The LOTR Movie Site
April 12, 2000

Thoughts on the Trailer

Before I start, I have been thinking a lot about the issue of whether Peter Jackson has the "right", as some people have been debating, to change any detail at all from the story. Perhaps a good way to think about this is to go from what Tolkien himself said: that what he wrote actually happened, and he was merely a translator. Can we try to see Peter Jackson as another translator of the same original story? To use what I hope isn't a blasphemous example, the four Gospels were written by four very different writers. They do not necessarily correspond; some have different "characters" performing the same tasks; some attach a great deal of importance to episodes which don't even occur in others; and in short they are very different viewpoints, and very different representations, of the same story. That hasn't stopped them being accepted, all of them, as the truth of the same story.

I realise that may be a rather fanciful argument (I also realise that the Lord of the Rings isn't a constituent document of one of the most important religious groups in the world!) but those who argue that Tolkien's own vision cannot be touched or altered are perhaps forgetting his own "admission" that he was merely a translator, and that errors within his translation were entirely possible. If we accept that as a truth, isn't there much more room for interpretation by other writers in The Lord of the Rings than there is in almost any other literary work?

That said, I have some thoughts on the new preview footage which has been released. First off, wow!! Several times I felt a shiver down my back as things I'd only ever seen before in my mind came alive in front of me. Elijah Wood looked absolutely perfect as Frodo; he had exactly the right haunted earnestness I'd always imagined about him, at least for those early scenes. I imagine I don't even need to mention Ian McKellen as Gandalf. And for a film that apparently doesn't have a composer yet, the music was very impressive and, I thought, fitting.

I do have a couple of criticisms/observations. The first is very small; the opinion I'd always got from the book was that Boromir had black hair. I'm fairly sure of this, but I might have it wrong. The second was that Weathertop was paved! my imagination had it merely as a hill, with the ruins of a tower perhaps on it. I think I like the paved idea better, but it was still a little strange to see it so differently. I suppose that is both the blessing and the curse of the films: there are many things that perfectly match my own vision of it anyway, but there will also be things I'd never thought of before, and I suppose it will be very difficult not to see Boromir as blonde Sean Bean the next time I read the book. I'm not sure if this is a sacrifice on my part or not, but it's one I'm willing to make!

I suppose the problem would be if the movies are seen by people as the "definitive" version of the story; where different media broach the same story, it's usually the film that's generally accepted as "what really happened" (to use the most obvious example, did anyone jump out of their seat in the middle of "The Phantom Menace" to say "that's not right! Anakin is supposed to tell Padme that he'll marry her someday right now!" Thought not. But how many people read the book and thought "that's interesting, but it didn't happen in the film". I know this isn't a danger for the vast number of people who have already read the book, but there will of course be people who are inspired to read the books for the first time because they've seen the film; I wonder how many of them will get to page 90-odds and think "That's wrong, Boromir should be blonde", or "Who's this Glorfindel character? Where's Arwen?" I suppose the approach they will have to take to the books is the same approach that die

PS Has anyone else noticed, and/or been worried, that at the very end of the film when that (very condensed!) cast list is given, Liv Tyler is given third billing? I think that is a little odd, to say the least; hopefully it doesn't reflect the importance of her extended character that, from the cast list at least, she is held by the producers to be as important to the story as Aragorn and Sam! (Also, it seemed very odd to include Gimli on that list, but not Legolas).