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Old 10-25-2005, 09:26 PM   #1
alatar
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LotR1-FotR-Seq02

B-A-G E-N-D...that spells comfort.

The sequence starts with the use (again) of the Middle Earth map that allows us to see where we are. You also get a preview of where we know that we're all going, such as Bree. We're going to spend a little time in the Shire, but just look at what's over those mountains.

But first we get to see Bag End. The amount of detail is just incredible! - especially if you consider that much of the detail is superfluous to the story. Who really cares if there are five books or six piled around Bilbo's desk? The answer is that these details add to the feeling of the scene subconsciously. Your brain starts saying, "this is a real place, a real room and the real desk of a real person who likes to write." And it reminds me of many professors' offices...

Peter Jackson stated that he liked the Bag End set so much that he paid to have it stored away, and one day hopes to live in it (though the cynic in me realizes what a pretty penny it would bring at auction...). Hope that PJ realizes that Ian McKellan and Elijah Wood walked off with a few things on their last day of shooting on that set. Obviously nothing too important, or I think that they may not have told me of their crime in one of the DVD appendices.

So, like in the Books, we learn about hobbits. The Shire is a beautiful place, to me more so than what we will see later in Lothlorien. Is that because this place looks more real, or is it personal bias? It's an Edenic home where I could live, assuming that I was half my current height and my desire to wear boots 24/7/365 was purged from my being.

Note that I hate the 'hobbit cleaning his ear' scene. Sure, they're an earthy and simple people, but this is something I don't want to see. Next thing that you know, we'll be experiencing other bodily functions from members of other short races...but I do like Bilbo's laughing at the thought. Ian Holm plays the character well like an eccentric old uncle that you love to have visit - though he annoys the prim and proper half of the family.

And another gripe. Does my first viewing of Sam, the sidekick hero, have to be of him staring amazed at a potted flower? Sure, they're trying to establish him as a gardener, man of the soil, but wasn't there a better way to do it? Could we have seen him planting a sapling? I can just hear the scene director saying, "Okay, now, look lovingly at the flower." Yuck. Sam, you just planted a flower, which, as a gardener, I would have hoped that you've done more than once. You didn't place a garland of flowers on Rosie Cotton's head or a kiss on her lips for gosh sakes!

And still on the same wagon, though I like the clumsiness of the hobbits who are raising the pavilion, as this shows again that they're my kin, but what's with the hobbit who cannot hit the peg? Is he drunk, clumsy, poor-sighted or other? Please, these are hobbits, not stupid silly short people. Having watched the rest of the trilogy, one starts to wonder if PJ equates small with slapstick.

Gandalf in the cart is Gandalf, not an actor. I was immediately sold on the movie after seeing Gandalf here (though the grumbling would still continue, as you all know quite well ).

Now the line about 'there's always been a Baggins living in Bag End/under the hill, and there always will' is a bit confusing. Exactly who takes over after Frodo leaves? We know it's not Sam (though it should have been) and Frodo has no other heirs, so why add the line, especially when delivered with such melancholy by Bilbo? Does he think that he will leave Bag End and the Ring behind, as it is he that is the problem? Doesn’t he consider that by leaving the Ring to Frodo, that Frodo will be taking up the problem where Bilbo leaves it? And that Frodo, too, will find no peace in this paradise?

Bilbo's mania over misplacing the Ring demonstrates that such a prize has its costs. And we get to hear about the "incident with the dragon" and even get to see the map of Erebor. More great details for us fans.

The children, cheering on Gandalf, show us indirectly the character of the wizard. Some older hobbits don't like this disturber of their peace, but what can you say about someone adored by children? And you can see that that fondness is reciprocated. Though how these young children know who this Big Person is is a bit of a mystery, seeing that Bilbo is surprised to see him, as if they’d hadn’t seen each other in a good while.

And Gandalf remarks about Bilbo’s agelessness.

And now for an aside: Having recently attended my 20th (yes, 2-0) high school reunion, I was struck not by how some had changed but more so by one of my friends who hadn’t. We speak routinely electronically yet rarely have the time to meet, with families and all. Anyway, theories abound, and I’ve considered that she’s either been frozen in ice, has discovered either the elixir vitae or time travel, bears one of the Rings of Power or is a doppleganger. I was able to scratch her skin, and so we’ll see what the DNA tests show. Anyway, my point is that one does not consider that someone hasn’t aged a bit after not having seen them for a week or two - especially amongst men, as these two, though Hobbit and Maia, appear to be. Gandalf’s observation of Bilbo to me indicates that they haven’t seen each other for 5 -10 years at the very least, yet we have the children’s recognition of the Grey One. Munching on minutia? You betcha. But just something that I’ve noted.

And note about notes: I bought the FotR soundtrack, and just love the melody (not a musician, and so insert correct term here) that occurs right when Frodo leaves Gandalf's cart. This mini theme reoccurs - obviously to remind one of the Shire - and it really brings a peace with it each time it’s heard. Kudos to Howard Shore.

The pan of the Shire, leading up to Gandalf's arrival at Bag End, is what is missing in other big films. Though I'm not exactly sure what is real in the pan, I think that that's the point. You get the feeling that the Shire is a place in which you could go now and visit - it's not CG. What PJ really gets right is the scenery. New Zealand is Middle Earth.

The shot of Gandalf's back as Bilbo opens the door is NOT Gandalf. Not sure if it's a sequencing thing, but this Gandalf doesn't look the like one that was riding in the cart. It may be his hair, his cloak, the color of his hair, cloak, hat etc. Or maybe it's just me.

The sizing effects, special or otherwise, of Gandalf and Bilbo work really well. You never get the feeling that these two human actors are never in the same scene/shot/reality together. You just see two old friends getting reacquainted. Even watching at slo-mo it’s hard to see the trickery. As PJ states somewhere in the commentary, once he established that hobbits were small but real, the rest would be easy.

And don’t you just love the shot where Ian McKellen bangs his head against the doorway? Ouch! An accident, but played off well by a great actor. And its inclusion into the film was also a good idea. We learn visually that Gandalf is tall, Bag End is small and Gandalf is not a perfect angelic being.

