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I have been disappointed in the new Amazon Lord of the Rings series so I decided to go back and rewatch all of the Peter Jackson movies as a palate cleanser. I even watched the Hobbit movies because, while they were not great, I have still found them better than what's currently on offer.

HOWEVER

I have to bump up my estimation of these films purely because of the absolutely based way they handle the character of Alfrid Lickspittle. He's one of the few well written and well acted characters in the film, being thoroughly despicable. During the Battle of Five Armies, instead of helping his fellow people he repeatedly shows cowardice.

His final act of shame is to dress as a woman so that he can hide with the elderly, the infirm, and the women and children. Seeing that the battle is going poorly, the able-bodied women start to arm themselves. Alfrid is discovered by an appropriately outraged woman who shouts "You are a coward."

Afrid replies "Coward? Not every man's brave enough to wear a corset."

But nobody is having any of it. There is no such thing as Brave and Stunning in these parts.

"You're not a man," she replies. "You're a weasel."

As the villain runs off in the end, he's informed that his slip is showing.

Ya know, these movies may have been kind of crap as an adaptation of The Hobbit, but they get a standing ovation from me just for including that scene.

I have been disappointed in the new Amazon Lord of the Rings series so I decided to go back and rewatch all of the Peter Jackson movies as a palate cleanser. I even watched the Hobbit movies because, while they were not great, I have still found them better than what's currently on offer. HOWEVER I have to bump up my estimation of these films purely because of the absolutely based way they handle the character of Alfrid Lickspittle. He's one of the few well written and well acted characters in the film, being thoroughly despicable. During the Battle of Five Armies, instead of helping his fellow people he repeatedly shows cowardice. His final act of shame is to dress as a woman so that he can hide with the elderly, the infirm, and the women and children. Seeing that the battle is going poorly, the able-bodied women start to arm themselves. Alfrid is discovered by an appropriately outraged woman who shouts "You are a coward." Afrid replies "Coward? Not every man's brave enough to wear a corset." But nobody is having any of it. There is no such thing as Brave and Stunning in these parts. "You're not a man," she replies. "You're a weasel." As the villain runs off in the end, he's informed that his slip is showing. Ya know, these movies may have been kind of crap as an adaptation of The Hobbit, but they get a standing ovation from me just for including that scene.

36 comments

I feel like the problem with most all entertainment these days, is that audiences now seem to want to be fed what they understand already. They don't see a movie or a show as an opportunity to be exposed to a new way of looking at things, or to challenge their beliefs or their judgments about the world and people in it. They want to be spoon-fed a representation of what they already feel cozy about. Movies for along time were used to reveal certain aspects of being human that may have been difficult to articulate or share.....much in the way old stories and fables were based around morals and values that reflected a way of being in the world with consequences both good and bad.

That is also to say, that its not important really to heavily infuse a story with race or sex or sexual orientation or identity....because it feels exactly like what it is, pandering. It gets in the way of the point of the story. I do not need to see a white or brown or black character specifically to engage in understanding the human condition and empathize with the character's experience. But if someone tries to cast a Latino as the King of England, it is really distracting....and I dont particularly want that distraction. I can know that the King of England was very white and still recognize the separate plights of my Latino culture. It would be much more useful to me to see the white king of England be confronted with his own potential prejudices based on his correct culture, than to have him be Brown and therefore already assumed to be enlightened. If we watched a Brown King of England behave with prejudice towards a Brown person in his court, it wouldn't make any sense at all...because even racism has a context that must be recognized in order to powerfully deliver the message.

I don't envy a writer who needs to deal with the competing demands of trying to write a good story and the tick box, pandering approach to representation these days. The frustrating thing is I know enough people from enough different backgrounds to know that they ALL know when they are being patronized. Like you said, as a Latina you do not need to have history modified in order to relate to the characters being represented.

I read a really persuasive argument from one online critic saying that as a black guy he didn't appreciate race swapped characters because he felt that was just studios giving black people sloppy seconds instead of having enough confidence to tell stories about actually black people. I do think that there are plenty of occasions where the race of the character doesn't matter at all and anyone could be cast. But there are other occasions where it does matter from a historical or fictional point of view and changing it is pandering, patronizing, or altering the story for current day politics in a way that compromises good storytelling.

I want to see talented people from any background tell amazing stories. But I don't like seeing corporations cynically engage in diversity politics, which actually ends up putting actors from diverse backgrounds in a position to endure a lot of abuse. I'm sure every actor wants to work and be judged for his or her work, and being plunged into nasty online debates can't be good for those involved, or their careers.

