It's been years since I first saw The Lord of The Rings. I was eight years old, and I had read my way through the entire trilogy. (Not lying. I was, and always shall be, a reader.) My parents were not sure about allowing me to watch the first movie since it was rated PG-13. But in the end, my insistence that I was mature enough and the fact that I had read the books convinced them that it would not be too damaging if I saw The Fellowship of the Ring. After seeing the movie through to completion, my parents were dismayed to find me back at home pretending a large pillow from our couch was a horse and shrieking like a Ringwraith. And thus my fandom for The Lord of the Rings was cemented.
My love for the trilogy has never diminished. I adore anything having to do with The Lord of the Rings. Of all the movies that have ever stemmed from books, I believe that The Lord of the Rings trilogy has been the most successful at remaining true to the spirit of the source material while also presenting themselves as fantastic films. I would defend their integrity to my grave. (But not The Hobbit trilogy. Ugh, that should not have been a trilogy at all.)
However, despite my fandom, I am objective enough to admit that there are some flaws in the movies. (Minor flaws.) Read on if you want to learn about the teeny tiny problems that have arisen over the course of this magnificent trilogy.
25 How A Finger Turned The Tide Of Battle
The beginning to The Fellowship of the Ring had to have a bit of narration in order to catch audiences up with the events prior to the story they were about to witness. It's during this prologue of sorts that we first encounter the imposing Dark Lord Sauron. You can tell just by looking at his pointy black armor that this guy is the ultimate evil on Middle-earth. When he arrives on the battlefield, in front of the combined army of Men and Elves, the One Ring glistening on his index finger, you can feel the threat that he poses through the screen. He swings his weapon back and forth and just sweeps aside crowds of people, and it's only when Isildur, son of the king, takes up his father's broken sword and slices off Sauron's finger, that the Dark Lord is defeated.
It is at this point that any self-respecting moviegoer gains a quizzical expression and wonders how a single finger chop was all it took to bring down this big bad. Sauron was dominating the field, but as soon as he lost his finger, he exploded and the battle was won. It makes no sense. Well...despite my inclination to defend The Lord of the Rings to the end, there actually is no explanation for why Sauron just disintegrated into smoke after Isildur sliced Sauron's fingers and the Ring off, not even in the book. Since the Ring wasn't destroyed, Sauron's power was not diminished, so losing the Ring as well as his fingers should not have annihilated Sauron the way it did in the film. The book only says that Sauron was "overthrown" and then had his digits removed. So I guess this is a still-standing flaw.
24 The Eagle Conundrum
Okay, if I have to hear one more complaint about how the eagles should have delivered Frodo and the Ring to Mount Doom one more time, I am going to scream more shrilly than a Nazgûl. In case you haven't heard of this popular fan complaint, let me go over it with you. The eagles make several appearances in The Lord of the Rings series. In the movies, we see them rescue Gandalf from atop Saruman's tower and they also participate in the final battle outside of the Black Gate. Near the end of the trilogy, the eagles and Gandalf rescue Frodo and Sam from the fires of Mount Doom and deliver them safely to Minas Tirith. The eagles are an enormous asset in any endeavor because they can fly above danger and travel long distances.
Many critics have complained that the eagles were underutilized by the characters.
Why didn't the eagles just carry Frodo and the Ring to Mount Doom from the very beginning? His journey would have taken no time at all, and the numerous horrors he experienced would not have occurred. Gleeful nitpickers have pointed to this plot hole as proof of The Lord of the Rings' fallibility. Joke's on you, though! There are multiple reasons why the eagles can't just fly over Mount Doom themselves and plop the ring in. First of all, the Ring has to be dropped within the mountain where it was formed, which would mean a person has to walk into the entrance of Mount Doom in order to destroy it. Second of all, the Ring corrupts the extremely powerful, and the eagles are already very powerful creatures. The Ring would have corrupted them easily.
