The Same Weakness: Of Aragorn and the MOS (ROTK EE Spoilers)

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The Same Weakness: Of Aragorn and the MOS (ROTK EE Spoilers)

Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:16 am

Unquestionably, the most controversial new scene in the ROTK EE is when Aragorn "concludes negotiations" with the Mouth of Sauron by chopping off his head, even though the Mouth has not even drawn his sword. This is a huge departure from the book, where Tolkien makes it clear that attacking the Mouth while he was acting as an ambassador or herald would be morally wrong.

Some have tried to justify the scene by saying that the Mouth wasn't acting as an ambassador in the film, that he was just evilly taunting the good guys, and that Aragorn was justified in shutting his taunting down.

I don't buy that at all. First of all, the Mouth was just as evil in the book, and he was just as taunting: his "negotiations" were a total farce. Secondly, by just about any moral code that I know of it is wrong to attack someone who is not physically threatening you or someone else (including the moral code called "the law"). Thirdly, and most importantly from the point of view of discerning the filmmaker's intention, the reaction of Gandalf (who acts as a moral compass in both book and films [I know that statement will get questioned ;)]) is clearly one of of shock, surprise and even disgust.

No, it is clear that Aragorn is acting emotionally, and morally wrongly, however evil and offensive the Mouth is. I think what they are trying to do here is remind us that even Aragorn is not perfect. Back in FOTR he says, speaking of Isildur and his failure to destroy the Ring, that "the same blood flows in my veins. The same weakness." In other words, he is human and thus is subject to human weaknesses, as are all of us.

The scene is clearly contrasts with the story of the LOTR and its presentation of Aragorn’s character, but it is not without precedent in Tolkien's work. There are many instances where Tolkien portrays good characters doing bad things, but the scene in Tolkien's work that to me it most closely resembles is the scene in the Silmarillion when Turin slays Brodda the Easterling in Brodda's hall (which is told in much greater detail in the Narn i Hîn Húrin in the Unfinished Tales). In both cases, the "good guy" slays the "bad guy" even though the bad guy is not physically threatening him or anyone else. In both cases, it is a situation where it is particularly wrong to attack the bad guy (in the case of the MoS, because he is acting as an emmissary, and in the case of Brodda, because it was in his home). And in both cases, the "hero" acted out of rage, in Aragorn's part because of the Mouth's words about Frodo, and in Turin's case because Brodda had plundered from and driven off Morwen, Turin's mother.

Turin, of course, is one of Tolkien’s most tragic figures, whereas Aragorn is one of his most noble. But Turin is portrayed as a noble figure who’s life is marred by Morgoth’s curse, and his own impetuous nature (in the broader mythology, however, he ultimately gets his revenge on Morgoth because it is he who strikes him down in the final battle). Turin, of course, is also one of Aragorn’s ancestors. This idea of the fall of man affecting even the most noble members of humanity runs throughout Tolkien’s work, reaching its apex in the story of the Fall of Numenor.

So I see the jarring and disconcerting end of the Mouth of Sauron scene as a reminder that even with all the progress that Aragorn has made towards the Kingship, he is still human, and still shares in that same weakness.

Moreover, there is another aspect that I see. One scene from the films that I am particularly reminded of by this scene is the scene in the beginning of the Two Towers when Gollum is swearing to Frodo on the Ring, and then Sam screams out “I don’t believe you!” and violently jerks on the rope (one of many instances where Sam attacks Gollum). The similarity largely comes from Aragorn snarling “I do not believe it” after decapitating the Mouth. I find the parallel interesting because it points to one of the central truths of the LOTR; that Frodo was the only one who could have gotten the Ring to the point where it could be destroyed. Neither Sam nor Aragorn (the two most often cited as the “real” heros of the LOTR) had the qualities necessary to be the Ringbearer. Frodo, on the other hand, is able to overcome his own anger and fear and release Gollum when he had the opportunity to kill him (and certainly even more motivation then Aragorn had to attack the mouth). Thus, this scene ultimately helps to show why Frodo was especially graced and able to act as the instrument of providence.

