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Old 06-11-2012, 06:39 AM   #1
Boromir88
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Movie Characters Revisited: Gandalf

We will kick off with Gandalf, who isn't the main protagonist of the films, but he's been part of perhaps one of the most expansive discussions of the Movies forum. (see: Gandalf vs. The Witch-King)

A few things about Gandalf really stood out to me that I sort of just noticed, or if I did notice before I didn't give any added though to.

I'm not sure how to explain it, but as much as I think Ian McKellan is a very good Gandalf (an excellent Magneto though ), there was something missing in his performance. Something more than some of the character changes like his mauling on Denethor or fight with the Witch-King. I don't know who else could have been casted for the role, and I'm not even sure I would want someone else other than Sir Ian, but something is lacking in his performance as Gandalf.

I think he is rather an ideal Gandalf the Grey. He is the scolding, temperamental "grandpa" when Hobbits are acting stupid: "Confounded old Samwise Gamgee! Have you been eavesdropping!" And the famous "Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time!" Yet, friendly, and the comforting mentor when he has to be (think of his convo with Frodo in the Mines of Moria, or when we first meet driving a wagon on the way to Bilbo's). Gandalf's friendly, warm demeanor when we first meet him is contrasted nicely with the scene in Bag End with Bilbo. There, for the first time, we see Gandalf isn't all laughs and famous for fireworks: "Bilbo Baggins! Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks!"

So, I have very little bad to say about Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey. However, I think the slightly-off feelings come as Gandalf the White. I don't know what's missing, so maybe I'm just imagining it. But, he doesn't have the aura, and inspiration as Gandalf the White, like I expected. He hasn't "raised in stature" upon being "sent back," but seems to have actually lost some of his gravitas.

And secondly, I took note of how different Gandalf treats Theoden and Denethor. With Theoden, Gandalf goes into an advisor's role. He counsels Theoden, but ultimately lets Theoden make his own decisions. With Denethor, however, Gandalf becomes far more assertive, to the point where he takes authority over the Steward, with command of Gondor's forces. I'm wondering why Jackson (and co.) would want to portray Gandalf treating the two rulers differently, and if there is also a noticeable difference in the books, with the way Gandalf treats them?

Of course, feel free to discuss pretty much whatever you noticed about Gandalf, the scripting of the role, a/o Mckellan's portrayal. These were just a few things I thought about and had me curious, to serve as starting points. (I hope I wasn't too wordy for this introductory post )
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Old 06-11-2012, 07:29 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
I'm not sure how to explain it, but as much as I think Ian McKellan is a very good Gandalf (an excellent Magneto though ), there was something missing in his performance. Something more than some of the character changes like his mauling on Denethor or fight with the Witch-King. I don't know who else could have been casted for the role, and I'm not even sure I would want someone else other than Sir Ian, but something is lacking in his performance as Gandalf.
First off, very much agreed about McKellan and Magneto. "Mr. Laurio, never trust a beautiful woman, especially one who's interested in you."

I'm going on not very near recollections of the movies right now, so I'm going to make it a point to watch them again (shudder). Anyway, to me , the Gandalf from the books did not translate well. The movies have him yo-yoing between the two extremes you mention: kindly old grandpa on the one hand, and crotchety "You darned kids, with your loud music and skateboards!" on the other.

And do you know, one of the scenes that really bugs me is the first one in LOTR, where Gandalf drives up and hugs Frodo. Yes, it's sweet, but it just isn't a "Gandalf thing".

I also don't like the "Is it secret? Is it safe?" He looks so darned wild-eyed there, as if he's about to start raving about conspiracy theories involving Lobelia Sackville-Baggins being Sauron in disguise, or something.

I wonder though how much of that is McKellan's fault, and how much is at the door of the scriptwriters.

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So, I have very little bad to say about Ian McKellan as Gandalf the Grey. However, I think the slightly-off feelings come as Gandalf the White. I don't know what's missing, so maybe I'm just imagining it. But, he doesn't have the aura, and inspiration as Gandalf the White, like I expected. He hasn't "raised in stature" upon being "sent back," but seems to have actually lost some of his gravitas.
I get that too. He actually seems more nervous and uncertain. The Gandalf the White in the books did know fear, but he didn't cower in front of the Witch-king.
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Old 06-11-2012, 09:20 AM   #3
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I agree about Gandalf being the two extremes. I like him better as the Grey.

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Originally Posted by Boro
And secondly, I took note of how different Gandalf treats Theoden and Denethor.
But they are different people. In the movies, Gandalf's assertiveness in Minas Tirith is a tad overdone. In the book, though, Denethor starts it.

