Can I offer a different perspective on Tolkein as re-invented by Peter Jackson?
I watched TTT with our 3 children on Saturday and the 14 year-old (who read the LOTR for the first time in last year’s summer holiday), like me, thought it brilliant. Our 11 year-old found it hard to follow the various story lines and the 16 year old found it far too long – about 40 people walked out after the first hour. TTT IS different from The Fellowship, it is, after all war, war and more war. It is not very cheery despite the hilarious Timli/Legolas exchanges – “Don’t tell the Elf” is truly funny at a pretty intense moment. My wife did not come as she had found The Fellowship too violent.
I read LOTR back in the 1960’s with its first appearance in paperback. I did not read it again until I had to when helping our 14 year-old read it last summer – he found quite a lot of the dynastic side hard to understand and found the similarity of the characters’ names confusing. My conclusion then as back in 1969, is that LOTR is good but not great – Tolkein’s characters are types not flesh and blood, he
is hopeless on women and I have never been convinced by his escriptive powers in terms of nature and landscape. I will probably annoy Tolkein fans by saying that someone lent me the 6 Thomas Covenant books about 15 years ago and I found them much, much better than LOTR – I believed in the characters.
My opinion is that Jackson’s updating via film is little short of a miracle – the death of Boromir is truly moving no matter how many times I watch it (and NO the 2 resuscitating Orc’s as Aragorn runs to Boromir do not detract from the bathos and beauty of the scene – funnily enough the illustration of colour re-grading with this scene is one of the best items in the 4-disc set appendices.) TTT’s death of
Haldir is, again, moving and a great piece of cinema.
What people seem to be missing is the pure epic and cinematic grandeur of Jackson’s achievement. I grew up with film via Eisenstein and Tarkovsky and they rarely worked with a 2nd unit let alone the 8 or 9 used in LOTR. I remember reading some peewit review about the intrusive use of close-up in the Arwen/Aragorn kiss on the bridge in Rivendell – nonsense. Roll on such use !! and indeed the kiss on the chaise-longue in the arbour at Rivendell in TTT is again superb.
All reviews of TTT have gone on about the first 2 hours being the necessary lead up to the battle at Helm’s deep. Forget that. The first 2 hours are just as good as the final hour. Gollum is, YES, great as all reviews have said, but so is everything else. The Balrog battle is, for me, the highlight as was Arwen and Frodo’s horse flight to
the ford in Fellowship. Again, Frodo and Sam are great together with the manifest tension and role reversal; so are Pippin and Merry – the escape from being Orc supper is truly exciting and scary – Theoden is an excellent king split between cautious defence and dangerous offence; Eomer and Eowyn are excellent newcomers; however it is Aragorn who continues to steal the credits and dominate these films – the future death scene of Aragorn and his turning into his own funerary effigy with the mourning Arwen is why cinema was invented – it just does not get any better.
Now for the true lesson for Tolkein book fans. I feel really sorry for those people who will approach the books via the films – they will be disappointed. OK, Faramir is very different from the film interpretation and is the lilly white untemptable antithesis of his brother, but I found the film character far more believable. Similarly I prefer Aragorn’s indecision and slightly torn film version. To use that old movie slogan the Tolkein characters “LIVE.” These 2 films are masterpieces of cinematic and narrative art. Roll on the director’s cut on DVD next November and ROTK next December.