There, that is my tale. Others might be devised. But on this we may count in any case: one (or more) of you will vehemently disagree. :)
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Postby Lord_Morningstar » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:27 am

VtF wrote: In both cases, the "good guy" slays the "bad guy" even though the bad guy is not physically threatening him or anyone else. In both cases, it is a situation where it is particularly wrong to attack the bad guy (in the case of the MoS, because he is acting as an emmissary, and in the case of Brodda, because it was in his home).


Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that actually Turin’s home originally (not the specific hall, the country)?

I haven’t seen the RotK:EE, but I would still say that attacking the mouth in negation is worse than slaying the invader Brodda and freeing his thralls. Still, it doesn’t bother me too much. Good post btw.
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Postby Dad-human » Sat Dec 18, 2004 9:25 am

Thanks for a thought provoking post. My reaction to the MOS beheading was more like, "Well he deserved it for being such a jerk." Followed by, "It's only a movie." I had much the same reaction to the Denethor whacking.

One thing I did like about the movie MOS was that he was able to describe Frodo's torture in Barad-dur. The threat of imprisonment and torture, which I find much more frightening than death, was a big thing in the book but was mostly cut out of the movie.
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Postby Biff » Sat Dec 18, 2004 9:32 am

I haven't read the Silmarillion for several years, but wasn't Turin a more flawed character in general than movie-Aragorn pre-MoS? The MoS scene just doesn't feel right to me because it doesn't go well with the Aragorn that the movies had shown up to that point.
I thought movie-Aragorn was someone who would only kill in battle. After all, he stops Theoden from killing Grima (a scene supposedly supposed to show his greater "kingliness" compared to Theoden). If Aragorn is actually someone who kills every time he gets angry, well Boromir would have been dead long before Amon Hen.

"We should use the Ring, you smelly little Ranger"
Slice
"Urgh"
Thud

I don't dislike the scene because it contradicts the books. There are many scenes that contradict the books that I love anyway. I dislike the scene because it contradicts the movies.
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Postby Timmy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 9:51 am

Finding similarities with the same message doesn't prevent it being wrong, and a distortion of the character. The worrying thing is that all kinds of people will excuse it for all kinds of reasons, and some of them will be quite unpleasant....

The filmmakers could just have put it in because it was "cool" or "Aragorn being hard", you know.
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 10:39 am

My theory is that it was intended to provide a cheap applause line, like with the Denethor whacking. In this context, you have to recall Gimli's Henny Youngman line, I guess that ends the negotiations. That one-liner obviously was intended for cheap laughs for theater audiences schooled on Armageddon and Van Helsing, not the at-home ruminations of thoughtful Tolkienites.

I personally have no problem in theory with decapitating the Mouth. The idea that he should be accorded "honorable treatment" after boasting of torturing Frodo to death I find ludicrous, to be honest. I suspect most modern sentiment is the same.

My problem with it is that it is a brilliant scene, suddenly cut off (if you'll excuse the pun). It reminds me of what they did with Saruman. I wanted more Saruman from the book, but Grima cuts it short. I can't help but agree that the films are too commercialized for mass consumption, but I still say that, given conditions in the modern entertainment industry, it's lucky the films came out as well as they did.

As far as Aragorn goes, we know he is a bit of a brute from the way he zeroes in on poor Arwen at his coronation with that tongue of his. Let's face it, Viggo has doubt and angst nailed. Kingliness, however, was a bit of a miss for him.
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Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Sat Dec 18, 2004 11:30 am

Lord M, yes, Brodda was the leader of the Easterlings the Morgoth forced to live in Dor-Lomin (rather then allowing them into Beleriand proper), the land that had been ruled by Hurin Thalion. As for whether killing the Mouth was worse then killing Broda, I'm not sure that I agree. Certainly the result of the action was much better. It seems clear that the beheading of the Mouth is what attracted Sauron's attention away from Frodo, whereas Turin's killing of Brodda and the other Easterlings led to more hardship to the people of Dor-Lomin.

This raises another point that some people have raised, justifying the killing of Mouth because it had a positive affect. But I don't buy that either. This kind of "the end justifies the means" mentality is utterly unTolkienesque and I reject it completely.

