Thursday, March 30, 2006

Peter Jackson

So I just watched "King Kong" and was surprised how unbloated it felt for such a bloated movie. There are some truly amazing action sequences, some really creepy bits and some downright beautiful bits. None of it looks anymore real than the claymation/minatures of the original, despite the cgi, in fact because of the crystalline clarity of the cgi, but I'm not sure that wasn't the intention. All in all, a fun, albeit long, movie.

It also made me go back and start watching the Lord of the Rings movies. As a fanboy of longstanding (my dad gave me the books to read when I was nine or ten and I've read them every few years since then) I have huge problems with the liberties taken with the texts and tremendous redirection of motivations by Jackson and company. I still love the movies. There well done, well crafted and perfect visualizations of Middle Earth (via Alan Lee's illustrations).

I'm bothered, though, with something I only started thinking about lately. Aragorn, as portrayed in the books, is utterly heroic and nigh flawless. He's was a warrior of renown under many names for almost a century before the story's opening and he's hardened to battle and loss. He's been bred to the throne he claims and has no doubts about his right or fitness to take it upon Sauron's defeat. He knows his destiny in his bones and isn't scared of it.
As characterized by Jackson he's less sure and somewhat reluctant. He tells Elrond he doesn't want to be the one wielding the power of Isildur's sword and what it represents. He displays doubts throughout the series and less than surety of his destiny.
We seem to have entered a time where any display of heroism bereft of doubt is seen as unrealistic or unbelievable. I've read enough history to know that's a simplistic few of the condition and in a work of heroic fantasy I find the suspicion it's treated with disappointing.
Maybe Jackson only changed Aragorn (and the Rohirrim and Gandalf and Elrond) because he felt the introduction of uncertainty and doubt provided more dramatic tension but I suspect not. Boromir provides that element as does the struggle between Gandalf and Denethor in Minas Tirith. I think that Jackson succumbed to the easy cynicism of the age that is trouble by clearcut displays of heroism and needs to cut it with moody introspection.
Still, the movies do work on their own terms and Jackson's the master of large scale mayhem and special effects. He's able to work with a large cast of characters, keep them straight and maintain enough dramatic tension to keep views absorbed for over three hours at a clip ('cause you know I'm watching the fanboy friendly extra long director's cut DVDs).


PDarcy said...

Yeah, that bugs me too. That and the "Army of the Dead" shit, but I chalk it up to compression. As readers of the books, we know how the characters "should" behave, but in the film, Jackson only has a (long) limited time to present motivation. For me, the most deftly handled aspect of the films (despite Golem, of course)is Jackson's emphasis of the "you can never go home" feel to Frodo.

Apeman said...

Like I meant to say at some point, I don't have a problem with compression, excision or even episode realignment. It's when the deep fundamentals of characters are changed for no apparent reason (except maybe that old film devil dramatic tension) that I get a little bugged.