Leaf by Jackson – Once is not enough

by Dec 19, 2002Reviews

Jackson has done it to me again. I saw TTT on the morning of the 18th, and when my daughter asked me whether it was good, I had to say, “I don’t know!” The same thing happened with FOTR — before December 2001 I had never paid to see a first-run movie more than once, but I had to see FOTR again within two weeks, and I’m going to have to see TTT again in the next few days.

I imagine this is a problem for those who have also read the books 25 or so times (nearly once per year for the past 30 years). I know the story so well that on first viewing I cannot help comparing the story in my head with the story on the screen. The ‘purist’ in me screams silently “What in Middle-earth do you think you’re doing?!?!??! What edition of the book were YOU using????”

And yet….

I was enthralled.

I only looked at my watch because I desparately needed to go to the bathroom and I wanted to see how much longer I had to wait. [I waited.] How do I reconcile these two disparate reactions?

I think the answer lies in Jackson’s respect for the world of Middle-earth, for the sub-creation of Tolkien. For those of you who’ve read ‘Leaf by Niggle.’ it’s as if PJ has taken a graft of The Tree and grown his own Tree. His is planted in the same soil, and it has the same DNA, but can never be the same Tree.

Judging it strictly as a film, I would say that it is another technical masterpiece. It is visually beautiful, very well edited (though as a book fan I could easily keep track of the who’s whos), and for the most part well cast. I wanted more Gandalf, more Eomer, more Ents, more Merry aand Pippin, more Faramir (I hope he improves in the extended version as much as Galadriel did).

Ultimately, whether PJ’s Tree is worth keeping in the Parrish is yet to be proved. He and his creative cohorts have made choices that I would not have made, but I can’t say they are ‘bad’ until I see the full consequences of those choices (in ROTK). For example, Viggo’s character is progressing pretty well from Strider to Aragorn — but will he be able to become King Elessar? In order for his character to accept Arwen, he has to accept that Death is truly the Gift of the One to Man, therefore not something to be feared or even pitied. To me, the success of this 3-part film will depend on how well PJ can communicate Tolkien’s underlying faith in the eternal beauty and joy that is inherent in all of Eru’s creations, no matter how small or weak. And if he brings more people to read the book, I can forgive anything.


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