Dad, I have some sympathy for both the ideas of "he deserved it" and "its only a movie." Still I enjoy searching for deeper meaning, if it is only in my head. :roll: I agree with you about the Mouth's description of Frodo's torture being very chilling. Indeed, I agree with Raddy that it is a brilliant scene that takes a very bizarre and seemingly inappropriate turn at the very end. I wish that they had taken a different approach, but if it is my goal to understand what moral message the movies have (if any) then it is impossible to ignore that this scene is part of the movie.

Biff, I'm not sure that I would say that Turin could be described as a more flawed character then movie-Aragorn. Certainly he was proud and willful, but he was very noble, probably the greatest human warrior ever, yet also gentle of heart, quickly moved to pity as well (this comes through much more clearly in the Narn then in the Silmarillion). In earlier stories Tolkien actually elevates Turin almost to the level of one of the Valar after his death, and in the final battle after Morgoth returns from the Void, it is Turin then delivers his death blow.

However, you really do raise the important question. How can the Aragorn that let Frodo go, that prevented Theoden from killing Grima, that released the Dead, be the same person that takes this action? That's exactly what I am trying to expore. Or rather, what does it mean that he does so. The only message that I come away with is that all humans share in this weakness, even the most noble. This message is not foreign to Tolkien's own thoughts in the subject, as expressed not only in stories such as the Narn, but even more in the philosophizing of such works as the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth.

Timmy, there is no question that this a distortion of the character as Tolkien wrote him. And it may well be that the filmmakers just included it to be cool or Aragorn being hard, or to provide a cheap applause line (as Raddy says). But it is still part of the film and thus affects the film's meaning, regardless of the filmmaker's intentions.

Also, when we talk about the filmmaker's intentions, we can't really talk about one thing. PJ, Fran and Philippa all brought different sensibilities and different goals to the project. There are some things that Philippa did (or in some cases tried to do) that clearly went right over PJ and Fran's heads.
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Postby Iavas_Saar » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:04 pm

V, very interesting thoughts on the matter. I would be inclined to think the intent of the film-makers was not to show that Aragorn wasn't perfect (I do not recall Gandalf's reaction being disapproving). But if that's how it can work for you, I have no problem with that - the films should be judged on what's there, intentional or not.

In the book, I got the sense that the MoS was there to strike a bargain if such a thing were possible. In the movie, he was just there to spread despair and stall for time. He was also much more of a monster. I think Aragorn was justified.
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:08 pm

I think the filmmakers would tell you that the Mouth's taunt of torture canceled any obligation of honorable conduct on Aragorn's part. Besides, they no doubt would argue, it's cool to see Aragorn decapitate Orcish-creatues, just look at FOTR.

I personally think the worst part is the Gimli one-liner. A genuinely horrific and moving scene becomes yet another stand-up routine punch line.
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:09 pm

Iavas_Saar wrote:V, very interesting thoughts on the matter. I would be inclined to think the intent of the film-makers was not to show that Aragorn wasn't perfect (I do not recall Gandalf's reaction being disapproving). But if that's how it can work for you, I have no problem with that - the films should be judged on what's there, intentional or not.

In the book, I got the sense that the MoS was there to strike a bargain if such a thing were possible. In the movie, he was just there to spread despair and stall for time. He was also much more of a monster. I think Aragorn was justified.


Yes, yes. Definitely, yes.
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Postby Sassafras » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:17 pm

This was one of the few scenes in the film I wish had been different. Everything from the way MOS is portrayed with his ludicrous eastern European (Rumanian?) accent, sounding like a bad Bela Lugosi impersonator, to those clicking teeth. One I got over the shock of his appearance I found him laughably annoying.

Aragorn is sneering from the first moment he lays eyes on this man/creature/thing. It's the first time I have seen filmAragorn condescend with such dismissive arogance. Even the Urak Hai at Helm's Deep, as foul and murderous as they were, did not elicit such distain.
Was the decapitation truly an act of rage upon hearing MOS's glee in Frodo's torture? Or did Aragorn merely bide his time waiting until an opportune moment?

