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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Can someone explain to me this need for every character to be lordly and proper all the time?
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Nov 8 2012, 7:09am

Post #1 of 61 (2215 views)
Can someone explain to me this need for every character to be lordly and proper all the time? Can't Post

Ever since the LOTR films were in theatres, I've seen this trend of fans complaining about changes to character, which essentially are attempts at giving the characters more of a "journey" or making them more flawed so that they have somewhere to develop over the course of the films. Faramir is the obvious example, of course. This trend has continued with responses to what we've seen of the Hobbit. However, anytime there's a change, I see responses like this:

"Legolas wouldn't jump on a horse like that and show off - he's a valiant elf!"
"Gimli would never joke like that - he's a brave dwarf!"
"But Denethor was much more of a respectable leader in the books!"
"Faramir would never give into the temptation of the Ring like that!"
"Sam would never leave Frodo's side! He'd stick with him the whole way!"
"Aragorn would never lose his temper like that!"
"Frodo wasn't that whiny in the book!"
"Theoden shouldn't be so reluctant and doubtful!"

Now, let me be clear here...I'm not saying that Gimli should be burping and farting all the time, but these ideas crop up that reduce the cinematic portrayals of these characters to JUST the changes. Gimli is used as comic relief for sure, but there are plenty of varied emotions associated with his character. In Moria we see his despair, at the Council of Elrond we see his anger, at the Black Gates we see his compassion growing for Legolas, and so on.... Why then is it such an issue that he's used for comedy moments? And why is such a sin for Faramir to be temped by the Ring, when he ends up ultimately rejecting it anyway? There seems to be a pattern of fans wanting Tolkien characters to embody these perfect archetypal identities who represent some noble aspect 100% of the time. If this were an allegory I'd say that's a perfectly valid thing to want, but considering Middle-Earth is supposed to feel like a real place in terms of culture and landscape, it doesn't make sense to me to have these perfectly morally-optimistic people within it. Stories are entirely about change and conflict, so surely it's more entertaining and satisfying to watch characters struggle through bad decisions and mistakes and then work them out? Furthermore, real people laugh and joke - they don't merely sit around and speak about serious wartime decisions. I just don't see how any of these characters without some sort of development are in any way interesting.


Nov 8 2012, 7:14am

Post #2 of 61 (1069 views)
This might be moved over to the board for the trilogy, as it seems to be more relevant to those films [In reply to] Can't Post



Nov 8 2012, 7:50am

Post #3 of 61 (1084 views)
Completely Agree on this! [In reply to] Can't Post

Most of Gimli's humor is part of his character. There were a couple bad choices.

And Legolas being awesome shouldn't make fans angry. Never understood this.... apparently sliding down something can ONLY be associated with skateboarding.

The Grey Pilgrim, they once called me. Three hundred lives of men I walked this earth, and now I have no time...


Nov 8 2012, 8:11am

Post #4 of 61 (1116 views)
Film Gimli is nothing like his book self [In reply to] Can't Post

I can live with a bit of humour. But they should have got the rest of his character right.

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Nov 8 2012, 8:27am

Post #5 of 61 (1057 views)
If you prefer [In reply to] Can't Post

a good dwarf tossing at Helms Deep instead of Gimli's war cry Barak Khazad, Khazad ai menu then thats your right.

As is Aragorn chopping the head off an emissary during parley in a cowardly sneak attack instead of making him quail by sheer force of will.

Your question sort of answers itself. The characters you note are noble. Legolas a prince, the men all having the blood of Numenor running true or near true within them.

Bill Ferny is a dirt bag and he doesn't act noble.

I can see how some people are happy with the changes, I'm just not one of them.

The story line retained much of the book, hardly any characters tesembled what they were in the books, it was a poor adaptation in this respect

(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Nov 8 2012, 8:32am)


Nov 8 2012, 8:58am

Post #6 of 61 (1095 views)
Aragorn is the perfect example of a character who had no need [In reply to] Can't Post

of a journey of self discovery/enlightenment/improvemnet/change during the course of the story, and his was probably the greatest in the movies. He is 87 years old, in the book he has been preparing for his ascension as the High King of Gondor & Arnor nearly all of his life. This was only going to happen by addressing the growing threat of Sauron, the means were never clear but it was his doom to do so. So why should he significantly change in the months that the main body of the story represents? In the book he makes mistakes by his own estimation, although others may not call them such.