23 When The Elves Go Marching Out
There's a bit of a disconnect between the Elves you see within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and the Elves you see on the big screen. In the book, while they are still a magically powerful people, they are playful. They enjoy bursting into song and laughing musically. In the movie, I don't think I see a single Elf crack a grin except for Legolas. And even then, he smiles after a great victory in battle or something like that. I don't mind the stoicism of the Elves in the movies too much. It lends itself well to the idea that the Elves can be very capable and lethal fighters if they want to be. However, one thing that is constantly brought to our attention regarding the Elves of Middle-earth is why they did not stick around on Middle-Earth to help destroy the Ring.
Everyone looks at Legolas and sees what a great fighter he is, so they question why more Elves don't just stay and assist in the war against Sauron. Personally, I do kind of agree with this critique. Middle-earth is clearly in peril, but most of the Elves say, "Peace out," and then trot off to the Undying Lands. An army of Legolases would have been super helpful! If you do some reading beyond The Lord of the Rings however, you can find out that most Elves were compelled to leave Middle-earth by a power beyond our reckoning. It would take more than a single paragraph to explain the whole history behind the Elves' existence and exodus to Valinor. I can say that Elves who chose to stay behind on Middle-earth would be subject to something called "fading." It reads like a fate worse than the end, so I can't blame the Elves for heeding the call to leave.
22 Why The Ring Doesn't Work On Sauron
A Ring of Invisibility could provide you with a ton of benefits, especially in a world like Middle-earth. You could slip it on and sneak into dungeons without ever having to worry that someone is going to see and attack you. You can bypass crowded marketplaces and nick items that you really need on your journey without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, the One Ring, which does give its wearer invisibility, comes with strings attached. The more you wear it, the more you succumb to the evil that resides within it. The Lord of the Rings demonstrates this in an excellent visual manner. Whenever Frodo puts on the Ring, the world becomes distorted around him, and dark voices whisper dark words to him. He's invisible, sure, but it comes at a cost.
Seeing Frodo disappear after slipping on the Ring made me wonder something about the Ring's creator, Sauron. How come when Sauron puts on the Ring, he doesn't turn invisible? In The Fellowship of the Ring, we see Sauron, clear as day, waltz toward his enemies with the Ring glowing on his finger. He was super visible. Never fear, my dear readers. I am here to explain this plot hole away. The method in which the Ring makes a mortal invisible is by placing them in the wraith-world, a shadowy place that we see every time Frodo puts on the Ring. A being like Sauron already lives half in this spirit world himself. In the book, there's another character named Tom Bombadil who can put on the Ring without turning invisible as well.
21 When Will It End?
Another problem that I hear people constantly whine about when it comes to The Lord of the Rings is the ending to the final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King. "It's too long!" I hear them complain. Admittedly, there are many resolutions that take place at the end of The Return of the King. There is a fade-to-black that makes us think that Frodo and Sam are going to perish on the rocks outside of Mount Doom. There's the happy reunion scene when what is left of the Fellowship reunites at Minas Tirith. There is Aragorn's coronation as King of Gondor. There is Sam's marriage to Rosie back at the Shire. Finally, the true ending occurs when Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf depart with the Elves to the Undying Lands and Sam returns home. I can see why those who don't have the time to spare for a simple movie could get utterly exhausted from relaxing in a chair and watching a nice, long ending. But I am here to defend this supposed issue from those who don't appreciate it.
I would say that, arguably, The Lord of the Rings is one of those few movie trilogies that had successful entries each time one released. The first, second, and third movies were all extremely well-done. Oftentimes, when we see trilogies nowadays, there's always a weak link. One or more of the films fail to live up to expectations. Since The Lord of the Rings successfully withstood the test of time and gave us three excellent movies, I think it earned the right to have a protracted ending. The Return of the King was basically the final good-bye to Middle-earth! When I was watching the ending/endings, I was begging for more and was truly saddened when the credits started to roll.
