“Then He Showed His True Nobility” – Why Jackson Doesn’t Get It

by Dec 18, 2002Reviews

After spending the wee hours in a darkened theatre, dragging myself to work, and working up a good lather, I think I have pinpointed the flaw in Peter Jackson’s TTT. Nearly all of the nobility of Tolkien’s characters has been sucked out of Jackson’s postmodern “reimagining.”

The movie opens with Sam & Frodo’s journey through the Emyn Muil. When Gollum is caught and bound, Frodo takes pity on him and unties him. From this point on, instances of noblesse oblige are few and far between. Part of this is due to the democractic relationships which Jackson has replaced Tolkien’s hierarchical ones. The tension between Sam and Gollum is partly due to Sam’s eminent “hobbit sense” and partly due to their competition over the attention of their Master. In the movie version, Sam is Frodo’s equal.
While Jackson (to his credit) does quite well with the Frodo/Sam/Gollum storyline, he does so by resisting the temptation to rewrite Tolkien’s masterful dialogue. Theoden and Faramir do not fare so well.

Theoden is first denied the dignity of choosing his destiny. Instead, Pope Gandalf II performs an exorcism of Saruman. Very odd. While this spectacle is unfolding, the trio of Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn are busy kicking butt in the background. There does not seem to be much time for reflecting on the gravity of the moment. Indeed, any punch-up and hairsbreadth escape that could be contrived was contrived to keep the characters too breathless to speak. But back to Theoden. (I haven’t had much sleep) Theoden, instead of showing his nobility in giving Grima a chance to prove his loyalty, nearly hacks him to bits. Gandalf, more Pope than Christ figure, at least shows restraint. But he is very nearly alone.

The churlish trend reaches its apex with Faramir. Other than Sam, Tolkien’s Faramir is the most admirable character of LOTR. He shows dignity and lordliness; qualities that go unappreciated by his father. The Jackson Faramir is a jack-booted thug that nearly makes Boromir seem reserved. He basically kidnaps Frodo and Sam and holds them against their will. His moment of redemption at the end negates one of the manifest principles of LOTR-proven character usually predicts future actions.

I freely admit that I am a purist. I cannot separate the “great movie” from its digressions from Tolkien’s text. A movie that claims to be an adaptation of a book should be examined in the light of the book. Otherwise, Jackson should write his own story. I suspect it would consist of, in the words of David Spade, “sputtering out sentence fragments and lighting things on fire.” Many avid fans looked for a Peter Jackson cameo in FOTR. I looked hard for Tolkien cameos in TTT and found very few.

It is not surprising that Jackson struggles more with the good characters than the evil ones. None of us can really claim to be much better. We understand that which is beneath us far better than that which is above us. This is due to the fact that we have all have experienced (to some degree) the hatred and bitterness of Gollum, the acquisitiveness of Boromir, and the pride of Denethor. Not many of us have experienced the self-control of (Tolkien’s) Faramir, the patience of Aragorn, or the holiness (there is no other word) of Gandalf the White. But this is the sort of imagining that we need to undertake.



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