get in the boat and go. How many times do you have to decide?

We end with Frodo and Sam continuing their journey on foot, the fires of Mordor crackling in the distance.

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Enya’s elegiac “May It Be” ends the film with beautiful poignancy. The ending point really works well, wrapping up the story of the Fellowship proper and preparing us for the journeys to come.

So have I been too hard on this movie in the past? Ehhhhh…. maybe? The first half is really a mess, but once they get to Rivendell, it really is a great film and yes, even a great adaptation. It still has issues, but they feel small in comparison to the brilliant moments, brought to you mainly but not exclusively by Sean Bean. Let’s get to the final score.

Adaptation (38/50 Points)

The second half is brilliant. The first half is hit-or-miss, very often miss.

Cast (18/25 Points)

Sean Bean is brilliant in his tragic portrayal of Boromir. I could go all day, but I probably already have. I suppose some of my problems lay more in the way characters are written than the way they are performed, but it’s sometimes hard to tell.

Experience (21/25 Points)

I have to dock some points for the bizarre editing in the film’s first half, but beyond that, it looks, feels and sounds amazing, and it almost all holds up. Top notch stuff.

FINAL SCORE: 77%

The second half of this movie is so good that it makes me want to bump the score up higher, but then I remember how rushed the first half is (even in the extended cut). It’s almost like two movies, or a movie that takes way too long to get good. It’s the one I’ve always been the least harsh on, and we’ll see if it stays that way.

Next week, I’m going to take a look at another adaptation snub, and in two weeks I’ll be reviewing The Two Towers.

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Worst Song Ever: Division IV

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Alright, three divisions down, one to go. Division IV has easily some of the most difficult matches in all of the tournament.

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(5) Accidental Racist by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J vs. (7) Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille

Well, the anthem of the Trump Voters has moved on to the Egregious 8. Sometimes I wonder how a song like this got recorded, and then I just look at the world.

It’s beaten back-to-back songs about rape, so who knows?

Round 3

(9) Disco Duck by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots vs. (5) Accidental Racist by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J

What went through Rick Dees’ mind and told him this was passable radio fare? Why did it get played so much? No one above the age of four likes cheap Donald Duck impressions.

Just remember, kids. Country music thinks wearing jewelry is as terrible as slavery… or that slavery isn’t all that terrible. I mean… either way.

(7) Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille vs. (3) Just the Way You Are (Drunk at the Bar) by Brian McFadden

If you find this song romantic, you may need to have your head examined. It is truly vomit-worthy.

Nope, still about rape.

Round 2

(13) (Sittin On’) The Dock of the Bay by Michael Bolton vs (6) Accidental Racist by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J

I’ve been told if I rant any more about this song that I might end up in anger management class, so let’s just say I don’t care for this cover. At all.

One day Brad Paisley said, “Hey I like the flag that represented slavery, let’s get a black person who will record a song about it with me. That’ll go over swimmingly.”

(3) Just the Way You Are (Drunk at the Bar) by Brian McFadden vs. (11) Ass Like That by Eminem

I hope a warrant was put out for Brian McFadden’s arrest after he released this song. It’s terrifying.

It’s dumb and it knows its dumb. It’s not about rape.

(16) Thong Song by Sisqo vs. (9) Disco Duck by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots

This beat “Having My Baby”? Really?

Again, ducks don’t cluck. I mean, was this actually a dance craze?

(2) No Means No by Ricky J vs. (7) Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille

The high school camera crew that filmed this really needs to apologize for furthering Ricky J’s career.

It may be gross, but at least it’s consensual.

Round 1

(5) Accidental Racist by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J vs. (12) The Jack by AC/DC

I still cannot believe this song was ever recorded. How did lyrics like “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag” and “If you forget the gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains” ever make it into a song? It attempts to equate fashion accessories with things that are actually racist… and not even accidentally.

Wow, this singing is bad. Just look at the creative chorus:

She’s got the jack, she’s got the jack
She’s got the jack, she’s got the jack
She’s got the jack, she’s got the jack
She’s got the jack, she’s got the jack
She’s got the jack, jack, jack, jack, jack, jack, jack
She’s got the jack

(2) No Means No by Ricky J vs. (15) All Gold Everything by Trinidad James

Not only are the lyrics disgusting, this is an embarrassingly bad production and video. He should have learned that no means no when he asked someone if this should be a single.

This has 30 million views on YouTube. That is shocking.

(1) (You’re) Having My Baby by Paul Anka vs. (16) Thong Song by Sisqo

There are songs in this tournament that are sexist, sappy, maudlin, over-sung, and over-produced. This is all of them at once.

You people must really hate butt songs.

(7) Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille vs. (10) Tiptoe Through The Tulips by Tiny Tim

OK this song is bad enough, but the animal lovemaking noises throw it over the line.

I still have nothing against this guy. He’s a schticky vaudeville act stuck in the wrong time period.

(6) Believe by Cher vs. (11) Ass Like That by Eminem

The song that introduced the world to auto-tune, Cher’s “Believe”…. you know what? That’s all I need. It introduced the world to auto-tune.

You people must REALLY hate butt songs.

(8) My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion vs. (9) Disco Duck by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots

The most overplayed movie song of the ’90s and the song that makes Kate Winslet sick, “My Heart Will Go On” is forever tied to the backlash that Titanic faced for being overrated. Try to separate the two in your vote.

DUCKS. DO. NOT. CLUCK. I don’t care if it rhymes, ducks don’t cluck. Also, that’s not even a good Donald Duck impression, Rick Dees (and/or one of your cast of idiots).

(3) Just The Way You Are (Drunk At The Bar) by Brian McFadden vs. (14) I Wanna Be Like You by Smash Mouth

There is no way to interpret this song differently. It’s about rape. It has lyrics like “I can’t wait to get you home so I can do some damage” and “So I can take advantage.” Brian McFadden’s song is shameless and it’s repulsive. Also, banjos.

Ouch. This is a truly painful cover of a classic song from a classic movie.

(4) Stout Hearted Men by Shooby Taylor vs. (13) (Sittin On’) The Dock of the Bay by Michael Bolton

The world’s only scat singer with no soul, Shooby Taylor is essentially just a musical version of Hooked on Phonics. It’s kind of fascinating.

NEVER has a cover gone so far against the meaning of the original. Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” is a lovely, laid back acoustic tune about doing nothing at all. Bolton’s is an over-sung power ballad that destroys everything that was great about the original. Can you imagine if he tried to whistle? DID YOU EVEN LISTEN TO THE ORIGINAL, BOLTON? That’s how mad this makes me. It has me typing entire sentences in capital letters. It’s such utter dreck.

Adaptation Snubs: Tom Bombadil

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Every adaptation of The Lord of the Rings makes cuts, but none are quite as bulky as the three chapters that are cut in every single adaptation. These concern a mysterious woodland… being named Tom Bombadil. The chapters divide readers, with some finding them enjoyable and fitting the early parts of the story, and others finding them entirely unnecessary and silly.

Who Is He?

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In Tolkien’s novel, the Old Forest right outside the Shire is the first stepping stone in a grand journey. Pippin, Frodo, Sam all have heard childhood tales about it, and Merry teases them a bit for this, having lived on its borders all his life. Interestingly, once they get there, it is Merry who gets stuck in Old Man Willow, a living tree. He is saved by none other than Thomas K. Bombadil (Alright, I made up the full name and middle initial), who sings a song to set him free.

Bombadil is described as “a man, or so it seemed,” but not as tall as one, with a blue coat, beard, blue eyes and a red face. He is constantly jolly and often singing, and he invites the hobbits back to his home to rest up. His wife is Goldberry, the “Daughter of the River,” which I suppose means his father-in-law was Old Man River (Was Bombadil cut from Showboat too?).

