An adaptation of a well-loved fantasy novel is always a risk. Not everything that works in a book will work on the silver screen, and vice versa. Peter Jackson’s stared down that firing squad of fans before and came out with a basketful of Oscars.
For the next round of Middle-Earth hype though, Tolkienites have a new target: Tauriel. A character made just for the movies, non-existent in Tolkien’s writings. (I like to refer to her as a fictional fictional character. Or Legolas’ imaginary friend.) And here’s the clincher – a non-canonical love triangle attached to her.
After having seen the movie several times, and even dressing up as the character herself…
Legolas and Tauriel at the IMAX premiere of The Desolation of Smaug in Manila, doing our best to copy the pose. (Photo c/o Chiqui Perez, aka Bofur)
The whole gang! Aren’t we awesome? 😀 (Photo c/o Ruby Llamas, craftsmith of Lord Elrond’s armor)
Here are my thoughts on the new girl in Mirkwood, Tauriel.
WARNING! LOTS OF SPOILERS! If you haven’t seen the movie, leave now… It is, most undoubtedly, a trap.
First off, Evangeline Lilly is fantastic. (I’ve loved her since Lost. *hearts*) She’s a hot, kick-ass mom, loves the outdoors and climbing trees, and corrects people’s pronunciation of “Smaug” as a Tolkienite – of course I love her. 😀 Tauriel is a new character, and her process was different from the other actors’. She had to insert her character in a puzzle that was already complete. That alone takes balls. To add to that, she knew she was going to be burned at the stake by Tolkien purists with this character; she happens to be a fan herself. But hey, if you’ve been a longtime fan of Middle-Earth and Peter Jackson gives you a call and asks you to be an elf, would you – would anyone – turn that down? 😛
Looking fierce enough to stare down the Smoke Monster.
I was very skeptical, but Tauriel’s introduction was great, everything that a modern heroin could be – slaying multiple enemies with multiple weapons, all while looking gorgeous and being sassy, and fitting right into the movie. Evangeline Lilly’s physical skills are superb and she shows that she can carry the female action hero role. There is a hint of a romantic connection with Legolas, but that part wasn’t too bad, handled with enough elven subtlety – though it is still something for Tolkienites to raise their eyebrows at.
In all honesty, Tauriel was quite formidable, up until this scene:
Legolas: Tauriel, why does the dwarf stare at you?
Tauriel: Who can say? He’s rather tall for a dwarf, don’t you think?
Uhm. What? All of a sudden, because he’s a little short to be a stormtrooper – I mean, tall for a dwarf, this badass fighter turns into a blushing schoolgirl with a crush? Really? What happened to the Captain of the Guard? Why couldn’t they have cut it at “Who can say?” and left it at that?
The following Tauriel-Kili scene is somewhat alright. They talk about stones and starlight, and although it contributes nothing to the story, it’s actually rather nice. Tauriel lost that giggling schoolgirl thing from the previous scene and came off as though she was lecturing Kili on the culture of the elves, as well as being genuinely interested in Kili’s stories. However, it’s all rather pointless and contributes nothing to the story and everything to their relationship. (Enter a jealous Legolas, scowling from above.)
So, let’s go to another scene, one of my favorites – the Barrel Scene. While the dwarves are escaping, the Mirkwood gates are ambushed by orcs, and Tauriel and Legolas lead the elves with their kick-ass moves. Kili gets wounded with a Morgul shaft by Bolg (although there are no Nazgul in sight and one has to wonder how on Middle-Earth Bolg came by a Morgul shaft). As Kili cries out in pain, Tauriel turns her head in alarm. In fact, everytime she turns her head towards the dwarves in concern, it’s because of Kili.
She then seems to have renewed hatred in orcs, as we move to her next scene where she, Legolas, and Thranduil the Fabulous are interrogating the orc they’ve caught. The orc says that the young one was killed and Tauriel lunges at him, before Thranduil tells her to stop with a flip of his hair. This leads to her running after the Company, presumably because she knows there is a greater evil and that the elves cannot just sit idly by.
