Thursday, December 09, 2004

And then there's the ranting

In a series of wonderful, splenetic, bile-filled essays, bellatrys dissects the LOTR movies. And, boy, does she HATE them! She hates the characterizations, the plotlines, the battles, the weaponry, the acting, the costumes . . . pretty much everything. Oh--and the music, too. What's interesting is that, even though I do not hate the movies--I liked them, to be honest--I also liked her criticisms and dissections, as, perhaps, only another fan of Middle Earth can.

A clue about where our differences lie may be found in one of her essays, where she says how much she loved Star Wars. I hated that movie and all its evil spawn; it and they bored me beyond belief. In addition, it's clear from other of her writings, which I also like tremendously, that she's much more deeply into fandom than I am; I've probably only read a tiny fraction of the science fiction/fantasy works that she has read, and I certainly haven't written any. But I have read some, and I suspect we could have a fine old time talking about the genres as well as actual works we have both read. Fuel the discussion with cold fermented beverages and who knows how long we could go on.

Anyway, what she says about the movies, in addition to the aforementioned loathing, is that there are defenses of the movies that she will not countenance, particularly the defenses that say something like, "Well, it's not perfect, of course, but it's the best we're going to get; it would have been too difficult to do it anywhere close to your vision of it." And I agree with her there: As noted below, for example, the whole transformation of Faramir makes no sense whatsoever, and the original scenes as Tolkien wrote them were much better. (Incidentally, I now see that Faramir did go back to Osgiliath in the books, but that whole scene is so transformed in the movie that it doesn't carry the same meaning or weight. In the book we understand why anyone would even think it even remotely worthwhile, but in the movie it seems like some kind of Freudian fool's errand.) Jackson, et al., got a lot wrong--I mentioned Arwen below, but I also didn't think much of the Frodo/Sam characterizations, and the whole thought of Frodo sending Sam away? Uh, no. And Aragorn was always going to be king; he wasn't the least bit torn up about that or hesitant. And he was more than a warrior, people. (Really, go read bellatrys.)

So why, then--or, perhaps, how--can I like these seriously flawed visions? So much so that I continue to rewatch them? So much so that I'm looking forward to the extended edition of ROTK? Well, for one thing, I think it's because, even with their flaws, they remain A version of a story that I love. I've read the book so many times that I end up editing what's on the screen in my head--yes, I know, it's not really Arwen who takes Frodo across the river and sends the river water down to drown the Nazguls' horses, but it IS an elf who does that, and it's presumably elfin power of some kind that causes the river drowning. No, Denethor isn't quite as mad as he appears in the movie, and it's his use of a palantir that probably contributes to his behavior (that's rumored to be part of the extended edition), and he certainly doesn't leap from the top of Minas Tirith, but he does immolate himself and try to do the same to Faramir. What I see on the screen is an illustrated version of a story that I know and love, told, perhaps, by someone who heard the story a little differently, interpreted it differently according to his own memory and belief. (I wonder if the Gospels could be understood that way? Having no knowledge of them, I couldn't tell you.) Because, really, we all tell stories differently; we don't all pick out the same thing as interesting or important or resonant. Did Jackson tell the story the way Tolkien did? No. The way I would have? No. The way bellatrys would have? Hell damn no. But did he tell a version of that story, one that makes any kind of sense to me? Yeah, I think he did.


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