Glad to hear the 'butter scraped over too much bread' quote where Bilbo becomes more serious; this movie is about more than just overly attached ear wax. The smoking-bonding of these two old friends not only adds more from the books, but is a great pause before the chaos of the party. Somewhere it was noted that party scenes are notoriously hard to film, but it seemed that these extras (some family members) and actors were really enjoying themselves. The dancing, fireworks, tales to small hobbits all add to the festive atmosphere. The wigs that all but one hobbit extra wears weren’t the best props though.

I could do without the introduction of Merry and Pippin; understanding that we need to see that they are fools at the beginning doesn't make me like them any more. The touching moment between Bilbo and Frodo, lightened by the "gaffer's own brew' was a way to soften a touching moment - or was it a "dumbing down" where we wouldn't want to go too long without some fluff? Peter Jackson seemingly oscillates between the serious and the not so serious. The tension increases, yet we get a moment now and then to catch our breath (and, I think, to make sure that no viewer is lost along the way).

And the Dragon! Clever way to show that Bilbo (and Frodo) are the odd Hobbits. Bilbo is the least concerned, as he should be, having faced the real deal those many years back. It's hints like these, along with the Lonely Mountain map and the reference by Gandalf that make me love this sequence - details that are placed in the story, seemingly, just for us. Bilbo looks a bit too manic/psycho/desperate/unsure when he finally decided to disappear, as he's just too happy about it when arriving back at Bag End. Paranoia is one thing, but schizophrenia too? I like it that Gandalf beats him there - it makes Gandalf appear a bit more mysterious, and not just some conjurer of cheap tricks.

Then we finally come to it. Bilbo becomes the addict that he fears himself being stretched into. Luckily Gandalf is there to talk him down. And when Gandalf asserts himself, seemingly done with only a change of lighting, it’s just right out of the book. You get the sense that Gandalf has a dangerous side, yet isn’t going to pull out a mace and start thwopping Bilbo on the head. We see the kindness in his eyes, his love for Bilbo and this helps Bilbo finally let go. Bilbo is back to his jolly self, marching and singing down the lane. Gandalf knows that they will meet again, adding to the puzzle.

The drop of the Ring, magnet and microphone enhanced, is ominous. It’s as if the Ring is staying put, waiting for someone to enter the door. But who will its next bearer be? That would be next week’s sequence.
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Old 10-26-2005, 06:21 AM   #2
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1420!

"And now for an aside: Having recently attended my 20th (yes, 2-0) high school reunion, I was struck not by how some had changed but more so by one of my friends who hadn’t. We speak routinely electronically yet rarely have the time to meet, with families and all. Anyway, theories abound, and I’ve considered that she’s either been frozen in ice, has discovered either the elixir vitae or time travel, bears one of the Rings of Power or is a doppleganger."
==============
Or perhaps she's got a picture of herself in her bedroom that ages.

As for the topic: I find quite interesting the difference in speaker, and context,
of (in the movie) Frodo/Gandalf, and (in the extended dvd) Bilbo, discussing
events in the outside world. In the movie, Gandalf effectively brushes off
Frod's queries while basically the same observation in the dvd makes more
sense.

I also puzzled over the (nonbook) Bilbo comment about a Baggins at Bagend.
You could argue that Sam and Rosie were effectively "adopted", and
in the book lived with Frodo there, but in the movie they seem to have their
own cottage.

The children asking for fireworks (a great bit) could be explained as them hearing tales of Gandalf (perhaps by Bilbo). And I thought that the approving hobbit and his disapproving wife might be (and I think should have been) Lobelia and her
rather hen-picked husband- the actual dvd ones seemed too much a
characature.

And it's amazing the cake scene worked so well when it actually caught on
fire during the filming.
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Old 10-26-2005, 08:02 AM   #3
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Quote:
I also puzzled over the (nonbook) Bilbo comment about a Baggins at Bagend.
I think it's there to add to the melancholy at the End. There IS no Baggins to take it over, Frodo did not have an Heir (as Bilbo no doubt thought he would......)

PS Gandalf DID NOT let off fireworks before the Party. BLASPHEMY!!!!
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Old 10-26-2005, 08:26 AM   #4
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I'd like to make some comments on Ian Holm who I think plays the part of Bilbo perfectly. I didn't like Ian too much in the '91 Hamlet (with Mel Gibson), I don't think he makes a very good Shakespearan actor...rushes through the lines. But, I loved him as Bilbo.

The part that sticks out the most is when he says "It's mine, I found it! It came to me! It's mine, my own, my PRECIOUS!" He sounds exactly like Gollum and I love this part, I think Ian nails it down.

What I like is we see that something is troubling Bilbo (certainly it's the Ring). He wants to get out of the Shire, and comments like he needs a long holiday, and he feels stretched like butter scraped over too much bread, are powerful lines and we see that something's just not right with Bilbo. The Extended Edition gives us even more clues with Frodo's comments like "He stays locked up all day," or their exchange at the party when Bilbo avoids the Sackville-Bagginses.

Then another quick thing is when Bilbo gives up the Ring. I think Jackson does this quite well. Isn't there something in the book where Gandalf explains that he had to use a lot of his strength to get Bilbo to give up the Ring? I know he does when Frodo puts the Ring on at Amon Hen, but I think there's also mention of him "intervening" when Bilbo gives up the Ring. Anyway, I think Jackson shows this well.

Bilbo sits there staring at the Ring, Gandalf kind of comes from the corner. Then Bilbo lets it go, and there's a loud thud on the floor. It makes it seem as if Gandalf is intervening and telepathically telling Bilbo to give up the Ring. Then once Bilbo leaves we get a sigh of relief from him, and he seems a lot more "light-hearted..." "I thought up of an ending for my book..."

Another small think I'd like to point out, several times Jackson uses Chapters from the book as lines in the movie. We hear one basically right off the bat when Gandalf arrives "A long expected Party." And shortly after Bilbo leaves there's "Riddles in the Dark" which I think is a chapter in The Hobbit...right? Anyway, I just thought that was neat.
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Old 10-26-2005, 08:56 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuor of Gondolin
And I thought that the approving hobbit and his disapproving wife might be (and I think should have been) Lobelia and her rather hen-picked husband.
I believe that they credited as Everard and Mrs Proudfoot, both of whom are named in the cast list (see IMDb). As I recall, the husband is the same Hobbit who proudly declares "Proudfeet!" at Bilbo's party and who appears again in RotK, grimacing at the returning Hobbits.
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Old 10-26-2005, 09:40 AM   #6
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PS Gandalf DID NOT let off fireworks before the Party. BLASPHEMY!!!!
That never seemed to really bother me, though I've heard numerous times from other fans that it destroyed their viewing of the Shire and blah blah. I thought it was quite cute, plus the face that Gandalf makes after setting of the fireworks is priceless. The kids in this scene are adorable too; it was very much the Shire for me.