Either way is inconsistent with book or film. Neither Aragorn would kill an unarmed negotiator, no matter how foul or how insincere the negotiation.
(I do not count the 'Show them no mercy' line at HD because they were under imminent attack and it was a case of kill or be killed.)

I tend to think that PJ chose this murder for a couple of reasons; a) it solves the cinematic problem of wrapping up MOS after the Mithral shirt has been shown and Gandalf's terms are rejected and b) PJ thought it was cool and would get another cheap laugh.

IMO the entire scene from the beginning sneer to the decapitation is a diminishement. It reduces Aragorn to a smallness and a pettiness. It contradicts his inate nobility, negates his Numenorean heritage, his essential compassion. It makes him one of us, a mere emotionally driven mortal.

It is NOT cool. It is a travesty.

Voronwe, i do not see how you can rationalize this
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Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:33 pm

Sassafras wrote:It makes him one of us, a mere emotionally driven mortal.


This is, actually, exactly my point. I think that the filmmakers are reminding us that Aragorn, for all his nobleness, is "a mere emotionally driven mortal."

Voronwe, i do not see how you can rationalize this


I'm not trying to rationalize it, Sassy, I'm trying to understand it. I have been raving about this scene on the spoiler thread for months, so I have given it a lot of thought. For a long time I insisted that there was no way that the reports that we were hearing were accurate. There was no way they were going to have Aragorn kill the Mouth without the Mouth doing something physically threatening first. But they did, Sassy, they did. ;)

Indeed, as you point out, it is even worse then the spoilers made it out to seem, because Aragorn absolutely is sneering at the Mouth from the moment he rides out, even before he takes delight in telling them of Frodo's supposed torture and death. The only possible explanation for this is that after the palantir duel between Aragorn and Sauron, Aragorn sees the Mouth as a proxy of Sauron's (as indeed he is), and is acting on his emotions of the vision Sauron showed him of Arwen dying.

Sassy, this is all tied up with the issues that we have been debating about regarding Melkor and the Marring of Arda. I do believe that the idea that Aragorn, for all of his nobleness is still "a mere emotionally driven mortal" is not inconsistent with Tolkien's overall beliefs, disturbing as that idea may be to some of us.
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Postby Iavas_Saar » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:47 pm

If we try to imagine a hypothetical scenario where Aragorn tries to end the negotiation without using force, something like:

"We have heard enough! Take your lies back to your master and let him come forth to challenge me."

do you really get the impression that the MoS would have retreated? I don't - I think he would have kept on taunting as long as possible.
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Postby vison » Sat Dec 18, 2004 12:51 pm

This is astonishing. I have read every post on this thread and find that otherwise perfectly sensible people are rationalizing a terrible deviation from Tolkien's ideas as expressed in that book, you know, LOTR?

Love the movies all you want. I'm sorta fond of them myself. But Aragorn cold-bloodedly decapitating the Mouth of Sauron is just plain out of character and I don't see why it should be so hard to say so!!!

Aragorn was indeed a man, much like other men. But he had, until that moment, resisted any cold, callous, calculating behaviors, had in fact taken the high road at every turn. He even spared Gollum once, and he knew what Gollum was.

At the very end, then, he blows it? Hah.

Aragorn is a mortal man capable of great goodness and nobility. By living his long life, full of labour and grief, up to the highest standard, he earned the kingship. Had he done what PJ has him doing in the slaughter of the Mouth of Sauron, he would have erased it all with one stroke of Anduril. He would have been Boromir, actually.

How hard would it have been to stay with the story? Oh, what a stupid question. I'm sorry I asked it.

The Marring of Arda indeed. So highfalutin', and over such a sorry incident. I think that is stretching things just a tad. :(

Sorry. No wish to offend, but could not resist speaking.A habit of mine. I shall try to overcome the temptation. :)


Arrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh.
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:12 pm

I agree with the point about Aragorn's sneer. Very jarring, more so for me than the decapitation. I'd never seen a sneer from him before, at least not that I remember.