All very good additional points, thank you. And yes, "tokenry" speaks quite loudly. I am mixed-race, and I really enjoy period films of all kinds and it is important to me that the characters accurately represent who they were in life. When you are watching a story about an historical figure, its because you want to imagine who they actually were, how they spoke and how they looked and who they might have been as a person. When you mix up the authenticity you're robbing people of their interest to start with. If its a story about fictional characters or events, its players choice...they can be anything....however if there is a precedent set in a book for example, its really helpful to at least honor the precedent so that you can still capture the audience that was originally drawn to the story to begin with.

The Wheel of Time books had almost NO sex in them, nor sexual orientation outside of anyone needing to procreate. You were free to imagine all the characters in a whole range of ethnicities and customs and culture with a bare minimum of sexual innuendo from time to time. The story was an epic, and there wasn't ever a need to explain anyone's sexual habits. Now that the show is out I find that its done mostly well however it just grates when they have people having sex at all, and then insinuating their sexual orientations on top of it.

I am not even sure it’s what audiences want, or just that studios are not willing to take any risk to profits, and rely on an established franchise to sell. I am hopeful that it will lead to a gap for independent cinema to gain popularity as people search out better, engaging stories.

I agree here, although I also feel like not 15-20 years ago we already had this? Seems it is indeed up to people to remember that they have a choice.

[–] Zamiel 11 points Edited

Totally agree with you and Omina. There are parts in The Hobbit films that makes me emotional everytime. I haven't bothered with the new show (yet) but from the trailer and stills it looks so devoid of any kind of heart that I can't imagine feeling that level of engagement with it. It looks like a sterile amazon™ product manufactured to cynically fuel the culture wars and give both sides something to write outraged tweets and articles and 4chan posts about.

Whenever The Hobbit comes up I'm always reminded of how the excessive green-screening made Ian McKellen cry, and I'll always hate that go-pro shot when the barrels drop into the river, and I'll never think the Tauriel-Kili romance was a good idea, and Azog looks just awful, and the part where Legolas runs up the collapsing bridge looks so bad, my god. But then I remember watching the trilogy every few years with my sister and how charming and fun it is and how good some of the casting is. Getting worked up over the dumb stuff is part of the charm for me. At least it's worth getting worked up over.

edit: misspelled McKellen, shameful

and I'll never think the Tauriel-Kili romance was a good idea

The worst thing for me was not even the Tauriel-Kili romance in itself (even though I didn't like it either), but the "love triangle" they created with Legolas. Making Legolas highly emotionally attached to this female elf character they unnecessarily made up for the movies.

It's a Big Deal in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy when Legolas reacts emotionally to Aragon's supposed death. Because he usually doesn't, and they make sure multiple times to show how he's confused by other characters reacting emotionally around him. This whole thing in The Hobbit retroactively cheapens those scenes and with them the special bond that Legolas and Aragorn have.

So, I've decided not to consider it canon. (To make use of that Nick Fury meme: "I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it.")

Otherwise, I thought The Hobbit trilogy was fine. It did have some great scenes, and I enjoyed it generally. But I also kind of learned this from Harry Potter: If I focus too much on how things are different from the source material, there is no way I can enjoy any of those movies. So I try to kind of see them as a separate thing.

I laugh out loud at the end when Tauriel is like "why does it hurt so bad." Poor Evangeline Lilly was trying so hard but she didn't believe it.

Sterile is a good word. Nobody loved what they were doing for the Amazon show, and it's evident in the final product.

the part where Legolas runs up the collapsing bridge looks so bad

Yes, but it gave birth to this so all is forgiven.

I'd never seen that 😂 Amazing. I used to hate the Legolas barrel sequence so much but it's so stupid and goes on for so long that I've come to enjoy it in some twisted way.

The "Rings Of Power" series had the same effect on me as the new "Star Wars" trilogy and "Star Trek: Discovery": it made me reconsider the prequels.

"The Hobbit", the Abrams movies and the prequel series of "Star Wars" were bad, but in comparison with the new stuff, they were masterpieces. At least watching them didn' t make you want to throw something at the screen, and while they could have definitely been made better, I could sense that people involved actually gave a damn. Maybe not enough to make it good, but they did care.

These new movies and shows exist exclusively to parasite on a brand and shit on the original creator' s work (not to mention, on the entire fanbase). It pisses me off that they even exist.

Yeah it's just depressing at this point. I don't want to dredge up all the online nastiness, other than to say it's so predictable at this point that it's probably part of the marketing strategy for the show's producers. If people want to tell a particular story, fine, tell it! Have enough confidence in your creations to give them their own world to bring to life. I am really over the trend of taking existing characters and then completely breaking them down or altering them beyond recognition. Anne with an E, new Star Wars, new Star Trek, LOTR, Halo . . . it's all just using the likenesses of existing characters and stories but then using them to tell a completely different story that nobody believed in enough to support properly.