And since I haven't watched the movies in over a half a year, I'll talk a bit about a detail I do remember about Gandalf. He said the famous words, which are now a meme, on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum:
You shall not pass!
We all remember these words in this exact way. But the book has it differently. In the book, Gandalf cries
You cannot pass!
There are two main differences between "shall not" and "cannot". The first is a promise/prophecy in future tense, the second is a fact in present tense. Other than that, there's not much of a difference.

Why did the movie script change it? What's wrong with "cannot"?

And, funny thing, we all remember the movie version better than the book. Why? Does it sould more powerful? Is it the visual effect of that staff raised above Gandalf's head which comes crashing down a moment later? Which one is it for you?

(This is actually a question I've been meaning to ask somewhere for some time now. I'm genuinely curious about what people think)
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Old 06-11-2012, 04:02 PM   #4
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Alongside Ian Holm I think Ian McKellen was both the best casted actor in the movies as well as the best actor. Surprise, surprise, they are both old school theater actors. They were professionals.

A moment from the beginning of the first movie still makes me feel specially good: when Gandalf meets Bilbo and and kneels to look at him in the eye - and they have the close-up on Gandalf's eyes "studying" Bilbo's eyes. There is such a compassion, love and concern that it really melts one's heart. And McKellen has supposedly played it facing a stunt-actor (the size-double), not to his friend Mr. Holm. That I would call professionalism!

Anyway. He is great as Gandalf the Grey.

But like many have said, he's not that great as Gandalf the White. With which I don't mean he's not good in that role as well, but I just think he's not that good. There is some assertiviness or strength he lacks in that role.

Boro mentioned that scene with him getting angry with Bilbo: "Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks!". It is actually one of my least favourite scenes with Gandalf - because of the lousy special-effects (the worst is Galadriel turning under that spell at the Mirror...). It makes one laugh more than take it seriously... which kind of spoils the athmosphere.
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Old 06-11-2012, 07:26 PM   #5
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But like many have said, he's not that great as Gandalf the White. With which I don't mean he's not good in that role as well, but I just think he's not that good. There is some assertiviness or strength he lacks in that role.
He lacks the air of wisdom and authority. It's like he has to prove it, instead of just having it.
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:08 AM   #6
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There's a passage in The Two Towers, that talks about the difference between Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White, which illuminates how I feel Gandalf should have been characterised:

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Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Palantír"
"Can I? But he's close, isn't he? Not changed at all."
"Oh yes, he is!" said Merry, waking up a little, and beginning to wonder what was bothering his companion. "He has grown, or something. He can be both kinder and more alarming, merry and more solemn than before, I think. He has changed; but we have not had a chance to see how much, yet.
To put it in my own words, rather than Meriadoc's, Gandalf the White should be just like Gandalf the Grey, but more so. Being returned to his corporeal form by Ilúvatar doesn't make Gandalf "less worldly" or anything of that sort; rather, it makes him more real. And therein lies the real problem with Gandalf the Movie-White for me--he comes across as "other worldly" or "ethereal," and the problem with being "ethereal" is that you are made of ether--not solid.

Mind you, agreeing with Meriadoc, it's not that Gandalf hasn't changed--he has. Perhaps the best analogy, though, is a description of Glorfindel from earlier in the LotR:

Quote:
Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, "Many Meetings"
And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas. They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power."
"I thought that I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was that Glorfindel then?"
"Yes, you saw him for a moment as he is upon the other side: one of the mighty of the Firstborn.
Granted, this isn't a perfect analogy, since we have the benefit of seeing Gandalf only in this realm, not in the other realm that the Ring gave Frodo access to, but "against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power" should apply to Gandalf as well--and movie-White Gandalf felt skewed only to the "the other side" to me.

Which is hugely ironic if you consider that he seems to be much less effective against the Witch-King in the Movies... but perhaps that only goes to show that power in BOTH realms is necessary.

For the most part, I think this is the fault of the writing rather than of McKellan. Or perhaps even less the writing and more the special effects--Gandalf is sort of "glowed-out" rather than sharpened by being upgraded to The White.
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Old 06-12-2012, 07:26 AM   #7
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Sir Ian did just fine as Gandalf, whether Grey or White; however, he was at the mercy of the script, which will be a recurring theme for me throughout these sordid discussions.

How can one expect Gandalf to be anything but uncertain when he gets blown off his horse and the symbol of his divine authority is shattered into toothpicks by a shadowy toady of his arch-nemesis? How can he face Sauron if he can't even handle the WitchKing? Aragorn assumes command during the Last Debate, and from his mouth comes all the clever strategy, because it seems Gandalf is practically witless by that time.