This could have been a good angle to Tauriel, but if this was so, why does she react only upon seeing Kili is hurt? It’s difficult to believe that she was going after them because she cared about their quest and knew it was for the greater good. That would have been great – if they actually showed that she knew anything about it. She never even interacted with Thorin or the other dwarves. (Is there an extended scene we’re missing?) Why not have her talk to Thorin or Balin about their quest, and have her character be the one to see the importance of helping the dwarves get to Erebor? (And then Thranduil would of course say no, and she’ll go after them anyway, because she’s badass like that, and she’ll end up in Esgaroth just she’s supposed to.)
My problem with Tauriel is that the character is contradicting herself. The film establishes her as a ruthless fighter and Captain of the Guard, and then suddenly that’s all thrown away just because a beardless good-looking dwarf comes her way and stares at her? You’d think that a military leader, favored by Thranduil, wouldn’t have just abandoned her post so recklessly. She didn’t even have any scenes that showcased her authoritative position. Didn’t they want the character in the movie so that there would be a strong female presence among all the men? Why then couldn’t have Tauriel’s philosophies and beliefs be more enforced, instead of just being a product of Kili’s tall, beardless charms?
And then, there’s the last scene. Oh Valar, help me. This last scene.
So, if abandoning Mirkwood wasn’t enough… While orc-hunting in Laketown, Tauriel then ignores Legolas (her prince), leaves him to get beat up by orcs, and instead stays with Kili, who is dying from his wound.
And I have to say, I never thought I would facepalm while watching anything related to LotR, but I did. I facepalmed. And even hit my head repeatedly on my bow.
Tauriel heals Kili in a strange healing ritual, with glow-y effects that mimic the athelas scene from FotR. (Apparently athelas does that to people. Like acid.) Kili, delirious, then utters some of the cheesiest lines ever to be uttered in Middle-Earth (“Will she ever love me…? <3*”), and to wrap it all up in a bright pink bow, reaches for Tauriel’s hand, and their fingers clasp.
What in the name of Varda.
I don’t think of myself as a Middle-Earth racist, nor a Tolkien purist, but this cannot happen! The whole Tauriel and Kili thing is just wrong. It just doesn’t work AT ALL. It’s out of place in the story, almost as if the romance was added only as an afterthought, after the filming of the entire trilogy was completed. (Oh wait, was it?)
Above all else, it undermines Legolas and Gimli’s friendship, which was supposed to be the first and only one of its kind. Because this is a prequel, suddenly it looks as though Legolas-Gimli supports Tauriel-Kili, rather than the other way around. And with so much of the “emotion and feels time” invested in Tauriel and Kili, a relationship that never was nor should be, what was forgotten? Uhm, maybe the character arcs of the other 13 characters in the film? (Thorin probably deserved more of a character arc in this one, because of what happens later on in the story.)
I have no issue with Kili’s feelings towards Tauriel. Dwarves and other creatures have been known to fall in love with elves, swept off their feet by their beauty. (Gimil ❤ Galadriel) The whole thing might have even been believable if it was one-way.
The elves of Middle-Earth don’t even have a word in their vocabulary for love in the romantic sense, it just doesn’t exist for them. (So yes, elves friendzone everyone.) Tolkien’s works taught us that romantic love isn’t the only kind of love that deserves a story. Bonds of fellowship, commitment, respect for authority – these kinds of love are important as well. Hollywood has yet to realize this and it disappoints me that Peter Jackson and his team succumbed to the whole romance thing of showbiz. Not every film has to have a love story in it, and certainly not every female character has to have a love interest.
My conclusion? The romance angle destroyed Tauriel. She could have been exactly the character they wanted her to be if she just brushed off all advances, dwarf or elf, and fought instead for what she believed in, her people, and for Middle-Earth.
Thoughts? Please feel free to comment and share them with me! (The Lostie/PJ fan in me is fighting to give Tauriel a chance.)
PS: Yes, the title of this post was a reference to Neil Gaiman’s “The Problem of Susan.”