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SUSPENSE in The Lotr

Gloer

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I think the single mistake Jackson made in his movies was in the way he creates suspense.

He should watch some very good movies from Alfred Hichcock and learn.

In comparison to Tolkien's book he is spoiling the viewer with premature knowledge. This applies to the major plot developement and also even those minute moments which actually are supposed to create fear and terror!

Here are some examples:

1. The balrog. The Balrog looks great, terrifying and awesome! But I wasn't scared at all when it jumped on the bridge. Why? Because they showed the whole beast already when it entered the great hall! Before that there was suspense, red glow, drums, etc. PJ simply let the suspense go just a little too early.

2. The ringwraiths. These things managed to be very scary up until the weathertop. there was simply too much of showing them. I think the worst was showing them guarding all the roads. Why? It would have been more effective to just show the roads with a feeling that there is something guarding it. Somehow these disgusting riders were not terrifying after a while.

3. Gandalf's imprisonment! Why to tell us that? Gandalf says in the movie that he is never late. It would have been very confusing and frightening (especially for the younger audience) if this father figure just did not show up in Bree as in the book! They could have had him explain Saruman episode in Rivendell and then go to show Orthanc.

4. The Palantir. Showing the communication between Saruman and Sauron set's many variables fixed for the coming movies. It would have been simpler to show Saruman to want the ring. Maybe there is a twist other way around in TT: Saruman betrays Sauron and clearly wants the ring then. But then he has no chance anymore - he has lost already.
 
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Talierin

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This is one of the main things I found wrong about the movie, even over the character changes and whatnot. There's suspense, but it could have been so much better if PJ hadn't done certain things the way he did.
 

Greenleaf

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About the Belrog

Gloer-
I don't think that PJ was trying to create suspense in the scene in Moria. The Belrog was not "jumping" out @ Gandalf he was challenging Gandalf’s will (Gandalf had just said “You shall not pass"). It was (in my opinion) about the struggle between wills, not a scene were you were suppose to jump from fear.
 

Gloer

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Ok... Balrog

Suspense does not need to end up in jumping with fear.

The Balrog scene was supposed to make one think that there is a very mighty foe coming after the fellowship. So mighty that they could not fight it, and they should just try to flee.

How to make a viewer not just know this but also feel it?

Do not show the monster - at least not entirely. Keep the audience in suspense - show only the terror the monster creates in it's own servents, the red glow, maybe fiery eyes. But do not let the audience know what it is.

Why not?

Because Balrog does NOT make you "jump" when you see it. After the enemy is in sight. It can be measured and set in a comfortable frame. It is not as scary anymore.

And the point of revealing the Balrog should have been on the bridge - not in the hall. Making the Balrog larger is a cheap and ineffective way of compensating the lost suspense.

And last:
Making audience "jump" is just one way of ending the build up of suspense. Suspence stands alone as an effect and it usually ends in relief, if one thinks about it. (For example Frodo jumping to the ferry and escaping the Black riders.)
 
R

ReadWryt

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It's not that Jackson is bereft of knowlege of creating suspense, he demonstrates his ability to do that in the Box Office flop, but decent suspense/comedy "The Frighteners". I think the guy knows the mechanics of the medium, I'm just left wondering if, after doing so much work on the Balrog at WETA, they showed it off because it was a pretty expensive character animation job. *Shrug* Of course, I could guess in one hand and spit in the other and see which fills up first, to paraphrase my Dad.
 

Greenleaf

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Gloer-
Ok OK............I stand corrected. I personally thought it was a good scene. I think ReadWryt is right though about why you saw so much Belrog.
:rolleyes:
 

aragil

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I don't think that we saw that Balrog all that early- it was probably 5 minutes of screen time from the first rumor to the beast until it actually shows up on celluloid. Remember- the first indication we have of it is when the party is surrounded by goblins, which unaccountably (unless you've read the book) slink off. Then there's the whole business of getting down the teeter-tottery stairs, all the while hearing the sound of the Balrog coming. Finally the Fellowship gets to the bridge, and that's where I remember seeing the Balrog- if they'd of waited any longer the Fellowship would have been across the bridge, running up the last flight of stairs and out to freedom.
 

Gloer

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I am pretty sure...

... they showed the Balrog in the great hall before the "tossing over the dwarf-scene".

Somehow that scene lets the audience have time to comprehend balrog and the next time it comes around the audiense is more prepared.

I agree Jackson must have talent for suspense as ReadWryt says. But why is he not using it? I can think of two explanations:

1. The script writing was so complex that he was too afraid to confuse the audience rather than create suspense. So he chose to tell too much too early.

2. He deliberately chose to make this movie a little "less" exiting to make it more PG. This is "dumbing it down" so to speak.

I tend to think the first reason is more likely. I think his comments about the script point to that direction.
 

Greenleaf

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Re: I am pretty sure...

[2. He deliberately chose to make this movie a little "less" exiting to make it more PG. ]

Gloer-
The movie was rated PG-13 and since it had to have a rating of less then R (I believe that it was stipulated so in the contract) I would tend to agree with you.
 

chrome_rocknave

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the fake suspense was too over the top. It was totally obvious that PJ wanted movie-goers to be afraid. He used dark scenes, and lots of surprise scenes (the riders stabbing hobbits in bree, the scary bilbo ring face, etc.). I think that he left out the suspense about Strider though. While reading the books I was really getting worried because I was afraid that Strider may not be a good guy. In the movie this suspense it totally overlooked....
 