This is what you get when fan-fiction intrudes into a perfectly good original plot. As scriptwriters, Jackson, Boyens, et al, are good plumbers - plumbing the depths, as it were - sensationalizing the action sequences to monstrous proportions on one hand, and on the other, dumbing-down the plot for an elementary school audience completely incapable of detecting nuance and subtlety.
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Old 06-12-2012, 03:25 PM   #8
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I'm 2/3 of the way through a LOTR movie marathon that anyone who has me on Facebook will probably be aware of, so Mr. Boro kindly asked me to join in on this. I hadn't seen the movies in probably 4 or 5 years, so now the FotR and TTT are clearest in my mind. I also haven't read the books in like 8 years, so I probably won't compare the movies to them all that much, my memory of them is pretty weak (I think I'll need to reread them very soon, along with The Hobbit before the movie comes out).

I'm probably going to be the first to say that I prefer the White over the Grey. In Fellowship Gandalf actually sorta bothers me a bit. First he seems very oblivious. He has no idea that Bilbo's been holding on to the ring for 60 some years, and then he has absolutely no idea that Saruman is evil. Then he's super manipulative. Putting Frodo at the council (in my opinion) knowing that he's going to volunteer to take the ring, and then getting Frodo to make the decision between really super cold mountain and warmer safe mines (without telling him about the Balrog that he knows is there). I also made a joke on Facebook that it's interesting how when the Fellowship has to jump across that big gap, that the Ringbearer and long last King are the last ones to jump across (while Gandalf is the second).

But then Gandalf the White. I think he's totally awesome. I like that he's more ethereal, to me it makes him more of a wizard. He's been out of the world for what felt like lifetimes to him, and is aware that he's only been brought back for a specific purpose. I like that he has a moment where he seems to have forgotten his name, and the joy that seems to cross his face when he remembers being called Gandalf. It just shows that that is not necessarily his true name, just something that mortals have chosen to call him, something that seems almost quaint and sweet to him, which to me makes him seem more powerful and important.

He still has his snarky sense of humour, teasing Gimli about how he's not going to be as safe as the hobbits are. I also love the scene when he reunites with Shadowfax, showing he still has that respect for nature and his old friends. And my favourite line is when he tells Hama, "You would not part an old man from his walking stick?" and gives a little wink at his companions.

As the White he no longer seems to be oblivious to anything, he knows exactly what he's doing (for example, knowing the exact moment that he would arrive at Helm's Deep with Eomer), and he knows who he can and cannot trust.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
And secondly, I took note of how different Gandalf treats Theoden and Denethor. With Theoden, Gandalf goes into an advisor's role. He counsels Theoden, but ultimately lets Theoden make his own decisions. With Denethor, however, Gandalf becomes far more assertive, to the point where he takes authority over the Steward, with command of Gondor's forces. I'm wondering why Jackson (and co.) would want to portray Gandalf treating the two rulers differently, and if there is also a noticeable difference in the books, with the way Gandalf treats them?
I think the main reason is simply that Theoden is a king, and Denethor is not. Gandalf's fondness for Aragorn is also probably a reason that he doesn't like Denethor, since he is making the decisions that Aragorn is meant to. Gandalf the White also seems to have a good understanding of people's character. He knew that Eomer woulld come to his uncle's aid, he knew that Merry and Pippin would try to get the Ents to help (and that the Ents eventually would), and therefore I think he knew that Theoden would eventually step up and be a true king, while Denethor would just go bonkers.

The White just seems to be in more control than the Grey did. Sure the Grey was a nice guy, but I don't think he was as much of a wise wizard.

(oh and I adore Sir Ian, he's fantastic and did a great job all around)
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Old 06-13-2012, 10:43 AM   #9
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First, full disclosure: Gandalf is my favorite character from LotR. I see him as that uncle that shows up with stories about adventures, drops a few words of wisdom on you that change completely how you see the world, and leaves far too soon as he has work to do. Good man. Not a grandparent, as when Gandalf brings his "A" game, he's no dotarding extragenerian but the first to stand in the gap. You're safe when he's around, as he has a skill set that you can't even guess at. And though Gandalf sits next to the leaders of the world, he still has time for the meek, for children, for those with dirt in their fingernails.

It was the movie scene where the Witch-King breaks Gandalf's staff that so upset me that it brought me to my first and only internet forum - lucky you . It also compelled me to write the SbS. With time I was able to see Peter Jackson's version of LotR as something completely separate from the books, designed for other needs and wants, and though I'm not thrilled with his work, I appreciate that Jackson at least was able to bring LotR into the fore once more.