What is better, his meek greeting to Eomer in the movies, or his noble declaration and bold statement of intent in the book. The former just makes me think that the upcoming shot where Guthwine falls out of Eomers scabbard is more entertaining, and the latter sends goosebumps down my spine every time.

Growth and the place of the everyman (and woman) in these great events is meant to be represented according to Tolkien by the hobbits, in particular Frodo, and it is a painful irony that in the movies it is his character that changes the least, if at all.

People are bound to trot out the line that characters like Aragorn are more interseting if they expereince growth, personal conflict etc etc, I find this to be so far from the truth, and I find it to be a formulaic movie making cliche. This does not mean that I cannot see how others do not enjoy it or think any less or their right to enjoy it.


Nov 8 2012, 9:00am

Post #7 of 61 (1025 views)
Then again... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Mouth of Sauron was hardly a respectable "emissary", and should not be treated as such.
Aragorn made some strange choices in the book as well, like banishing Beregond from Minas Tirith for life for saving Pippin. I wonder if he would have done the same if any of his closer friends saved Pippin/defied Denethor?

The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.


Nov 8 2012, 9:19am

Post #8 of 61 (1058 views)
Aragorn is a better man than the Mouth [In reply to] Can't Post

The book is an intentional example of the conflict between two men likely of similar heritage, one good, one bad, and the power one attains over the other by sheer force of will, with no physicality required.

Your comments about Beregond entirely overlook the context of the situation. You know he sent him to Ithilien with Faramir who's life he saved full knowing he could be forfeiting his own to do so.

As king there was no one more duty bound to uphold the laws of the land, he did so with wisdom, grace and mercy and Beregond recognised this in the decision of Elessar Telcontar.

(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Nov 8 2012, 9:20am)


Nov 8 2012, 1:21pm

Post #9 of 61 (944 views)
Good point about Beregond. [In reply to] Can't Post

He did, after all, kill two of his own people, and it wouldn't do for Aragorn to just overlook that. Aragorn's decision to banish Beregond was both a punishment for his crimes, a recognisition of the loss of the two slain, and a mercy granted for saving Faramir, as his punishment would have been much more severe otherwise.

(This post was edited by Macfeast on Nov 8 2012, 1:22pm)


Nov 8 2012, 2:34pm

Post #10 of 61 (936 views)
Gimli isnt too bad in FOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

In the TTT and ROTK he is used almost entirely for lowest common denominator humour. For me it reduces the character to something less than what i found in the book.

If they wanted to give him more or a journey through the movie that could be done in others ways than burping and farting and generally acting like a cretin. I felt they just couldnt be bothered with his character or felt the movie needed more comic relief when they werent with merry or pippin so it came to gimli to provide that.

For people who found it funny then thats great as its something to like about the movie. For those who didnt like him in the movie then its something thats annoying.

Its not they have to act lordly - i dont have to burp and fart to show i am not coming across as lordly and 'proper' as its not just either or, there is a whole spectrum. Oh well, its happened now and hopefully they wont make the same mistakes in the hobbit.


Nov 8 2012, 3:22pm

Post #11 of 61 (877 views)
Well put imin [In reply to] Can't Post

Couldn't have said it better myself. Gimli is a vital member of the Fellowship. You wouldn't think that from the films.

I'm not holding out for TH though. The clip of Nori burping one after another worries me.Unsure

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Nov 8 2012, 5:28pm

Post #12 of 61 (848 views)
as regards Gimli [In reply to] Can't Post

who is probably my favourite character in the book, I suppose in the film makers defence they did have to show, in a very small amount of time, the character differences between the races. So we got ethereal distant Elves, doubtful men, and one salty earthy Dwarf. Its not very subtle, but for the general non Tolkien savvy movie goer, it was probably there spelled out for them.