20 Faramir Is Just Like Boromir
Boromir is one of the best characters to appear in The Fellowship of the Ring. While everyone else in the Fellowship remains true in their quest to assist Frodo in bearing the Ring to Mordor, Boromir is the one who falls prey to the Ring's evilness. The longer he remains in proximity to it, the more he wants to use it to help Gondor. The Ring, being a thing of great darkness, corrupted Boromir without him even having to touch it. When Boromir attacked Frodo in the woods, it convinced Frodo to separate from the rest of the group and take the Ring by himself to Mount Doom. Sam goes with him, of course, but the two of them end up running into Faramir, Boromir's brother, later. Now, in the book, Faramir is of a less ambitious cut than Boromir. Unlike his older brother, Faramir lets Frodo and the Ring go on their own way.
In the movie, Faramir's personality was changed drastically.
Knowing that the One Ring is within his grasp causes Faramir to try and keep it, so that he can give it to his father, the Lord Steward of Gondor. I was surprised at Faramir's behavior in the movie myself. He didn't seem like the mildly noble character I thought I was going to see. Whenever people bring up the issue of Faramir's personality change, I am of two minds about it. I do think that Faramir's nobility was detracted from considerably. However, Faramir's eventual change of heart, when he realizes that the Ring must be destroyed, separates him from Boromir anyway. He was able to resist the power of the Ring where his older brother could not.
19 Mister Frodo And His Sam
Were there ever days in the past where two guys could be really close friends and they would not be made fun of? I'd like to live in those times because then, I wouldn't have to hear people making fun of Frodo and Sam's relationship. Those two Hobbits were placed in some of the most perilous situations in the entire story. They only had each other to rely on. It makes absolutely perfect sense that their friendship would be one of the strongest that we see on screen. But of course, everyone has to make comments about how odd it is that they are constantly super duper close. If a problem exists about the relationship between Frodo and Sam, I would say it lies not in how much the two platonically love each other, but rather in the inequality between their ranks and how much it is shoved in our faces in the books.
In the movies, Sam's servile nature is present, but definitely played down. The books have no such qualms. Sam frequently calls Frodo "master," and he serves Frodo as faithfully as a serf would serve a lord. I have read the books many times, and I only ever get a sense of discomfort about Frodo and Sam whenever I come across yet another moment where Frodo's status as a kind of Hobbit-lord is praised by Sam. Having been raised in a society where everyone is considered equal to everyone else, seeing this kind of servant-master relationship is more than a little awkward.
18 Why Give Up The Element Of Surprise?
I enjoy listening to soundtracks from movies (the good ones, that is), and The Lord of the Rings has one of the best soundtracks ever. Every group on Middle-earth has their own theme, from the Hobbits in the Shire to the Elves in Lothlorien. My favorite theme to listen to is the stirring strings of the Riders of Rohan. As soon as that music started playing during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, I knew that the Rohirrim was going to show up on horses and save the day. It's all well and good for the audience (me included) to be clued in when the Rohirrim is going to show up by their theme music, but it's another thing entirely for the Riders to introduce themselves with war horns when a small amount of subtlety would have worked better.
When the forces of Mordor attack the city of Minas Tirith, the people of Gondor call for aid from the people of Rohan. King Théoden and his people arrive in the nick of time to assist Minas Tirith. The Rohirrim are a mighty swarm of cavalry that can sweep across the battlefield and wipe out many of the foot-soldiers of Mordor. A little problem I noticed when the Rohirrim arrived was that they paused above the battlefield and assembled their forces for one last speech from King Théoden before plunging into the fighting. If the Rohirrim had just rushed the battlefield from the get-go, the Orcs would have been caught off guard and even more damage would have been done. As it was, the Orcs had time to lift up their spears and prepare for the Rohirrim's charge. I can admit that a rush forward would have made more sense logically, but the swell of music that accompanied Théoden's speech made the whole thing worth it.
17 Just One More Puff
Okay, so I suppose this is one problem that The Lord of the Rings puts forth that I cannot readily swipe away. Frequently, the use of pipe-weed appears in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbits of the Shire are renowned for growing the crops that allow many smoke-ring fanatics across Middle-earth to use their pipes on a daily basis. Bilbo, Merry, and Pippin are some of the Hobbits we see using a pipe, Gimli the Dwarf smokes once or twice, and Gandalf smoked in The Fellowship of the Ring, creating an intricate ship out of smoke that he sent sailing through one of Bilbo's smoke rings. Like it or lump it, The Lord of the Rings promotes the use of such items with no reservations.