Bombadil seems to have no care for the world outside of his country, and the part of his character that intrigues (or confuses) every reader is that the ring doesn’t affect him at all! First, when Frodo puts it on, he is totally visible to Tom. Then, when Frodo hands the ring to Tom, he slips it on his finger and remains visible, tosses it around a bit, and hands it back to Frodo. In his realm, he is in complete control. When the hobbits leave his home and get trapped on the Barrow-downs by wights, he immediately comes to their aid, saving them and giving them weapons.

The hobbits make their way to Bree, and Bombadil never returns to the story. He’s mentioned only two more times. The first is in Rivendell, where he is briefly brought up at the Council of Elrond, where it is mentioned he has been in Middle-earth longer than the elves. It is suggested that Bombadil take the ring, but Gandalf points out that he would probably just throw it away or something.

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Anywhere, not in the garbage… where it’ll get mixed in with the others and become just a ring. Which it is.

He gets one more brief mention during the return journey in The Return of the King, where Gandalf says he’s off to speak with him. We hear very little of what actually was spoken between the two, except that Bombadil is the same as he always was.

In Defense of Bombadil

Look, I get why the chapters are left out from basically every adaptation, but they aren’t just filler in the book, even if they might feel like it on the first read through. First, as I mentioned above, the Old Forest is sort of a starter level for the hobbits as they go deeper and deeper into the wide world, but there’s another reason for its existence. When Merry and Pippin enter Fangorn forest in The Two Towers, they expect to come upon evil, but on the contrary, Treebeard is a kind mentor to them. The forest close to their home had some evil in it, but the one far away did not. Home isn’t always innocent, and faraway lands aren’t always dark.

The account with the Barrow-wights also plays a part much later. It is pointed out that weapons Tom gives them were made specifically to fight the evil forces of Angmar. When Merry and Eowyn take down the Lord of the Nazgul, the Witch-king of Angmar, it is only possible because of Merry’s sword. However, this aspect is left out of every single adaptation, although it is perhaps implied in Jackson’s adaptations when Aragorn gives the hobbits weapons. Without this, it leaves the audience wondering how the Lord of the Nazgul, a spirit with no true physical form, can be defeated by normal weapons. Besides, the Barrow-downs incident is creepy and atmospheric. There should have been some way to work it in! Couldn’t you have Aragorn save them from the wights or something?

Just because Bombadil isn’t directly tied to the destruction of the ring doesn’t make him a pointless character. Do you like the Balrog, for instance? He is not tied to Sauron or Saruman’s forces, and yet he is a force that has existed in the world for ages. Tolkien’s story is one of a changing world, and these characters exist to expand it.

But Really, Who Is He?

So what kind of character has complete power over nature, is unaffected by the pure evil of the ring, and is even arguably above good and evil?

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He’s not God.

But, but… the elves call him Iarwain Ben-Adar, which means “Ageless and Fatherless!”

TOLKIEN
Nope, not God.

Tolkien had no problem leaving Bombadil an enigma, but he did clarify this one fact specifically:

There is no embodiment of the One, of God, who indeed remains remote, outside the World.

So there’s that. He’s not God. To be fair, if he was God, he wouldn’t have the same code of morals, would he? Bombadil is truly committed to doing good, but only in his part of the world. The ring is outside of his focus and it does absolutely nothing to him.

Sometimes you come across a theory that is so insane and twisted that you have to give it a second look. This theory is one that has been around since the nascent days of the internet, but now you can find the thing at Flying Moose. No joke, this is a theory that suggests that Tom Bombadil and the Witch-king of Angmar are one and the same. It goes over a few comical points like “You never see the two of them together” and a few semi-serious ones like suggesting Tom, like the wraiths, had heard word of the name Baggins. Then we see the real meat of the theory. Tom sees Frodo when he puts the ring on, just like wraiths can. Tom casts the Barrow-wights away, something a king of that realm would be able to do. This was a kingdom that the Witch-king of Angmar had conquered, so if Tom and he the same, he would have that power.

However, this theory ultimately falls into the same trap most conspiracy theories do. It looks great if you only look at the arguments in its favor. It sadly does not bring up the glaring argument against—If Tom Bombadil is the head Nazgul, why doesn’t he take the ring? The theorist suggests that the Witch-king is perhaps remorseful, but he needs to expand on this more. Tolkien makes it clear that the ring-wraiths exist solely to find and capture the one ring, so if one is handed it, he would take it.

Alright, so if he’s not God or an undercover force of evil, who is he? Is he just a plot device that doesn’t jive with the rest of the narrative? The early chapters definitely feel more episodic like The Hobbit, but obviously Tolkien had something in mind for this guy. It is made clear that if Middle-earth falls under Sauron’s power, he will too, but he will be one of the last to go. He controls the natural forces of the forest and is married to the “Daughter of the River.” Maybe he’s a Father Nature figure.

Perhaps he has been around forever because he is literally as old as the trees.

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Hey, I didn’t say he spoke for them.

If he is a personification of the natural world, it makes sense that he hasn’t changed by the end. If Sauron prevails, he will ultimately be destroyed, but if Sauron is defeated, there will be little change. The ring has no effect on the natural world unless it returns to its maker, and Bombadil is the only other character over whom the ring equally holds no power. Maybe Gandalf’s goodbye to him is a farewell to the natural world of Middle-earth as a whole before he sails across the sea.

Ultimately, I like the Bombadil chapters and I completely understand why they exist. They wouldn’t have worked later in the tale, but for where they are, they fit right in. More than anything, I really really wish the Barrow-wights had been included in just one adaptation. They are sorely missing.

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Worst Song Ever: Division III

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Again, we have some truly bizarre matches in this division.

QUARTERFINALS

(5) FACK by Eminem vs. (3) Indian Outlaw by Tim McGraw

Well it is the only song on this list that repeats the line “Shove a gerbil in your ass through a tube,” so there’s that.

Just when you think he might sing an actual lyric, he just lists another Native American stereotype.

ROUND 3

(9) Rico Suave by Gerardo vs. (5) FACK by Eminem

Well it beat “Summer Girls,” so who knows? It has terrible lyrics and will never get out of your head. Never.

Is a bad joke worse than a terrible song that’s trying? I don’t know, I’m asking you.

(Wildcard) (You’re Having My Baby) by Paul Anka vs. (3) Indian Outlaw by Tim McGraw

For recording this song Anka won both the “Keep Her In Her Place” award from the National Organization for Women and the “Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year” award from Ms. Magazine. It wasn’t enough.

Apparently Tim McGraw was going to win Most Racist Country song for this one, but there were like 217 nominees.

ROUND 2

(15) Gangnam Style by Psy vs. (10) Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band vs. (Wildcard) (You’re) Having My Baby by Paul Anka

I mean, it’s annoying.

If you drink every time this song mentions a country music cliche, it doesn’t get any better.

It won the wildcard round easily and gets another chance. How did this lose in the first round?

(3) Indian Outlaw by Tim McGraw vs. (6) Butterfly by Crazytown

What’s worse than listing country music cliches? Listing Native American cliches of course.

It doesn’t have one negative lyric about Native Americans.

(1) Summer Girls by LFO vs. (9) Rico Suave by Gerardo

It is truly impressive how awful this song is. It is almost skillfully bad. “There was a good man named Paul Revere.” What does that have to do with anything? Ugh, if I say anymore I’ll probably go crazy, so take it away, Twitter.

Well, it’s not “Summer Girls” bad.

(13) Eating Cheese by Art Paul Schlosser vs. (5) FACK by Eminem

How long does he have to sing about cheese? We get it!

What a match. I can’t decide which is dumber.