Your use of the word "parasite" is very accurate. I also call it Invasion of the Franchise Snatchers.

This is like the Indiana Jones 4 movie that I refuse to admit happened: suddenly Temple of Doom wasn't as big a pile o' crap as I thought. I still didn't like it for lots of reasons, but it looked better.

It's because it was a real movie made in a real place with real things by people who were actually excited to be there instead of a CGI fest with a cast and crew clearly just there for the paycheck. Maybe the results weren't great but at least an effort was made!

Wait, Temple of Doom was the best one! I need to watch it again but that may be my childhood brain being scarred from it saying it's good lmao You're right though, I keep forgetting Crystal Skull even exists...

Another Indiana Jones 4 denier here. Did you see the South Park episode about it?

I like fantasy, I watch far too much TV, and I should like the new Prime series ... but I have zero interest in watching it, after giving the first two episodes a shot. I'm not 100% sure why, this might be part of it.

[–] eyeswideopen 3 points Edited

My favorite bit of the Hobbit films was Lee Pace and his portrayal of Thranduil. I only wish the "Rings" production designers had stayed with Jackson's conception of elves instead of the Elves of Middle Management that they decided to go with for the series.

I will say that I love Arondir and the actor who plays him, but why did they give Elrond and so many other elves pompadours? They're supposed to be powerful, sexy, and a bit terrifying, not Bob down the hall.😭 At least Numenor and Khazad-dum look amazing.

I really liked Thranduil as well. He had the right look and had a good mix of sympathetic and unsympathetic traits.

I have to be honest though, I don't understand the casting decisions with the elves. The guy who plays Arondir is for sure handsome enough but the others do not have the right look. Elrond has more of a hobbit than elven look (even without the dumb hair he would not look right) and Celebrimbor is just way too old to play an elf.

The sweeping CG wideshot views of scenery are very pretty -- agree with you there.

I see your point on Celebrimbor and Elrond. They aren't young or sexy enough for sure. As Elrond is half-ish human that is some excuse, but Celebrimbor really should be younger and less jolly looking.

I think Galadriel was cast well though, and Arondir also. Arondir's commander or whatever was too old too though.

The actress has the right look and she is absolutely performing exactly what the script and direction require of her. Nothing that is wrong with the character is her fault. She's doing a great job playing a very unpleasant, uninspiring person. The guy cast as Arondir has the right look -- he's young but doesn't look like a teenager, which plays into the "ageless" effect an elf needs to have. He's also a handsome guy, and striking beauty is another trait of Tolkien's elves. But yeah his buddy in Vampire Orc Prison was way too old. It's all very strange because there is absolutely no shortage of young, beautiful, talented people at Hollywood casting calls.

I'm not an enormous Tolkien fan, but I rather like the new show. I couldn't stomach the Hobbit movies (took all the joy out of a wonderful children's book, blargh!!!), and the original trilogy was just meh IMHO. Different strokes I suppose.

Totally fine if you like the new show. It's probably easier to do so if you aren't super into Tolkien's work, because then you aren't disoriented by how different the characters are. The characters in the show that are from the books bear little resemblance to their established personalities and histories, which is jarring to someone like me who's been reading the books since childhood. Not everyone will feel the same about every bit of entertainment. I mainly find it depressing how much nastiness has gotten whipped up over various shows, as if we all have to agree about them or one of us is a bad person. Enjoy the shows! I'm glad someone is!

Maybe that's it. I read LOTR and The Hobbit, but only once each many years ago. I tried to read the Silmarillion but it was not my cup of tea. I was very off put by The Hobbit in particular, as the tone was just way off from what I really liked about the book. It was trying to hard to be LOTR and keep adults invested, or it seemed to me. I prefer the cartoon version!

But yeah for the wider Tolkien universe I have no real frame of reference, so no disappointment here!

I'm going to have to watch these movies again just for that scene! Haven't touched Rings of Power and only hear people complaining because of the diversity and the female characters...but are the women at least written well? That's all I care about tbh!

[–] Boudicaea 4 points Edited

I think most people just hate anything new and they also enjoy complaining. I don't see anything wrong with including minorities and women in any sort of fiction. How is that even a defensible position??

Personally I really like the new series. I think Galadriel is very compelling, and I am enjoying her storyline in particular. It does take an episode or two to get into it, but the characters are a lot more three dimensional than in previous Tolkien adaptations, IMHO. And it's still beautiful like the original LOTR was. Perhaps moreso.

I can't see how anyone could like The Hobbit movies over the new series personally. The Hobbit movies were hot garbage IMHO.

Edit to add that in terms of the acting being too wooden among the elves-- I think that's just because they are elves. Lol. They are above the fray because they are super old and they get obsessed with their pet projects. Galadriel is a very old high elf and she's particularly prone to it. She is an elf princess, the elfiest of the elves!

