The Fellowship of the Ring vs. Pan’s Labyrinth

Both of these movies are fantasy films, made by two of the best directors of our day–and even now, they are collaborating together to put J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit onto the silver screen. Here I’d like to compare two of their finest movies–Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, a film about a young girl living during the reign of Francisco Franco in Spain, and Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment in the moving picture translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

First of all, there are many, many differences on the surface of each of these movies. Pan’s Labyrinth is set in 1940’s Spain, and in it historical events as well as magical ones occur. The audience knows the places, recognizes the medical techniques, and may know the language spoken by those in the film–Spanish. The Fellowship of the Ring, on the other hand, takes place in Middle Earth, where there is an entirely new set of places, events, languages, and technology (or lack thereof) to deal with. Plots for the two films are comparable, however, though still dissimilar in many ways. The Fellowship follows the journey of nine different people, many of whom are from different species, to destroy the One Ring and save their homes, families, people, and countries from falling to the forces of Sauron, the quintessential evil would-be conqueror. Pan’s Labyrinth follows the journey of one small girl as she attempts to complete the three tasks that will let her join her mother and father, and reclaim her place as Princess of the Underground Realm . However, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether or not Ofelia, the main character of Pan’s Labyrinth, is really interacting with faeries and fauns and the Pale Man, or if she is escaping her tormented life into a no less terrible, but at least alternate, fantasy world.

Each movie delivers a different message as well. Del Toro, through Ofelia’s journey and its (possibly) tragic ending, asks the audience **if** they believe her. Captain Vidal, her stepfather, cannot see the Faun, but Ofelia can. And if her mother dies when the mandrake is removed, well, do we know for sure that the mandrake was even the cure? After all, they are more renowned for their deadly screams than the healing properties the Faun tells Ofelia of. In addition, Ofelia faces trials that are vivid, dangerous, and downright revolting–trials that we wouldn’t like to dismiss as merely imagination. Everything that happens to Ofelia we see, and yet, in the end, her fate is up to us. Did she die “for real?” Or did she merely move on to the Underground Realm, to rejoin the family she left behind? While at the same time making important statements on the nature of escapism and the fantasy inherent in not only Ofelia’s mind, but the dream of the rebels, Pan’s Labyrinth asks if you believe Ofelia. There is no asking “please,” nor compromising–either what she saw and did was real, or it only existed in her mind.

The Fellowship of the Ring, on the other hand, does not ask the same question of belief that Pan’s Labyrinth does. Far from taking place in our world, where such questions can impact the audience profoundly, Fellowship takes place in an entirely different world, and so belief that the events depicted in the movie happened is not the question. Instead Fellowship asks you to believe in the characters, and in how they reflect the weaknesses and strengths, the longings and the desires and the deeds of men in this world. Boromir has many weaknesses, but also many strengths, while Frodo and Sam make sacrifices aplenty when they leave the only home they’ve ever known so that they can save it. You feel the bravery of the Hobbits when Pippin and Merry distract the Orcs so that Frodo can escape, and you cheer when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas undertake the perilous journey to rescue them. Through these characters and their commitment to destroying the ring, despite their differences and flaws, you are asked to believe in the power of good–that, though the Free Peoples whine and argue, they can band together and fight the evil trying to conquer and enslave them, and not only fight but emerge from the battle victorious.

Though both films are clearly of the fantasy genre, they cover very different ground with their stories and their characters. Ofelia’s story is a small one, that, if it happened, would go unnoticed by everyone, while Frodo’s tale is epic in scale and affected every single being that lived in Middle Earth. But both the Fellowship of the Ring and Pan’s Labyrinth ask the audience to involve themselves in some way in the story being told–to know Boromir’s pain and Frodo’s quite strength, and see them in the world you live in, or to simply believe Ofelia’s tale of magic. Both, however, are amazingly good movies, and are a testament to the excellence that fantasy films can achieve.

Signing  off!

Dacia

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Kicking Ass and Taking Names: A Hobbits Tale

 

By : Dan Nockels

The comparison between the movie and the video game versions of lord of the rings is in many ways unfair. It is a bit like comparing playing little league baseball to watching the big leagues knock home runs out of the park albeit with significantly more bloodshed on both counts. At my particular point in the game, low level, pigs serve as quite enough of a challenge, hordes of Uruk-Hai might be slightly beyond a hobbit fresh off the create character screen.

 

Although if Merry and Pippin are any indication I should be able to kill them if I can find out how to pick up a stone and throw it. Which brings me to an important difference between the movie and the game, balance and transparency. Being a protagonist is not the equivalent of god mode, your character is in balance with the tasks you are meant to complete. This makes the game more difficult and consistent than it seemed in the movie, as well as fun for more than a short while. For example there is no super duper crit that would allow me to kill Sauron in by chopping off his fingers, nor is there any chance of me taking three giant black death arrows to the chest and still fighting ala Boromir. Your health, energy and damage are transparent and knowable. Unlike in real life and the movie I can see how many arrows I can take to the face before I die (or retreat, in this pansy case). Unfortunately that means I can’t pull an Aragorn and maim and slaughter my way through whole armies without breaking a sweat (yet!).

 

 Another dissimilarity is the first person perspective to the game I see events happening in the world of Tolken through the eyes of my hobbit or at least the disembodied eye that follows him around.  In the movie the audience bounced around following Bilbo, Gandalf or Frodo sometimes independently and sometimes together. In the game we can meet these characters, but we will still only see through the eyes of our character.

 

Pacing is another difference I don’t remember Bilbo needing to kill so many dogs and pigs before leaving in The Hobbit. The game takes its time we get to see and struggle though whatever the environment throws at us while in the movie for the sake of time and entertainment value the long trek up a mountain is summed up in about a minute.

 

It is however important to note the differences in the way the story is told aside both media are visual and focus on actions of the main characters impart their tale to the audience. This Visual kinetic feel permeates both the video game and movie making the differences in the details while the wide strokes are very similar. That said my favorite element of the game so far is the opportunity to play as a chicken. Seriously, playing as a fowl was way too cool, they should have included it in the movie.