ROUND 1

(2) Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks vs. (15) Gangnam Style by Psy

Can a song be more whiny? Why is it “hard to die?” If it’s the easy option, why don’t you just not die?

Terry Jacks makes this song look like a masterpiece.

(8) Heartbreaker by Teriyaki Boyz vs. (9) Rico Suave by Geraldo

I’m not sure what this is.

I’m entirely sure what this is, and it’s gross.

(5) FACK by Eminem vs.(12) Barbie Girl by Aqua

This is either Eminem or a lost song from South Park. I’m not sure which.

This video has a bald man using a hair dryer, and that doesn’t even make the top 10 things wrong with it.

(3) Indian Outlaw by Tim Mcgraw vs. (14) Drinkenstein by Sylvester Stallone

Hey, a song about rhyming cliched Native American words… sung by the whitest guy around. It feels like it belongs in an episode of Racist Sesame Street. I refuse to believe anyone ever danced to this.

Which country song by someone who is marginally better at acting will move on?

(6) Butterfly by Crazy Town vs. (11) Everything I Do (I Do It For You) by Bryan Adams

It’s short, but it sure feels like it’s never going to end. It just won’t stop droning on.

It’s only appropriate that most boring power ballad appeared in the film with the most boring Robin Hood. Seriously, these are actual lyrics: “There’s no love like your love/And no other could give more love.” GET ON WITH IT.

(4) Last Kiss by Pearl Jam vs. (13) Eating Cheese by Art Paul Schlosser

Tied with Shooby Taylor for the highest-ranked cover, “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam is a really odd song. The original comes from the very specific 60s genre of teenage death songs… of which it isn’t even the best. Pearl Jam’s grating cover comes thirty years later and just feels like a joke run-through in rehearsal.

He’s eating cheese. Isn’t that fantastic? He has to tell you all about it.

(7) With Arms Wide Open by Creed vs. (10) Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band

Look, I dislike Creed as much as the next guy, but on the Mount Rushmore of annoying singers (Fred Durst, Steve Harwell, Scott Stapp and Chad Kroeger), Scott Stapp of Creed is by far the most tolerable. This song is generic and over-sung, but there are far worse songs in this division alone.

Seriously, it’s like the Zac Brown Band decided to put every single country music cliche into one song. There’s fried chicken, beer, country living, blue jeans, sweet tea, and the radio… and yet, it would be fine if they didn’t awkwardly force God and America into the last verse. I’m not saying these are bad things to sing about, but it feels like they were just going down a checklist. “Oh, we didn’t mention God or America, how will they play this on the radio? Oooh, pointless third verse.”

(1) Summer Girls by LFO vs. (16) MacArthur Park by Richard Harris

Every time I listen to this song, I discover yet another impossibly inept lyric. If this was just a stream-of-consciousness song, fine whatever. That’s a thing, but this is instead trying to be a normal song that forces in these random lines when it can’t come up with a rhyme. Sometimes those don’t even rhyme!

When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet/Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets

These are random throwaway lines and they STILL. DONT. RHYME. I have so much more ranting about this song to do, so please move it on so I can do more next round.

Oh no, it has a dumb line about cake in the rain. At least it rhymes!

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The Return of the King (1980)

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  • Year: 1980
  • Director: Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass
  • Starring: Orson Bean, John Huston, Roddy McDowall

Alright, I haven’t done this since A Christmas Carol 1982, but I need to rant about this cover before starting the review. What happened here? We see two hobbits, who look like none of the hobbits featured in this cartoon. We can assume they are Frodo and Sam, but Frodo and Sam walk the entire film. They do not once mount a horse! Is this supposed to imply Frodo is the king who’s returning? (Spoiler: It’s Aragorn.) On either side of them, we have a dwarf. Great, Gimli’s in this movie right?

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I’m just gonna assume he’s in that processional somewhere. He doesn’t have any lines though, and he sure doesn’t seem to look like those Snow White-looking guys on the cover. There also appears to be a DRAGON of all things flying above one of the castles. Alright, let’s get to the review itself.

Oh Rankin/Bass we meet again. Famous for Christmas specials like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rankin/Bass expanded their horizons a bit in the late 70’s and onward. We got a pretty competent, albeit short, TV version of The Hobbit in 1977 and the most hilariously overblown Christmas special of all time in 1979 with Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. After Ralph Bakshi got screwed over by the studio and didn’t get to make another Lord of the Rings film, Rankin/Bass decided to give it another go with the third installment in Lord of the RingsThe Return of the King… just The Return of the King. So you made The Hobbit and now we’re just gonna skip to the end of The Lord of the Rings? What could possibly go wrong?

While The Hobbit was a mere 78 minutes, The Return of the King at least gets a full 98. It’s not enough to do complete justice to Tolkien, but when you look at all the things they stuffed into Christmas in July, there’s at least potential. Here is my estimation of how the conversation between Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass went after they learned they got more time to work with:

Rankin: Think of how much we could squeeze into the extra running time. This might actually make sense and not feel rushed.

Bass: Or we could add a whole ton of songs.

Rankin: But there aren’t that many songs in the book. Wouldn’t it kind of feel forced?

Bass: What’s a Rankin/Bass special without random singing? Also, with all this time, we could do three title cards!

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Alright, I get that the first one was called The Hobbit and you want some continuity, but this just sounds stupid. These are THE HOBBITS, not just your regular run-of-the-mill hobbits (Actually Ted Sandyman was the hobbit who ran the mill, but that’s neither here nor there). Why don’t you just go all out pretentious and call it Sunrise: A Song of Two Hobbits? There’s enough singing in it!

At least Rankin/Bass is trying to embrace the epic scope of Lord of the Rings, right? Not by doing anything of course, but by telling us it’s an epic in the opening narration. That’s all we need, I guess. You just tell us the genre and we’ll assume.

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Sports drama.

Sure it was, Tommy.

Alright, so do we start off where Bakshi left off? I mean, I know it’s not technically a sequel to his film, but a little continuity would be nice…

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They had glasses in Middle-earth?

Nope, we start in Rivendell at Bilbo’s 129th birthday party. The ring has already been destroyed and we’re getting the story in flashback. There are certain stories that work in flashback, but The Lord of the Rings? The main dramatic crux of the story is destroying the ring, but you’re just going to tell us right off the bat that it’s already happened? I’m not even saying we should be surprised that the ring eventually gets destroyed in the book, but come on. What’s the point in this?

Also, the scene starts with Frodo and Sam walking to Rivendell to meet up with Gandalf, Merry, Pippin and the others.

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This is fine, except later in the film (but earlier in the timeline), we see them all together in Gondor celebrating the victory. Did they all leave at separate times? Is there some Middle-earth roadside attraction that Frodo and Sam just had to see?

Once the group has eaten, Gandalf introduces them all to the Minstrel of Gondor… who apparently has been standing there the whole time. What, didn’t he get to eat?

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I had a long trip too, almost got killed by this Headless Horseman…

The minstrel is voiced by Glenn Yarbrough, who also was the off-screen singer in The Hobbit. This is obviously a non-book character, so I’m not sure why they decided to make him look like this, when the real Glenn Yarbrough looked like Chris Christie’s kind, less bridge-closey brother.

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The songs in The Hobbit (mostly) worked, because they were from Tolkien’s work and the story had a simpler feel to it. There are occasional songs in The Lord of the Rings, but they aren’t featured here. Instead we get forced songs that just won’t stop playing. “Frodo of the Nine Fingers” and “The Bearer of the Ring” seem to pop-up every single time there’s a serious moment, and they just suck all the drama right out of them.