That said, here's my take on PJ's Gandalf:

The Grey:
- In FotR, Jackson's Gandalf bounces between the character being exactly as I imagined to a person I don't even recognize. When first in the Shire, Gandalf is mostly spot on (with the exception of a few camera angles, but those nits are picked elsewhere). Gandalf sitting with Bilbo, smoking; placing a comforting hand on Frodo's shoulder; laughing - these scenes show the Gandalf I know. As mentioned earlier, I like the scene where, at the Council, Gandalf's heart breaks when he hears Frodo accepting the terrible burden.

PJ chose well when he selected Ian McKellan.

When Frodo gets that bit of wisdom from Gandalf as the Fellowship decides which road to take when in the Mines, it's all good. Here is the wise uncle that reassures as he's seeing from a higher perspective.

And where Jackson goes beyond, we have Gandalf not falling from the Bridge in Moria, but continuing the attack ("ever I hewed him"). How cool is that?

- But we contrast that with the other Gandalf: grabbing Frodo at Bag End, begging, "Is it safe?" Kowtowing to the 'wise and powerful' Saruman without the littlest touch of suspicion. Can't believe that the same Gandalf that was snared by the White Wizard would argue *for* going through the Gap of Rohan, right next to Orthanc. From afar Saruman taunts Gandalf with what he fears in the dark. This Gandalf is scared, confused, short-sighted and sadly used to conjure a cheap trick 'gotcha' moment in the darkly lit Bag End. It gets so bad that, in the SbS, I named this other character, "Gandalf the Black."


The White:
- Again, in TTT, we have the split personality. Sometimes we're shown a Gandalf that talks of events moving that he sees at a strategic distance, and how the tide has turned, then suddenly he's begging Aragorn and Legolas for news and looking for a way out of his own despair. For better or worse, Gandalf exits the stage for a while, having become an errand rider. Sigh.

- In RotK, Gandalf has his moments. Talking with Pip about the far green country is just so good, as the Wizard again shows his larger, higher point of view. Even at the end of all things, Gandalf provides hope.

And he's become more martial, fighting on the walls, leading the men at the gate, and then again at the other gate. Then‚ ugh‚ in the same movie we get Gandalf - The WHITE!?! - begging at Saruman's door, asking for the right words that will pull him out of despair. Thankfully, this master of the defense of Middle Earth is able to trick Denethor (whom he attacks more ferociously than a battle troll), via Pip, into lighting the beacons. Guess he left his Ring, Narya, back in Moria. Though I understand that Aragorn is to become the leader of focus, I think that PJ could have done this without making Gandalf a mere captain in the last debate.

So, I like PJ's Gandalf, as portrayed by McKellan, when the character stays consistent with what we may take from the books.
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Old 06-13-2012, 12:00 PM   #10
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I tend to agree with your view on Gandalf and Sir Ian's work, however my impression is that even in the book he was never Gandalf the Infallible. What puzzled me was the fact that he was described as explosive and, sometimes, impatient (while, on the other hand, kind, forgiving and merry). In Aman Olorin was the Spirit of Wisdom, which is the sister of patience, so it looked as a kind of an inconsistence until I assume it was one of the personal features of his embodiment - something he had to overcome as physical exhaustion or pain. On the other hand, the lack of passion could result in the wizzard abandoning his quest as it happened to Rhadagast the Brown. So please forgive the old man his moodiness, especially if we discuss Gandalf the Grey.

For Gandalf the White... Oh, they didn't know what to do with him in the movie... No country for old man... They used him to deal with Saruman, but then... The only thing he does up to his book potential is repelling Nazgul and saving Faramir, the rest could have been done by someone else. After his encounter with Witch King he is a broken man, while in the book Gandalf the White is a righteous Steward of Middle Earth, teaching Aragorn the last and the most important lesson about power: what it is and should be. I cannot blame Sir Ian for this, as it has already been discussed that PJ and Co decided to enhance Aragorn and in fact diminished Gandalf.

Btw, I am sure Gandalf had no idea what Durin's Bane was until they meet at Kazad Doom. Saruman, pushing the Ring into Balrog's domain is laughable, but I'll keep it for Saruman's discussion.
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Old 06-13-2012, 12:20 PM   #11
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I tend to agree with your view on Gandalf and Sir Ian's work, however my impression is that even in the book he was never Gandalf the Infallible. What puzzled me was the fact that he was described as explosive and, sometimes, impatient (while, on the other hand, kind, forgiving and merry).
Thanks. If I understand you right, and then to explain myself better, though I don't think Gandalf as infallible, but you get the feeling that he's going to go down swinging. PJ's portrayal of Gandalf in TTT and RotK doesn't show this trait; at times he's at a lost for what to do next, and is too dependent on others for information, direction, hope.