When I read about complaints people have made regarding the excessive smoking they see in the movies, there actually didn't seem to be much I could say to dissuade them from that opinion. I myself wanted to buy a pipe after watching The Fellowship of the Ring. I have no interest in smoking, I always thought cigarette smoke smelled terrible, but the image of a person holding a pipe just seemed delightful. I now own a pipe that can blow bubbles. Of all the complaints people can make about The Lord of the Rings, this is the most understandable since I was actually kind of affected by it. (I was an impressionable child though, and Gandalf was my hero!)
16 Did No One Plan For A Siege?
The sequels to Fellowship, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, definitely upped the battle factor of the story because they both included large fights around and within a fortress. In The Two Towers, a large force of Uruk-hai, a superior species of Orc, surrounded the castle of Helm's Deep in an effort to annihilate the society of Rohan which lay huddled and hunkered down within. They brought ballistas and siege ladders in order to scale the walls. In The Return of the King, the entire city of Minas Tirith comes under attack. A large battering ram is brought to the gates and siege towers are pushed toward the city walls. It was all very epic, but something was missing from both fights. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but eventually I figured it out.
Both Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith do not have a moat surrounding their environs.
Preventing harsh sieges are the entire purpose of moats in the first place. You would think that constructing a moat, even a temporary one, would have been ideal in both situations. Helm's Deep even had a water supply that it could have used to make the job get done more quickly. The absence of a moat, in my opinion, is still excusable. Have you seen the concept art done for Minas Tirith and other places in Middle-earth? Those places look uber regal. A moat would just ruin the whole aesthetic. (Yes, I'm aware I'm pushing for style over substance. My bad.)
15 My Staff Is Better Than Yours
I am not alone in my love for The Lord of the Rings. There are many people who believe the same things I do about the movies and the books. Perhaps no one beats me in my fandom quite as much as my best friend who I shall hereby call Sara. Sara has read all the books that J.R.R. Tolkien has written, including the half unfinished ones that she has somehow managed to get her hands on. She knows more about the lore than I could ever hope to. If anyone is a big fan of The Lord of the Rings, it's her. And she absolutely loathes the added scene in the movie where the Witch King of Angmar breaks Gandalf's staff.
During the fight for Minas Tirith, Pippin finds out that Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, wants to burn his son alive. As a small Hobbit, Pippin can't stop this from happening by himself. He rushes over to Gandalf to ask for help, but the two of them are waylaid while rushing to stop the Steward by the leader of the Nazgûl. During this encounter, the Witch King shrieks his Ringwraith shriek and Gandalf's staff shatters into a million pieces. This upsets Sara to no end. "That doesn't happen in the book! There's no reason for it to happen in the movie!" Some would argue that it adds tension before the Rohirrim show up to offer support for the beleaguered Minas Tirith. I would say that it's awfully convenient for the Witch King to be able to just do that without Gandalf being able to stop him.
14 Wraiths Without Rings
One of the biggest threats in The Fellowship of the Ring is the group of Ringwraiths trailing after Frodo and his Hobbit friends when they first leave the Shire. They're hooded and cloaked in large drapes of black cloth, and whenever they speak, it sounds more like a hiss than anything else. We learn later on that they are servants of the Dark Lord Sauron. I assumed that since they are Sauron's biggest threat that he can unleash, that they would be extremely capable of carrying out his wishes. But they actually come across like simpletons when they first meet Frodo, Merry, Pippin, and Sam.
They're tricked by Merry when he throws a bag of mushrooms into some foliage in order to distract him. The Hobbits are able to outrun them on the way to Bree. Frodo and the Ring were within their grasp on Weathertop, but they were beaten back by Aragorn, who was only wielding a sword and a torch. Are these Ringwraiths really the best that Sauron can send after his beloved Ring? I sincerely doubt it, if this is all they had to show for themselves in The Fellowship. And they don't get any better in The Two Towers. Frodo literally stood on a bridge and offered one of them the Ring, and the only thing that stopped the Ringwraith from plucking it out of his fingers was Sam tackling Frodo to the ground. See, this is why I have problems believing that the Witch King of Angmar could break Gandalf's staff with a simple shriek.
