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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:19 am

Saw this question and answer on Quora.com and thought I'd share because the answer is so good (imo):

Q: What do you feel about the Lord of the Ring scene, when Pippin is singing to Denethor?

A: The scene exists solely in the movie; it is not a scene from the book. The lyrics are taken from a completely different scene.

I thought the music was haunting, and Boyd sang it beautifully. The moment was quite affecting.

However, I didn't care for the way it depicted Denethor as a gluttonous tyrant and a horrible father. Denethor is not a monster; he was in fact a wise ruler. His fault was in giving in to despair, a serious no-no in Catholicism and in Tolkien's world.

I don't necessarily disapprove of changing the character from the book. This issue of faith is pretty abstruse, better handled in the contemplative nature of a book rather than the go-go-go nature of a film. Jackson also sought ways to cut the larger-than-life characters down to make the book more of an epic and less of a myth; that choice I am less sanguine about, but I understand it.

But I think he went too far with Denethor, and I feel that that scene in particular suffered for it. It doesn't humanize Denethor to turn him into a cartoon villain. Instead of an opportunity to engender real grief for a human whose fault is very similar to our own, we feel contempt for Denethor. His death seems like comeuppance, a pretty shallow emotion.

Jackson should have aimed for better. All he needed in that scene was to feel what we feel during that song, the heartbreak of a father and ruler who has just sent men to die in a necessary cause, helpless and forlorn. We would understand his despair, and instead of greeting his death with "Good", we'd say, "Wow, poor thing." That's a much worthier and more interesting emotion, not to mention better in keeping with the book.

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:27 am

Really solid answer there. I agree with pretty much all of it.

Interestingly, the lyrics for Pippin's song comes from Tolkien's own "A Walking Song", which is a cheerful and upbeat Bilbo composition in the context of the books. The melody for the film version was written by Boyd, and the lyrics were rearranged slightly.

My first time watching ROTK-EE, at a friend's birthday party when I was 12 years old, there were about four of us there for most of the film. Even though it had been years since I'd seen any of the films, I got really into it and by the time we reached the suicide charge on Osgiliath scene I was more invested in the movie than in the party. (Actually, it was that evening that kickstarted by the movie half of my Tolkien fandom.) But one of the of the other guys watching kept yelling "piggie!" and "asshole!" at the screen whenever Denethor's dribbly tomato mouth appeared onscreen during that sequence. It was kind of annoying, but only slightly less subtle than PJ's direction there. Very Happy
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Post by halfwise on Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:07 pm

I've voiced my opinion before about how the movie totally wasted one of the most interesting characters in the books. There should never be any feelings of contempt for Denethor, it's the thing I hate most about the LotR movies.

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Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Oct 22, 2015 2:26 pm

I never felt contempt for him. To me he was like some ruthless clan leader who had become jaded and bitter with disappointment, pride and fear. The death of his favourite son sent him over the edge into madness. I thought it was brilliant and I loved the performance.

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:55 pm

Eldorion wrote:But one of the of the other guys watching kept yelling "piggie!" and "asshole!" at the screen whenever Denethor's dribbly tomato mouth appeared onscreen during that sequence.  It was kind of annoying, but only slightly less subtle than PJ's direction there. Very Happy
I'm guessing that's the reaction PJ wanted; probably wanted people to pump their fists in the air when Gandalf clubbed him with his staff.

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:01 pm

halfwise wrote:I've voiced my opinion before about how the movie totally wasted one of the most interesting characters in the books.  There should never be any feelings of contempt for Denethor, it's the thing I hate most about the LotR movies.
Maybe not my least favorite aspect of the movies, but it's one where PJ really could have shown some subtlety and not dumbed down so much.

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Post by azriel on Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:33 pm

Raddy, you get my vote for best Avatar ! Very Happy

I have never enjoyed,( or made allowances for ) the way peejers mutated the set characters to fit within HIS world of ME. Because these characters are visualized on film makes it often harder to get them out of your head & you seem to accept that is the way the character is. Not everyone has, or will, read LOTRs so they wont know the truth, which can make a HUGE difference to the story.