I think the direction for the show is for the actors to highlight the racial differences (elves vs men vs dwarves vs hobbits, etc.). Personally I think that adds to the show and makes it more interesting.

Minorities - yes, it's absurd to whinge that elves weren't really black in a fantasy novel adaptation. Tyrion Lannister doesn't look a thing like Peter Dinklage, nobody cared.

Women fabricated or male characters recast is a bit trickier, for me. Turning Starbuck into a woman in the new BSG worked, for me, because they showed a totally different imagined society. But if you create female military and political leaders, but other aspects of society are entirely patriarchal (ie norms around marriage, property, sexual behaviour) it rings a bit false. Does it make sense to world-build a society in which women have equal or sometimes greater political power but no social power? Then there are the issues in which sex is actually important to the story, like the Wheel of Time in which types of magic are strictly linked to sex, but then the show genderbends.

I think you make a good point. It's not clear to me though that Middle Earth is as patriarchal as the real world. Not sure if you are making that point specifically about Tolkien-related material specifically or just making a general point. And it may be that the way Tolkien wrote it and it has been re-envisioned in the past that it truly was. Tolkien was a product of his time, and I think the original LOTR movies were a fairly faithful rendition of his work. Arwen and Eowen seemed to be hemmed in by the patriarchy for sure.

It does seem that the show is willing to take some license with the source material to get away from female disempowerment and to bring in more diversity. Personally I am OK with that. I think by making Galadriel a general and putting a queen in charge of Numenor, giving human girls the ability to join trades there, they are trying to say that women (well, females) are on more equal footing with males in this version of Middle Earth (at least in high elf and Numenorean society). It's nice to see IMHO.

The gross, disgusting, somewhat intentionally manufactured internet dumpster fire over diversity casting on the show is incredibly depressing. It's also fairly easy to avoid if you stay away from the kind of gross dudebros on YouTube who make a living off of that kind of thing.

I do not feel the women characters are written at all well. I would compare "Galadriel" (I use the quotes because she bears no resemblance to the woman in the books) to Admiral Holdo in the new Star Wars. Doesn't communicate well, is horrible to everyone for no reason, displays entitlement and expects unearned respect from everyone and unquestioning acquiescence to her plan . . .

I get what they were trying to do -- show a younger, less experienced character who has fire and passion but needs to be tempered with wisdom and patience. But she's just needlessly hostile. She acts like a guy, if I'm being honest. A mean guy who fancies himself an Alpha but can't actually make friends or gain support because he's just rude and irrational. She's confrontational with everyone. She's happy to leave someone under her command to needlessly die. She does everything better than everyone else without having to struggle, learn, grow, or make sacrifices, which makes her unrelatable and unbelievable.

It's very depressing. I get what they think they were doing. They wanted to show a #strongwoman and a #girlboss but like so many badly written female characters these days, they thought that meant making her act like an asshole man.

Ugh, that doesn't sound promising.

I mean, I guess it is salvageable ... IF the writers realize what they are doing. Then they could give her a proper redemption plot, instead of just pretending that intentionally sending people to needless deaths is a youthful mistake that doesn't matter.

But ... if they write her as man... then ... well, men are forgiven for that sort of shitty behaviour in movies all the time, so ... there's little hope.

(If you ask me, the Silmarillion and LotR should not have been filmed with real life actors. I think C.S. Lewis explicitly said he never wanted his books to become live movies, because he couldn't imagine all the fantasy stuff wouldn't look ridiculous. Now, special effects have come a long way, but actors are still limited by their looks, and well, if you can just draw the characters the way they are supposed to look, you can get voice actors who can actually act. Elves are difficult to cast because you need people who look young but can act like they're hundreds or thousands of years old, and that's just ... very difficult.)

Lots of shows were subpar season 1 and improved. (Buffy, Star Trek TNG . . .) But as the traditional production model for TV has been broken, I don't know if improvements can or can't happen with this show. I hadn't heard that C.S. Lewis quote before, but it makes sense based on what he would have known about the state of film technology in his time as well as the fundamental struggle of having child actors. It would be unfair to expect child actors to have the skill set of experienced adults. And for sure elves would be tricky to cast. You need an old soul with a very beautiful, young looking face.

I only watched the first two episodes of ROP, so it’s possible my feelings would change if I continued watching, but the main female character, Galadriel, is extremely poorly written. She’s very stubborn and self-interested and only has one motive. The actress is absolutely wooden and cannot emote anything except for vague anger, which I guess is fitting since that seems to be the only feeling the character is allowed to express. They reduced her to a “I am very badass” girl boss. Disappointed. I’m not a huge fan of the Hobbit/LOTR but ROP made even me want to rewatch the originals! Lol.