Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Question for the Week of Aug 27-Sept 2: The Mordor Express

Why the long journey to Mordor? Wasn't there a faster way to get there?
Wow. I'll keep this short since my supporting arguments aren't all that deep. In The Fellowship of the Ring, a variety of races learn that an evil demon is trying to regain a magical object that'll let it conquer everything. These people are, to use the USA as a reference point, in the middle of Ohio, and they plan a trip to... Las Vegas, Nevada.

Throughout the 12 Extended-Edition hours of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, we see people walk on snow, over mountains, through valleys and forests, into abandoned towns, underground cities, deadly caverns... They're the ultimate track team of fantasy novels.

You sort of have to start by asking "could these guys have found a quicker route to their goal?"

Unfortunately, for fans of common sense, the answer is a resounding "not really." See, there are these creatures called Eagles (start your "Hotel California" jokes now), and they arrive at the very end of tRotK to help fight the bad guys. In tFotR, one saves Gandalf from the top of Sauraman's tower. They're bear-sized birds, so speed and altitude are their thing.

So we have an entire scene - a fun, cool scene - where some weird guys stand around and talk about how they're gonna toss a ring into a volcano. It's like 8 minutes long. Why didn't our coalition of heroes and powerful and centuries-old people think about using the birds to get there safely and quickly?

The simple answer is that the story would be very short, by nature, and would be hard to fill with as much dramatic or narrative depth otherwise. However, when you get an answer that neatly resolves the grand epic problem like that, it means you're dealing with a serious plothole.

The most direct (and official) answer says the Eagles consider themselves (no pun intended) "above" other creatures, and they're only concerned with their own species. Their appearance at the end of tRotK is a sign of how great the threat had become.

But that still feels a little cheap, doesn't it? Those majestic creatures surely have every reason to feel superior and apart from everyone else... but I guess one of them likes Gandalf, and cared enough to give him a ride. If that Eagle already owed him a favor, and was big enough to carry both Gandalf and a hobbit, then isn't that the favor Gandalf should've asked for?

Why wouldn't the birds consider that Sauron is so evil that he's bound to come after them eventually. More importantly, how did they even decide to intervene and bail everyone out?

I guess high-flying sentient birds would be good at spotting the hobbits, but I don't know why they'd think to look for them at the heart of Sauron's territory. Did those birdies know about the plan to destroy the ring? Were the Eagles following Frodo and Sam? And if the whole bird-ocracy was keeping away from human conflict, how'd they learn of the last stand at the gates of Mordor?

These questions all boil down to: Why would a bunch of neutral, non-interventionist super-birds follow any of these events or characters unless they knew what was going on? And why not join the fight far earlier, rather than just pop in near the end when they might be too late?

Considering the age of the story, and how enjoyable the movie was, I guess you and I just have to accept the official answer and assume that none of the Fellowship - not even Gandalf (who gets one to rescue him soon after) - thought they could convince the Eagles to charter one flight to Mordor. If you don't accept that, it's gonna bug you and there's nothing you can do about it.

Still, they were the clearest, most likely way to evade Sauron's men and save Middle-Earth - and a pretty easy way at that. It's so bothersome that I'm just going to stop thinking about it now (grumble grumble)...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Chime in!