Faramir is Evil Like Gandalf is Green:
In Defense of Peter Jackson’s Faramir
Here I am, letting loose in defense of the film version of Faramir. What will my professors think of me? Quelle horror!
Let me just come right out and say it: I have no problem with Faramir in the film version of “The Two Towers.” David Wenham, an actor typically known for playing a psycho (check out “The Boys” if you don’t believe me), does a fine job with the script handed to him.
But this is not the issue. Everybody who’s anybody (and likely female, mind you) loves David.
The issue here is Faramir’s skewed character. Whether it be the script, the severe lighting, Mr. Wenham’s Diver Dan-turned-Captain Von Trapp accent, or those fear-for-his-life Frodo eyes, let’s face it: Faramir is creepy.
But is he really that creepy? Moreover, is there anything wrong with the way Peter Jackson has chosen to depict this “incorruptible” character?
By my vote? No way.
I’ve been reading “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy for almost fifteen years now (yikes!), and I love Faramir a whole bunch. The Faramir in the book, that is. And while the movie Faramir might come across as an evil doppelganger, at the heart of both the film and the book, they are the same, noble animal.
And here’s why, boot heels be ***ed…
In the book, Faramir is a very flat character. The story never really focuses on him. Instead, he’s a mirror off of which other, edgier characters are reflected, such as Pippin and Eowyn (both of whom, in my opinion, are far more well-developed than Aragorn, but that’s a whole other ball game).
Faramir is unique in that his is the only character to have this function–unlike Legolas, for example, who exists as an “oddity” through which Tolkien can demonstrate the attitudes of the Elves. In fact, the book is loaded with characters similar to Legolas, who exist to provide the reader with a game of cultural badminton, bouncing off of on another in an effort to get along so that they might defeat the big Evil.
Faramir, on the other hand, is uniquely static. He is passive. Very little happens to Faramir that Faramir himself instigates. This makes him a flat character. But it’s not a bad thing to be flat. It’s actually kind of nice, especially when everybody else in the story is either possessed, brainwashed, schizophrenic, or suffering a bad case of unrequited love. In the tumult that is “The Lord of the Rings,” Faramir is one helluva cool drink of water.
He’s a superior example of that long lost Númenorean bloodline, to get technical. He’s noble, peaceful, patient. Boring? Maybe. But a relief for our poor hobbit heroes, nonetheless.
So what the hell happened in the movie?
Let me preface by saying this: I’m a film student. No, it’s true. I actually have a degree in the subject (whoopee). So I’ve read an awful lot of what the so-called experts are saying these days about characters in film. Maybe this gives me some insight, maybe it doesn’t. You can decide that for yourself.
When you write a film, and especially when you stake a huge fortune and thousands of jobs on its success, you simply cannot have FLAT characters. Not unless you make them background characters. And Faramir certainly isn’t a background character, as LotR fans will agree. Yet he easily could have been. Peter Jackson, in composing the film with his fellow writers, could have chiseled the role of Faramir down to a passing ho-hum who ends up getting hitched to that weird blonde girl with the sword.
But that doesn’t work, because that weird blonde girl with the sword–Eowyn–is a BIG DYNAMIC CHARACTER. Probably the most dynamic of all the characters in “The Lord of the Rings.” If you’re Peter Jackson, you can’t have her aching for Aragorn, only to pass her off to some background dude in a green cape who doesn’t like his dad much.
So what do you do instead? You make Faramir match Eowyn. Simple enough. Look at Aragorn and Arwen in the film. People have been fuming over Arwen since 1998, insisting that her bulky role in the movie is too much. But how silly would it look if Aragorn married this mysterious background elf maiden? It sounds good in the book, thanks to a little thing called “narration” in which the Professor himself can tell us the whole history of his Elves and make us believe that Arwen and Aragorn should be together.
In a movie though? Quite different when you’re talking about two hours instead of hundreds of pages.
Just like Arwen, Faramir needs to be dynamic. He must suffer a change. He must learn, or else the audience won’t believe in him. Think I’m crazy? When was the last time you saw a movie where a major character ended up the same person at the end as he was in the beginning? That’s the whole point of having a character in a film, to watch them change.
Therefore, I completely understand and support the changes Peter Jackson has made to Faramir’s character. He’s found that single thread–namely, that Faramir is more like his father Denethor than Boromir–and he’s run with it. That Faramir came across as cruel, easily-tempted and brutish in the films only makes his redemption (when it finally happens) more rewarding for the audience.
Furthermore, by making Faramir a “Boromir version 2,” Jackson is giving the real Boromir a way of making posthumous ammends with the audience. We didn’t get a chance to forgive Boromir because he died, so we get to forgive Faramir instead.
I also like the idea that Faramir might really have to fight for Eowyn in the movie. And he should; she deserves it, just as Arwen has been beefed up to “deserve” Aragorn. We take for granted the drama we find in books, so we don’t mind it that Faramir and Eowyn get together just because she’s troubled and he’s a nice, solid guy. In reality, when drama is being thrown at you from a gigantic, flickering movie screen in full stereo sound, the parts have to add up to the whole. Characters who’ve gone through their change and turned into butterflies don’t have the time for those characters who are still caterpillars (Wow, what a metaphor!).
All in all, if I’ve managed to make any point, it’s this: Faramir isn’t evil. Even folks who haven’t read the book can see this in “The Two Towers,” and they can probably predict that, by the end of “The Return of the King,” Faramir will redeem himself. He has some learning to do. And, in a way, that makes him more honest.
Which is where I end.
Hope I haven’t broken all your toes. Hee hee.
Original Essay: November 2003
URL: Eowyn of the Rohirrim