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Sam, I have to use the bathroom.
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Frodo, he had to pee.
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You will stop singing that song, or I will do to you what Rankin/Bass did to Fellowship and Two Towers

I’m really only a fan of minstrels in movies if they get eaten halfway through, and sadly that is not the case here.

When we do get to the actual story, we start around where The Return of the King book picks up, with Frodo captured by orcs and Sam with the ring. We spend a lot of time with Frodo (Orson Bean) and Sam (Roddy McDowall) getting closer to Mount Doom and struggling with the ring, but it’s always ruined by music. I really like Orson Bean as Bilbo, but they really shouldn’t have cast him as Frodo too. It’s distracting, because he doesn’t really change his voice, and it’s not like Bilbo and Frodo are father and son. They’re uncle and nephew, so why would they have the same voice? Roddy McDowall is a fine actor, but he brings nothing of note to Sam and he’s really over the top… but he’s still better than this guy.

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The events of Fellowship and Two Towers aren’t even referenced, but the events of The Hobbit are, which makes Gollum’s appearance really bizarre. Gollum being Frodo and Sam’s guide to Mordor is not mentioned, but Sam still awkwardly name drops him shortly before he appears. I suppose he stayed in his mountain all that time but got a sneaking suspicion someone took his ring to Mordor and went there, just happening to run into Frodo and Sam. Got it. At another point, Sam pulls out a vial of light that was given to him by Galadriel in the book, but since that didn’t happen here, it just magically happens to be in his bag. Is that a deus ex machina in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

We also get a sequence in which Sam is tempted by the ring, leading him to dream of a green and fruitful Mordor where he asks his servants to “Behold the gardens of my delight.” I thought this was a kids’ movie!

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Oh… right.

Meanwhile in Gondor, we do have one of this film’s very few redeeming qualities—John Huston’s Gandalf.

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He has less to work with than in The Hobbit, but he’s still great, adding a richness to Gandalf’s voice that no one else has ever brought. Since the story is compressed to an absurd degree, he often does a lot of narrating. I wish this much narration wasn’t necessary, but since it is, I’m glad he’s the one doing it.

Gandalf spends his early scenes with Pippin, and they are joined later by Merry. I found it strange that Casey Kasem voiced Merry, but I remembered that he was also the voice of Shaggy, so obviously he was a talented voice actor… but he just sounds like Casey Kasem here. Yep, a radio DJ in Middle-Earth, but not just one. Pippin is voiced by Sonny Menendez, another American radio DJ who sounds like he’s going through puberty. Every time they open their mouths, it completely takes you out of the movie.

In Gondor, Gandalf and Pippin meet with Denethor (William Conrad), even though we have had no buildup to this character and have not met his sons Boromir and Faramir. Denethor is supposed to be a tragic figure, a once-respected ruler who is falling into madness.

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Instead, we get what looks like the Old Man from a stoner version of The Tell-Tale Heart and sounds like the most cliched sniveling villain the writers could come up with. We’ve had no buildup to what a palantir is, since they didn’t adapt The Two Towers (Gandalf briefly describes it as a “crystal ball”), so it kind of comes out of nowhere… again.

Of course, just like in the book, Denethor is burned alive… nah who am I kidding? This is a kids’ movie. He just has his guards surround him and the scene cuts to some flames, letting us infer how he died. After Denethor’s death, Pippin asks Gandalf if there is any hope, and Gandalf says there’s none unless the ring is destroyed. Wait, wasn’t that the only hope all along? They could win every battle across Middle-earth, but if Sauron gets the ring back, it’ll all moot. Why are they acting like now that’s the only hope?

Undoubtedly, one of the coolest moments in all of The Lord of the Rings is the confrontation with the head Nazgul, the Witch-king of Angmar. Confident in his Shakespearean prophecy that no man can ever defeat him, the Witch-king wreaks havoc on Gondor, only to be brought down by the tag-team of Eowyn and Merry. Eowyn has been brushed aside by the men who went to battle, and Merry has felt like the load in comparison to the other hobbits. However, they band together for one of the most heroic moments in Tolkien’s work and form a lasting friendship as they heal of their wounds. This moment only truly works if you adapt the whole story, though, because in Fellowship, it’s established that Merry’s sword was forged by the enemies of the Witch-king. Again, it’s called buildup and payoff.

I’ll admit the introduction of the Witch-king here is actually pretty effective, with the dark music, creepy design and John Huston’s narration.

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Even when he takes his hood off, the floating eye design still works.

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Then he talks, and it just ruins the entire atmosphere. He sounds like someone put The Knights Who Say “Ni” in a blender. I really can’t imagine why someone thought this wavering voice sounded creepy. It sounds way more like a villain in a parody film where the bad guy turns out to be a wimp, and it reminds me a bit of the mayor’s changing voice in The Christmas Tree. Eowyn comes out of nowhere (shocker) and challenges him, and after Merry gives some shoe-horned exposition about her, he joins in with his assumed-to-be-normal sword and helps defeat the Witch-king.

As Frodo and Sam draw closer to Mordor, they have to join an Orc troupe in what is perhaps the best and worst scene in the movie… let me explain. First, it’s a scene right out of the book, and while it may seem preposterous that Frodo and Sam could be mistaken for Orcs, it does seem that all species of creatures are on the side of Mordor. Even the Orcs come in all shapes and sizes.

It is also made very clear that the average orc doesn’t really want to go to battle. Just look at their expressions.

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This goes a long way in characterizing them as more than just evil mooks to kill off, something Tolkien himself took issue with. It’s sort of ruined, though, with the totally out-of-place “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way,” a funky marching song that belongs in Middle-earth about as much as Casey Kasem does. However, the lyrics themselves put forth this same message of forced fighting, so I guess it’s an attempt. I still really like the scene, though, because Frodo and Sam only escape when the Orcs and men, fighting for the same side, end up killing each other over a petty dispute.

After a long (I mean, I guess we only see a few days of it) and perilous (Surely there’s a little peril) quest, Frodo and Sam finally reach Mount Doom.

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Mordor looks absolutely hellish in this thing, and Mount Doom definitely lives up to its name, both inside and out.

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Just like in the book, Frodo claims the ring for his own and slips it on, disappearing in front of a distraught Sam. However, instead of immediately being attacked by Gollum, Frodo apparently walks around Mount Doom for days with the ring on! Alright, it’s question time.

  1. It’s clear this change was made because Rankin/Bass didn’t have their timelines matching up, but how hard is this to change? Why couldn’t you just have the Gondor battle scenes take place earlier? How did you not realize this until the last minute?
  2. If Frodo wears the ring for days, what is he doing the whole time? Is he just exploring all of Mount Doom? What does he eat or drink?
  3. How has Sauron not seen him by this point? In the book, Aragorn’s raid on Mordor was to distract Sauron as Frodo slipped through the back door, but here the raid isn’t even planned until Frodo is at Mount Doom with the ring on! He’s literally right there unguarded.

Aragorn and company do march on Mordor, but Aragorn (you know, the titular king) only has a handful of lines in this thing. He’s just a plot device, but again, that’s what happens when you only adapt the climax of a story!

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Anyway, after three days or so in Mount Doom, Gollum attacks Frodo, grabs the ring and, mid-celebration, falls into Mount Doom with it. Frodo and Sam are rescued by the eagles as Mordor crumbles around them, and everyone is reunited in Gondor. Well at least that scene is done right.

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And now, a moment of silence for all the things lost in this adaptation:

  • The Paths of the Dead
  • Saruman
  • Grima Wormtongue
  • Prince Imrahil
  • Sympathy for Denethor
  • Faramir

Oh wait, maybe this is Faramir?

