Wanton Hussy - Column for 1/9

How Peter Jackson turned the 2nd Book into Something Interesting

I'd like to start this review by explaining that I'm not a gaming geek and I'm not a Tolkien geek and I'm not even a really credible history geek anymore. So I'm not an authority. But I do know what I like. And I nearly wet myself (quite literally in fact) at how much I enjoyed "LOTR: The Two Towers." And so far, I think that's the only movie in my entire life that I've thought, exiting the dim movie theater, "Damn, I wish I could get in line and see it again."

So what's so damn special about it? Why is Peter Jackson now ranked second to God in the movie world? What did he do that was so different? Everyone has their own answers. Here's mine: he made a movie out of a book that he loves and it shows. He didn't allow himself to be bought. Sure, there are cheezy things and wrong things and things I didn't like (more on those later), but there are so many good thing, so many perfect things, so many, "ah yes, just right there, God yes!" things that he didn't cut or change or do half-assed to appease some movie company.

I love the costuming. I love that Eowyn is royal family, and all that really means is that she's cleaner and her clothes aren't tatty. I like that everyone's furs and jewelry seems heavy and clunky and slightly burdensome. I love that everyone's dirty all the time (except the elves. Poncy elves.) I love everyone's shaggy hair, and all the long haired people having wispy strands blowing in their faces every time they're outside. I felt vindicated for all those times I've tried to look romantic and windblown and gotten a mouthful of hair for my efforts.

I loved the sets, despite the landscape not always looking very much like Tolkien's England. I'm willing to think Middle-Earth doesn't directly equal Birmingham pre-1918. I loved that nature is grand and sweeping and intimidating and alive. In brilliant contrast to the cities which are crumbling and decaying.

I totally got off on the battle at Helm's Deep. I loved the anger and despair. I loved the arming of old men and boys. I did get my knickers in a bit of a twist thinking, "I'd certainly grab a sword for myself before I let my 10 year old son go out there," but I realize Tolkien didn't think that way, and neither did medieval people, and I'm still grateful for Eoywn's speech about those who don't carry swords can still die by them. I'm not sure if I liked it or disliked it, but on my second viewing, I really noticed that after the arming, you never ever saw the old guys and boys fighting or dying. Ever. I wonder if that was intentional to not upset the audience, an implication that the poorer fighters weren't on the front lines, or just a movie-thing that they weren't very dramatic to see fighting.

More accolades: I loved the Ents. Yummy treey goodness. The city of Edoras, with all the thatched roofs and the Celticy knot designs and horsies on everything. The nose flaps on the helmets. The horse kissing Aragorn. The Dead Marshes.

Annoyances: Aragorn's highly unlikely tracking of the Hobbits away from the Orc battle. Grima being bluish. All the Orcs and Goblins being slimy looking. The oliphants looking like something from a Dali painting. Legolas' stupid horse trick. Faramir being a dumbass. Gimli as strictly humorous.

Unsure: Gollum. The way he looks and his multiple personalities arguing with themselves. (Perhaps that just because it lies a bit to close to my own madness of late.) Theoden's dramatic age-reversal and the whole exorcism scene. Gandalf being The White and all intimidating but unsure of who he used to be one minute, and then being Previously Grey and all in control and approachable the next. Pippin's Scottish/Irish/whatever accent. Yummy though.

In general, I'm left unsure about a lot of things at Helm's Deep, mostly because of my lack of knowledge about military history in the medieval periods (I mostly studied women, religion, and family relationships, feminist witch that I am). Why did the Orcs have crossbows but no one else did? I was fairly certain that kind of technology was never "one side has it but the other doesn't." Why wasn't Helm's Deep better armed? 300 inhabitants, I can buy, but with rusty, pitted swords? Doors made of wood? No boiling oil? I thought the people defending a fortress would be better equipped. Why didn't they get those ladders down and on fire faster? I know they were overwhelmed, but it just seemed like a waste to not even try. The Orcs had those catapult things for the big ladders, but didn't use them to try and knock holes in the walls from the beginning - why not? Why didn't they have more of those nice exploding thingies from Saruman? I guess I don't know much about siege warfare, but a lot of it seemed wrong to me. Perhaps I should just sing that little song about poetic license and movie making and go flog the nit-picky part of myself with a wet noodle for a while.

So anyway, I loved it. Peter Jackson took a book that I found massively boring and to essentially have a plot-line of "And they walked and walked and walked and walked and fought and walked and walked and walked" and made it gripping. I want Peter Jackson to direct every book-movie from now on, just like I used to want Merchant-Ivory to. Please please please, especially the next Harry Potter movie. Please.

Next week: Sex and LOTR

Columns by Wanton Hussy