In Defense of Peter Jackson – The Changes Necessary to Make TTT Fly

by Dec 27, 2002Reviews

I did not want to see The Two Towers. I did not want to see it because I had read too many reviews by Tolkien purists grousing over the changes Peter Jackson made to the original storyline. Of all the alterations, I most feared seeing Jacksons interpretation of Faramir. However, after seeing the movie twice now I want everyone to know that far from ruing Tolkiens story, Jackson ingeniously brought it to life. Every change, especially the changes surrounding Faramir, make this movie a perfect interpretation, one deserving of another thirteen, or more, academy award nominations.

Lets get one thing straight. When Peter Jackson undertook this project, he set out to do an adaptation of Tolkiens story. Adaptation by its very nature means change. Jackson did not want to do a page by page retelling of the books. If had had he could have turned the movie into a tv miniseries. Even then some changes would have been inevitable in order to translate Tolkiens words to the medium of film. I have read reviews of those who insist Tolkien would turn over in his grave if he saw Jacksons work. I cannot presume to guess what Tolkien would do. But the fact of the matter is the books are and always will be Tolkiens creation. The films are Jacksons animal. He deserves as much creative license to shape them as Tolkien received to create the books.

What Jackson has done with that creative license is try to create three blockbuster movies inspired by and grounded in Tolkiens story. To do so required alterations from the original story. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings as one epic tale. It was split into three books for publishing because of a paper shortage. But the three books weave together seamlessly. The Two Towers as the middle book cannot even stand without the other two. As a trilogy, the movies also run seamlessly together. However, since they are each released one year apart they must be able to stand on their own as well. Movie goers must come away with some small sense of closure even while anticipating the next installments. In the Two Towers, that closure comes with Sam’s monologue to Frodo about continuing forward when you have a change to turn back because

<< there’s still some good in this world and its worth fighting for. >>

With his one speech Jackson tells the audience what this movie has all been about. With it he ties together all the events of Isengard, Helm’s Deep and Mordor.

In order to achieve this effect though Jackson had to change the encounter with Faramir. Sam’s speech would have no meaning if Jackson did not have Faramir take the hobbits to Osgiliath but had him quietly let them go as happened in the book. This is mainly because of Jacksons decidion to hold the Shelob scene until the Return of the King, another change that has purists questioning Jacksons wisdom as a director, though on a lesser scale than the Faramir changes. In the book, nothing visually exciting happens to Frodo and Sam until the tragedy of Shelob’s lair. Their meeting with Faramir is actually an oasis in the midst of the bleak narrative of Mordor. Frodo slowly loses strength and hope as the Ring grows heavier on his mind and body. Tolkien’s words convey this despair very effectively. Yet it would not have translated well to the screen. Especially when viewed alongside the tension and excitement of Helm’s Deep, the hobbits journey through Mordor would look dull and the audience would not grasp how physically and emotionally draining it really is. So Jackson had to contrive a way to show Frodo’s inward struggle through outward actions.

Jackson had the right idea when he decide to have this second film

<< raise the stakes >>

for all the characters. For Frodo and Sam the key to raising the stakes is Faramir. By having him take Frodo back to Osgiliath, away from the goal of Mt Doom, Jackson helps the audience see how frantically Frodo understands his mission

<< The Ring will not save Gondor . . . Please, you must let me go. >>

Also he shows what a heavy burden the Ring is

<< I cant do this Sam >>

and how it drives Frodo to despair

<< what have we got left? >>

setting the scene for Sams insights on pushing forward. None of this would have carried any impact had not Faramir taken Frodo to Osgiliath.

By adjusting Faramir’s character to reveal Frodos growing struggle Jackson did not change Faramir as much as some decry. In fact, he actually strengthened the character for portrayal on screen. Tolkien’s Faramir is evidently a brave warrior. However, readers of the book see mainly his gentle poetic side. His courtesy towards Frodo is a heartwarming relief. However, translated directly to film, this Faramir would seem effeminate and weak. Set alongside the masculine valor of Aragorn and Eomer as well as the steeled strength of Eowyn the son of Gondor would possibly earn the contempt of the audience instead of their respect. Jackson’s alteration allows Faramir to appear every bit as strong and masculine as Aragorn, Eomer, Boromir and all his other male counterparts.


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