Film Aragorn, however, is not book Aragorn. Film Aragorn is a flawed character. It's one of the biggest and clearest PJeviations from the text. As far as contrating with film Aragorn itself, I don't know. Aragorn forgave Grima, but that must have been easy for him, since he was not the one who suffered the sin himself. That always seemed like a presumptuous act on his part to me. With Mouth, it's different.

But I agree with people, PJ here is clearly placing fidelity to the modern audience (the desire for just vengeance) ahead of fidelity to Tolkien here.
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Postby Morgoth_The_Inexorable » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:21 pm

Nevertheless, other people have found it to be quite the exhilarating scene. I have not read anything more than The Hobbit and the LotR trilogy and I do sympathize with your opinions on this matter.

However, I was recently watching the EE with a bunch of friends who never read the books before.

Once the decaptitation took place these were the responses:

Me: Whew.. whoa, that's not what happened in the books.
Friend1: O *%&$ that was crazy!
Friend2: Aragorn is the man!
Friend3: Rewind that I want to see the Mouth's spine.

so there you have it... not everyone is as enlightened as you wonderful people. And unfortunately, the uninformed are the ones making money for New Line Cinema.
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Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:23 pm

vison, I'm not rationalizing it (how many times do I have to say that). I agree that it is a huge deviation from the book LOTR. I never said I liked it. In fact, at one point on the the spoiler thread I said something to the effect that if they really did have Aragorn decapitate the Mouth without the Mouth drawing his sword, it would go a long way towards ruining the films for me.

Nonetheless, now that I find that it is in fact what they did, I am interested in trying to understand what it does to the story as told by these films. And in thinking about it, I continue to believe that it is not inconsistent with Tolkien's overall moral universe, even if it is inconsistent with the Moral Universe of the LOTR itself. As Raddy says, Film Aragorn is a flawed character; he ain't Book Aragorn, he never was, and he never will be. But I think he may be more interesting then Book Aragorn is.
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Postby Damien_Thryn » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:35 pm

I absolutely agree with you Vision

No matter how you size up that scene it is not consistent with book Aragorn, movie Aragorn, even a rational Aragorn, nor is it anything the Good Professor would ever have dreamed Aragorn might do. Killing, beheading, an unarmed messenger is something that ORCS do, and not an act even the least noble of Men in ME condones. I do not believe this is compatible at all with Tolkien's moral universe, Turin's slaying of Brodda was portrayed as brave but also a flawed action, as it got a lot of good people including his old friend Hop-a-foot killed almost for nothing. Revenge is a powerful drive in ME, but never a good one and it never has good consequences, from Feanor to Turin to Thorin.

In the book, Tolkien actually specifically deals with this situation. I can understand that it is meant to be an emotionally visceral scene, where Aragorn acted in anguish and sorrow for his apparently lost friend and doomed world. But even in the book that was momentarily seen as an option, at least by the MoS, who cries "I am a herald and ambassador, and may not be assailed!" just because Aragorn LOOKS at him a bit threateningly. But even after he taunts the company, he is still allowed to retreat behind the Morannon. Tolkien's morality is clear on this point and I feel he was making a statement - your enemy may be evil to the core, but there are standards of right and wrong that you cannot ignore even in the face of wild emotion.

Thats the book, but of course this is the movie so what were the filmmakers thinking here? They've gone a long way in RotK to establish Aragorn's nobility, even at the expense of other characters like Gandalf, I believe that has been agreed upon before. So THIS makes no sense. They show Aragorn is still moral enough to keep his word with the King of the Dead and "hold his oaths fulfilled" when you have to imagine he'd LOVE to have an invincible army at his side until Sauron had fallen. But here, suddenly, he gets angry and lashes out! I fear for Arwen if while in a bad mood he ever drinks a little too much mead...

The only thing I can figure is that by setting this scene up to be so emotionally charged, the filmmakers saw no way out of it without killing the MoS. How would an audience have reacted if after mocking everyone and telling of Frodo's torture, the MoS got to just turn around and trot back to safety? I can only think that they felt they needed a "cool" moment and a sense of resolution, and tried to cover up the real gravity of the execution with a lame Gimli moment.