13 The Constant Damsel In Distress
Have you ever put yourself in the position of your heroes in action movies, or even horror movies, and thought to yourself that you would never survive the same situations? The extreme duress and physical exertion our heroes go through make it unlikely that an average Joe could pull off the same stunts that they have. I wish people would take on Frodo's perspective in a similar manner when they call him a wimp. True, Frodo seems to be the least capable fighter when compared to the rest of the Fellowship. During the fighting within Moria, Frodo's one great feat in battle was surviving a blow from a cave troll's spear, thanks in no small part to his Mithril armor. But I am still tired of hearing people berate him for being such a damsel in distress.
The movie can try and show us the toll of bearing the Ring, but I don't think people understand the physical, emotional, and mental effort Frodo spends while carrying this Ring. By the third movie, abrasions have appeared on Frodo's neck where the chain holding the Ring rests. His lips are constantly dry, his weight decreases dramatically, and his energy levels are at an all-time low. Sam is definitely the hero of the story, but Frodo had a huge burden to bear by himself, and I actually don't think Frodo gets enough credit for his part in bearing the Ring. Sure, to us, we think carrying a ring around is nothing to be proud of. But this is the One Ring we're talking about here, a tool to bring a second darkness over all of Middle-earth. That is no small thing.
12 Impenetrable Armor Is A Joke
Here is yet another problem with The Lord of the Rings that I actually agree is a problem. In Fellowship, Frodo was given a shirt of Mithril armor. Mithril is a fantastic metal forged by the Dwarves of Middle-earth. It is supremely lightweight (which is handy if a Hobbit is going to wear armor), but extremely strong. When Frodo nearly got skewered by a spear, it was the Mithril that saved him. It prevented the tip of the spear from even touching the skin of his chest. What I, and many others, wish to know is why Frodo's Mithril armor did not stop Shelob's stinger from stabbing him.
On his way to Mount Doom, Frodo takes an unpleasant detour through Cirith Ungol, the lair of the giant spider Shelob. He manages to run away from her for most of his time through her tunnels, but she catches up to him right at the end and pokes him in the chest with her stinger. Ignoring for the moment that Shelob the spider uses a stinger instead of fangs to paralyze her prey, let's focus on the fact that her stinger penetrated the Mithril in the first place. In the book, Frodo gets stung by Shelob on his unprotected neck, thus negating the need for this debate at all. In the movie, it's fairly clear that he was stung in the chest. Fans have been quick to point out that the wound Shelob made from her sting was just above the Mithril's neckline, meaning Frodo was vulnerable in that area. If that's the case, Frodo should definitely have worn his Mithril shirt just a tad higher.
11 You Had One Job
Dramatic tension is a fickle thing. When it is doing its job well, you barely realize it is there. A good example is in The Dark Knight, when Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon, and Batman are just standing around talking to each other near the end of the film. That's the climax of the story and it just shows three men having a conversation. But thanks to that dramatic tension that has been slowly and sneakily building up, that climax feels like a darned good climax. An example of dramatic tension showing its ugly face is when Aragorn yells at Legolas to shoot down an Uruk that is about to blow up a wall at Helm's Deep. If the Uruk manages to bring a lit torch to some explosives at the base of the wall, catastrophic damage would occur for the defenses of Helm's Deep.
Up until that moment, Legolas has had perfect aim with his bow and arrow.
Legolas has been shooting Uruks left and right and felling them with a single shot. He and the rest of the Elves at Helm's Deep can do magic with a bow. But when Aragorn shouts for Legolas to bring down that single Uruk, Legolas fails multiple times. He gets three shots at the guy, and yet the guy manages to run all the way to the explosives without skipping a beat. He may have flinched as an arrow took him in the shoulder, but he did not go down. Clearly the battle had to go south in order to ramp up the dramatic tension, but it's a shame Legolas' aim had to be sacrificed in order for that to happen.
