[LMB] TTT review

Lois McMaster Bujold lbujold at myinfmail.com
Sat, 14 Dec 2002 00:55:00 -0600

As promised...

The Two Towers Minneapolis Pre-release Screening, 12/13/02

Preliminary comments by Lois McMaster Bujold.

So, anyway, for a Christmas present, my very very good friend Pat Wrede, who
is a graduate of Carleton College, got us both tickets to the Minneapolis
screening of TTT, here in town because producer Barrie Osborne is also a
Carleton grad and was doing a showing to benefit the college.  So we went
downtown this evening.

Short, non-spoiler review:

Oh.  Yes.

Longer comments, not many spoilers.

This was very fine.  As the middle part of a trilogy, it had some of the
natural inherent shape-problems that come from starting and ending in the
middle.  It also did not have as much variety of tone and pacing as the
first film -- reasonably enough, as the book itself picks up the pace in
this section.  As a result, it ran somewhat emotionally flatter for me than
Fellowship -- I gasped, cheered, and was on the edge of my seat right
enough, but I never cried as I did for the tragic sub-plots of Boromir's and
Gandalf's deaths.  (There also may have been some loss of emotional
intensity because the story divides at this point into three separate
narrative threads; there simply wasn't enough on-screen time for each to
build up the way the single, more unified line of the first film did.)  It
does do what a movie does best; it moves.  Very much wall-to-wall action --
for the most part closely based on the book, with exceptions that I found
tolerable, most of which clearly served various narrative needs of the film

On my very first viewing of Fellowship, I spent a lot of time fighting the
film in my head, comparing it scene by scene with the book in my head.
Partly due to my divided attention, it also felt cut too fast.  It took
about three viewings to finally settle down and become accepted by my brain
as the separate artistic entity that it is.

I did not have that problem with this second film, because my psyche has now
had a year (and a quite mad number of viewings) to slot in the Jacksonian
version, and so I was more "in tune" with this particular vision to start
with.  So, even though the film does depart here and there from close
congruence with the text (though mostly, bless them, with interpolation --
as best they could -- of bits from elsewhere in Tolkien, especially in the
Aragorn and Arwen flashback sequences) it didn't give me nearly as much
mental whiplash.  I was happy to be along for *this* ride, in *this* moment.

As with the first film, over and over I could spot quite perfect renditions
of elements from the novel, just as described, which always made me want to
cheer.  It still stuns me that they managed to get anything this good past
the Hollywood system.  (Mr. Osborne's personal integrity evidently had more
than a little to do with that; Carleton grad, y'know.)

Also as with the first film, it does not end identically at the points where
Tolkien split his original narrative, and as with the first film, one can
see why the choices were made as they were.  Last time, part of the opening
of TTT was shifted to the end of Fellowship; this time, a much larger chunk
than I was expecting of TTT got cut off and saved, presumably, for the start
of the next film.  The stop-points chosen here were reasonably rounded and
coherent, but I was hoping it would go on further.  Like Fellowship, the
very first complaint off my lips was, "This film is too short!"

I want the Extended Version, of course.  Instantly would be a good time,
though I suppose I'll have to wait till next fall, sigh.  I noted a few
lines of dialogue from the early previews had dropped out of the final cut;
I don't know if any of them will re-surface in The Return of the King.

The Ents were quite wonderful.  Faramir was wonderful, though a little
short-changed on screen time; I hope they do more with him in Return.  The
whole Rohan sequence was wonderful.  It was all wonderful.  I had very high
hopes for this film, which were neither disappointed nor betrayed.  I will
be seeing TTT again, many times.

Ta, Lois.