Alright so going down the list of shots:

The bits with the map and Bilbo narrarating over them were good. I know it was a point of discussion amongst the crew of the movie who they should have narrarate the prologue and Bilbo's name came up. I'm glad they found a use for his narraration in the end.

During his whole monologue, various scenes of hobbits being hobbity are shown, on the whole I think these were ok, though there is a shot where two hobbits are about to kiss and one takes a cupcake from a passer-by. The girl hobbit seems extremely tall and it's always bugged me. Do you think that she's as tall as the rest of the hobbits and the male hobbit is just particularly short or that she's a giant among hobbits and is taller than all of them? I can't figure it out.

PJ discussed how important it was to him that they get the digital grading right in the Shire, so that it didn't look too sci-fi and fake or that it looked to brown and dead. I'm certainly glad that they didn't mess this up either, because I would have been disappointed. There is only one shot where it looks too bright, and that's the one where Gandalf's cart passes in front of a field of yellow flowers and there is rolling green hills in the background. The greens and the yellows in this shot were overly done I think, but perhaps this just stems from having watched the movies too many times.

The whole "You're late!" scene was superb and generally I dislike Elijah Woods performance of Frodo, but I find this scene tolerable, if only for Mckellen's amazing job as Gandalf in this scene. Also, Mckellen humming "The Road Goes Ever On and On" in the background, while Frodo reads a book in a field, sold me on the fact that PJ and crew were trying to make the movie closely resemble Tolkien's original work. I was hesitant, to say the least, to see these movies when they first came out, because I simply wasn't sure if they could match up to Tolkien, but this scene clinched it (at least if "it" stands for exceeded my expectations, but never quite got so far as to be JRRT).

Mckellen's interaction with Frodo in the cart when they talk about Bilbo and such, was very well done.

Quote:
The shot of Gandalf's back as Bilbo opens the door is NOT Gandalf. Not sure if it's a sequencing thing, but this Gandalf doesn't look the like one that was riding in the cart. It may be his hair, his cloak, the color of his hair, cloak, hat etc. Or maybe it's just me.
Perhaps it's that Bilbo's hair in this scene looks exactly like my Memére's.

The party, with the music and the dancing was good. But, I have this to ask you, what is up with Frodo's dancing? It's certainly...unique and quite humourous. One can only hope that that is not how Tolkien envisioned Frodo's dancing. I really liked Merry, Pippin and the firework and I agree with Alatar about the portrayal of these scenes.

Has anyone else noticed that Thomas Robins, who plays Deagol in RotK makes a cameo as one of the hobbits watching Bilbo make his speech? Perhaps they are two people that look ridiculously similar and it's not him.

Upon re-watching this/these scene(s), my love of Ian Holm and Ian Mckellen is heightened. They are just terrific actors and absolutely perfect for the roles in which they were cast.

All in all, I love these scenes. These are the ones I watch when I have a limited amount of time and would like nothing better than sit there and drink tea, hence the lack of criticisms.
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Old 10-26-2005, 10:40 AM   #7
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One of the first things I noticed is that, whereas, most scenes in most movies start with an establishing shot, usually exterior, this scene moves directly from the map (used to establish the location) to the interior of Bag End, directly into the cluttered Study of Bilbo as he begins writing his book. It's the words of that book that take us out into the Shire and the world of the Hobbits. And what a world it is. Green, green and more green. I believe I read or heard somewhere (possibly the director's comments, I'm not sure) that the set pieces for Hobbiton were constructed a year early so the flowers and crops coud be planted and have time to grow. I could be mistaken, but it certainly looks like it's been there a long time, an established community, not just a movie set.

One brief scene, added from the theatrical version, is of Bilbo fumbling around his study to find the ring. I believe it was Ian Holm, or possibly Peter Jackson, who was concerned that showing this scene so early on would establish Bilbo as a bit of a psycho, and show him in a negative light. I'm glad it was added for the extended edition, though. It carries over the obsessive words of Gollum, "My own, my love, my precious!" from the earlier scene in his cave, showing the ring as more than an ordinary band of gold. I wonder if it's clear to people who haven't read the book first that it's the ring that Bilbo is looking for? Probably, but I'd like to hear from those who saw the movie first, or rather the extended edition.

Another important addition from the theatrical version is the scene at the party when Bilbo and Frodo hide from the Sackville-Bagginses. It should have been in the theatrical version as it's the only scene one-on-one between Bilbo and Frodo before Rivendell. The only other scene with both of them is Bilbo's speech at the Birthday Party. This is a rather significant relationship to slight in such a way. I understand why it was done (that old mathom, pacing) but I would think P. J. could have fit in something between just the two of them, somewhere, before Bilbo left.

I'll add more later, as there's more I want to talk about, but time is currently an issue.
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Old 10-26-2005, 11:08 AM   #8
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One of the primary aspects, to my mind, of Tolkien's opening chapters in LotR is the establishment of the Shire as a comfortable, homely place, one that is worth saving, albeit one which is not without its faults. I also feel that he seeks to establish Hobbits in general (and the main characters in particular) as characters that we the readers can identify with, so that we can feel more involved in subsequent events, as portrayed from their perspective. Certainly, there is much in the Shire that readers can identify with, and this would have been even more true of English readers at the time Tolkien was writing - place-names, familiar landscapes, pubs, mail service etc. (See the Chapter-by-Chapter discussion of the early chapters for more detail.)

How well do you think that Jackson manages to achieve the same effect, if at all? Clearly, the Shire is portrayed as an idyllic place, although again not utterly perfect. But it seems to me to be a place that many in today's audiences will find difficult to identify with. Perhaps it is sufficient that it is presented as a desirable place to live. What do people think?