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  • Arwen
  • Legolas and Gimli’s friendship
  • The Scouring of the Shire

One of the greater themes of The Lord of the Rings—heck, perhaps the main theme—is the changing face of Middle-earth. The rings led to a lot of the magic in the world, good and bad, and that magic is now fading. Elves are departing across the sea, and wizards are leaving for one reason or another. Here, we get hit over the head with a very confused version of that message. Gandalf explains that Frodo is taller than Bilbo, and Merry and Pippin are taller than Frodo, meaning that hobbits will eventually evolve into men. I’m not really sure what the point of this is.

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And Merry, you will go on to host American Top 4o until Ryan Seacrest takes over.

At least we end with Frodo going across the sea with Gandalf and Elrond. As much as I dislike the songs in this, the extended version of “Roads” Glenn Yarbrough sings here is pretty nice. It’s at least a nice send-off to the Rankin/Bass Middle-earth I enjoyed in The Hobbit.

Alright, let’s attempt to score this thing.

Adaptation (18/50 Points)

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to adapt just one-third of The Lord of the Rings, but it isn’t with musical numbers every five minutes. Characters come out of nowhere, plot points make no sense without the buildup of previous installments, and even the serious moments get ruined by stupid ones. The ring is destroyed, and at least that is kind of handled well.

Cast (11/25 Points)

John Huston is back as Gandalf, and he is the best part of the film. I’m fine with Orson Bean being back as Bilbo, but he really shouldn’t have voiced Frodo. The radio DJs voicing Merry and Pippin are just awful, and the bizarre-sounding Witch-king is hilarious.

Experience (9/25 Points)

STOP SINGING! Alright, enough about the singing. The animation is typical Rankin/Bass, meaning hit or miss. Mordor looks great, and the atmosphere is occasionally effective in other scenes, too. However, the misses are hard misses.

FINAL SCORE: 38%

The Hobbit was a kids’ book, so the cartoon worked well enough. This is just a quickly-thrown together mess, filled in with narration and songs. Unless you’re dying to see it, you won’t get much out of it.

The wait is over. Next week, I’m going to revisit Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring and see if I’ve just been way too picky all these years.

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Worst Song Ever: Division II

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These are going to be tough, maybe even more than Division I’s first round match-ups. Let’s get to them.

QUARTERFINALS

(13) Caillou Theme from Caillou vs. (6) Ascension Millennium by Corey Feldman

 

At this point, that little 4-year old brat will probably win the whole thing.

This song never starts and also feels like it’s never going to end. It burns both ends of the torture candle.

ROUND 3

(1) Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega vs. (13) Caillou Theme from Caillou

It’s hard to believe that songs like this, with just the most mind-numbingly stupid and generic lyrics, become huge hits. For shame, DJs.

 

I’m gonna stop assuming this will lose. It’s beaten Toby Keith and Limp Bizkit so far, so anything goes.

(2) My Pal Foot Foot by The Shaggs vs. (6) Ascension Millennium by Corey Feldman

Both of these songs are intriguingly inept. This one is notable for its pure innocence of The Shaggs, like aliens entirely unaware of what music is trying it for the first time.

Feldman’s song is intriguing, because it’s someone who should know what music is, but he clearly does not. He’s been famous for years, heck he was friends with Michael Jackson, and yet thinks this passes as music. Ugh.

ROUND 2

(2) My Pal Foot Foot by The Shaggs vs. (10) I Wanna Do It With You by Barry Manilow

Seriously, it cracks me up every time. Maybe I’m starting to see the appeal.

Can something be the most generic? Because this is the most generic song ever written.

(14) Lollipop by Steven Seagal vs. (6) Ascension Millennium by Corey Feldman

Who let him sing? Or act?

Same questions.

(1) Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega vs. (9) Detachable Penis by King Missile

Let’s just list some names and call it a song. How was this a hit?

It’s avant-garde? I guess?

(13) Caillou Theme from Caillou vs. (5) Nookie by Limp Bizkit

 

Worse than Toby Keith? TOBY KEITH? Really?

Rollin’ didn’t move on, but this one is worse. I can’t even believe someone non-ironically used the word nookie in a song.

ROUND 1

(4) Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue by Toby Keith vs. (13) Caillou Theme from Caillou

I am going to try and put into words just how ridiculous this song is. It came at a time when people were looking for a patriotic anthem, but this is such pandering garbage that it’d be laughable if it wasn’t so pro-violence. In just the chorus, we get forced references to Uncle Sam, The Statue of Liberty, Bald Eagles, and the Liberty Bell. Got that? Toby, cool it down with the pseudo-patriotism.

It’s 45 seconds long and it’s here because you hate the show. The hate is justified, but it’s not trying to say that loving America means bombing people.

(6) Ascension Millennium by Corey Feldman vs. (11) Cotton-Eyed Joe by Rednex

What does that title even mean? “Ascension Millennium” just sounds like a song that keeps trying to start but never does. At least it’s not a cover of “Stand By Me.”

I mean, yeah it’s bad… but at least it’s a song. That’s how low the bars been set, folks.

(5) Nookie by Limp Bizkit vs. (12) Smart Girls by Brian Wilson

Oh Limp Bizkit, we meet again. This is exponentially worse than the abysmal “Rollin,'” because at least that didn’t rhyme “nookie” with “cookie.” Who let these guys be famous?

Brian Wilson is a musical genius, but this is sure an argument against that. I cringe every time I have to hear “My name is Brian, and I’m the man,” and it only goes downhill from there. If it was a parody of rap, it’d be alright, but it clearly isn’t. What’s with the random string of Beach Boys sampling in the middle? I wish we could blame Eugene Landy for this one.

(2) My Pal Foot Foot by The Shaggs vs. (15) Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill

This is a prime comedy record. Sadly it wasn’t intended as one, but I can’t hate it. Every member of the band is clearly playing their own song.

(This story may be apocryphal.) One day Dan Hill was sitting at home with his wife and Chicago came on the radio. “Honey, I really like these guys, but don’t you think they’re just a little edgy?”

(7) Sweet Child O’ Mine by Sheryl Crow vs. (10) I Wanna Do It With You by Barry Manilow

Thanks, that song needed improving.

Sometimes you find someone who says it better than you.

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(8) Where I Come From by Alan Jackson vs. (9) Detachable Penis by King Missile

Behold, the worst rhymed-song of all time. This song has lyrics like this:

Aren’t you from out in Tulsa?/No, but you might’a seen me there, I just dropped a load of salsa.

And that’s not even the most painful line in the song! Alan Jackson just decides to drop the whole rhyming thing in one verse and rhyme “dinner” with “soprano.” If you don’t want a song to rhyme, that’s fine, but don’t just stop doing it for one verse because you don’t have a rhyme!

I think this one’s beyond analysis.

(1) Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega vs. (16) We Built This City by Starship

  1. No one likes this song.
  2. Women whose names are in this song like it even less.
  3. Lou Bega’s mustache is stupid.

Well that’s not very practical architecture. Please check out their lesser known singles “I Made My Car With Blue-Eyed Soul” and “Beethoven Designed My Skyscraper.”

(3) He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss) by The Crystals vs. (14) Lollipop by Steven Seagal

How did this song happen? How how how did this song happen? I cannot believe this was ever an OK song to record. It’s terrifying.

Hey it’s weird to see Steven Seagal facing off against domestic abuse. This is a really bad cover, increased exponentially by the white guy pseudo-Jamaican accent.

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Worst Song Ever: Division I

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Oh look at all these musical abominations. It’s going to hurt to send any of them home.

QUARTERFINALS

(1) The Christmas Shoes by NewSong vs. (11) Figured You Out by Nickelback

It’s beaten Badonkadonks, Breaky Hearts and even things that are actually words, but will the winner of the Worst Christmas Song Tournament make it to the Fearful Four?

