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Old 03-22-2013, 06:01 AM   #5
Zigūr
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
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I really don't think they knew what to do with Sauron in general. In the opening of Fellowship he shows up with zero explanation as some big horrible person who made a Ring. As I've said elsewhere, this is why in my opinion an adaptation of The Hobbit really needed to come first. When you have the mysterious "Necromancer" becoming the main villain in the sequel it really is a lot more dramatically effective. You probably couldn't sell that to Hollywood, but my point is that we never really hear anything about Sauron: not that he helped forge the Rings, nor that he was significantly responsible for the destruction of Nśmenor, two events which establish him as a deceiver and despicable villain, and both of which are in the source material (although Nśmenor is largely confined to the Appendices, but that didn't stop them elsewhere, with Aragorn and Arwen for instance - is there a risk of treading into The Silmarillion and other material for which they lack the rights regarding Nśmenor?). Anyway, I'm not saying that these events should have been dwelt upon, but they could at least have been given as elaboration at some point for the evil of Sauron.

Instead the filmmakers don't know what to do: first he's just a spooky costume apparently defeated because he stuck his fingers out at the wrong time. Then they turn him into a giant floating eyeball and give all the actual villainy to Saruman, upon whom swathes of time in the first and second films are unnecessarily spent. The fight with Aragorn is just another example of this. They don't even know their own interpretation of Sauron. Is he an eyeball who "cannot yet take physical form" (an example of both misinterpretation and very un-Tolkien-like vocabulary with "physical", incidentally)? Is he still a big armoured dark lord? Aragorn sees him this way in the palantķr in the Extended Edition, and so they film him coming out to fight before the Morannon after appearing as a seraphic vision. Now in "The Hobbit" he's a shadow in a corridor.

Professor Tolkien is impressively subtle in his depiction of Sauron, of course, and that makes certain demands upon readers which are more possible in literature than film. It turns out he was too subtle for the filmmakers, at least. They have the challenge and the opportunity to bring these elements out into the open, but it's too great a task for them and they retreat in the opposite direction, instead making him a cardboard cutout, leaving us with an empty suit of armour and a giant floating eyeball. The latter of these denies us even of the possibility of Sauron-the-absence, the faceless, often nameless foe who operates solely through armies and agents. Professor Tolkien gives us both takes on Sauron, of course, across the Second Age and the Third. The filmmakers give us neither, just hollow images, neither meaningfully present nor genuinely absent. They had the archetypal Fantasy villain in their hands and frankly I think they bungled it with particular incompetence.
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