I agree that the killing seems justified to us, I know if I had been Aragorn it would not have been nearly as swift or merciful. But that is why I look up to the character of Aragorn - he is a better man than I am. I dont WANT him to sink to my level, and embrace MY need for revenge. Its too bad the filmmakers didn't take a slightly higher road, it still doesn't ruin the films, but it does disappoint me a good deal.
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:36 pm

You know, I was thinking, Aragorn says after he contemptously (that is the overriding feeling from Aragorn here, contempt, not rage) decapitates Mouth that he does not believe what Mouth said about Frodo. Later, he says For Frodo! when leading the charge. Aragorn seems to be the one who does not lose heart here, at least that seems to be what the filmmakers are trying to convey here.

By the way, has anyone listened to the EE commentary of the screenwriters to hear how they justify ther transgression against Tolkien (or whether they are aware of one)?

I think we're getting into the whole, Do Orcs have souls? bit again. Clearly, the filmmakers turned the Mouth into the most repulsive creature they could come up with, a star attraction in Richard Taylor's Gallery of Horrors. To say this has a morally distancing effect on the audience is an understatement.
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Postby Sassafras » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:52 pm

vison wrote:This is astonishing. I have read every post on this thread and find that otherwise perfectly sensible people are rationalizing a terrible deviation from Tolkien's ideas as expressed in that book, you know, LOTR?
Love the movies all you want. I'm sorta fond of them myself. But Aragorn cold-bloodedly decapitating the Mouth of Sauron is just plain out of character and I don't see why it should be so hard to say so!!!


Vison, I did say so. About 3 posts up. And rather forcefully I thought.


Had he done what PJ has him doing in the slaughter of the Mouth of Sauron, he would have erased it all with one stroke of Anduril. He would have been Boromir, actually.


Yes.

Voronwe wrote:
This is, actually, exactly my point. I think that the filmmakers are reminding us that Aragorn, for all his nobleness, is "a mere emotionally driven mortal."


In which case I will now confess to never grasping, what you say, is the filmakers reminding us that Aragorn is a mere mortal. He's not. Not in the modern sense. He's an honourable man with traces of Elvish blood, who has had eighty-seven odd years to learn restraint. He is a Hero for crying out loud, an archtype, and though he be filled with passion he also has self-control. Else how could he have survived the long years in the wilderness?

No. For me, this rash act of impassioned murder is the antithesis of Aragorn. My Aragorn would not do this and, again, for me, it rankles.

:(
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Postby vison » Sat Dec 18, 2004 1:53 pm

Radagast-the-Ruddy wrote:You know, I was thinking, Aragorn says after he contemptously (that is the overriding feeling from Aragorn here, contempt) decapitates Mouth that he does not believe what Mouth said about Frodo. Later, he says For Frodo! when leading the charge. Aragorn seems to be the one who does not lose heart here, at least that seems to be what the filmmakers are trying to convey here.

By the way, has anyone listened to the EE commentary of the screenwriters to hear how they justify ther transgression against Tolkien (or whether they are aware of one)?


Yes, Sassafas. I saw that and I'm sorry I didn't say so. You and I think as one here. :)

I don't see why the Mouth of Sauron couldn't have retreated as in the book. He could then have ridden out at the head of the army and THEN, in the fighting, been beheaded by Aragorn. I think it would have worked better, anyway. He would have thought he'd got away with it and then....BAM. No coldblooded 'wrongness' on Aragorn's part, and nifty retribution.


