Toads are Terrifying

by: Calvin Patimeteeporn (Calvirth)

While I would love to describe th intricacies of the Epic Book 1 and Prologue, I can’t because of my horrible LOTRO skills. My inadequate skills of gaming has severely hindered my advancement to higher levels in the game and I apologize for not being able to reach these quests. However, I have a great substitute topic:

Why is this game SO. CONFUSING?

Today, I realized I have more than one sack to place my items in. I also realized that I can eat a numerous amount of food to regain health (morale? I dont know what to call it). I realized that I can, in fact, change weapons and sell items. All of this happened either today or yesterday. Did I mention I’ve been playing for a month?

Yes. A month.

Within that month I’ve discovered the wide variety of objects that can harm or kill me. Bears, wolves, man-eating spiders, and toads. YES. TOADS. How something so small can withstand 20 blows from an ax completely astounds me but I guess Shire toads are extremely resilient. I’ve also been called “n00b” in this game, or even better, completely ignored by other gamers who approach me and then quickly run away when I say, “Hi”. This world confuses me so. A frog can hold up a fight against me but when I fall from a manageable height I am left limping. Or how other gamers interrupt my fight with beasts to land the final blow. Or how it is only when I have very little health left do I fall off a cliff and into a wolf den where I am basically ripped to shreds by “Snarling Wolf” and “Wolf Leader”.

Besides my own frustration with the game, the virtual world of LOTRO that I actually HAVE experienced is amazing. The feeling that I have the entirety of Middle Earth to explore is real and the game designers attention to detail is amazing. It gave me great pleasure to walk around the Farthings and visit famous pubs, or even recognizing characters from the first book.

However, I am fully determined to reach the appropriate levels to enter these quest. Otherwise I would let down my avatar, and Calvirth will not stand for this.

Hear this Toads of The Shire! YOU WILL FALL BEFORE MY AX! I SWEAR TO IT!

A New Story

I have never played an online role-playing game, so I was a little confused when I started playing Lord of the Rings online. I didn’t who exactly I was, where I was, and who the people that were running around the map were. I started out as a Hobbit, since that was the race I was most familiar with. When the actual game started, I saw that I was in a small room with a number of other people. I spent about five minutes trying to either leave the room or talk to someone, before I finally figured out I had to talk to the postmaster. I didn’t read what he was saying, because I was anxious to start playing the game. After leaving the post office and meeting Bounder Boffin, I got my first taste of combat. It was mostly just jabbing the mouse button, but it was still fun. I then fought some more spiders, talked to some people, and discovered a town, before getting bored and logging off.

As for my impressions of the story, I didn’t see enough of it to make a judgment, and I did not really see the dialogue because I wanted to see what the game was like.  However, I did like the fact that  you got to make your own character and your own story. If I had been forced to play as Frodo or Sam or any of the other characters in the story, I would have felt I would not be able to make my own choices. With your own character, you can project your own personality and character onto him. Another thing I liked was that I had freedom to walk around and explore the world. I recognized a number of  places from the movies and book, and it was interesting to explore the game’s setting, and I suspect I’ll be able to do quests in a variety of locations on the map.

Overall, I think I’ll like the game. The story will probably get more interesting, the setting is dynamic and diverse, and I have my character just the way I want him: a guardian Hobbit.

– Kashyap Saxena

Harry Potter 6 or The Lord of the Rings 1

by Theo Dentchev

Which movie is better?

Some might say that the answer is entirely subjective, and so you cannot conclusively say one is better or worse. That’s true enough, but I’m not asking, “which one do you like more.” Rather which one is objectively better? I suppose to make that kind of judgment we will need to define a set of criteria for determining which is indeed “better.” I propose we look at and compare the following four characteristics commonly used when evaluating film: coherence, intensity of effect, complexity, and originality.

Let us omit discussing complexity and simply assume that both films are sufficiently complex. That is, they both engage us on several different levels and have relatively intricate systems of relationships. Let us also omit intensity of effect, as that covers a range of subjects which are more subjective than I would like, such as how vivid or emotionally powerful the film is.

Then let us begin with coherence, or unity, which refers to how well or clearly everything is presented in a film, and if all the loose elements are tied up by the end. Now, being installations in a series, both of our films don’t conclude their stories and naturally leave certain things unaddressed (left, we assume, for the sequel to pick up on). Though we have to keep that in mind, we can still compare the way the rest of both films are structured. In The Fellowship of the Ring all of the characters and events clearly and logically relate to each other and serve a purpose. Those that don’t are either being left for the next film, or are negligible and require careful viewing to catch. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince it is more fragmented, as though not fully completed, and in a way unrelated to the fact that it is to have a sequel. There are scenes and places which, in the context of the movie, make little sense and are unclear. A striking example can be found at the end of the film, when Dumbledore is confronted by Draco Malfoy atop the astronomy tower and eventually killed by Snape. Harry is hiding in the vicinity the entire time yet does nothing until after Dumbledore is already dead. His inaction does not make any sense and is completely dissonant with his character as well as with the nature of his relationship with Dumbledore. In the book his action is explained by Dumbledore immobilizing with a spell which does not wear off until either he dies, but in the movie it is simply illogical.