Not exactly the architect of Sauron's downfall.
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Old 06-15-2012, 10:40 AM   #12
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I had been meaning to do this earlier, but did not have much of a chance then, so here's a massive "reply all" post. Thanks everyone for the replies, and interest.

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And do you know, one of the scenes that really bugs me is the first one in LOTR, where Gandalf drives up and hugs Frodo. Yes, it's sweet, but it just isn't a "Gandalf thing".
It is a relatively minor thing, but now that you've pointed it out, I agree...at least with the Frodo-Gandalf hugging, it seems really out of place, considering how many times has Frodo actually seen Gandalf? It tries to establish a close, personal relationship between the two, or maybe Frodo is just being an excitable teenager at seeing "hey fireworks man is here!" It's not a "Frodo thing" either.

What do you feel about Gandalf hugging Bilbo? After Bilbo is yelling he doesn't want any visitors, but opens the door to Gandalfs "And what about very old friends." That fits a little more based on of course their long past and it would be rather normal when seeing a personal friend again, after many years. I basically loved all of the scenes between the two Ians, two actors who knew what they were doing, what they wanted to convey and it came off great.

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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
And since I haven't watched the movies in over a half a year, I'll talk a bit about a detail I do remember about Gandalf. He said the famous words, which are now a meme, on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum:
You shall not pass!
We all remember these words in this exact way. But the book has it differently. In the book, Gandalf cries
You cannot pass!
There are two main differences between "shall not" and "cannot". The first is a promise/prophecy in future tense, the second is a fact in present tense. Other than that, there's not much of a difference.

Why did the movie script change it? What's wrong with "cannot"?

And, funny thing, we all remember the movie version better than the book. Why? Does it sould more powerful? Is it the visual effect of that staff raised above Gandalf's head which comes crashing down a moment later? Which one is it for you?
You know, I wish I would have thought to ask this in the first post, because it's a difference I always forget about when watching. Maybe because the "Shall not pass" is, as you say, become the one that's remembered more. There is more power behind "shall not" because it is a future tense, and it is Gandalf saying he will stop the Balrog's will of trying to cross, but the Balrog "shall not." I will make note to bring this up with Galadriel, because there is a much more significant difference betweel "will" and "shall" (and I'm glad the movies did not change this, even though like Nog, I did not care for the CGIing of that scene)

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Boro mentioned that scene with him getting angry with Bilbo: "Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks!". It is actually one of my least favourite scenes with Gandalf - because of the lousy special-effects (the worst is Galadriel turning under that spell at the Mirror...). It makes one laugh more than take it seriously... which kind of spoils the athmosphere.
Hmm..I actually don't mind this, definitely not like Galadriel's "In place of a dark lord..." scene of eery-greenish blue luminosity. Bilbo's personality was obviously being effected by the Ring, and Gandalf needed to scare him a bit was all, it quickly returns to "all these long years we've been friends." It actually played out to how I imagined it in the books, but I could be misremembering because I liked the scene so much.

It's also the first chance of the audience to see that Gandalf is not just some laughing, happy-go lucky magician who shoots off fireworks because the kids love it. There is some hint given by frodo that Gandalf's past exploits make him a troublemaker in the eyes of "respectable" hobbits, but this scene when Bilbo is departing and resistant to leaving the Ring, is the first time we see there is more to Gandalf then fireworks and fun parties. There is perhaps a darker (or "more serious") side to Gandalf that would be important to know. And also fits nicely with the rumors Sam also believes..."Please, Mr. Gandalf sir, don't turn me into anything...unnatural."

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Sir Ian did just fine as Gandalf, whether Grey or White; however, he was at the mercy of the script, which will be a recurring theme for me throughout these sordid discussions.
Which is quite perfect, because that's basically my reasons for wanting to start this. I wanted to think about the script, the actor/actress, the physical image, and how all these factors portray the character in the films, but also compared to the book-character.

From just recalling my general impressions, there were probably 2 to 3 characters who I absolutely believe everything came together perfectly; the script, the cast, the imagination...it all came together to create some beautiful music. More often then not, problems with the characters seem to lie with the script, and not the person in the role, but this is not always the case in my opinion. And other times when I think everything failed. Of course, we'll likely get to these instances at a better time.

With Gandalf, I would definitely hang up the major problems on the script, and not McKellan, but I was still feeling there was something missing. Gandalf was very good, not great, nor on my list of a few characters where everything came together perfectly.