10 Aggressive Negotiations
If you have not seen the extended editions for all three of The Lord of the Rings movies, I am really excited for you. You have a fun time ahead of you when you do decide to give them a look. There is so much extra content, and I'm not talking about The Hobbit-kind of extra content, i.e. the unnecessary kind. I'm talking more comedic moments, more dramatic moments, more lore moments. The extended editions of the movies are now the only way I truly enjoy my LOTR-watching experience. One of the moments you don't get to see in the theatrical release version of The Return of the King is the talk that Aragorn has with the Mouth of Sauron.
The Mouth of Sauron is this creepy-looking dude who has a mouth full of the grossest teeth I've ever seen. He speaks in a gargly cackle, and if that is what Sauron sounds like, yeesh, no wonder he's a Dark Lord. Aragorn and the rest of the Fellowship ride up to the Mouth in order to "treat" with the forces of Mordor. At this point, Frodo was already temporarily held prisoner by Sauron, so the Mouth has with him Frodo's Mithril shirt. He shows it to Aragorn in order to taunt him. Merry and Pippin, who are nearby, are horrified. In fact, everyone in the Fellowship is distraught. In answer to the Mouth's disrespect, Aragorn nudges his horse closer and slices the Mouth's head off with one quick motion. There are some people who find it dishonorable for Aragorn to have dealt with a negotiator, even one so evil, in such a manner. I don't mind. That guy was a jerk.
9 Where Are The Guards?
If I were a Dark Lord (there's a fun thought), I would give extra attention to any weaknesses I might have. For example, if I had a weak ankle, an Achilles' heel, if you will, I would make sure to wear super thick boots with special metal plating right above my weak spot. Now, if I had been in Sauron's shoes, and I know that Mount Doom is the one place in the world where my super important and super powerful One-Ring-To-Rule-Them-All can be destroyed, I would make darned sure that Mount Doom was guarded more closely than the Crown Jewels. Did you see the entrance to Mount Doom in The Return of the King? Did you see any guards posted around? Did you see a gateway with a troublesome lock to get through?
Yeah, neither did I. Great job, Sauron. You practically laid out the welcome mat for Frodo and Sam. The two of them were able to just waltz (okay, maybe they were stumbling inside, but still) right into the mountain. The reason true fans of LOTR give for Sauron's lack of security around Mount Doom is hubris. Sauron did not account for the possibility that someone could resist the power of the Ring and decide to destroy it. He also did not account for the fact that someone would actually attempt to make the journey into Mordor and to Mount Doom willingly. As Boromir once said, "One does not simply walk into Mordor."
8 Selective Glowing
The sword that Bilbo gives to Frodo is called Sting, and it has a delightful quality of glowing blue whenever Orcs or Goblins are nearby. It serves as a handy warning device when the Fellowship is in the Mines of Moria. It also alerts Aragorn and Frodo when the Uruk-Hai are nearby when they are near Amon Hen. It also lets Sam know that Orcs were approaching Shelob's lair when he was grieving over Frodo's web-wrapped body. However, one thing that not only fans noticed, but those who take pleasure in catching when movies slip up noticed as well, is that Sting does not always glow like it should.
When in Moria, Sting lights up like there's no tomorrow, but occasionally, you will catch glimpses of it looking like a normal blade. I do not consider this a major flaw in The Lord of the Rings. (Go on. Fight me on this. Bring it.) It's a mistake, for sure. But I honestly would never have known that Sting wasn't glowing at some points if I hadn't been specifically looking up different flaws in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sting's glow, or lack thereof, does not break my immersion with the story at all. I'm able to enjoy every fight scene that Sting comes out in even without its signature glow. Honestly, when I'm watching a fantasy sword fight, I'm not looking at the computer effects on the sword. I'm looking for epic-ness! I'm looking for Orc guts and gore!