That last example is a good place to bring originality into the discussion. Yes, both films are adaptations of books and as such one might be inclined to say that the films cannot be original, but even in films which have a frequently used subject, originality can be found in the way that subject is presented. Likewise both these films display originality in the way they relate the story which they are adapting. Both do depart from the text, sometimes changing minor details, sometimes going so far as to omit entire portions of the book. However, the changes and omissions that are made in The Fellowship of the Ring are done so that the viewer is able to more easily and quickly understand the plot, as superfluous characters and events which serve to unnecessarily complicate the plots are shorn off (such as Tom Bombadil, who never appears in the movie, and the corresponding scene in Rivendell where it is suggested that the ring be given to him). The end result is a more streamlined work that, while differing in some places from it’s source, still tells a complete story and gives the viewer all the information they need to understand and appreciate it within the length limitations of the film meidum. In contrast, Harry Potter omits vital scenes (such as several memories of a young Tom Riddle which offer insight into his character’s motivations and also give more information about the horcruxes), while adding completely irrelevant scenes which do do nothing for the story other than complicate it (such as the burning of the Burrow, which never happens in the book and which goes on to appear again in the seventh book). The end result is that those who are not familiar with the source text will find it difficult to understand everything. While undoubtedly both have elements of originality, just being original without a purpose has no worth. The Lord of the Rings is original in a way which has a clear purpose and achieves the desired effect, while the originality of Harry Potter is haphazard and only undermines the film.

From those two respects The Fellowship of the Ring emerges as the “better” of the two films. Having not covered half of the criteria I suggested in the first paragraph, I could certainly see someone making an argument that Harry Potter is more complex or has greater intensity of effect to the extent that it makes up for its deficiencies in the other areas. Such an argument would have to be very convincing, and I myself am rather skeptical as to the possibility of such an argument existing. But maybe that is just my personal bias, and regardless of what objective judgments we might render, in the end they likely won’t be the determining factor in which film you enjoy more.

-TD

The Ring and the Heart

At first glance, the Lord of the Rings series and Pirates of the Caribbean series appear to be very different. Pirates is set in the real world, while Lord of the Rings is set in a complete fantasy world. Magic and the supernatural are common and accepted in the Lord of the Rings, while at the beginning of the Pirates series, most of the characters did not even know magic existed. Overall, it seemed like Lord of the Rings is completely immersed in fantasy, while Pirates is mostly based on real life with bits of fantasy sprinkled in.

There is, however, one area where the two films are almost alike: the presence of an object of great importance that brings the holder power over others. In Lord of the Rings, that object is the One Ring. Made by Sauron, it controls all of the other rings of power. Throughout the course of the film, most people who come into contact with it desire it immensely, with the notable exception of Frodo. In the Pirates series (especially Dead Man’s Chest) the object is the heart of Davy Jones. Since Davy Jones rules the seas, whoever controls his heart controls the seas. Throughout the movies Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and others battle for control over it.

There are still some differences between how the two objects are treated. The One Ring is treated as if it were an object of divine power that no man can control, but every man desires. Meanwhile, Davy Jones’s heart is treated as an object that can be used to accomplish a specific goal or objective. For example, Will wants it so he can get his father back, Norrington wants it to get his honor back, Jack needs it to settle his debt with Davy Jones, and Cutler Beckett uses it to try to rid the world of pirates.

Although the two series are different in many ways, one of their most important ideas is an important object that gives the holder great power and control over others, a plot point that makes them unique when compared to other films.

– Kashyap Saxena

Where’s MY Golden Compass and Ring of Power?!

by:  Calvin Patimeteeporn

The Golden Compass and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring both take on two versions of what we define as a “fantasy” world. One takes on the adaption of our pre-existing vision of a fantasy world set in a country filled with different races including elves, dwarves, and wizards. The other, however, takes on an adaption of our own world but, for the lack of a better term, “fantasized”. Compass introduces a world to the audience that is very similar to ours, even including some of the same countries, but allows some fantasy aspects to fall through, such as witches and talking polar bears. Fellowship introduces a world that we know to call “the fantasy dimension” with the typical elves and dwarves. Again, both are fantasy, but both display two different worlds.

However, plot-wise, they, and numerous other fantasy films, are extremely similar. Both heroes are, in their worlds, considered unimportant and meek (a hobbit and a little girl). However, its this emphasis on their unimportance that actually make them important. A recurring theme in both of these movies (and every single Disney movie ever in existence ever) is that even the most unlikely to be heroic character can be, well, heroic. Lyra ends up saving multiple universes and Frodo stops Sauron. Both unimaginable tasks completed by a midget and kid. But of course no hero’s journey is complete without the “supernatural aid” of others: Frodo has Gandalf, the old wizard, and Lyra has Iorek, the talking polar bear (Both Ian McKellen!). These characters are immensely powerful but do not actually play the role as the main hero, despite their advantage, but rather they support and guide the character through their epic. But even with this placed aside, the theme of unity is present in both movies. The fellowship of a mix of races and the motley crowd of witches and humans both provide a metaphor to the power of unity (cheesy, yes) and how it is able to accomplish, even the hardest of tasks.

