Wednesday, October 02, 2002

GEEK ALERT; SKIP TO BELOW IF YOU'RE ONLY INTERESTED IN COMMENTARY ABOUT THE REAL WORLD: I can't say enough about how wonderful I think Peter Jackson's take on Lord of the Rings is, and I'm pretty damned excited about Two Towers. But the new trailer continues a troubling (well, it troubles me) trend from the first movie: the exaggeration-to-the-point-of-distortion of racial themes and racial tension. The books, to be sure, have a certain amount of queasy-making race-talk. But Jackson's making the problem worse.

In the first movie, Elrond (who, let us not forget, is the son of an elf and a man, and whose brother made the choice to be a man) engages in an inordinate amount of Man-bashing, and he and Gandalf engage in an argument that depends rather a lot on race-talk. The dignified and grave Council of Elrond is reduced to an absurd racial squabble ("...before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf!") The creepiness of Cate Blanchett's Galadriel costs us the sense that the elves in general and the High Elves in particular are a reliable, constant, and powerful, though unseen, ally against Sauron. The cutting of the Gimli-Galadriel plotline (possibly restored in the extended-version DVD) deprives us of Tolkien's example of racial reconciliation.

Now in the trailer for Two Towers, Elrond and the elves are talking about turning tail and leaving Middle Earth in the middle of the war. Elrond declares the alliance of men and elves over (instead of mourning the estrangement of the two kindred races since Gil-Galad's time)-- and does so in a way that suggests the elves aren't going to fight Sauron now. And the early stages of the War of the Ring are described by Aragorn as a war to destroy the world of men, and the army of the Uruk-Hai is described as aiming to exterminate the race of men. But men are the race that, in the books, fights on both sides. Indeed there's a strong suggestion that the men of Harad and Rhun outnumber the men of the West; in other words, more men fight for Sauron than against him. (Elves are more reliable; none has stood with Sauron since the forging of the Ring.) Neither Sauron nor Saruman ever set out to exterminate Men, only to subjugate them. And one of the most-stressed values in the books-- emphasized by Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Aragorn-- is that of all the free peoples of the West standing together, and not dividing against each other. Why is Jackson changing that?

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