O well. I just have to scrape up half a billion dollars and make the movies myself. That's all there is to it. :)
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Postby MaidenOfTheShieldarm » Sat Dec 18, 2004 3:01 pm

I don't like this scene for many of the reasons above, but I also think that it kind of goes against one of the main messages/themes of LOTR, ie mercy. The whole reason that the quest is fulfilled is that Frodo had mercy upon Gollum, as we all know. So to have Aragorn, the future king, the archetypal hero, do exactly the opposite of Frodo is just jarring. Yes, Aragorn doesn't have the necessary qualities to be Ringbearer. We get it. It's not necessary for him to decapitate the MOS to prove this. In the book, it's a confrontation between Gandalf and the MOS more than Aragorn and the MOS. While perhaps Aragorn is more appropriate given that Aragorn seems to be the leader here, I don't see why he can't be merciful as well. Gandalf says in the book: "Where such laws hold, it is also the custom for messengers to use less insolence. But no one has threatened you. You have naught to fear from us, until your errand is done." Aragorn's actions directly conflict with this statement. Yes, the MOS has said "who would have thought that one so small could endure so much pain," but given that, would it not be a much more powerful statement to have Aragorn *still* let him leave unscathed?

As for resolution...why not have something like in the book? Instead of the MOS just tossing the mithril shirt to Gandalf, he holds onto it. Gandalf rides forward, looking like he's going to kill the MOS. Then he flings back his cloak and is revealed as Gandalf the White, the maia. He snatches the mithril shirt, says, "These we will take in rememberance of our friend, but we do not treat with Sauron the Desciever." Something like how he turned back the Nazgul when Faramir and his men were returning to Osgiliath. The MOS is cowed by how much power is revealed in Gandalf, and once Gandalf (or Aragorn) bids him go, he does, realising that he is no match for Gandalf. Or something like that. . .
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Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Sat Dec 18, 2004 3:05 pm

Sassafras wrote:No. For me, this rash act of impassioned murder is the antithesis of Aragorn. My Aragorn would not do this and, again, for me, it rankles.


Nor would mine, Sassy. Nor would mine. I have to remind myself that to those who have remained spoilerless, this is a new and horribly surprising development, whereas I've had months to process my original anger and distress over this change. I assure you, the language that I used when I first began to hear about this was even stronger then that of either you or vison.

I'm not saying that I like having Aragorn behead the Mouth. I don't; its probably the worst part of the films for me. If I did not like the ROTK EE overall so much, I could just pretend that the TE is the "real" version, but that's a cop out, anyway. The fact of the matter is that that is the story that the filmmakers chose to tell. In my mind, the choice is to either give up on the films altogether (which I am not willing to do), or try to understand what this change means. Once I started looking at it from this point of view, I came up with some surprising conclusions.
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Postby Sassafras » Sat Dec 18, 2004 4:16 pm

Voronwe_the_Faithful wrote:
Sassafras wrote:No. For me, this rash act of impassioned murder is the antithesis of Aragorn. My Aragorn would not do this and, again, for me, it rankles.


Nor would mine, Sassy. Nor would mine. I have to remind myself that to those who have remained spoilerless, this is a new and horribly surprising development, whereas I've had months to process my original anger and distress over this change. I assure you, the language that I used when I first began to hear about this was even stronger then that of either you or vison.


Voronwe, I tried to make a point of staying out of all spoiler threads. I did not download any of the clips and when I heard vague rumblings about MOS I ignored them to the best of my ability.

Imagine my horror as this scene unfolds! My beloved Aragorn is sneering, is contemptuous, and he commits murder!. What haunts me most about that scene is an overwhelming sense of wrongness.

It just doesn't fit. It's on a completely different scale than the diminishment of Denethor or Sauruman or even Frodo sending Sam away.
I can wrap my brain around these alterations even although I would have preferred closer-to-the-book interpretations.

But that wasn't Aragorn at the Black Gate. That was an imposter wearing Aragorn's face and clothes. That was a different movie that somehow happened to be spliced into ROTK.

Look, all in all, I love the EE. Since I disliked the TE I approached EE
with trepidation and was profoundly gratified at its completness and depth. However, I'm afraid that MOS scene is one for the skip button.
Such a shame. They came so close.

The fact of the matter is that that is the story that the filmmakers chose to tell. In my mind, the choice is to either give up on the films altogether (which I am not willing to do), or try to understand what this change means. Once I started looking at it from this point of view, I came up with some surprising conclusions.