“The Christmas Shoes” is melodramatic and has mixed messages, but this is downright gross. They both deserve to be here, but which is worse?

ROUND 3

(1) The Christmas Shoes by NewSong vs (12) Panda by Desiigner

No one ever gets to the end of this song, but if you do, there’s the terrible Cracker Jack prize of a children’s choir singing the chorus. It checks all the overdone ballad boxes and then some.

He sure says “Panda” a lot.

(2) Get Down by B4-4 vs. (11) Figured You Out by Nickelback

With the music of a Kool-aid commercial, the lyrics of Dewey Cox, and the look of three Lance Basses, what could go possibly go wrong?

“I never got why people hate Nickelback” say the people who’ve never heard this song… and the gross ones who have.

ROUND 2

(1) The Christmas Shoes by NewSong vs. (8) Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus

How do people fall for pathetic songs like this? How could anyone hear this and think it’s genuine and heartwarming?

Blah de blah Billy Ray joke, blah de blah Miley joke.

(4) My Humps by The Black Eyed Peas vs. (12) Panda by Desiigner

Maybe it’s not as serious as everyone takes it. Regardless, it’s terrible. It definitely made The Black Eyed Peas a permanent joke.

I liked it better when I thought this was just gibberish. Knowing the lyrics makes it worse.

(2) Get Down by B4-4 vs. (7) Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit

Here we are at Round 2. Even if this wasn’t the weirdest music video of all time (it is), and even if all three members didn’t look like the same guy (they do), this would still be an abomination of a song. It’s just so hokey.

How were these guys ever famous?

(3) PPAP by PIKOTARO  vs. (11) Figured You Out by Nickelback

If Shooby Taylor did a cover of this song, it might bring about the end of the world.

It almost isn’t fair to compare this to the other songs on the list. It is just so disgusting.

ROUND 1

(2) Get Down by B4-4 vs. (15) One Week by Barenaked Ladies

It was a simpler time when I wasn’t aware of this song… or this video. Why is there a little boy in it? I’m sure B4-4 thought they were being clever with their thinly-veiled innuendos, but they’re just awkward. The Dewey Cox-esque lyric “Gonna make you come tonight… over to my house” has to be one of the most painful in all of music.

Don’t you dare pretend this is a contest.

(7) Rollin’ by Linkin Park vs. (10) We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel

One of two Linkin Park songs in the tournament, this is far less awful than “Nookie,”  but it still was crafted by the hands of Fred Durst, and everything he touch turns to hair gel.

Just think, at some point Robert Zemeckis heard this song and decided to make a 2 1/2 hour movie out of it with Tom Hanks. Seriously though, it’s just another listing song, and it doesn’t even have a theme. What do “rock and roller cola wars” have to do with Richard Nixon and Lawrence of Arabia? It’s just cringy rhyming and singing. Come on Billy, you’re better than this.

(6) I Want You To Want Me by Cheap Trick vs. (11) Figured You Out by Nickelback

It’s actually shocking how bad the vocal performance on this. I know it’s mostly just a throwaway song, but wow it feels like everyone’s going with the first take.

Look, there are a lot of bad, bad songs on this list (64 of them to be exact), but this is probably the only one I genuinely feel like I need to take a shower after listening to. If you never got the Nickelback hate, listen to the first minute of this song. You’ll figure it out quicker than Chad Kroeger.

(4) My Humps by The Black Eyed Peas vs. (13) Don’t Bring Me Down by Electric Light Orchestra

I’ll be honest. It had been years since I listened to this song, and it is far worse than I remembered. This Black Eyed Peas number is so repetitive and unmusical that it’s not at all surprising it was a hit in the mid-2000s.

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It’s a bit annoying and dated, but nowhere near as much as “My Humps.” That’s right, the song from 2005 is more dated than the one from 1979.

(1) The Christmas Shoes by NewSong vs. (16) Honky Tonk Badonkadonk by Trace Adkins

The winner of the Worst Christmas Song Tournament makes its (triumphant?) return as the #1 overall seed. Everything about this song is awful: the saccharine keyboards, the over-sung vocals, the mixed morals, and the forced tearjerker moments. It’s far more than just the worst Christmas song of all time.

Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it endorses grandma slapping. Yes, it’s one of many butt-themed songs on this list. No, it’s not “Christmas Shoes” bad. An upset would really surprise me.

(8) Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus vs. (9) MMMBop by Hanson

I don’t know what’s worse—this song’s lyrics or that it sparked a line dancing craze across the country  South. Fun fact: The Oak Ridge Boys turned this down because “breaky” is, wait for it, NOT A WORD!

Speaking of “not a word,” does this have one discernible lyric? Where’s the “Louie Louie”-esque outrage? How was this a hit?

(3) PPAP (Pen Pineapple Apple Pen) by PIKOTARO vs. (14) Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious by The Kiddie

I’m not even sure this qualifies as a song. It feels more like a cruel video tutorial.

Well, you decided it was one of the worst Disney covers, but is it one of the worst songs of all time? The sound of it sure is something quite atrocious. It just never ends, and they don’t even sing the verses!

(5) All Star by Smash Mouth vs. (12) Panda by Desiigner

Every movie from 1998-2002 had to have this song in it. I’m not saying Rat Race was good, but putting this at the end was just a slap in the face to the audience… and even the people in the next theater who had ears. Steve Harwell’s voice is one of the most unpleasant sounds in this world.

“Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda.” What a chorus. It also uses the word “broads” suggesting our singer is a 1940s misogynist.

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The Lord of the Rings (1978)

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  • Year: 1978
  • Director: Ralph Bakshi
  • Starring: Christopher Guard, William Squire, John Hurt

Before I dive into the actual review of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, I want to briefly touch on the history. It’s long, and probably boring to most people, so I’ll try my best to do it in appealing terms.

Prologue

Long ago, in the Second Age of Film (The New Hollywood Era), the dark lord John Boorman desired to create the ultimate evil that would bring all Hollywood under his control— a single Lord of the Rings film. Boorman desired to use this film to cover the land in diaper-wearing mustachioed James Bonds just like his previous film Zardoz.

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Thousands of miles away in the Animation Ghetto lived Ralph Bakshi, an unassuming, artistic type who wanted to bring animation to the masses.

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One day, Bakshi heard rumors of the Dark Lord’s desire to adapt Lord of the Rings into one film, and decided to take a risk against the advice of whoever Gandalf is in this extended metaphor. He would take the adaptation from Boorman and use it for good.

When Boorman wasn’t looking, Bakshi snagged the adaptation from his hands, replacing it with a check for $3,000,000. He should have destroyed it at that moment, throwing it back in the fire of Mount Unadaptable with the likes of Tolstoy and David Foster Wallace, but he took it home instead. Try as he may, the power of the Dark Lord Boorman would live on.

Concerning Production

Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings is perhaps best known for its problems, as even the finished product isn’t entirely finished. Bakshi wanted three films, but the studio forced him into two. Bakshi wanted the film to be called The Lord of the Rings Part I, but the studio said no one would pay to see only half of a film.

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Yeah, too easy I know.

Instead, the studio advised Bakshi to lie and just call the thing The Lord of the Rings and assume people would just have to see the second film, either in spite of or because of their anger. However, the thing flopped and Bakshi was not allowed to make a sequel.

For the character animation, Bakshi used rotoscoping, which is essentially tracing over live action performers with animation. It’s clearly unfinished, making it very hit and miss, leading Bakshi himself to regret having used this method. As always however, I have to look at the finished product and judge it by those merits.

The Literal Shadow of the Past

Bakshi’s film begins, unsurprisingly, with a prologue briefly explaining the history of the ring. It works in the book that Gandalf would explain it all to Frodo later, but stopping the film for four minutes of exposition anywhere else wouldn’t work.