Also, do we get the feeling here that the Hobbits are to be the central characters in this tale? Are they the ones that we feel that we, as viewers, will be able to identify with the most? Are they the humble "everymen" of Tolkien's book travelling out of a safe, homely place into an unknown faery/heroic world where they will meet danger and find themselves ennobled by it? Or simply just some of the main characters that we will meet in the film. I get the sense that, since Aragorn, Faramir and some of the other principal characters are less "idealised" in the film than they are in the book, that Jackson was not so concerned to establish the Hobbits as the viewers' main point of reference.

Of the principal Hobbits in the film, I suppose that it is Sam who most closely takes on the role of providing "viewer perspective", but I wonder if that is because he is probably the film character who most closely resembles his book counterpart. In the book, Merry and Pippin, less the comedy characters of the film, take on part of this role too and the reader is therefore able more closely to identify with their development as characters. Do you think that their "slapstick" portrayal here (as alatar astutely puts it) contributes to or detracts from the more serious roles that they take on later in the film trilogy?
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Old 10-26-2005, 12:46 PM   #9
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Have I just been corrupted by watching the French and Saunders skit or does anyone else just think "Tellytubby land" during the beginning of this sequence? Maybe they wer trying too hard or maybe they wanted it to seem "story book" English countryside. Yes the Shire is a pleasant land but it seemed excessively idyllic, as if designed by Marie-Antoinette. Perhaps it was made extreme to greaten the contrast with the outside world.

I thought the opening exchange was a trifle forced but then I find Ian McKellen a bit mannered generally. He never quite disappears into the role as much as one might wish.

Ian Holm on the other hand - well he just is a hobbit.... he was just about flawless as Frodo in the radio version and he looks right as well.

I think the itself was done well and I think Merry and Pippin are introduced well. Although it is an "invention", it sets their characters well and especially the relationship between them.
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Old 10-26-2005, 01:36 PM   #10
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I generally love this sequence - I think the Shire looks very good and when I was reading the books, it was hard to not see the Shire as PJ depicted it in the movies. The Hobbit children especially were very adorable. Though Narrator Bilbo insults Hobbits along the way, he does it with a certain fondness I really enjoy. I do love Bilbo in this scene and Ian McKellen (as has been pointed out before) makes a remarkably good Gandalf.

What I did not like was how the relationship between Bilbo and Frodo was portrayed. Though they express their regard for each other more than once, the fact that Frodo was not in on the plan seems strange to me, less like they're together in their strange behavior. Though this does make Bilbo come across as an even more eccentric character, I think it does little credit to Frodo. I'm not sure how to explain.

Sam was Sam and Merry and Pippin were - though different - still very recognizable.

By the way, just to point out the effect of the prologue, the moment when Gandalf bumped his head, my mother (who is not familiar with the story) was already so tense she gasped and flew up about a mile in the air. So that moment still amuses me greatly, besides the fact that it makes Gandalf look like a very approachable wizard. The moment with his thundering voice later on only seems the more impressive because of it.

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Have I just been corrupted by watching the French and Saunders skit or does anyone else just think "Tellytubby land" during the beginning of this sequence?
I had the same feeling first time I saw the movie.
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Old 10-26-2005, 01:53 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Cailín
Sam was Sam and Merry and Pippin were - though different - still very recognizable.
In what way? Do you mean that the characters were recognizable through their actions (i.e. Frodo would act thus, the movie character acts a certain way, and so it must be Frodo) or by their visage (i.e. Frodo looks like Frodo as the Book-Frodo is to have such and such garb, hair, face, stature, etc). To me there was little difference between Merry and Pippin at this point in the movie; surely I knew who was who, but initially we just see two fools.

Funny anecdote regarding your mother.
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Old 10-26-2005, 02:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by alatar
In what way? Do you mean that the characters were recognizable through their actions (i.e. Frodo would act thus, the movie character acts a certain way, and so it must be Frodo) or by their visage (i.e. Frodo looks like Frodo as the Book-Frodo is to have such and such garb, hair, face, stature, etc). To me there was little difference between Merry and Pippin at this point in the movie; surely I knew who was who, but initially we just see two fools.
I was merely talking about Merry and Pippin, not Frodo. Actually, Frodo wasn't at all how I pictured him to be, though there are some moments where I do like him. But that's not for now.

What struck me is that though Merry is the more intelligent one in the books - at least, he seemed quite sophisticated to me as opposed to Pippin - there is not much difference between them. But as a pair, they seemed recognizable to me in such a way that, although their job is not merely making mischief in the books, they are established as carefree hobbits who are perhaps a little more adventurous the regular hobbits. For me, the most important feature of Merry and Pippin at the start of the story was just that, their adventurous side together with their relative ignorance. And I think the movies did capture that. That made them recognizable to me, though their function throughout the first movie is quite different than in the books.
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Old 10-26-2005, 04:17 PM   #13
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Here's another little picture comparison that I found interesting. We have Bilbo's "story-writing study" in Bag End, and Frodo's, which of course is the same room.



Right away we see Bilbo's "study" is more cluttered, with papers everywhere, maps, the room's just a mess. But, also the room looks a lot brighter, the sun's shining through, it's bright and radiant.

Frodo's room this is of course him finishing the Red Book in ROTK, it's a lot darker, there's a glimmer of light, but even Frodo's clothes are more, sort of somber looking. Also, it isn't as messy as Bilbo's.

I notice this and there's a lot to compare between these two pictures. First, the clutterness of Bilbo's room, and the relative emptiness of Frodo's. Does this go to show that Frodo sort of cleaned up Bilbo's mess? He cleaned up both literally (the room- Bilbo's notes, and the Red Book) and symbolically (the ring) what Bilbo left behind?

Also, Frodo's much darker room. It's kind of sad to look at, how dark the whole setting is. Does this display Frodo can't find hapiness in Middle-earth? In the Shire? Where Bilbo's room is more "exuberant."
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Old 10-26-2005, 04:33 PM   #14
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Never mind the prologue, this was the important bit for me. If they had got The Shire and the Hobbits wrong, I'd have been out of that cinema. I've always very much pictured The Shire as Tolkien's own art portrays it, and this portrayal was a little different. I often think how messy the gardens look, and as a keen gardener like a Gamgee, I know that they would probably be a lot tidier. But strangely, I was very taken with this view of The Shire indeed. In fact I watch it with no small measure of nostalgia.

