Guess what? Peter Jackson’s Two Towers is not perfect. Have I surprised anyone? Good.
That having been said, I think he did an uncommonly good job with it. No one could make a perfect movie, because Mr. Tolkien himself is not here to cast, design, and direct it. Even if he was, I don’t think he would. He wrote the novels; it is up to the readers to create the world. But everything in the book simply cannot be translated onto the screen. Why not? Time constraints, for one thing. Sure, Mr. Jackson could have taken the book word for word, without expanding upon anything at all, and put it onscreen, but it would have been about twelve hours long and only a handful of fans would come to see it. And do you know what else? It would have been boring.
Now, before the purists pounce, allow me to explain this last. No one simply reads the words on the page. The words themselves are like a color-by-number, and we let our imaginations fill in the blank spaces. The trouble is, our color keys are all different. Somebody’s Legolas has dark hair; mine has always been blond. Perhaps your Ent doesn’t look like my Ent. That’s okay, because Peter Jackson’s Faramir doesn’t quite resemble my Faramir. (Mine looks much more like Anke Eissmann‘s, if you’ll excuse the digression.) But I can accept the differences because they’re natural. Once in awhile — as in the cases of Eowyn, Eomer, Theoden, Grima Wormtongue, and the city of Edoras — my imagination was happily in concordance with Mr. Jackson’s. At other times it was not. Sometimes I agreed with the alterations he made (i.e., Haldir leading the Elves to aid the Rohirrim at Helm’s Deep), and other times I did not (Faramir trying to take the Ring). I’m certain, though, that every change had its reason, whether we know it or not.
I now have a challenge for every one of you out there. Go to the movie again. This should not be too much trouble; even the people who hate it have seen it at least twice. Go to the theater, grab a popcorn or Sno-Caps or whatever, and just feel.
Don’t flinch at the warg attack. Don’t curse Peter Jackson when Faramir gets that greedy look in his eye. Don’t throw popcorn at the screen when you realize Shelob’s been moved to the next movie. Let yourself get caught up in the story. I promise, if you relax enough, you can do it. Separate the movie from the book, and revel in Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth. Pity the tormented Smeagol. Feel Legolas’s despair when he realizes how slim their chances are in Rohan. Go ahead and cry when Haldir dies — it’s a perfect, heartwrenching warrior’s death. Feel the rush when the White Rider leads his army down to the Deep, and shiver when Treebeard calls the Ents to war. I think you’ll find the movie much more enjoyable if youlet yourself enjoy it. You can be a Tolkien fan and still like the movie version, too.
Through all the changes and cuts, Peter Jackson’s Two Towers stays true to J. R. R. Tolkien in the most integral way of all: he has captured all the emotions, the very spirit of Middle-earth.
And that is a great accomplishment.