Nov 8 2012, 6:03pm

Post #13 of 61 (846 views)
This is something that gets at me too [In reply to] Can't Post

It has nothing to do with being "proper" though. It's that "All good guys must be nice to each other, because if they are slightly antagonistic then they are evil". Some people hated the idea that Boromir had redemptive qualities because he was just supposed to be a bad nut. Others disliked Gollum being shown as anything but a sneak. Elrond's antagonism rather than his cheeriness brought to the forefront is actually not a huge character change, but it still angered some. Of course there's also Faramir's changes, which I can understand frustration with on some levels, but some dismiss the completely valid motivation as well. And Frodo as well, which really ties into Gollum more than it does Frodo, which is a really interesting exploration of the character but people hate it because he's mean to Sam. Why is it that they must agree on everything?

Characters who oppose the Fellowship are also corrupted in some form. Theoden is held by Grima's sway, but then is revived and never questions the heroes again. Denethor is a bad one because he is held by the palantir, not because he just, y'know, has different opinions on how to run his city. The Army of the Dead are betrayers who must be forced by a promise to help. The rest of the characters are just monstrous because it's in their nature, which I'm okay with, but if we have no "grey" in the good side then it actually is the most black and white story you can imagine. A few remarks from Gandalf to Pippin does not make it a multi-layered story. Conflicting ideas and opinions creates real drama, as well as really playing properly on the character dynamics at hand rather than them just saying "Yep" or nothing at all.

The story would be so straightforward (if massive) were there no fights about anything which wasn't just petty business (the dwarf/elf conflict is so insubstantial and never affects what Gimli or Legolas does or says). Going to Helm's Deep is a decision. Assembling the armies of men is a decision. Are we not allowed to see some internal strife, rather than being passed along from one location to the next? I personally think Jackson & Co. picked up on some key opportunities to expand the story and did so in ways which are exciting and fulfilling the potential which existed. Perhaps if he ignored these dynamics, he would have gotten the whole tale into the films, but it would have lacked character.


Nov 8 2012, 7:56pm

Post #14 of 61 (838 views)
It's not a formulaic cliche - it's what storytelling/character is entirely about [In reply to] Can't Post

One of the main reasons of narrative storytelling is to present a significant point in the life of a person or a society, and that almost ALWAYS represents an important change. Why? Because it offers the opportunity for a wider range of emotions, for conflict, and for the opportunity to take the audience on a journey that ultimately succeeds or fails. There's no rule that a character needs to overcome all his or her flaws by the end of the story, but he or she most certainly needs to experience a change of some kind in order to be compelling. Whether it's Gollum in LOTR or Snape in the Harry Potter universe, the morally conflicted characters always captivate audiences the most.

Nobody wants to watch a film about the Titanic that ends the day before the ship hits the iceberg. The entire reason the Quest of Erebor is compelling is that the Dwarves have something to reclaim - they're in a fallen state and want to retrieve a lost glory. It shouldn't always be a case of reversals (someone bad becomes good, something lost becomes found, etc.), but there's no reason for this fan-based concept that says inserting roadblocks for characters on their way to becoming "noble" is ruining the essence of who those characters are. It's just another classic case of hating change because it's not what we're used to. The whole notion of the infallible hero is what gave birth to the terms "Mary Sue" and "Gary Stu" in the literary world (characters who always do the right thing to the audience's point of annoyance). In real life they would be admirable and morally respectable, but in the world of storytelling they're just not interesting to read/watch.

I don't think it helps in any way to think of a fictional story as an authentic shard of reality. There needs to be an intellectual gap in the way we view storytelling and the way we see the real world because storytelling is a reflection upon the experience of reality - not a direct representation of it. Very few people ponder the meaning of death when a loved one actually dies, for example, but a story about death offers that opportunity through a variety of techniques. In some cases stories may give the illusion of reality, but ultimately there's a reason we're not watching Aragorn go to the bathroom behind a tree. We want to see the most interesting parts of his life, not where he's merely dragged along by other people's actions. It might not be entirely like life, but this ISN'T real life - and it's not supposed to be.