Those messy gardens are like the gardens I knew when I was a child, haphazard and slightly wild, their owners being too busy farming to be fussy about the flowers. The characters all seem to make me think of some mad character I knew when growing up, including the chap with the ear wax problem. Mr Proudfoot makes me smile because he's like my father but with more hair, secretly enjoying the fireworks but feeling he has to appear disapproving. I like the group of Hobbits sat round doing some hardcore smoking, and I love the Hobbit who cracks up with laughter when he draws himself a pint off from the barrels - he's having fun!

Ian Holm is splendid as Bilbo. Interestingly, he's an actor who can 'do evil' very well, as anyone who has seen From Hell will know. He also interacts very well with Ian McKellen; I'm sure they will have worked together before in the theatre. I have to say here, imagine if they had chosen Sean Connery as Gandalf? Noooo! But to see both of them together as soon as possible after the start of the film was important to me, not just as it matched the book, but because it just seems right that Hobbits and Wizards are seen together, they go together like cheese and apple pie.

Interesting point on the design - I was watching a travel documentary about New Zealand on one of Sky's 500 channels of tripe and they showed the farm where The Shire was filmed. That big tree is still there, in fact it was a major selling point in choosing that location. The son of the farmer said in typically breezy antipodean style that they had actually been thinking of chopping it down before they chose the location!

The detail again is one of the things which grabs me. I liked how the hillsides had lychets marked into them, the remains of old terraced fields; you see these all over the place in Yorkshire, so it gave it an authentic touch. I also like Bag End, and I laugh when I se the books all over the place. That's like my house.
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Old 10-26-2005, 06:21 PM   #15
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He also interacts very well with Ian McKellen; I'm sure they will have worked together before in the theatre.
Actually, I believe one of them said in the commentaries that they were aware of each other's work, but had never had the opportunity to work together before "Lord of the Rings."
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Old 10-26-2005, 07:40 PM   #16
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The only big gripe that I have with this beginning scene is Frodo's age, and it's not really that "big." But, I just find it odd that Bilbo is 111, and his cousin (I know Frodo calls Bilbo "uncle" but I don't think he's Frodo's Uncle right? I think they're cousins) and Frodo looks like he's 20. (Which Elijah was). Which kind of gets me (don't know about anyone else) to scratch my head.

Other than that, the acting in this scene is great, as has been mentioned several times.
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Old 10-26-2005, 07:56 PM   #17
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The only big gripe that I have with this beginning scene is Frodo's age, and it's not really that "big." But, I just find it odd that Bilbo is 111, and his cousin (I know Frodo calls Bilbo "uncle" but I don't think he's Frodo's Uncle right? I think they're cousins) and Frodo looks like he's 20. (Which Elijah was). Which kind of gets me (don't know about anyone else) to scratch my head.
Wasn't Frodo 33? And also thought that he was a more 'elvish' kind of hobbit, meaning that he was a bit more fair etc. And in the movie I can't remember Frodo ever puffing away, and at least initially he seems to be a lad at ease - you may have to look hard to find some calluses on those hands - and so he may appear young for his age.
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Old 10-26-2005, 08:00 PM   #18
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Wasn't Frodo 33? And also thought that he was a more 'elvish' kind of hobbit, meaning that he was a bit more fair etc. And in the movie I can't remember Frodo ever puffing away, and at least initially he seems to be a lad at ease - you may have to look hard to find some calluses on those hands - and so he may appear young for his age.
Oh yeah, during Bilbo's party he was 33, I was thinking he was 50, but this isn't til he leaves of course.
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Old 10-26-2005, 10:33 PM   #19
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I love this sequence since it is really the calm before the storm.
I don't mind the earwax thing. I know it is silly but after this sequence it gets so serious that a little bt of silliness really doesn't do any harm.
I really like the quote, "there has always been a Baggins at Bag end..." The part that says that there always will be doesn't bother me because how could Bilbo know that his ring would cause so much trouble.
At first I didn't like the way Merry and Pippin were introduced, didn't Gandalf light all the fireworks? But after seeing the movie several times I got used to it. One of the things I immediatly noticed as well was that Merry's intelligence was brought down a bit in these scenes. Luckily he does slowly get up to his book counterpart later in the movie.
Well its late so I'll write more later.
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Old 10-27-2005, 02:08 AM   #20
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Actually, I believe one of them said in the commentaries that they were aware of each other's work, but had never had the opportunity to work together before "Lord of the Rings."
Yes! I caught that late last night - decided to watch the cast commentary track before getting into bed. It's actually quite unusual for two British actors of that calibre not to have worked together for that long so I was surprised.

Another reason that Ian Holm was excellent as Bilbo is that he captured that nervousness which I see as part of Bilbo's personality. At the beginning of The Hobbit, he is one of those 'terribly polite Englishmen', not exactly a stereotype, but a familiar kind of figure. He does not wish to offend the dwarves by refusing them his cakes but he gives his treats away all the same, not wishing to appear rude. Bilbo still has this quality, with a bit more confidence, at the begining of LotR and I found Ian Holm captured this really well.

Did anyone else think there may be something significant in the fact that while Bilbo blew a smoke ring, Gandalf blew a smoke ship and sailed it through the ring?
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Old 10-27-2005, 05:53 AM   #21
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Did anyone else think there may be something significant in the fact that while Bilbo blew a smoke ring, Gandalf blew a smoke ship and sailed it through the ring?
Don't have my books, and so must rely on others, but wasn't that straight from the text? If so, and I think that it is, then this is another gem added by PJ for us. Think about it. Assume that you've never read the books. What does it matter then what shape Gandalf blows smoke into?

What will become apparent as the trilogy progresses is that these gems become more rare. Is that because PJ felt that he had to get this movie right, for both fans and non-fans, in order to acquire more capital that would buy him a freer hand in the following movies?
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Old 10-27-2005, 06:00 AM   #22
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The only big gripe that I have with this beginning scene is Frodo's age, and it's not really that "big." But, I just find it odd that Bilbo is 111, and his cousin (I know Frodo calls Bilbo "uncle" but I don't think he's Frodo's Uncle right? I think they're cousins) and Frodo looks like he's 20. (Which Elijah was). Which kind of gets me (don't know about anyone else) to scratch my head.
Well they aren't first cousins - save at two removes and second cousins once removed the other way.

