Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lord of the Rings: best of the 20th century

I'm watching The Two Towers on TNT; I could watch this endlessly.

I am coming to the conclusion, reached by others, that J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings may well be the greatest literary accomplishment of the (execrable) 20th century. Assuming that's true, it may be a testimony to the greatness of Tolkien's achievement, or the wretchedness of the last century.

Of course, the films aren't as good as the book; but they are very good! I can't help contemplating the irony -- the movies were only possible because of technology, of which I'm not sure Professor Tolkien would have approved...


Jacob said...

I would agree that the movies as movies are good, perhaps even great.

However, as accurate visions of 'The Lord of the Rings', they were just plain bad. I watched 'The Fellowship of the Ring' last night and I just can't express how disgusted I get over the complete and total chances in motivations of the primary characters.

Cutting scenes and certain characters out for length is okay. But when Gandalf goes from being this totally cool Wizard who, while liking Frodo, has his own agenda to being this condescending parental-figure who treats the hobbits like children.... (OMG, Elrond, we just /can't/ send Frodo to Mordor with the Ring, he's just a little hobbit!)

That is just one example.

Anonymous said...

Lots of characters were made weaker or less good than they were in the books, no doubt because the screenwriters thought keeping faith and courage in the midst of adversity is boring. Eowyn should have been younger, more beautiful, more grand, and more dignified-- a stronger rival to Arwen, making Aragorn's honorable treatment of them both more noteworthy. But for the most part the adaptations were great. If I want something pitch-perfect I'll just re-read the books. :)

One scene I loved in the books is Faramir giving Frodo the third degree in the forest of Ithilien. It's such a great setup. You've got two characters who are totally on the side of good, yet they're forced to work against each other-- Faramir *has* to find out what Frodo's up to so he can make the right call about what to do with him, and Frodo *has* to keep the Ring a secret, especially remembering that Faramir is the brother of the one who tried to steal the ring. In their battle of wits they both display wisdom and courtesy in spite of being under great strain-- characteristic of Tolkien's heroes. But all this was too complex for the movie, and got changed to Faramir just trying to steal the ring until he gets scared out of it. Ugh.

But like Jacob said, if you just take the movies for what they are, they're great.