Minas

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Perhaps having read the book you know too much about what is coming to feel real suspense. Plenty of Tolkien virgins I've spoken to were scared s*itless sitting on the edge of their seats.
 

Gloer

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Minas and Harad are wrong.

I am not slamming this movie. It is clear that compared to the book the audience knows more about what is going to happen than the reader of the book. Tolkien is very careful not to give out too much too early. PJ on the otherhand is giving out plenty of plot twists like the reason why Gandalf is not at Bree.

This is a clear undeniable fact.

Pj could have made the movie a bit scarier if he followed Tolkiens story developement. But then it would not have been PG.

PS:
What comes to the other movie "bashing" accusation here I only reply briefly. These themes are NOT to be continued in this thread, maybe in some other:
1. The cameo by the director. Yes. I had an idea that PJ should replace Sauron as the chief evil character. It would be funny and a lot of NPW's could like the movie more. :)
That was pre-movie and clearly double edged sarcarm. I was picking on the NPW as much as I was picking on PJ - actually even more since it makes the whole confrontation and hatred towards PJ look silly. Or so I think.
2. Hating characters: I even loved Weaving!!!!! Elrond is the best character on the movie. It was a total surprise since Weaving certainly isn't handsome enough. But he brought the part out of the sidelines.
3. Plotlines - I have critisiced needless changes. I think Gandalf/Saruman confrontation should have remained on a more verbal level. On the otherhand Arwen was ok. The biggest mistake was to give away so much in advance. Example the palantir and Saruman's connection to Sauron.


I am not slamming the movie. I liked it more on the second viewing and that is a sign of good vintage film.
 

Minas

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Medium Medium Medium

Hi Gloer,

Its the eternal Film vs Book debate. If you finish book 1 of a Trilogy and you have burning Why? How? questions you go and buy books 2 and 3.
If you've seen a movie that leaves burning Why? How ?questions and you have to wait a year to follow get answers you might bad mouth the movie
 

Gloer

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Re: Medium Medium Medium

Originally posted by Minas
Hi Gloer,

Its the eternal Film vs Book debate. If you finish book 1 of a Trilogy and you have burning Why? How? questions you go and buy books 2 and 3.
If you've seen a movie that leaves burning Why? How ?questions and you have to wait a year to follow get answers you might bad mouth the movie
Very good point but I think it is not quite on the mark here.

1. The movie does leave the audience at the edge wanting to see how the story ends. And most seem to like it anyway.

2. For example the Saruman role: If the movie had not shown us the palantir it would have left us a clearer explanation. Saruman wants the ring for himself. Now we are left with puzzling complexities of why Saruman thinks Sauron is so powerful and what was that crystal ball anyway? Was Saruman that weak that he could be turned to evil unwillingly? These are intrigueing questions, but not suspense creative. And not answered in the FOTR.

It is not about the medium. It is about what the audience is let to know and what it is kept suspended from.
 
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Minas

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Gloer,

I Don't really disagree with you
Your Point 1 is crucial to the both our arguments
1. The movie does leave the audience at the edge wanting to see how the story ends. And most seem to like it anyway.
Does the audience of the movie like to be left for a year lots of unexplained threads. Yes the movie leaves x% untold but at least people can follow what is happening regardless of whether they have read the book.
I trust PJ's judgement of how much info to give away and how much to hold back to make the movie adaptation a commercial success.

For a book I don't question that JRR Tolkien got the mix perfect to make you desparate to find out what is happening in TTT and RoTK.
 

Gloer

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Gandalf is not coming

Very well, but yuo have not really said anything in defense of PJ's changes within the FOTR. Almost all of my criticism is pointed in plot and scene developement within the first film.

The only thing that I criticised regarding the follow-up films is actually the fact that PJ is leaving the audience more puzzled for example of Saruman's real motives than Tolkien - and not in a suspense creative way!

So allthe argument's about not explaining enough in the first film are MISSING THE TARGET.

I am criticising the order in which information is revealed within the FOTR. For example Gandalf's delay. Tolkien surprises the reader that the wizard is not in Bree. He keeps us worried and insecure by only later in Rivendell explaining it. PJ on the otherhand shows us that Gandalf is imprisoned. The effect is that the audience is quite comfortable knowing that Frodo is not going to meet Gandalf. The audience is detached from Frodo's scare and worry. The audience is given an outsider role. It knows too much. But then again - little children would find it traumatic that the father figure does not come to promised place. It is one of the scariest moments for many kids to be forgotten or lost from his/her mom/dad. Adults can handle this effect, kids can't.

To make it PG we have to tell the audience that Gandalf is not coming.

PS. I was very glad they did not give anything away about Gandalf reappearing in the TT!
 

Minas

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I think I got it

Fair Points, the order within the movie could have been more in line with the books in several places as you've pointed out:eek:
 

PRH

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Just to set one thing straight, you do NOT see the Balrog before the stairs/dwarf tossing scene (except in the form of a glow). We do not see it until just a moment before they cross the bridge.

edited for typo
 
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Gloer

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Balrog ok.

After viewing the movie for the third time: yes, you are right PHR, the Balrog appears after the dwarf tossing.

The scene also seemed much better this last time. Gandalf grows to match his foe. He loses the silly hat, he stands at the bridge and he is portrayed glowing a clear light around him as the balrog glows red consuming everything to dark smoke. It is a good scene. I tend to think that this Indiana Jones -episode with the dwarf-tossing interrupts it though. At that point the monster that follows them is forgotten for a while and we fear mere falling down.
 

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