In my family (and I am sure this isn't unique) we were taught to address various elderly cousins ( such as the first cousins of my grandparents) as Auntie and Uncle out of deference. Although Merry and Pippin use it sometimes in the books, I don't think cousin is widely used as a term of address. I am fairly sure that Frodo refers to Bilbo as uncle in the books.
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Old 10-27-2005, 06:38 AM   #23
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What will become apparent as the trilogy progresses is that these gems become more rare. Is that because PJ felt that he had to get this movie right, for both fans and non-fans, in order to acquire more capital that would buy him a freer hand in the following movies?
I am not sure that I fully agree, given that the detail is pretty consistent all the way through. But I see what you are getting at. I wonder if it's because, when adapting a novel to film, the beginning and ending pretty much have to follow the original plot (because both stories, although different, are coming from and going to the same place), whereas the adapter has more of a free hand with the detail of what occurs in between.

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... does anyone else just think "Tellytubby land" during the beginning of this sequence? Maybe they wer trying too hard or maybe they wanted it to seem "story book" English countryside. Yes the Shire is a pleasant land but it seemed excessively idyllic ...
Yes. That's one of the points that I was trying to get at in my earlier post. Did Jackson perhaps feel the need to "over-idealise" the Shire in order to make it a desirable place for modern audiences? Tolkien presents us with something of an idealised place, but one which is nevertheless practical and feels "real". I agree that Jackson's Shire feels rather less real, and more like a fairytale setting. In some ways, Jackson's Hobbits travel from a fairytale world into a more real world (where the Men are less idealised and more "human"), whereas Tolkien's Hobbits travel from a real world, via Faerie (the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs), into an epic, heroic world.
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Old 10-27-2005, 07:52 AM   #24
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I agree, and also would have preferred a lower key approach. However, New Line were well aware that audiences outside Tolkienites would be for the most part watching for pure escapism; in this light, over stylised settings are almost a must. Funnily enough I didn't mind Rivendell though, despite it being perhaps the most OTT on display. Perhaps this is because Tolkien drew it in such a misty-eyed fashion?
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Old 10-27-2005, 10:43 AM   #25
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I know one non-Tolkinite who slept until Weathertop......

I too didn't mind RIvendell - which is meant to be "perfect" - and found Lorien a little disappointing... never really saw a mallorn . Maybe it is because Lorien and Rivendell in my mind, but live in th English countryside?
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Old 10-27-2005, 11:38 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Did anyone else think there may be something significant in the fact that while Bilbo blew a smoke ring, Gandalf blew a smoke ship and sailed it through the ring?


Don't have my books, and so must rely on others, but wasn't that straight from the text? I
=================

Wasn't that from the beginning of The Hobbit, before they left Bagend?
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Old 10-27-2005, 02:35 PM   #27
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Yes. It is in TH, I think. Thorin blows smoke rings that change colors, and Gandalfs send other smoke rings after it and also a ship later in the same chapter. I think.

I think that the smoke 'ship' shows comaraderie (sp?) between Bilbo and Gandalf and also adds the wizard aspect of Gandalf.

And I'm almost 80% certain that Frodo is Bilbo's nephew. Drogo Baggins, who was Frodo's father was bilbo's brother, I think. I know that Frodo was Drogo's son and that both Frodo's parents died in a boating accident in the Brandywine. Everyone probably knows that...

And why is that Sam is so shy about Rosy, and then so brashly courageous in eavesdropping later? Or honest in telling what he heard.

The Rivendell and Lorien scenes did seem to digress from book reality. Why is there a crossroad right in front of the gates? You wouldn't turn south until you cross the river again...

And the Extended Lorien scene really makes me feel the height of the mallorn trees and the part on Cerin Amroth brings to mind the love scene in the Appendices between Aragorn and Arwen.

Just some thoughts...
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Old 10-27-2005, 04:54 PM   #28
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I think the scenery was one of the movies strongest points, I was overall pleased with it (along with the acting and the score). I thought Minas Tirith and Rivendell were done beautifully, I liked Rohan and Edoras. The Shire, I pictured as just exactly as shown, rolling mounds and little hobbit homes. (Sinnce I'm not a gardner, I wouldn't notice things such as messy gardens.)

I also liked them keeping in Gandalf bumping his head on the wall. This actually wasn't planned, it was all done by Mckellan who accidently knocked his head, and they decided to keep it in. I think it adds to the lighter side in the beginning of the movie, which I think the beginning should be (up until the whole Ring is sort of discovered).

I imagined Bilbo and Gandalf long time friends kind of a light-heart, somewhat "laughable" beginning, with this underlying problem of the ring, and Mckellan bumping his head (though unintentionally) kind of fits.
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Old 10-27-2005, 09:54 PM   #29
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These scenes are done pretty well. I don't mind the gentle poking fun at the Shire-hobbits; after all, in movies like these, you'll take humor pretty much wherever you can get it.

Howard Shore's "Concerning Hobbits" is absolutely beautiful and really captures the essence of the Shire. One of my favorite score tracks.

Ian and Ian simply are Gandalf and Bilbo. They are the bright spot in what is (in my mind) an otherwise subpar first half of the movie. (To me, the movie doesn't really begin to get good till the Company leaves Rivendell.) They play off of each other so well, and, well, like I said, they simply are Gandalf and Bilbo. I think all of the casting for the films was brilliantly done, but these are two of THE best.
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Old 10-28-2005, 04:03 AM   #30
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And why is that Sam is so shy about Rosy, and then so brashly courageous in eavesdropping later? Or honest in telling what he heard.
Well, risking being a little off-topic, I think that confessing your feelings to someone is about the hardest and scariest thing to do. Honestly, sometimes I feel I'd rather fight a whole army of Orcs than tell someone how I really feel about them.
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Old 10-28-2005, 06:08 AM   #31
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This sequence also features the most appropriate appearance of the Jackson moppets.

I think they did this sequence quite well considering that the book is slow and so twee at this point with Gandalf still beig in "well bless my beard" mode. But for me the film like the book doesn't really get going til Bree.