Nov 8 2012, 8:09pm

Post #15 of 61 (786 views)
Amen [In reply to] Can't Post


I personally think Jackson & Co. picked up on some key opportunities to expand the story and did so in ways which are exciting and fulfilling the potential which existed. Perhaps if he ignored these dynamics, he would have gotten the whole tale into the films, but it would have lacked character.

Exactly. That's actually what I think purists forget when they watch the films. Is it not better to base an adaptation around key emotional beats and important decisions/conflicts with real heart and depth than it is to have everything included? Too often book-to-film adaptations become a case in which fans go the theatre with a personal checklist of "Things From the Book." A film is supposed to be an experience of emotion, not an I-Spy game.

Tol Eressea

Nov 8 2012, 9:54pm

Post #16 of 61 (764 views)
why not create something original then? [In reply to] Can't Post

Exactly. That's actually what I think purists forget when they watch the films. Is it not better to base an adaptation around key emotional beats and important decisions/conflicts with real heart and depth than it is to have everything included? Too often book-to-film adaptations become a case in which fans go the theatre with a personal checklist of "Things From the Book." A film is supposed to be an experience of emotion, not an I-Spy game.

If this is the case Why take a book dissect it and change characters and events of something that is loved by many people. IMO anyways having a bit of reverence for the source material and just making minor tweaks to it would be a better adaptation instead of outright changes. If the story they are adapting isn't the story they want to tell maybe they should think about writing an original script instead of taking someones life's work, hacking it up, to create a tale that while similar does not have the same feel and tone of the source material. When I see a film based on a book i expect to see the elements of that book on the screen not as an I-spy but as the way the story unfolds in the book that I love. The situations that I cared about when reading the tale. Not some made up nonsense that while might be entertaining to the general movie going audience its not what was in the source material and is just fan fiction forced into a story where it really has no place. Whats the use in changing things just for the sake of changing them if you aren't getting the tone, feel, and character correct in what you are supposedly adapting? If you feel the need to change what was written because it wasn't good enough to work on film, write something original have a bit of respect for the author who wrote the book, and leave it alone. Instead of worrying about lining your pocket on something based on a great literary work of art. I wouldn't say I am a purist but someone who thinks minor tweaking is good or small variations are ok but total changes from character and tone should never be done when you are calling something an adaptation, Based on is a whole different issue but they weren't claiming LOTR was "based on" JRR Tolkien's book they were portraying it as a faithful adaptation
. Which was close but it could have been closer and still been entertaining and successful

LOTR was a great set of films flawed in many places. When Peter Jackson stuck to what Tolkien wrote they were fantastic films but when he made up his own content for the sake of being entertaining or humorous they fell way short IMO of the rest of the films. Had he stuck to the books with minor tweaking I think they would have been much better adaptations and been just as successful.

(This post was edited by sinister71 on Nov 8 2012, 10:01pm)


Nov 8 2012, 11:13pm

Post #17 of 61 (813 views)
What people tend to forget about LotR [In reply to] Can't Post

Is that the emotional beats are very subdued, and are definitely not anywhere near as often as they should be. There's a really heavy emotional turmoil at the end where Frodo sails off, in Aragorn's nearly unseen romance with Arwen, and in Gandalf's mere presence that are demonstrated acutely but these are certainly not the only points characters would have experienced a high conflict. Frodo and Sam's journey to Mordor is more about worrying about food than about each other (or even about Gollum), and only a few times do they ever talk about their homesickness. The straightforward tale of their journey would never interest audiences, because for so long it's a straight shoot without danger (in between Dead Marshes and Shelob).