7 Abandoning The Horses
I've been up in arms over some of these supposed flaws in The Lord of the Rings, but this particular flaw makes me laugh. It's pretty bad, actually. I didn't notice it the first time I watched The Return of the King, but I did notice it the second time, and I actually laughed out loud in the theater. It's very bad. Hilariously so. Aragorn and company travel to the Black Gate in order to draw Sauron's eye away from Frodo and Mount Doom. They're on horseback, and they travel all the way to Mordor in front of a small army. As soon as the Black Gates open, Aragorn gives the troops a courageous speech, still on horseback, and draws his sword to face the approaching army. Then, strangely, for some reason, after some eerie music plays and Aragorn stares at the Eye of Sauron, Aragorn charges the enemy forces on foot.
His horse just disappeared.
And when everyone else rushed forward to attack too, none of them were on horseback either! The horses just seemed to have vanished with no explanation. Did Aragorn send the horses away so that they would not be in danger from enemy spears? Did Aragorn and his friends pass their horses on to other people who were better suited for a cavalry charge? Did Sauron blink and cause the horses to disappear? It's a mystery that remains unsolved, and I still get the giggles every time I watch that part of the battle. Don't get me wrong. Aragorn bum-rushing the Black Gate on foot looks cool. But where did his horse run off too?
6 The Life Of A Beacon Lighter
The battles were top-notch in The Return of the King though I do prefer the Battle of Helm's Deep from The Two Towers to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and the Battle at the Black Gate. Aside from the fighting, the third film also offered some pretty unique moments that were engaging to watch without any (fake) blood being shed. One of these engaging moments did make me ponder what life is like for the smaller characters in the story. Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Gondor, intent on having the Steward of Gondor call on Rohan for aid. The Steward is an intractable and contemptible person though, so Gandalf and Pippin have to find a way to alert Rohan without the Steward's permission.
The way they do this is by lighting a beacon in the city. Once this beacon is lit, another one farther off lights its own stack of wood, then the next beacon does the same, so on and so forth, all they way across the mountains to Rohan. It was very cinematic having the camera give us these wide shots of mountaintops and tiny fires being lit among them, but those areas looked pretty freaking remote. How are the people stationed there supposed to survive? There were no little cabins near the stack of wood that served as a beacon. Was their job simply to stand there, freezing and hungry, on the tops of tall mountains waiting for the day they would have to light their beacon? What kind of existence is that?
5 Fabric Doesn't Do That
The Fellowship visited the woods of Lothlorien at the worst of times. Gandalf had just fallen into shadow, and everyone was depressed and miserable. The Elves of Lothlorien did their best to soothe the travelers, but the most they could do was outfit them with the necessary tools to complete their journey. Each member of the Fellowship got something special for themselves, but everyone got an Elven cloak with a Lórien brooch to fasten it with. Aside from being the height of style on Middle-earth (don't quote me on that), these cloaks and brooches end up being extremely useful all on their own. Pippin removes his brooch and throws it onto the ground after being captured by some Uruks so that Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas can track him down. That's a logical move.
Frodo, on the other hand, uses his Elven cloak to do something extraordinary.
Sam gets into a spot of trouble while they're spying on some Easterlings. Sam gets stuck in a pile of rocks and Frodo has to slide down and rescue him. (That's a nice change of pace.) Frodo is unable to get Sam unstuck from the rocks before some two curious Easterlings come over to investigate the commotion. So Frodo tosses his cloak over them in order to conceal their presence. The shocking thing is that it works. Go ahead and nitpick this moment if you want to. I'm as baffled as you are as to how a plain cloak could end up looking so rock-like.
4 The Most Important Character Left Out
The Lord of the Rings is quite the hefty piece of literature. Each of the three books by themselves are fairly lengthy; put them all together and you have enough reading to last you a nice long week. As such, it must have been a daunting task for Peter Jackson when he first considered turning the beloved fantasy novels into digestible movies. I can't even begin to comprehend how you decide what gets left on the cutting floor and what does not. One character that was not included in the movies but was a prominent figure in The Fellowship of the Ring was the character of Tom Bombadil.