Since Sam has been mentioned, the film's interpretaion of Sam until the mordor scenes is one of my main dislikes of the whole project. I feel that most of the characters are lessened but Sam suffers perhaps most.
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Old 10-28-2005, 09:29 AM   #32
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I'm a little late to the party on this one -- the internet crack known as Werewolf is time- and mind-consuming -- so this may be a little scattershot:

alatar, that note about Gandalf and the "haven't aged a day" line and the kids -- now that's some close watching. I like to think I'm pretty detail-oriented, but that's one that never occurred to me. I think you might even be able to write it off a bit -- at 111, even a few years ought to make a difference. It's like Gandalf keeps waiting for Bilbo to "hit the wall", but he never does.
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But it seems to me to be a place that many in today's audiences will find difficult to identify with.
Hunh. I don't understand you on this one, Sauce. Pesky relatives, good friends, eating, drinking, smoking, dancing, a little bit of honest work -- I think Jackson does a fine job of establishing the Shire as an idyllic and relatively easily identifiable place. I think a lot of people have a "quiet country life" fantasy that is more or less perfectly embodied here. I've never bought into the thesis that English readers have a stronger identification with the Shire than any other readers anyway.

I can find little to fault in this sequence, especially as pertains Gandalf and Bilbo. I couldn't disagree more -- with all due respect -- with Mithalwen's comments about McKellan. I bought into his Gandalf instantly, and I love his performance throughout this sequence -- his gentle good humor, his sincere affection for the hobbits and especially for Bilbo, and most of all his growing disquiet about Bilbo's ring, which is all played in reaction shots to various foreboding signs and hints in dialogue. If only such a deft and subtle performance could have been had from Woods later in the trilogy. I've always thought that if the trilogy deserved an acting Oscar, it should have gone to McKellan for his performance in FotR, which has all the best Gandalf scenes for my money. I wonder if Gandalf ever regretted having to come back just because "Fly, you fools!" are such perfect last words. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The scenes between McKellan and Holme are pitch-perfect for the most part. The effects, both practical and computer-generated, are extremely successful, and though you can spot flaws now that you know the secrets of the magic trick, I don't think I ever questioned the visual reality of Bilbo as hobbit-sized and Gandalf as one of the Big People.

There are several points in the sequence that never fail to give me chills ("In fact I mean not to.") or raise a little mist ("All your long years, we've been friends. Trust me now, as you once did."). Holme does a good job swinging back and forth between comical eccentricity and Ring-obsession. Somebody mentioned they didn't like Holme's Polonius in Hamlet, but I thought he was very good because he has a talent for handling those transitions between comedy and drama. I love the scene in Bag End in which Bilbo finally gives up the Ring because it's so close to the book.

Jackson previews the sensibility that will put his personal stamp on the adaptations with several broad slapstick touches -- the much-mentioned ear-wax, and the introduction of Merry and Pippin, among others. What can I say? I like slapstick as much as anybody, but I wish Jackson's instinct for it had been more restrained for the trilogy.

One thing that doesn't grate too strongly here, but that I think I didn't love as the trilogy progressed, is the subtle shift in dynamics achieved by having such a youthful Frodo matched up with an older Sam. I'm not even sure offhand what the age difference is supposed to be in the books, but when I read them I get a much stronger sense of Frodo as the oldest of the four hobbits, whereas here he comes across clearly to me as the youngest -- and throughout the films I think an older brothers/baby brother type dynamic develops between the actors, if not the characters, slightly altering their relationships.

Out of all the characters, Astin's Samwise is the farthest from my own mental picture. I don't recollect the true details of book Sam offhand, but my Sam has very dark hair, maybe receding a bit, is probably the slimmest rather than the fattest of the hobbits, and I think has a mustache -- don't ask me why. I don't like how Astin plays him more simpleton than just simple in these early scenes, though his performance grows on me later.

Bag End is a fantastic piece of art design. All that clutter -- it's just how Bag End should look.

Overall, I think the sequence does a good job of establishing the Shire and the feeling of hobbit society and has many nice touches for Tolkien fans. But I can see why more casual moviegoers might get a little restless -- this scene is mostly just more exposition, and after the prologue the audience already knows how deadly dangerous the Ring is and has to wait for the characters to catch up.
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Old 10-28-2005, 09:53 AM   #33
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Hunh. I don't understand you on this one, Sauce. Pesky relatives, good friends, eating, drinking, smoking, dancing, a little bit of honest work -- I think Jackson does a fine job of establishing the Shire as an idyllic and relatively easily identifiable place.
Idyllic, yes. Identifiable to most audiences? I would say not. Indeed, I would say "aspirational", rather than "identifiable". As you say, it may appeal to people's "quiet country life" fantasy, but it is not a place which I think that modern audiences will find easy to identify with as a "grounding" point, even those living in rural areas.

You see, I believe that Tolkien intended his readers to identify with his Hobbit characters most closely out of all his characters, and so he portrayed their land and culture in a way which would be recognisable to readers at the time that he was writing. But times have moved on and I would have thought that only a tiny minority of people today would recognise this idyllic Shire as being anything like their own home environment. I was therefore wondering whether audiences are able to identify as much with the Hobbit characters in the film in the same way as Tolkien intended in the book, or indeed whether Jackson intended them to. His human characters are much less idealised than Tolkien's in most case, so perhaps they (Aragorn, Faramir, Eowyn etc) were intended by Jackson to provide the reference point for his viewers.

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I've never bought into the thesis that English readers have a stronger identification with the Shire than any other readers anyway.
I wasn't suggesting that they necessarily will have. My point is that Tolkien's description of the Shire is based on his experience of rural England in the first half of the 20th century and was intended to be a place familiar to English readers of that period (his anticipated readership). While such rural areas at that time were by no means as idyllic as the Shire, my sense is that the Shire, as depicted in both book and film, is much more akin to them than it is to rural areas of today, wherever located.
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Old 10-28-2005, 10:04 AM   #34
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Somebody mentioned they didn't like Holme's Polonius in Hamlet, but I thought he was very good because he has a talent for handling those transitions between comedy and drama. I love the scene in Bag End in which Bilbo finally gives up the Ring because it's so close to the book.~Mr. Underhill
It wasn't so much Holm's acting in Hamlet, because I think Holm is a terriffic actor and I love him as Bilbo. But, when watching that movie, I think he rushed through the lines and I had trouble understanding half of them.

One other thing I noticed is a reoccuring theme with "fate and the ring." What I mean is, there's this reoccuring theme that everyone is tied to the Ring (not just the obvious ones like Sauron, Gollum, Frodo, and Arwen-for some reason?), but everyone. Everyone involved is tied to the Ring, and at the end of this sequence, when Bilbo leaves I think we see it again.