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I think the main reason is simply that Theoden is a king, and Denethor is not. Gandalf's fondness for Aragorn is also probably a reason that he doesn't like Denethor, since he is making the decisions that Aragorn is meant to. Gandalf the White also seems to have a good understanding of people's character. He knew that Eomer woulld come to his uncle's aid, he knew that Merry and Pippin would try to get the Ents to help (and that the Ents eventually would), and therefore I think he knew that Theoden would eventually step up and be a true king, while Denethor would just go bonkers.
Well, Theoden and Denethor are different personality wise, but I'm not sure if I'd say the reason is because Theoden is a king and Denethor isn't. Perhaps it has to deal with, Gandalf really is underhandedly plotting to restore Aragorn to the throne of Gondor, and is annoyed that Denethor isn't you know...rolling over and bowing down to his authority. Even though we all know the wise thing to do is to listen and trust Gandalf as Theoden did, can you really blame Denethor? King or not, the rule of Gondor is legally his, until the rightful King actually does return, that much Denethor is right about.

Gandalf's brilliant manuevering was his ability to lead the defense, yet work around Denethor's authority, and not maul him. Although, this probably is more telling of Denethor's character than Gandalf's. Since, there was the decision lose all subtlety and make Denethor the crazy man right from the beginning, I don't know what else Gandalf could have done if the "leader" of the realm is running out shouting FLEE!

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For Gandalf the White... Oh, they didn't know what to do with him in the movie... No country for old man... They used him to deal with Saruman, but then... The only thing he does up to his book potential is repelling Nazgul and saving Faramir, the rest could have been done by someone else. After his encounter with Witch King he is a broken man, while in the book Gandalf the White is a righteous Steward of Middle Earth, teaching Aragorn the last and the most important lesson about power: what it is and should be. I cannot blame Sir Ian for this, as it has already been discussed that PJ and Co decided to enhance Aragorn and in fact diminished Gandalf.

Btw, I am sure Gandalf had no idea what Durin's Bane was until they meet at Kazad Doom. Saruman, pushing the Ring into Balrog's domain is laughable, but I'll keep it for Saruman's discussion.
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Thanks. If I understand you right, and then to explain myself better, though I don't think Gandalf as infallible, but you get the feeling that he's going to go down swinging. PJ's portrayal of Gandalf in TTT and RotK doesn't show this trait; at times he's at a lost for what to do next, and is too dependent on others for information, direction, hope.

Not exactly the architect of Sauron's downfall.
Not to foreshadow and spoil too much, but for the Frodo discussion coming up, the main observation I had was it seemed like Jackson wanted to pay more attention to the "diversion" plot and not the actually destroy-ring plot. By doing so, Aragorn seems to be the main character, as they give the fullblown "ranger to King" development for Aragorn's character, and thus the focus becomes Aragorn. This effects Frodo's story, but I'm noticing now it also effects Gandalf's role in the films.
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Old 06-15-2012, 07:02 PM   #13
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What do you feel about Gandalf hugging Bilbo? After Bilbo is yelling he doesn't want any visitors, but opens the door to Gandalfs "And what about very old friends." That fits a little more based on of course their long past and it would be rather normal when seeing a personal friend again, after many years. I basically loved all of the scenes between the two Ians, two actors who knew what they were doing, what they wanted to convey and it came off great.
Agreed. For some reason, the old ages of Gandalf and Bilbo, even without knowing of their long friendship, make the signs of affection more palatable. I'm a great fan of Ian Holm anyway, and the two actors do have a chemistry to them.


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You know, I wish I would have thought to ask this in the first post, because it's a difference I always forget about when watching. Maybe because the "Shall not pass" is, as you say, become the one that's remembered more. There is more power behind "shall not" because it is a future tense, and it is Gandalf saying he will stop the Balrog's will of trying to cross, but the Balrog "shall not."
McKellan's Gandalf comes off there as too, well, emotional in my opinion. I always thought the book Gandalf to handle that stand on the Bridge with steely-eyed coolness: "You cannot pass!"- maybe like Clint Eastwood.
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Old 06-26-2012, 04:38 AM   #14
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Witch-King and Denethor scenes go without saying. Also, not sure why he had to hit his head on the beam of the house. And does anyone else find the scene with Shadowfax unbelievably cheesy?

But movie-Gandalf supplied more good moments than most, so that's something.
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Old 06-27-2012, 09:08 AM   #15
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Witch-King and Denethor scenes go without saying. Also, not sure why he had to hit his head on the beam of the house. And does anyone else find the scene with Shadowfax unbelievably cheesy?
I believe hitting his head on the beam (talking about when he's in Bag End?) was a goof that Jackson kept in, since McKellan acted through it quite well. I agree it's rather silly, but I also agreed with Jackson that Sir Ian acted through that accidental bump well.