I just love the wry voice of the uncredited narrator here. He sounds a bit jaded by the history but also seems to have a what-will-be-will-be-attitude about the whole thing, almost laughing off the number of times the ring betrays people. The whole thing is shot in shadow with a blood-red background, and it’s, appropriately, a haunting start.

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There’s a bit of an odd change in that the narrator says the Sauron learned the craft of ring-making after the three, seven and nine had been issued, instead of playing a part in making those rings as well. I’m not sure if it’s a misread of the text or a change to simplify the backstory of the book, but it leads to the same ends at least.

A Shortcut to the Prancing Pony or How I Learned To Stop Worrying About These Knock-Off Chapter Titles

Since Bakshi only had one film to cover all of The Fellowship of the Ring and one tower of The Two Towers, it was obvious cuts had to be made. These cuts are felt the most in the opening scenes, taking only 15 minutes to go from Bilbo’s birthday party to the hobbits arriving at Bree.

However, the scenes that we do get are all important and feel complete… mostly. It is pretty awkward when Gandalf (William Squire) asks Frodo (Christopher Guard) if he sees any markings on the ring, throws the ring into the fireplace to reveal them, and then never shows Frodo the markings after all.

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It says “Where’s John Huston when you need him?”

I’m forgiving though, because it’s followed by a scene that looks like this…

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The rotoscoping leads to some inconsistent character designs, but these backgrounds are gorgeous. There’s a lot to cover, but that doesn’t stop Bakshi from building atmosphere and letting scenes breathe. Just look at this shot of Bree…

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Or this one presumably in The Shire…

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Each background is a beautiful and unique painting, never feeling the same as before but never being different just for the sake of it. We’ll get to whether the story and characters are adapted well, but the location is undoubtedly Tolkien’s Middle-earth, not someone’s somewhat similar version of what they read. It’s magical.

The early scenes consist of 1) Gandalf explaining the ring to Frodo 2) Frodo leaving with Sam and meeting up with Merry and Pippin and 3) The first encounter with a ring-wraith. We skip past the elves walking through The Shire, Farmer Maggot and Fatty Bolger, the Old Forest, the somewhat-infamous Tom Bombadil incident (there’s a whole piece coming on him, I promise), and the Barrow-downs. Still, as much as it hurts to lose some of these things, I prefer the focus on atmosphere and character rather than just showing every scene without any buildup or payoff.

When the hobbits get to Bree, they meet up with the best thing that isn’t a painted background… John Hurt’s Aragorn.

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Yeah I know, he looks Native American. Everyone points this out, so I will too.

Aragorn, like many Tolkien characters, has two sides two him— the rugged ranger and the dignified king, and John Hurt plays them both perfectly. He can be threatening if he needs to, but he’s clearly also a man of great wisdom and honor, who would rather talk things out than fight. This is the kind of guy you’d want to follow, even if you weren’t entirely sure who he was.

From a character point of view, Fellowship is the hardest part of the story to adapt, because the characters are always together. They all get lines here and there, but their characters don’t really begin to grow until they go their separate ways in The Two Towers and The Return of the King. That said, most of the fellowship feels in-line with their book counterparts. Merry and Pippin don’t get a lot of focus, but it’s clear that Merry (Simon Chandler) is the smart and dry-witted one while Pippin (Dominic Guard) is naive but good-hearted. They do seem a bit too childlike at times, Pippin especially, but they definitely grow as the film goes on.

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Merry also looks a bit like Ann from Arrested Development.

Legolas is likable enough, a lot of which comes by being voice by Anthony “C3PO” Daniels, and we get to see the blooming friendship between him and Gimli (David Buck).

Frodo is a tough character to pin down, as he loses more and more of himself to the ring as the story progresses, but Christopher Guard really does a great job voicing him. Especially the second time I watched this, Guard was really one of the standouts of the whole film. He’s kind and humble, but he’s not afraid to fight when he feels he has to, and he’s definitely not afraid to stand up to Gollum. It would have been heartbreaking to see him voice the Frodo scenes from the remaining story.

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The other three members of the fellowship have some issues with their characterization, but they all have good moments as well. Gandalf seems really inconsistent, in that sometimes I buy him as a kind old man and a powerful wizard, and other times he’s so over-the-top he feels like a Monty Python character. I think the animation is partially to blame, as he fidgets a lot, but I won’t give William Squire a complete pass. He really can’t decide whether he wants to roll his “R’s”, and it’s kind of hilarious. Is it Frodo or Frrrrrodo? Boromir (Michael Graham Cox) comes off as a bit more abrasive than his book counterpart, but he has his moments of humanity as well. Seriously though, what’s with the Viking helmet? Was the Gondor Traveling Opera Company just passing through Rivendell and he got randomly selected as a member of the Fellowship?

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Want to hear my Ringoletto?

Finally there’s Sam.

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Just look at that gorgeous background… seriously, we have to talk about Sam (Michael Scholes). While I applaud this film for not going the comic relief direction with other members of the Fellowship, Sam is portrayed as a simpleminded oaf who just feels like the load the whole time… until the Fellowship splits up. Sure, he’s annoying, but once he goes off with Frodo, he gets a lot better. Had the second film been made, I feel the general opinion of this Sam would be a lot more positive.

As for the rest of our heroes, most of them are there. The Rohan characters are pretty glossed over with the exception of Theoden. Eomer has maybe one line, and Eowyn is present but has none. In addition, Elrond and Bilbo make appearances but aren’t particularly memorable, but everyone is serviceable.

Ay My Name

Perhaps the most famous problem with this film, maybe even more than the rotoscoping and troubled production, is the pronunciation of a certain wizard’s name. At some points, he is called Saruman like in the book, and at other times he is called Aruman. The most commonly-held belief (I can’t find anything official) is that it was originally to be Aruman as the names Saruman and Sauron were thought to be too similar, but it was changed back near the end of production. However, I’ve also heard this story in the reverse order, so no one really seems sure. The point is the problem was not fixed in post.

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The red suit and beard may also remind you of Anta Claus.

First, if you’re going to change a character’s name, don’t just drop one letter. Saruman is a threatening name that sounds like Sauron, perhaps because he is a more man-like version of evil. Aruman just sounds silly and incomplete. The thing would be a bit more acceptable if they said one name for the first half of the movie and the other for the rest, but there are times where it switches in the same scene! The most egregious example is when Gandalf is trapped in the Tower of Orthanc and he curses his name thrice: “Aruman! Aruman! Saruman!” It is unacceptable to leave this kind of error in a movie. How hard is this to fix?

The villains on the whole in this thing are pretty downplayed. Aruman and Saruman really only have two scenes between them, and Fraser Kerr doesn’t really have the kind of voice that would overpower people like book-Saruman does. Now, I like that Sauron is downplayed, only appearing as a shadow and a presence that is felt. That’s how the character should be, honestly. We only get a little bit of Gollum, and he’s fine, but nothing special. Peter Woodthorpe is no Andy Serkis or even Brother Theodore, but he doesn’t ruin the scenes or anything. Grima Wormtongue is only in the movie briefly, but he just looks kind of like a stereotypical villain with his cape, beady eyes and mustache.

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Apparently adding an eye patch would have been too much.

The ring-wraiths and orcs are both monstrous, so I have less issue with the rotoscoping here. Especially with the ring-wraiths, it’s only appropriate that they look so unnatural and other-worldly.

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The fight scenes are the stuff of nightmares, and you will quickly get used to the fact that people are getting brutally stabbed in a cartoon. You really feel the pain the characters are experiencing. Frodo getting stabbed by the ring-wraiths is traumatic, and Boromir’s death pains us just as much.

