Friday, September 30, 2005

A Little Late

But that has never stopped me from rattling on. Warning: if you have not seen the movies or read the books *The Lord of the Rings* this post might not make a whole lot of sense. It also contains spoilers.

*Lord of the Rings,* written by J.R.R. Tolkien, is just about my favorite fiction work. It is beautifully written, the characters are worth caring about and the setting seems almost real.

Peter Jackson's films of the trilogy are incredible and beautiful; I love them. His attention to detail brings Middle Earth to life. The characters are wonderfully portrayed by the actors.

I have a few issues with those films, however. "Fellowship of the Ring," the first part of the story, is pretty true to Tolkien's story except for Aragorn. Tolkien's Aragorn accepted who he was; he never flinched from his duty to become king. Jackson's Aragorn seems unwilling to acknowledge who he is and that weakens him.

In "The Two Towers" we see more changes from Tolkien's story and because of the constraints of the movie format this is understandable. I do not like what Jackson does to Faramir in his story. Tolkien's Faramir is a much stronger person than his brother Boromir who dies because he tries to take the Ring from Frodo. He states this at his first meeting with Frodo in Ithilien. If he feels the call of the Ring we do not see it in the books. Jackson's Faramir almost repeats his brother's error but finally sees what the Ring will do.

Jackson's Faramir is pretty rough with Frodo and Gollum. I cringed seeing the abuse of Gollum at the hands (and feet) of Faramir's soldiers. Tolkien's Faramir is extremely gentle with the Hobbits and their guide; he displays true strength through kindness.

Jackson's Faramir is a weak leader while Tolkien's Faramir is described as a Captain who can master both men and beasts. Personally I prefer the Tolkien character as he is truly strong and noble; a man of Numenor.

There's a huge inconsistency in "The Two Towers." Elves show up at Helm's Deep and help save Rohan from Saruman's hordes. We never see anything of them though after the battle. Were they all killed? If so why is there no mention made of it? Did they go on to fight for Gondor? We never know.

Frodo, in Jackson's "Return of the King," is duped by Gollum into sending Sam away. Tolkien's Frodo would never have done this. Sam is not treated too well by Jackson, either; he was quite gentle with Gollum in Tolkien's story. When he tied the Elven rope to Gollum he made the knot quite loose. He didn't love Gollum but he was never mean to him. Jackson has Sam treating Gollum quite badly.

In spite of my criticism of the movie version of "Lord of the Rings" I still think it is a brilliant achievement. Is is, however, very much Peter Jackson's story rather than J.R.R. Tolkien's.


Wu said...

Sorry to intrude on your Middle Earth meditations, but I have my own thoughts on the subject. Though I'm not the Tolkien freak my father is, I propose that a film version of Tolkien's work that maintained the original characterizations would've fallen flat on the screen with a modern audience. Peter Jackson had to take into account a culture in which the knight in shining armor has become an object of skepticism- even derision- when applied. Tolkien's characters mirrored a time period in which we drew simplistic "good" or "evil" caricatures throughout our media and political spectrum. Tolkien's characters almost all fall in either the black or white in a way that would have come across to modern viewers (especially those not fortunate enough to have read the book) as too stark and unbelievable. We are medicated and meditative generation. A heroic Aragorn who simply has to overcome a tremendous obstacle does not resonate the way an introspective and brooding man who has to overcome his own self-doubt does. While I agree that some of Jackson's moments (Faramir's treatment of Gollum especially) can make us cringe, but, I believe Jackson took a fantastic story and made it more believable to a cynical audience.

Anne said...

You might be right about the modern audience. I am almost totally out of the pop culture loop as I don't own a TV, I rarely go to movies and the pop culture magazines induce acute nausea.

Still Jackson seems to go out of his way to rub our noses in the evil of the Ring. Could he have treated Faramir a bit better? I think he could have shown the lure of the Ring on him without destroying his character.

And :-) I *do* want to know what happened to the Elves after Helm's Deep.

As I said, in spite of my criticisms of the films I love them and think they're wonderful. (They're just not exactly Tolkein.)