I suppose I should make it clear that I love the movies and that includes Boromir’s death. It is very well done. The movies have their flaws, they really do, but I always find myself captivated by them while watching. It is only afterward that I stop and think: hmmm, that doesn’t make sense. Peter Jackson did a great job of putting the spirit of the Lord of the Rings onto the big screen, even if not the exact same story. The movies are magnificent.
But something can be enjoyable or well done and still be wrong. For me, this is Boromir’s death.
To begin explaining why, I have to mention the Uruk-hai. At first, these are great. They’re big, strong, fast and ferocious. When I saw the small army sent after the Fellowship I was genuinely scared for them. The Uruk-hai looked ready to make mincemeat out of the Nine Walkers.
So what happens when these two sides meet up? Aragorn starts slaughtering them. Then Gimli and Legolas show up to join in the fun. Ultimately, the Uruk-hai can join stormtroopers and red shirts as comical cannonfodder.
Oh, and speaking of stormtroopers and redshirts, the latter usually lived and the former shot lots of people dead in the opening sequence of Star Wars alone, which remains one of the great beginnings of a movie.
Anyway, back to Middle Earth.
So the Uruk-hai should have been serious badasses. Instead, they seemed easy prey to the four main fighters of the Fellowship. By the time Boromir intervenes to save Merry and Pippin, his ability to fight and kill them isn’t remarkable.
But it should be and that’s the point. In the book, we don’t see Boromir fight and fall. Aragorn arrives too late and finds the champion of Gondor dying, full of arrows, surrounded by orcs. It is a true warrior way to go.
Which is the point. Boromir is a flawed hero and his weakness breaks the Fellowship. He betrays Frodo, for which he is ashamed. Of all the main characters, he is the only one who fails like this, and yet he is not a bad man. He is strong and brave, a warrior, who cares for his people. The Ring exploits his weaknesses and makes him try to take it, as it did for so long. That is why others cannot carry it. But Boromir fails the test.
So what we have is his ending becoming his redemption. After such weakness, such betrayal, we have Boromir give his life for Merry and Pippin. This is where we see the true decency of his act. Boromir isn’t saving Frodo and the Ring. He isn’t giving his life for the world or the Good or anything great. This is the big, strong warrior saving the two hobbits, who, at that point, have little importance. If the Uruk-hai take them, which they do, it doesn’t affect their mission. But Boromir fights for them. He won’t let them down. Not now. It is the strong defending the weak. The brave sacrificing for the helpless. It is noble and courageous.
At least it should have been. It should have been more than that too. You see, Boromir fights so well the Uruk-hai back off. Yeah, the big bad orcs are too scared to take him on anymore. Imagine it in the film. Merry and Pippin are about to be grabbed, then in jumps Boromir and he’s cutting them down left and right. Then he blows his horn, calling for aid. Aragorn and the others hear it. They’re running to help. Will they get there in time? We know Boromir can’t stand against them alone. But Borormir is still fighting, still killing. Then big leader comes for him. Boromir takes him head on and wins. The Uruk-hai step back. They look at each other, hesitant, fearful. We, the audience, feel our hearts soar as the good guys look set to win after all.
The Uruk-hai bring out their bows and shoot Boromir down. They grab Merry and Pippin and run on. Aragorn then arrives and he and Boromir speak for the last time.
Boromir’s death is meant to be about him. It is meant to be his hero moment. His redemption. It is also meant to be one badass way to go. It should have been up there as one of the best deaths in cinema history. He fought the Uruk-hai. He almost won. He stood alone. He showed what a warrior he was by taking on these uber-orcs.
The Uruk-hai should have remained big and scary, especially for the later battles. That would have exemplified what a tremendous act it had been by Borormir to scare them too. That’s why I began by talking about them. This should have been about them versus him, and him winning by giving his absolute all. It was his time. Boromir may have been weak but he was one hell of a warrior.
Instead his limelight is shared with Aragorn. I get why they did this. Aragorn is made much more heroic and central in the movies. We need to keep the audience focused on him and how great he is, so he gets to kill lots of Uruk-hai too and even saves Boromir. Almost. He kills the chief baddie anyway.
As a fan of Boromir, I dislike that, but either way, his death is wrong. It was meant to be about him, his redemption, his fight. Not one big action piece. Again, I get it, it is a movie. One of the things Jackson did really well was add action and drama where there was none.
Still, I really wanted to see the final act of Boromir that we don’t get to see in the book. It would have been great. It would have been right. That whole sequence is meant to define and redeem his character while bringing drama and thrill as we fear for our heroes. It is meant to be Boromir’s noble end.
At least he didn’t die like that Ned Stark, eh, Sean Bean? 😉