The Necessity of Treebeard’s Anus

Ralph Bakshi has a very distinct style of animation, but it never gets out of control here. However, he does give us an entirely different look at Middle-earth than we’re used to. There is sort of a sameness between the Rankin-Bass and especially Peter Jackson films that has formed many fans’ views of what Middle-earth looks like. For example, I would never have expected Rivendell to look like this…

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Or Lothlorien to look like this…

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Or the Balrog to look like this…

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Okay, so the Balrog looks stupid, but ultimately I like that we get a different look at Middle-earth than we’re used to. One thing that Bakshi interpreted very differently visually than I would have is Treebeard.

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While it’s not necessarily what I was expecting, he still does look like a tree and John Westbrook’s voice is perfect for the long-winded and low-voiced character. There’s just one thing Bakshi couldn’t resist throwing in.

TREEA

WHY? Why do you need to give a tree human anatomy? Is this just to say you showed bare butt in your animated film? If you’re trying to push the envelope in the “Old Bearded Guy’s Butts” demographic, Gandalf specifically says he came back naked after fighting the Balrog, but we only see him clothed. What’s the point in this? It also contrasts that gorgeous background of Fangorn forest, which really deserves something better in the middle of it than tree-anus.

The Middle of the End

Since the film ends halfway through The Two Towers, the climactic scenes occur during Helm’s Deep, which is a logical place to stop all things considered. The battle scenes are harsh and gritty and really work, bad rotoscoping aside. The orc battle march is chilling, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting a song, but it makes the scene even better.

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We only see a little bit of the travels of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum, not even getting to Faramir. At least we get to see Sam grow as a character, and see the set-up for what would have been the second movie. Overall, we still end at a good place.

This is a tough one to grade for me. At times, it feels a lot like Tolkien’s work put right up on the screen, but there are so many issues with it. I like that there aren’t forced story arcs added, but I also wish there was more of what was in the book. The characters feel like compressed versions of themselves, no one really being too different from their book counterparts, but very rarely realizing their full potential either. Let’s see how it turns out.

Adaptation (38/50 Points)

It’s fast-moving and skips over a whole bunch of things, some of which are important, but the stuff it does keep is great. We often get lines right out of the novel, and the characters feel very similar to how they were written. If Bakshi had made three films, who knows?

Cast (14/25 Points)

John Hurt is the stand-out, cementing his place as the definitive Aragorn with John Huston as the definitive Gandalf and Martin Freeman as the definitive Bilbo. Christopher Guard does an impressive job with Frodo, and while everyone else feels like their book counterparts, no one really elevates the material either. No one is bad per say, but there are very few great performances.

Experience (18/25 Points)

The backgrounds are some of the most gorgeous animation ever put to film. Seriously. The character animation is rough and unpolished and really clashes with the backgrounds, though. The score is fine if not a tad generic, but the Tolkien-esque songs peppered throughout really work. Why couldn’t this have been completed?

FINAL SCORE: 70%

Epilogue

Try as he may to control the adaptation, Bakshi fell under the power of the Dark Lord Boorman and dropped it. It was picked up by a surprising owner, although the idea of a Tolkien adaptation was not foreign to Rankin/Bass. In an attempt to finish what Bakshi had started, they too would attempt an adaptation.

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A Bridge Between Two Hobbits: The Video Game

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Before we move onto The Lord of the Rings, I want to talk about one last Hobbit adaptation—the video game.

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NOT THAT ONE!

No, I’m referring to the 2003 adventure game from Sierra. I only bring it up because it came at a very interesting point in the history of Tolkien adaptations, near the end of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but years before his Hobbit trilogy.

The game draws a lot from the cartoon, especially in the voice of Bilbo (Michael Beattie), which is very similar to Orson Bean’s.

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Thorin (Clive Revill) is very close to his book counterpart, and Jim Ward does his best John Huston impression as Gandalf.

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Although he kind of looks like Tim Blake Nelson for some reason.

I’m not a video game player… at all… but I have played this game in the past. (It quickly turns into that montage in Groundhog Day where Phil keeps finding new ways to kill himself.) More than anything, I enjoy the visual style. It’s not just level after level of the exact-same designs and characters. There are all different kinds of mooks to kill off in each level from wolves…

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To these weird plant things that belong in Little Shop of Horrors

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How about these cool-looking cave creatures? I mean, they’re kind of unique.

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Of course there’s a giant armadillo… remember him from the book? Who knew Middle-earth was actually in Texas? Come on, did the set designer of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula work on this game?

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When you get to the Misty Mountains level, you get to fight… frogs? Sort of?

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And these Misty Mountain wolves that can breathe fire apparently…

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Sometimes the game just makes you play Whack-a-Mole with these reptilian things.

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But hey, the goblins look cool at least.

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It could just be a coincidence, but I do think some of the visuals in this game may have inspired Peter Jackson’s trilogy ever so slightly… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just worth pointing out. We didn’t really see much of the Goblin kingdom in the 1977 cartoon, but here’s what it looks like in the game.

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And here it is from An Unexpected Journey.

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Maybe there’s just a universal look mountain kingdoms tend to have, who knows? I suppose the same argument could be made for the Wood Elves’ kingdom, as it makes sense it would look very tree-like, but take a gander at the comparison.

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kingdom

The game takes some liberties story wise, while also adding some subplots in the form of quests Bilbo undertakes. (These often tend to be more interesting than the ones Peter Jackson introduced in his films.) There’s Balfor, a dwarf of the Iron Hills trapped in a goblin prison, Lianna a proto-Tauriel who you meet early on and see again in the Wood Elf kingdom, and most interestingly of all, a group of thieves in Lake-town who strike a deal with the goblins. Come on, Jackson, that could have filled your absurdly padded Desolation of Smaug instead of the testicle-chewing Master of Lake-town.

There is plenty of fighting, sure, but a good portion of the game relies on stealth, like sneaking past the trolls in an attempt to steal a wallet. Also, you once you get the ring, you have to use it many times over. A good portion of the Wood Elf level is sneaking past the elves so you can set up the famous barrel escape. Of course, you have to crawl around Smaug (James Horan) to keep him from waking up while in the treasure room.

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However, a good bit of the story takes place through cutscenes, which are nice but why couldn’t they work them into the game play? Couldn’t Gollum’s riddle contest have been part of the game? Surely there could have been some way to work in the showdown with the Wargs from the treetops. Worst of all, you skipped over Smaug’s death! How hard would it have been to make Bilbo go back to Lake-town and warn Bard? Maybe he could have even helped him kill the dragon.

The weirdest moment in the game happens during the Mirkwood level… which is actually quite enjoyable on the whole. You’re constantly fighting poisonous spiders, the visuals are both eerie and lush, and you ultimately have to cut the dwarves out of their spider traps, but in the middle of it, you have to fight this guy.

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Zat you, Skeletor?

Throughout the level, you’ve been fighting minions of the Necromancer, but here they actually have you fight and kill the Necromancer! Remember that thing where the Necromancer is SAURON, the villain of Lord of the Rings? Yeah, he gets bumped off by Bilbo in a forest. How dare this game call The Hobbit “The prelude to Lord of the Rings” when it kills off the main antagonist of that story?

Quick note: This appears to have been amended in some platforms or in a later edition, as the YouTube video I watched referred to him as “Wight Lord” instead of the Necromancer. It’s something, I guess.

Ultimately, this is an intriguing game if you’re a Tolkien fan. The music and visuals are quite nice, and the voice acting is pretty good all around. It’s hit-and-miss in regards to story, but it’s still a unique beast in the Tolkien universe. I like that a lot of it involves sneaking around, since Bilbo is a burglar after all. If it interests you, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Next week, we begin the Lord of the Rings portion of the series, with my review of Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings.

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