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A bad awakening

January 16, 2003 at 3:54 pm by xoanon  - 

The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers is enrapturing millions. But we like to ask director Peter Jackson some questions:

What happened to the trees of Fangorn?
And why is an Orc using his cell-phone right in the midde of the battlefield?

“The big doors closed. BANG! Inside, iron bars were locking it. SNAP! The door was closed. Sam threw himself against the metal doors and fell to the floor unconscious. He lay outside in the dark. Frodo was alive, but captured by the enemy.”

This is the last paragraph of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Two Towers”, the second book of the “Rings” trilogy. In Peter Jackson’s movie version however this scene, when Frodo gets captured by the Orcs, is not included. Instead, the movie ends about 50 pages before the end of the book: Frodo and Sam, who are at a crossroad, are being led into the ambush of the giant spider Shelob (in German: Kankra – don’t ask me why…) by their companion Gollum. So Shelob’s appearance is being postponed until the beginning of the third installmant, “The Return of the King”. Jackson’s cliffhanger is working without Shelob, but still the question remains, why the “Ring” filmer is dealing much more freely with the second installment – after he stuck so true to the first book “The Fellowship”.

Insiders already expected that Jackson wouldn’t leave the book unimpeached: Out of all three books the second one balks itself the most against transferring the dramatic demandings to the medium film. Neither the decreasing suspense nor the story being split into three different storylines suits to the conventions of a Hollywood-script.

So Jackson moved the Battle of Helm’s Deep and the destruction of Saruman’s weapon forge Isengard from the middle of the book to the end of the movie and created – in benefit of a stunning showdown – a Nazgul attack at the human outpost Osgiliath. Yet not all of Jackson’s interventions can be explained with cinematographic formalities. In some parts, the New Zealander’s film differs from the book in a considerable way – sometimes even in a distorting way.

The first of these arbitrary acts concerns the creature Treebeard, who in Tolkien’s book is an symbol for nature’s powers, against which humans better shouldn’t oppose. Jackson doesn’t let the tree-keepter go to war out of his own decision – the Hobbits Merry and Pippin play a trick on him to get him there. Treebeards “without-me” position undermines the criticism on industrialisation from the first movie, which is one of the most important aspects of Tolkien’s fantasy epos. “An important aspect of “The Two Towers” is the nature’s fight against the machines.”, Jackson says. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t show this.

Another, no less arbitrary change concerns the character of Boromir’s brother Faramir. In the book, he’s being described as honorable, faithful, noble and and non-corruptible – the film is turning him into exactly the opposite. Just like his fickle brother Boromir, Faramir gets lured by the ring and captures Frodo to take the it. This turning of Faramir’s character doesn’t make any sense to the context of the book and can only be explained as a “crook” to increase the amount of action in the (this time less exciting) Frodo-storyline.

The attack of the Warg riders has a similar function. The scene where Aragorn together with one of the hyena-like monsters falls over the cliff is a downright creation of Jackon’s, that doesn’t give any fresh impetus to the story, but prepares the way for the bewitching dream sequence, where the beautiful Elven princess Arwen appears to her tormented lover Aragorn.

Not every of these changes to the book seem to make sense, but in view of the incredible dimensions of the projects, even strong Tolkien-purists will be forbearing: The Two Towers is a cinematographic event of really biblical dimensions. After the christian allegory of the first installment, Peter Jackson now goes for a dark, huge and firing metaphor to World War 2, where the armies of darkness march as if Hitler’s favourite director, Leni Riefenstahl, had directed the parade. And the usually peaceful Sam does a Churchill-like speech on resistance.

Not all of the dialogues are done well In between the frontlines there are some bad warrior lines (“A red sun is rising. Tonight blood has been shed.”) but the outstanding effects and the biblical dimensions of the battle scenes make more than up for this. And not to forget Gollum, this computer-generated creature who looks like Steve Buscemi in a loincloth.

BANG! The door closes. SNAP! The iron bars are locking it. And this is the real annoyance about Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers”. Three hours can be over so damn quickly. And now the terrible waiting starts again.

Posted in Old Special Reports on January 16, 2003 by

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