I prefer the book – A Rewview

by Dec 18, 2002Reviews

Before I offer my impressions of PJ’s second installment of Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, I should mention that I read these books 15 years ago and that I read them again just this year after seeing FOTR. Not being a purist, I didn’t mind the changes PJ made to the first installment. Time restraints being a factor, Tom Bombadil had to go, etc. FOTR was still very well adapted, in my humble but accurate opinion. And I consider it one of the best movies ever made.

But I was disappointed in the movie TTT. Keep in mind that TTT was my favorite book of the trilogy. Needless to say, I now expect it to be my least favorite of the trilogy at the box office. I say this with my fingers crossed, knowing PJ could still ruin the last and final installment next year, provided he takes as many liberties with ROTK as he did with TTT.

Case in point: my favorite scene from TTT the novel was at dawn at Helm’s Deep, when King Theoden and his men look out over the land where a green dale had lain. “There now a forest loomed.” Saruman’s army is driven in that direction. “Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.” That’s a powerful scene; my favorite scene. But it wasn’t in the movie.

I knew changes would be made in TTT (PJ said as much in interviews). Yet I didn’t expect some of the screenplay liberties to overwhelm Tolkien’s story. After the movie, my friend asked, “What the h*ll was PJ thinking? I mean, s**t! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Look, The Lord of the Rings is the most widely read book in the world second to the Bible. Didn’t Jackson say he was a big fan of Tolkien’s material? Didn’t he say he admired and respected Tolkien’s work? Granted, he argued in interviews that certain things in the book wouldn’t translate well into film. Fair enough. But I submit that some screenplay material didn’t translate well into film either. Wouldn’t PJ rather be known as the one director who got it right’ Doesn’t he owe that to his fans? Forget the teens who, incidentally, coughed, sneezed, talked, and took bathroom breaks during dialogue. Why try to cater to them, anyway?”

Let’s face it. We know why PJ took these liberties, don’t we? The answer is money. The first film grossed over $860 million (not including DVD sales and action figures). This was PJ’s opportunity to do the book TTT justice and still come out ahead, financially. However, PJ opted for mass appeal. His excuse was that he didn’t want to lose the audience. But I ask you what’s more important? Catering to a simi-literate TV generation who flock to such tripe as The Hot Chick or leaving a legacy of three great films that’ll go down in history as not only fine cinema but faithful interpretations of the second most beloved book of our time? Besides, I’m not convinced such a dilemma existed in the first place but rather was a studio-minded man’s unfounded fear, especially in lieu of the novel’s proven commercial success.

Maybe my standards are higher than the average moviegoer. I’m 37 and I’m not as enamored with pop culture as I used to be. Nevertheless, even if I hadn’t read the books first, I’m still convinced that, notwithstanding the superb performances, I would’ve walked away from this movie with accolades for little more than the eye candy which, incidentally, was the only positive thing I could say for Star Wars Episodes 1 & 2.

I suppose I’ll grow to love this film after successive viewings. And I’m still hopeful that TTT extended edition will resolve some issues I had with the theatrical version. But still. Why such effort to change things from the book to the script, PJ? I, as well as many others, simply don’t appreciate that. I can only hope the final film will be more respectful of Tolkien’s material in ROTK. But quit frankly, I?m losing hope in PJ’s vision.

Thumbnail sketch on 1-10 scale: performances 10; special effects 10, pacing 9.4 (unresolved scenes), screenplay 7.5 (too many cheesy screenplay liberties).


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