The Hobbits meet Tom Bombadil very early on in the story, and it is discovered that Tom can hold the Ring and not be affected by it, neither by its invisibility or by its evil. It seems odd that such a character would not make it onto the screen when he could have provided answers to both the Hobbits and the audience for how the Ring works. For those book lovers who insist that Tom should have been included, I feel for you, but I don't necessarily agree that Tom was vital to the story. I mean, if you didn't know that Tom Bombadil was supposed to be in the story, it's impossible to notice a fault in the flow of The Fellowship of the Ring. Everything proceeds along so smoothly without him. I'm sorry, Tom Bombadil. You were one of my favorite characters in the book if it is any consolation.
3 A Hearty Disregard For Physics
A friend of mine has a vivid memory of the time he went to go see The Two Towers in theaters. Unfortunately for him, he went to go see it while a gaggle of enthusiastic women were in the theater as well. These women may or may not have been Lord of the Rings fans, but one thing is for certain. They were definitely Legolas fans. Anytime Legolas did anything remotely cool-looking, they would squeal like crazy. My friend found himself growing more and more annoyed by the second. These women were completely ruining his movie experience. It's because of this experience that he now goes to see movies at one in the morning when no one else is around.
One of the moments these women reached peak levels of being irritating was when Legolas flipped onto his horse after firing some arrows at attacking Warg Riders. My friend wanted to claw his own ears off after that. My biggest problem with that moment is the manner in which Legolas flipped back into the saddle. Have you ever seen that moment? It looks totally unreal. He grabs onto the horse's neck with his right hand and the does this weird turn in the air that doesn't look physically possible. And I'm not just saying that as a person who could not flip onto a horse if her life depended on it. Legolas' motions in the air ran counter to how he grabbed onto his horse.
2 What Really Happens Next To Lava
Let's talk science flaws in a fantasy movie. That's always fun. Sam and Frodo have a close call after the Ring (and Gollum) fall into the fires of Mount Doom. And by "fires," we mean lava. The place literally blows up as soon as the Ring is melted into gold goop, and Frodo and Sam have to rush out of the mountain before they too are consumed by the "fires." One of the complaints I hear about this particular part of The Return of the King is that there should be no way those two Hobbits survived being so close to extremely hot lava. Clearly, the people who complain about this don't understand the concept of a fantasy movie.
Anyway, I went ahead and found a bunch of information supporting the fact that Frodo and Sam should not have survived their time with the spewing Mount Doom. Not only were high temperatures a concern, but smoke inhalation should have done them in as well, along with severe dehydration. The dehydration specifically is interesting to note because they were already suffering from a lack of water on their way to Mount Doom. Having a volcano right next to them would not have helped matters. Plus, think of all the rocky debris thrown up in the air from the explosion near the top of Mount Doom. It's a miracle that none of those chunks of mountains hit the small outcropping that Frodo and Sam ended up resting on.
1 The One To Really Blame
I have memorized the narration that Elrond uses when he is describing to Gandalf the events after the fight with Sauron, after Isildur cut the Ring from Sauron's finger. The day the strength of Men failed was clearly a low point for Elrond. Isildur's decision to keep the Ring seems to have embittered Elrond against all Men. I can kind of see why he might feel that way, but a large part of me does wonder at Elrond's anger. It is this flaw in The Lord of the Rings that makes me side with the nitpickers (though I will still call myself a true fan).
Elrond knew of the dangers of that Ring.
He knew that a part of Sauron existed in that tiny band of metal. But the only effort he really made to destroy the Ring was to tell Isildur to cast it into the fire. And when Isildur refused, Elrond just stood there like a chump, calling after Isildur's retreating form. By not taking more decisive action against Isildur, Elrond basically ensured that evil was allowed to endure. Now, I'm not saying that Elrond should have slain Isildur. But he should have at least tried harder to stop him from leaving. He could have tried pulling him aside and talking to him. Or he could have taken the Ring from him and plopped it into the lava himself. I honestly don't view the moment Isildur did not throw the Ring into the fire as "the day the strength of Men failed." I now think of this moment as the day the intelligence of Elves failed.