I love the music when Shadowfax is introduced (actually I think most times even if I don't like a scene, the music winds up saving it). Shadowfax does appear randomly and seemingly out of nowhere, then you get Legolas' line "That is one of the mearas, unless my eyes are cheated by some spell." Eck.

Glad you're on board too Eomer!
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Old 06-27-2012, 10:15 AM   #16
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I think that the scene of Gandalf hitting his head was not bad at all, and in some ways necessary to establish right away that hobbits are smaller than your average man to those audiences that have not read the books.
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Old 06-27-2012, 01:07 PM   #17
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I tend to agree with your view on Gandalf and Sir Ian's work, however my impression is that even in the book he was never Gandalf the Infallible. What puzzled me was the fact that he was described as explosive and, sometimes, impatient (while, on the other hand, kind, forgiving and merry).
What he says.

And indeed, he could be called Gandalf the Inscrutable. In recall, Gandalf is all hero, the kindly, wise old grandfather figure with hidden power. But in a close read, it's apparent that he doesn't have all the answers and is as capable of making mistakes as anyone else, especially when he is Gandalf the Grey.

The head banging scene is quite apt, I feel, for this Gandalf.

But after his battle with the Balrog he does return from something otherworldly, possibly an encounter with Eru, or at least his fellow Ainur. If Glorfindel and Galadriel are possessed of an incredible Light because they have walked in both Valinor and Middle-earth, then Gandalf is this and more so. Glorfindel was sent back after 'death', and Galadriel travelled back - Gandalf has been back twice. So to me, the change portrayed by Ian McKellen is consistent and there is nothing to fault.

And besides, I am honour bound to defend my fellow Lancastrian
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Old 06-28-2012, 05:01 AM   #18
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then you get Legolas' line "That is one of the mearas, unless my eyes are cheated by some spell." Eck.
Haha! Forgot about that line. Makes it even better.

Man, Legolas might be the best movie character ever. I can't wait for that thread.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:32 AM   #19
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For me Ian McKellen was never Gandalf. He never disappeared into the part. I think actually the stage background can be a disadvantage - the smallest gesture is magnified so large on a cinema screen that what works on the stage seems overdone . I found a lot of his performance rather mannered and obvious. I still think the way he says "Fly, you fools!" is odd but I may be too used to and too fond of Hordern's Gandalf in the Radio version. May be the script was written Fly! You Fools!... ho hum

Physically he didn't quite match my idea of Gandalf... particularly the potato nose. Always imagined Gandalf as beakier. When I see repeats of Wycliffe I always get the feeling that Gandalf spent his retirement solving crime in Cornwall but I suppose that is a personal thing. And yes I had strong images from having read the books but other actors who didn't correspond to the mental images won me over.
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Old 09-12-2012, 02:46 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Morthoron:
Sir Ian did just fine as Gandalf, whether Grey or White; however, he was at the mercy of the script, which will be a recurring theme for me throughout these sordid discussions.
Yes, but. No actor could rise much above the quality of the script they're obliged to enact, even those with some talent like Viggo and Cate. Now McKellen has a lot of talent, and rendered G the Grey in a way that enhanced the wtritten part and in some ways corrected for its bad patches.

However, I don't find that to be the case with his G the White. Whereas in Tolkien Gandalf Returned is a bit more aloof or distant given his enhanced knowledge and latent but unchallengeable power, Sir Ian's GII is not aloof so much as simply passive, less engaged in general unless he's being an old worry-wort.

He has a nice moment giving Pippin the transplanted "white shores" passage, but he still comes across rather like a wise old schoolmaster-officer bucking up his cadet in the face of the final and fatal Afghan/Zulu/Ashanti charge- surely NOT a situation book-GII would ever have been in even had Tolkien envisioned Trolls bashing at the inner gates of Minas Tirith. Book G the W had nothing to fear in all of Middle-earth except - maybe - Sauron himself; it's for that reason really that T never puts him in a combat situation.* Had Ian understood Gandalf 2.0, he would or should have given us quiet but unshakable confidence.

*Does the Witch-King abandon the Great Gate because of cock-crow and the unexpected dawn? In small part, perhaps- but mostly because he senses, for all his bravado, that he doesn't dare try his strength against that old man. "You cannot enter here," says Gandalf, in almost the same words as "You cannot pass" on the bridge of Khazad-dum. But this time he is mightier, and his foe is no Balrog.
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Old 10-07-2012, 05:10 AM   #21
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For me, Ian acting of Gandalf completely ruined the film.
I am not talking about his look (he looks just like Gandalf), but psychologically this is just not the Gandalf from the book. Not even close.

