The Two Towers

By John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Right. We went to see the movie adaption of The Two Towers yesterday, and now I’m going to post my second combined  book/movie notice here. I am not angry, just disappointed. And not completely disappointed in the movie, just disappointed with certain parts of the movie. Parts of it were, in all honesty, excellent.

  • Author: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
  • Publisher: George Allen & Unwin
  • Published: 1986 (1954)
  • Pages: 442

I have at least three English editions of Lord of the Rings on my shelves, but I didn’t choose to give the particulars of this one without premeditation. It was my first copy. Previously, I had borrowed both Dutch and the English versions from the local library. I didn’t like the book at the time. Possibly because The Two Towers, together with the (remaindered at the time) appendices, was the only volume available. Yes, that’s right. Dutch public libraries have a penchant for buying Part Two of Three of anything — or Part 3, 5, 6 and 7 of eight, for that matter. But, retournons a nos moutons, I entered the 1986 paperback edition of Two Towers in the little unsorted list above. That was my first copy, as I said. I bought all three volumes in one audacious move, even though I couldn’t afford it, and had to borrow money from my mum. In 1986 I was about sixteen years old, I guess. For two weeks I was off the map. I severely harmed, if you can believe it, my English marks, because my teacher didn’t want to believe that ‘dale’ was a word. Anyway, I’ve read Lord of the Rings about six times since then, which is not as often as some, but more than most people on this swiftly moving clod of earth, and every time I reread it, I discover new nuances, new joys, and gain a deeper appreciation of Tolkien’s work. I don’t consider myself a fan — after all, my Sindarin is a joke. But I know the book. I’ve got a handsome three-volumes-in-one bound copy printed in a nice, large letter on unfortunate paper, and my wife has the great three-volume hardback on cream paper.

I went to the first movie with some trepidation, but I was pleasantly surprised. So many details were just right, from Hobbiton, which I, being a soppy old fart and a sucker for children, particularly liked. I hated the transformation of Galadriel, and I nearly fell from my chair laughing at the Star Wars antics between Gandalf and Saruman. Really — how close can you get to the Compleat Jedi Knight?

Having heard something about the second movie beforehand, I went to the movieplex with more than trepidation. I felt as if my shoes were weighted down with lead slabs. I feared the rape of Faramir with a bitter, cold fear.

And I was right. While there are many places in the movie adaptation of ‘The Two Towers’ that are bad, ill-conceived or ludicrious, I feel
that Faramir would stand a pretty good chance if he tried to mulct
Jackson for substantial damages because of defamation of character.
Faramir — the perfect British Officer. The gentle, intelligent, underrated little brother of Boromir. Whose name alone promises that the bearer will play cricket. He never tried to take the bloody ring to Denethor. Never. And he didn’t wear that ugly little pencil-stripe moustache either. Nor did he look like a particularly mousy weasel. The Osgiliath episode is a filthy lie, and when I buy the DVD, I won’t watch it.

Enough! Other failings of the movie: Gimli is far more of a hero than a comic foil, and while the dwarf jokes didn’t all grate on me, not even the ‘tossing joke’, I really hated it when he wasn’t able to look over the rampart. And dwarves, Tolkien notes especially, are made for endurance. To pervert that to sprinting, is silly. And ignorant. The way the plot was tortured around the escape of Pippin and Merry, the banishment of Eomer, that was bad too. Sam’s voice-over near the end was very close to badness. That Theoden didn’t stay old when he came out of under the influence was bad, too — had he stayed a graybeard, his charge here, and his future charge in the Pelennor fields, would have been far more impressive. The silly staff-pointing at Theoden and the chat between Gandalf and Saruman at the time was actually damaging. How can Gandalf now rob Saruman of his colours at Orthanc? Tell me that! And I have a very, very persistent fear that Arwen will indeed have gone, and that Aragorn is stuck with Eowyn. After all, Eowyn is far too good for Faramir, in the movie.

Good points, points where the movie is better than the book: especially the depiction of the women and children of Rohan. I admit that I freely cried when the small boys were armed and helmeted, and that I cried again during the shot of the women and babies when the orcs cracked open the doors of Helm’s Deep. (Sedom, the main protagonist in the fantasy novel I should be writing instead of this review, was indignantly shouting at me that the silly Rohirrim had a thousand fine, young, strong, trained women at their disposal, and should use them. I think he was right.) There were more good points. Grima Wormtongue was very well done, I felt, and the scene where he was advising Theoden was positively Shakespearean, and I mean
that as a compliment. Much to my surprise I liked Gollum very much.
His facial expressions were so strong, so surprisingly strong. His
externalized inner battle between Smeagol and Gollum was better on
screen than in the book. The breaking of Orthanc was uncannilly
exactly like my own imagination.

As for the book; I’m rereading it right now. Again. The English is stilted in places, and old-fashioned. And very, very beautiful. I sometimes feel that there’s too much of a King James version influence. But the heroes, always excepting Aragorn, are so much more heroic, and, at the same time, so much more consistent in the book, that the book still wins. Which is fortunate, since it’s so much more convenient to read a book than to watch a movie.