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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:45 pm

Radaghast wrote:
Eldorion wrote:But one of the of the other guys watching kept yelling "piggie!" and "asshole!" at the screen whenever Denethor's dribbly tomato mouth appeared onscreen during that sequence.  It was kind of annoying, but only slightly less subtle than PJ's direction there. Very Happy
I'm guessing that's the reaction PJ wanted; probably wanted people to pump their fists in the air when Gandalf clubbed him with his staff.

Nearly 12 years ago, I remember this moment so clearly. People clapped and cheered when Gandalf bonked Denethor in the face. I just wondered why they took out the Palantir and ruined the pyre scene. Oh, and why there was no Beregond and Bergil. Sad Mad

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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:46 pm

azriel wrote:Raddy, you get my vote for best Avatar ! Very Happy

Ditto! Very Happy

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:01 pm

bungobaggins wrote:
azriel wrote:Raddy, you get my vote for best Avatar ! Very Happy

Ditto! Very Happy
Thanks, guys! Very Happy

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:05 pm

Radaghast wrote:I'm guessing that's the reaction PJ wanted; probably wanted people to pump their fists in the air when Gandalf clubbed him with his staff.

Agreed, I think that's what they were going for. And in that context they succeeded; I know plenty of people who love to hate movie!Denethor. But I agree with you guys that he's a much shallower and less interesting character than his book counterpart, and I think they could have conveyed more of his depth with little effect on the film's running time.
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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:06 pm

azriel wrote:I have never enjoyed,( or made allowances for ) the way peejers mutated the set characters to fit within HIS world of ME. Because these characters are visualized on film makes it often harder to get them out of your head & you seem to accept that is the way the character is. Not everyone has, or will, read LOTRs so they wont know the truth, which can make a HUGE difference to the story.
Really good point. Changes are inevitable but adaptations should always at least strive to preserve characterization and motivation. But it doesn't seem to be much of a consideration, unfortunately. I don't know how much the people who make adaptations realize how much influence they have.

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:09 pm

bungobaggins wrote:
Radaghast wrote:
Eldorion wrote:But one of the of the other guys watching kept yelling "piggie!" and "asshole!" at the screen whenever Denethor's dribbly tomato mouth appeared onscreen during that sequence.  It was kind of annoying, but only slightly less subtle than PJ's direction there. Very Happy
I'm guessing that's the reaction PJ wanted; probably wanted people to pump their fists in the air when Gandalf clubbed him with his staff.
Nearly 12 years ago, I remember this moment so clearly. People clapped and cheered when Gandalf bonked Denethor in the face. I just wondered why they took out the Palantir and ruined the pyre scene. Oh, and why there was no Beregond and Bergil. Sad Mad
Admittedly, Beregond and Bergil would've been tricky to fit in, given running time considerations, but Denethor's palantír should definitely have been included. It's a pretty glaring omission.

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Post by Radaghast on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:10 pm

Eldorion wrote:
Radaghast wrote:I'm guessing that's the reaction PJ wanted; probably wanted people to pump their fists in the air when Gandalf clubbed him with his staff.

Agreed, I think that's what they were going for.  And in that context they succeeded; I know plenty of people who love to hate movie!Denethor.  But I agree with you guys that he's a much shallower and less interesting character than his book counterpart, and I think they could have conveyed more of his depth with little effect on the film's running time.
I'm one of those who hate movie Denethor Very Happy Probably not for the reasons PJ wanted me to hate him, though Mad

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Oct 22, 2015 5:20 pm

True that. Laughing But I do know people who find him an effective villain and enjoy cheering against him, which is what I was trying to get at with "love to hate". I don't entirely agree, but like, I do find Faramir's charge at Osgiliath to be an emotional effective scene, and it only really works/happens in the first place because of movie!Denethor's craziness/assholishness.
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