To make it clear, I'll try to find some Gandalf characteristics in the book, and I hope most of you will agreed with me.
He is:
1) Charismatic and have great authority
2) Full of (hidden) energy
3) Very rhetoric
4) Wise and intelligent.
5) He is not revealing his plans to almost anybody, which makes him pretty mystic.

Now, let's take a look at the Gandalf from the movie:
Is he charismatic? I don't think so. He don't have the authority to make people listen to him, even when they don't like what they hear. Hi just looks week with his tired eyes, I would dare and say: his expressions is boring.
It's more like a funny old man that hits hobbit roof with his head, and "ouch" funny. Is that Gandalf ther gray? I think not.
Where do we see a fameus Gandalf rhetoric power in the movies? He just had (completely unnecessary) arguing with Elrond, and even there he is just a tired worried old man.
Where do we see his ability to act quickly and wise during the movie? To make everybody obey his quick demands.

I was not convinced during the fight with Balrog, and even much more disappointed with the fight with the Nazgul.
If somebody don't believe me, read the book where Gandalf meets Nazgul, and then watch that same fragment in the movie.
If you say that's the same characters, then I admit something is wrong with me, and my interpretation.

P.S. Lack of charisma is also what ruined Aragorn character aswell, imho.
From the other side, Saruman was great, and had just the right charisma for the Istari kind.
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Old 10-07-2012, 05:30 AM   #22
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For me, Ian acting of Gandalf completely ruined the film.

It's more like a funny old man that hits hobbit roof with his head, and "ouch" funny. Is that Gandalf ther gray? I think not.
He never meant to bump his head. It was an accident but he continued with it anyway.
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Old 10-07-2012, 05:40 AM   #23
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Yeah, but doesn't this ruin the whole "Gandalf the wise" wizard thing?
For me, that little gesture ruined pretty much of the Gandalf character.

Then again, it won't be that bad if Ian didn't continue ruining the original Gandalf.
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Old 10-07-2012, 08:49 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Morthoron:
Sir Ian did just fine as Gandalf, whether Grey or White; however, he was at the mercy of the script, which will be a recurring theme for me throughout these sordid discussions.
Yes, but. No actor could rise much above the quality of the script they're obliged to enact, even those with some talent like Viggo and Cate. Now McKellen has a lot of talent, and rendered G the Grey in a way that enhanced the wtritten part and in some ways corrected for its bad patches.

However, I don't find that to be the case with his G the White. Whereas in Tolkien Gandalf Returned is a bit more aloof or distant given his enhanced knowledge and latent but unchallengeable power, Sir Ian's GII is not aloof so much as simply passive, less engaged in general unless he's being an old worry-wort.

He has a nice moment giving Pippin the transplanted "white shores" passage, but he still comes across rather like a wise old schoolmaster-officer bucking up his cadet in the face of the final and fatal Afghan/Zulu/Ashanti charge- surely NOT a situation book-GII would ever have been in even had Tolkien envisioned Trolls bashing at the inner gates of Minas Tirith. Book G the W had nothing to fear in all of Middle-earth except - maybe - Sauron himself; it's for that reason really that T never puts him in a combat situation.* Had Ian understood Gandalf 2.0, he would or should have given us quiet but unshakable confidence.

*Does the Witch-King abandon the Great Gate because of cock-crow and the unexpected dawn? In small part, perhaps- but mostly because he senses, for all his bravado, that he doesn't dare try his strength against that old man. "You cannot enter here," says Gandalf, in almost the same words as "You cannot pass" on the bridge of Khazad-dum. But this time he is mightier, and his foe is no Balrog.
I agree with much of what you say here regarding G the W, WCH, but again, much of that was scripted. For instance, one cannot evince bravado when it is scripted that the WiKi splinters G the W's staff, knocks his character clean off his horse and he grovels before the WiKi on the ground (and only the cock crow saves him). That is directorial intervention, not acting.

In the movie council scene before the army of Gondor leaves for the Morannon ("The Last Debate" chapter from the book), Gandalf's wisdom and cunning lines are given to Aragorn, and Gimli makes his jests in brogue. Peter Jackson removed Gandalf as the prime mover of the actions of the West (as Tolkien intended) and instead handed the impetus to Aragorn.
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Old 10-07-2012, 03:09 PM   #25
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I was pretty content with the portrayal of Gandalf. I think this always leaves room open for future films of books since none hardly ever stay true to the story. I did not like the battle with the Balrog. It seemed very much on a lesser scale than the actual battle from the books and Gandalf just pounding the Balrog with his sword in the movie was not cool.
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