Perhaps eventually I'll come around to your way of thinking,
But not now. Not yet. For me it is too soon.
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Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Sat Dec 18, 2004 4:24 pm

Perfectly understandable. :)
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 4:59 pm

All this talk about mercy--strictly as a philosophical matter, why should any mercy be shown the Mouth (I'm distinguishing this from some sort of code of chivalry dealing with proper conduct while parleying--a code of honour that Aragorn evidently violated). Showing mercy to Gollum was one thing, since the films endorse the notion that he was a redeemable being. Was the Mouth in any way redeemable? As the film presents him, he's a creature of utter, vile evil, to his very core.
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Postby Searthor » Sat Dec 18, 2004 5:16 pm

When I first saw the whole MoS sequence, I thought what Aragorn did served a purpose. And I still do. When the MoS showed Frodo's mithril shirt to the company the hobbits couldn't hold themselves and overreacted. They started exclaiming and crying for Frodo. Gandalf told them to shut up twice. The Mouth seemed very impressed by what the effect of showing the shirt was. So I guess in movie logic it was a smart thing not to let this information come back behind the gate (to Sauron). In this case the Mouth was not exactly an ambassador or herald but rather an evident spy IMO. So it works for me that Aragorn chopped his head. It would be quite unwise to let him get back to his master with the information he had gathered.

:roll:
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Postby Radagast-the-Ruddy » Sat Dec 18, 2004 5:21 pm

Perhaps people here would have felt better if the headsman had been that rash lad, Eomer.

I think Searthor's view is in keeping with the evident fact that the filmmakers are presenting Aragorn as the decisive, strong character at this point.
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Postby MaidenOfTheShieldarm » Sat Dec 18, 2004 7:33 pm

Searthor wrote: The Mouth seemed very impressed by what the effect of showing the shirt was. So I guess in movie logic it was a smart thing not to let this information come back behind the gate (to Sauron). In this case the Mouth was not exactly an ambassador or herald but rather an evident spy IMO. So it works for me that Aragorn chopped his head. It would be quite unwise to let him get back to his master with the information he had gathered.


Oh? And when would he have gone back? They're about to engage in a bloody great battle. The MOS isn't going to ride back through it, to see Sauron and say "Hey, guess what. We were right!" What purpose would that serve? What could Sauron really do with the information at that point? Forgetting the fact that we know that Frodo is about to destroy the Ring, there is no practical use for that information. They already have Frodo (or so everyone thinks). They're going to torture him anyway, regardless of the outcome of the meeting.

As for mercy, that's the whole point. Mercy on someone who is vile says much more than mercy on someone who is lovely and innocent, etc. If Gandalf and Aragorn had mercy on the MOS, it would say a lot more about their characters than just having Aragorn cut the MOS's head off.

I agree with Radagast. It would have felt better to have Éomer doing the decapitating. It's more in keeping with his character. He seems to me to be somewhat rash and volatile.
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Postby Damaris » Sat Dec 18, 2004 7:39 pm

Radagast-the-Ruddy wrote:All this talk about mercy--strictly as a philosophical matter, why should any mercy be shown the Mouth (I'm distinguishing this from some sort of code of chivalry dealing with proper conduct while parleying--a code of honour that Aragorn evidently violated). Showing mercy to Gollum was one thing, since the films endorse the notion that he was a redeemable being. Was the Mouth in any way redeemable? As the film presents him, he's a creature of utter, vile evil, to his very core.


(De-lurking) I hate to bring the books in here, since you carefully couch this in terms of the films, but this is so antithetical to the world view the Professor expresses, I have to leap in. Remember Gandalf's comment to Frodo, re: Gollum: I daresay he deserves death. Many who live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.

This is Tolkien's whole point -- we don't get to decide; that's playing God. Now I grant you, this isn't the first time PJ just plain doesn't get Tolkien's whole point. But it's one more example that disappoints me. The films came so close. Where they fail, it's because PJ basically doesn't understand or buy into Tolkien's morality. Overall, I have been riveted by the films, and will continue to watch them, but as the whole experience starts to wind down, I have to say that they have a fundamental flaw that says more about PJ's world view than anything else.

By the way, Voronwe, I find your whole theory about Turin fascinating, particularly since I have always considered Aragorn to be the anti-Turin.

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