These movies provide both a great amount of differences and similarities, but both are classified as the same genre. Both approach a different world and a different cast of characters, but plot similarities exist as demonstrated through both protagonists.

But all I want to know is when are a sage-like professor with a staff and a giant talking squirrel voiced by Ian McKellen going to come into my life and aid me through college.

-Calvin

One Does Not Simply Walk into Narnia

Jake Karlsruher AKA Kar-el

Each time I watch Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, I am reminded of the work of one of Tolkien’s contemporaries, C.S. Lewis.  Andrew Adamson’s 2005 adaptation of Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe shares enough pivotal plot details with Fellowship that I often wonder if Lewis and Tolkien, old friends and drinking buddies, ever bounced ideas off one another while sipping elixir.

In both movies and their respective novels, the authors make the assumption that their viewers do not possess any magical abilities themselves.  They present the viewer with seemingly feeble protagonists: Lucy Pevensie, an eight year-old girl from London, and Frodo Baggins, the three-foot tall Hobbit.  The authors allow the viewer to relate to the character and become comfortable in a fictional world.  The characters themselves aren’t so lucky.  They are thrust into their quests and enormous responsibility falls in their laps.  While Lucy and Frodo might feel alone at times, they are not without help.  After stepping through the passageway into Narnia, Lucy is welcomed by the warm hospitality of Mr. Tumnus, who sets the stage for her quest.  Similarly, Frodo Baggins is offered Strider’s sword (and Legolas’ bow, and Gimli’s axe-shhh) for his quest.

While comparisons remain true in plot details between the two works, they vary in terms of interpretation.  It is widely accepted among literary critics that Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is a biblical allegory.  This is most vivid in Aslan’s self-sacrifice.  Aslan, the Great Lion of Narnia, offers himself to die in place of Edmund, Lucy’s brother who had lost his way.  The biblical imagery is shoved down your throat when Aslan is later resurrected.  Conversely, while many critics often attempt to find profound meaning in Tolkien’s Fellowship, I prefer to see it as pure fantasy.  To me, it is disenchanting to look further into the topic.

Finally, the films diverge in a directorial decision.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson paints a bleak picture of Middle Earth with desolate lands, ugly Orcs, and a black, fiery eye set as the embodiment of pure evil.  In The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Adamson sets the forests of Narnia in beautiful, glistening, white snow, cute and cuddly creatures, and a gorgeous ice witch.  Oddly enough, both settings generate the same effect of disturbing uneasiness.

The Mental Burdens of a Top Dog

By: Sam F

Character parallels can be seen between many works and Lord of the Rings and King of Kong is a good example. Billy and Steve in King of Kong mimic the relationship between Frodo and Sam in the LOTR series. For Billy, the source of his superiority complex roots itself in his long-term dominance in the world of arcade games. For Frodo, his similar complex draws from the ring and the burdening sense of responsibility that comes with it.

Billy and Frodo are both portrayed by the director as pompous and arrogant. Unique past experiences have helped build up this arrogance, or seeming arrogance, over other characters. Billy is like Frodo in that he is forced by being number one to be heartlessly competitive to help maintain top status. Being number one must be done alone, as there is no room for two at the top of the podium. Frodo similarly must carry his “top-dog status” alone as the ring is a burden for only one. This solo journey for each character likely builds on this arrogance. Clearly this attitude could simply be resentment to the fact that each character’s lifestyle requires working alone in their conquests. Frodo is also similar in that he does not seem to enjoy his burden of the ring. He wishes he could give it up but ultimately understands that the ring is his responsibility.  Billy also shows fatigue with his fight to be at the top, as he must face the frustrations of people like Steve Wiebe challenging his record. When he receives the phone call that Steve had surpassed him, his weariness was very apparent.

Another paralleled pair between LOTR and King of Kong is Sam and Steve. These are secondary characters to the holders of the spotlight. Both share similar qualities and roles in their respective movies. Sam is a conveyer of fair play and being as helpful as he can. He is a very untroubled and has good morals. The entire movie he is working tirelessly to help Frodo and is seen as a threat. Steve shares this type of relationship with Billy in King of Kong. He is simply trying to take a small piece of the spotlight for himself and right things in his life by winning for once.  Billy views Steve as a threat and treats him as such throughout the movie. Sam and Steve both share a sense of innocence; however, that blinds them to the mental states of their foil characters, Frodo and Billy, in each movie. They don’t seem to realize the burdens of being in the spotlight and this naivety makes the lead characters frustrations more understandable.