…or, The Ring Goes Astray
The rosy spectacles of memory have been working their magic on The Fellowship of the Ring for a year now, but as I look back at that blog entry, I realize that the second movie was just more of the same. Here’s what I said last time:
The scenery was wonderful, and the choices of what to cut from the book were not bad choices. However, the choices to rewrite the dialogue, plot and characters were all bad choices - too many to name, but all of them poor indeed. Let me clue the producer in: You’re not J.R.R. Tolkien. You’re not even Christopher Tolkien.
Here’s a comment I made in Lori’s blog before I’d seen the new movie:
If it were me spending millions of dollars and years of people’s lives filming LotR, I’d follow the book. It’s the best-loved work of literature of the twentieth-century - it takes a lot of gall to think you could improve on that. Needless to say, you’d be wrong - major changes to the plot and characterization just date the movie and the producer’s neuroses.
Now Lori informs me that the producer is making the series PC - which just dates the movies and the producer’s politics. Angering Faramir-lovers is only a sideline. Having been warned about the wretched things done in Ithilien, I was more incensed by the illogic of the Ent scenes. Why didn’t Treebeard know Saruman had been cutting down trees? What kind of Ent doesn’t know about that? And why was Merry so hot to get the Ents to help him, when he’d had no contact with the outside world beyond orc kidnappers? What could he possibly have had in mind for Treebeard to do? I understand that there’s an attempt here to make the main characters more significant in the events around them, but Merry and Pippin were supposed to be baggage. (Ten to one that scene gets cut.)
On the Arwen watch, the gratuitous ring shots were replaced by gratuitous mystery-flower-jewelry shots. Arwen did give Aragorn a piece of jewelry in the books, but it wasn’t a flower. It was the Elessar - a nice green rock, if I recall correctly. [I didn’t, but I fixed it.] I suppose Grunge!Aragorn is too macho to wear jewelry on his forehead. Little as I like Arwen overuse, especially her habit of resurrecting a dying Fellowshipper every movie, I have to admit that the confrontation between her and Elrond was well-done. I liked his Middle-Earth is going down in flames - get out while the getting is good speech and the flash-forward to the consequences of not getting out.
So there’s no time to make sense of the Fangorn scenes, but there is time to add a pointless float down a non-existent river for Aragorn. Frodo also takes a major detour to a river he’s not supposed to be anywhere near, but does the audience the service of not falling in. If Peter Jackson weren’t so involved in telling his story, he’d have had time to cover the important parts of Tolkien’s story.
I thought the movie dragged - there was plenty of action but little plot to back it up. The Fangorn scenes were a typical example of that, as was Gandalf’s instant cure of Theoden. Especially after the first hour or so, I felt as if I were watching a very long music video rather than a movie. If I had the DVDs (and, of course, a DVD player), I’d watch the movies with the sound turned off. They’re beautiful, even the battle scenes. I’ve always had trouble picturing Helm’s Deep, not to mention thousands of orcs streaming in and around it. Gollum was also a special effect, which may explain why he was so good, as well as relatively true to character.
The Lord of the Rings is not a particularly psychological novel; it would be possible to film the entire thing more or less as written, the way, say, Pride and Prejudice was (in the six-hour version). Someday it may be possible to run Peter Jackson’s version through a nice graphics program and come out with the movie Tolkien would have made, or to make it from scratch without the overhead of extras, studios and travel to New Zealand. That would be a fine use of technology.