Take Gandalf's death for example. Absolute literal interpretation, they move on in about five seconds, then Gimli takes them to see a lake. That is such a ridiculous notion of "pride" and "honor" that it completely kills the importance of the moment. Beyond the physical perils in their way, the heroes rarely stop and reflect on themselves throughout the journey. I don't think Aragorn ever does, whereas Gimli at least thinks about his home once or twice. There is such a hard line drawn in the term "friendship" as if it can never evolve or prosper, but is merely existent because Tolkien just wanted the Fellowship to act together. When you get such varying people together who have just barely met before though, you're bound to have difficulties. I like how Frodo still does not fully trust Strider after Rivendell because "honor" and "blood" should not mean that much to him in comparison to the ranger's shady ways. When he finally defends Frodo's decision at Amon Hen though, you see that their relationship has grown.

There are gaps to be filled in these stories which present necessary opportunities for the audience to live more with the character than taking them for the sum of their parts (good/evil, dwarf/man, gruff/good-mannered) and you can only bring that out if you see how they relate with others, even if it's not the way just presented in the original text. Who's to say Gollum would never have pulled a trick to separate Frodo and Sam if he saw Sam as a threat? Why is it that Faramir can just whisk away the ring like Tom flipping Bombadil? How can Theoden trust a new adviser in Gandalf after being so scourged by Wormtongue? These are questions the film-makers asked and decided to explore in their own fashion. I don't think that discovering new things about the book and it's themes is "unfaithful" and we should certainly be more open to the idea of seeing Tolkien in a light other than when he wrote it.


Nov 8 2012, 11:29pm

Post #18 of 61 (752 views)
will and self-mastery and maybe ... [In reply to] Can't Post

a bit of that supposed "English trait of dissolving self into duty" that I have heard something about ...

There are some that would call some aspects of the "individualized and permissively expressive Americanish tendencies" as "simply childish" ... or at least I have heard something like this.

All of this is coming from a person who is trying to understand the works of an author who comes from a culture that is removed by both space and time from my own ... but I am aware that my attempts to "see past my own blinders and filters" are likely to yield something a little bit distorted somehow ... but I'm trying to see it, anway!

But at any rate, not all deaths are met with immediate emotional reactions - especially not amongst people who are highly trained / conditioned / experienced / in immediate danger themselves. Sometimes there is the ability to control emotion and sublimate it in art forms or hold it in until a moment when it is more safe to deal with it (they had to press on after Gandalf's death to avoid being killed, themselves).

I don't buy into this heavy drama thing - especially not as a mandate or even as a norm, really. It might work on film, though ... or in other dramatic artforms.


Nov 8 2012, 11:56pm

Post #19 of 61 (910 views)
Of course it is formulaic cliche [In reply to] Can't Post

why should every character in every story ever told have to go through a "journey" in the course of the story. If this is the case then it becomes exactly what I say-a formula for how characters are meant to be represented.

Please address the examples of Aragorn and Frodo that I give if you could, one changed little in the course of the book and one changed a great deal, yet in the movie this was flipped around and the everyman (Frodo) who we are supposed to relate to the most changed little if at all.

Not all who object to some of the changes in the movie are purists, I certainly am not, it is just a blanket statement made by some who want to pigeonhole others who do not sing PJ's praises for all he does. Nor do I for one object in any way shape or form to others enjoying the changes, some of which I consider necessary or without detriment to the film story. Personally there are very few changes I would say I actually object to too such a degree that I hate them.

If PJ had to change so many of the characters to such a great extent why didn't he come up with his own entirely new story and see how well that did.

(This post was edited by ElendilTheShort on Nov 9 2012, 12:04am)


Nov 9 2012, 4:49pm

Post #20 of 61 (682 views)
All or nothing at all [In reply to] Can't Post

Some people seem to think that you have to hate the movies in order to love the books.

I can pick nits with the best of the purists, and I can find fault with the characterizations like the rest--here are a few you missed:

"Merry and Pippin were not just clueless accidents! PJ gutted the Conspiracy and all their backstory!"
"Arwen would never even have started for the Havens."
"Elrond was kind as summer, not a grumpy old man! And he was fond of Aragorn!"