After he lets go of the Ring (and I agree with Underhill this scene between Gandalf and Bilbo was flawless), he says "I thought of an ending for my book. And he shall live happily ever after until the end of his days." I think it's no coincidence that when he lets go of the ring, he's able to think of an ending for his book. His part to play in the Ring's tale is over, and his book, his life is over. He can now go and relax in Rivendell and rest their peacefully.
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Old 10-28-2005, 10:52 AM   #35
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Hmm, interesting theories, Sauce, though I disagree on most of your points.

Unless I'm badly mistaken, Tolkien's Shire wasn't much like the average world of the average Englander in the 1930's-50's, at least setting-wise. Anyway, I don't think audiences are really intended to identify with setting as such, but with characters -- their emotions, wants, desires, problems. For instance, in the sequence, Bilbo contemplates leaving his home, friends, and family behind. That's easy to identify with. In Star Wars, Luke lives on an alien desert planet and deals with robots and Jawas and such -- but I don't think we have any trouble identifying with him or his desire to bust out of his limited life and have some adventure.

I do agree, however, about Jackson's take on Men and his elevation of what he saw as a theme there -- so much so that I think a weird shift starts to happen somewhere in TTT and Aragorn becomes foregrounded as a character who is at least as important as Frodo through the rest of the trilogy. Maybe later on down the line we will get into whether or not this was a good and/or justified choice.

Boro, thanks for clearing that up. I haven't seen the movie in a while, so I can't speak to it directly, except to say that a lot of lesser Shakespearean actors get into this mannered Shakespearean delivery, which to me always has a sort of subtext that they're uncomfortable with the language. I liked Holme because his delivery was very natural, and also I think that the character of Polonius is a long-winded motormouth -- for example, his praise of brevity in his humorously long-winded speech in II.2 -- and so a sort of chatty delivery is a justifiable interpretation. Like I said I haven't seen it in a while, but he made me laugh at the time and I thought it was a memorable performance.
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Old 10-28-2005, 01:09 PM   #36
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Maybe it's just me, then.

But I do find myself identifying with the Hobbits in the book much more than I was able to in the film. Perhaps that's down to the perspective. The book story is told largely from the PoV of the Hobbits, as if they are relating it to us, whereas we are more like detached onlookers in the film. Yes, I can identify with what happens to the characters (just as I can identify with what happens to Luke in Star Wars). But I don't feel that it's like something that a friend is telling me, and which could happen to me, as I do with the book.

As for the Shire, well it is not really how I imagined it in the book. In my mind, the Shire is a lot more like the English countryside and less like Tellytubby-land (as Mithalwen put it ). The Shire of the book is much more a "real" place to me than the Shire in the film. That's not to say that I don't like its film depiction. It works well on film. It's just not the "real" Shire to me.
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Old 10-28-2005, 01:17 PM   #37
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An interesting point about perspective. It occurs to me that the real point-of-view character for this sequence is... Gandalf! He's in every scene, and we identify with the "off" things he hears and reacts to about Bilbo and his Ring, because he knows, or at least suspects, what we know -- that Bilbo's ring is the Ring.

It's interesting how slippery Jackson's grip on POV is this early in the film: Galadriel narrates the prologue, Bilbo tells us about the Shire, Gandalf's POV dominates most of the rest of the scenes up to this point, though we also have a few Frodo-POV scenes to warn us that he will be an important character.

And I get your point about the look of the Shire. My own Shire isn't quite so bustling with activity, nor so sun-drenched.
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Old 10-28-2005, 01:24 PM   #38
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It's interesting how slippery Jackson's grip on POV is this early in the film ...
But isn't it the case that most films don't really have a PoV? Yes, there are those which have narration from the main character and are filmed almost entirely from his or her perspective. But they are in the minority. Most films, particularly action films, simply treat the viewers as onlookers. Jackson could have chosen to tell the tale from the perspective of one or a few characters. But that would have been a different film and not necessarily a better one. I don't think that the lack of PoV per se harms the film in any serious way. Although it may give rise to other issues which would be interesting to explore as the discussion continues.
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Old 10-28-2005, 01:31 PM   #39
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I don't know -- I think even a successful ensemble film has to pay close attention to POV within its various storylines. And your typical action movie doesn't have nearly so many important characters to handle. But leave that alone for now. I think it's interesting simply on the basis that the book is deliberately written from a very limited, hobbit point-of-view. I'm not arguing yet that Jackson's more omniscient point-of-view is necessarily good or bad -- just making an observation that we're a bit all over the map POV-wise so far, and wondering how this affects movie watchers who are fans of the books. Is this the reason, or one of the reasons, why you don't identify so closely with the hobbit characters?

EDIT: That's sort of a rhetorical question that you need not answer.

EDIT 2: Guess I hit "reply" before I'd really thought this one through. I'd also like to point out that I'm not saying that a limited point-of-view is better or worse than an omniscient point-of-view, just pointing out that it's an important choice, and different choices produce different effects in the audience. Hence, a skilled filmmaker will deliberately employ a POV, or shift POVs, to produce desired effects on the audience, whereas a sloppy shifting of POV may produce unintended effects. I can't say whether I'd argue one way or another in Jackson's case yet, just, again, making an observation. How does Jackson's use of POV here affect the storyline?

Erm, rhetorical question again...
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Old 10-28-2005, 02:23 PM   #40
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I must say that I'm very surprised that persons do not find PJ's presentation of the Shire to be the spot-on perfect paradise that I do - and you know how much I complement PJ! One note, though I have a black thumb when it comes to plants, it would seem to me that the smaller gardens should be a bit more orderly and less looking like they were dropped amongst patches of weeds/grasses. And that one hobbit looked as it that were the first in which he/she used a hoe.

And I've never considered that it was an urban vs burb versus rural thing - green grass is green grass.

And regarding the POV: is the reason that we may be jaded to PJ's mixed narration/POV is that the books give us more time to get into one POV whereas the movie, by necessity perhaps, flits around a bit. Just think if the movie were limited to one perspective, and it was one that didn't hook you? You'd be sitting in the theater wondering why everyone else was mezmerized while you had the time to look around at their faces.
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