And yet. There are a lot of movie moments that do bother me lifted straight from the screen--but I do understand the need to simplify things onscreen for those who never read the books. For those of us who DID we can use our knowledge to fill in the parts PJ missed, or to interpret them in a slightly different way that brings the characters closer to our own interpretations. For example, I HATE the whole Gollum/Sam/Lembas scene, finding it rather lame. And yet, while I agree that book-Frodo would never send Sam away at all, I don't see movie-Frodo as sending Sam off because he believed Gollum, but rather because he feared for Sam and for how he would react to Sam as the Ring increased its influence on him. I dislike immensely the way the hobbits cross the Brandywine in one scene and end up in Bree in the next--but I can imagine what happens in between. Also, I have to differ with those who see movie-Frodo as "weak"; certainly he was more conflicted than book-Frodo, and the Ring began its hold on him more quickly, but he kept going. There was nothing weak about him when he began that last crawl up Mount Doom.

And I can interpret Aragorn's supposed doubts in the movies not as doubt of his right to be King, but as the very proper and virtuous humility of someone who knows his duty but is not seeking after power. Likewise I can interpret some of Gimli's and Pippin's sillier moments as deliberate attempts to lighten the mood and cheer the Company. (For example: in the movies, Merry and Pippin must have known exactly where they were going after the Council--they'd been eavesdropping just like Sam; Pippin's question must have been a deliberate choice to make a joke. And in the EE, when Gimli falls off the horse in the "stew scene" I think he was telling the absolute truth when he said "that was deliberate". He made Eowyn smile. )

Most of the really poor characterization changes were due to PJ's insistence on magnifying the Ring's power beyond what it was even in the books. So within the movie-verse they make a certain amount of sense.

I have a harder time with things that did not even make sense in the context of the movie: Gandalf telling Frodo and Sam he'd meet them in Bree when he's heading off to Isengard is one; failing to account for Elrond's actions after showing up in Dunharrow is another.

Yet these things do not take away from the great achievement of PJ's version of LotR. There are flaws in every movie ever made, and even more in most movies made from books. He did a brilliant job overall, and I expect that with the things he learned from the making of it, his version of TH will be even better.

But just like the LotR movies, it will still be fanfic.

Nothing wrong with that, so long as you can remember the difference between fanon and canon.


Nov 9 2012, 4:56pm

Post #21 of 61 (651 views)
I don't think [In reply to] Can't Post

that falling off the horse was deliberate. I do however think Gimli decided to joke about it.

"It was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it and go before it." ~FotR


Nov 9 2012, 5:02pm

Post #22 of 61 (732 views)
"I meant to do that." [In reply to] Can't Post


For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man, for precisely the same reasons. -- Douglas Adams

(This post was edited by acheron on Nov 9 2012, 5:03pm)
Attachments: meanttodothat_6855.jpg (39.9 KB)


Nov 9 2012, 10:02pm

Post #23 of 61 (635 views)
Calvin & Hobbes? [In reply to] Can't Post

My favorite Cartoon of all Time!
Thang you very Buch!

Tol Eressea

Nov 9 2012, 10:03pm

Post #24 of 61 (693 views)
Fanon I like that... LOL [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks for the new term Smile


Nov 10 2012, 1:06am

Post #25 of 61 (654 views)
Not every character has to, but it's important that the main characters do [In reply to] Can't Post

Otherwise, WHY are they the main characters? An author has a reason they choose a certain character's perspective.

Almost every docudrama movie out there is the story of someone who had to overcome a difficulty to achieve something. The Helen Keller story, every sports team movie ever made, every civil rights drama... Those stories resonate with us and are made into films because they're about change. Things have to develop or else we're watching a lot of passivity - people moving around and doing things but none of it means anything. If a character isn't developing, their actions are just empty plot - very mechanical.

When it comes to Frodo, I disagree that he didn't change in the films. I thought that was the whole point of the scenes in the Shire at the end of ROTK. At the beginning of the trilogy he's a happy, carefree individual who craves adventure, but instead of being fulfilled by that desire he becomes a saddened, broken figure who can never again live comfortably in the environment he once loved. Those words are never spoken, but they're implied visually.

By the way, I should add about Faramir's changes that they were as much (if not more) about the portrayal of the Ring than they were about the character himself.

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