January 5, 2003
Of Haldir, Treebeard, and Faramir
I saw The Two Towers last night and I must admit that I walked away from the theater dumbfounded. "How could they change the characters this much?" I asked myself. "Why was Treebeard anti-war? Why was Faramir despicable? Why was Haldir at Helm's Deep?" Three of my favorite characters, defiled.
However, after 24 hours of thought, I must admit that PJ knew what he was doing. These three characters needed to change.
In the books, Faramir lets Frodo, Sam, and Gollum go, and then he himself returns toward home, making a stop in Osgiliath. Considering the definition of "central characters", we wouldn't see Osgiliath. Faramir would leave Frodo, and we theoretically wouldn't see him again until he arrives at Minas Tirith. In order to more accurately introduce his role in Middle-earth, they needed to bring the central characters to Osgiliath for the movie. Sure, he suddenly became the smarmier of Denethor's kids, but it worked well enough.
Also in the books, Treebeard decides rather hastily that he is going to do something about Saruman. And all the Ents at Entmoot agree - Quickbeam is even Hastier about it. In the movie, Treebeard hasn't formed an opinion at all, and doesn't appear to even know very much about who Saruman was. This ticked me off. They turned the Eldest Ent into a procrastinator. However, it made sence in the theater. Merry and Pippin would have just been tag-alongs without the rewrite. The way it is presented in the movie, the two younger Hobbits used their wit and will to rouse the Ents. I liked it.
The biggest departure from the books in my opinion was the nature of the fighters at Helms deep. In the book, Eomer, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Hama, Gamling, and Theoden protected the Deep, later joined by Gandalf, Erkenbrand, and the Huorns.
They replaced Erkenbrand's group and the Huorns with the Men and Elves led respectively by Eomer and Haldir. Now, Eomer was already supposed to be there, and Haldir was supposed to be defending Lorien. Him arriving at Helm's Deep doesn't make much sense.
The reason why they gave Erkenbrand's role to Eomer is undoubtedly because Erkenbrand is not important. Having Eomer pinch the Orcs and Uruks into a tight spot was a nice touch. I've always though highly of Eomer, and never understood why the "hero" was some unknown guy.
As far as the Elves are concerned, it was a nice touch, but Haldir was supposed to be defending Lorien against more Orcs just over a week later. He still had a big part to play, actually. However, if PJ didn't include the Assaults on Lorien, adding Haldir here is perhaps better than adding someone who we don't know.
The Huprns aren' there because that would be another thing for Treebeard to explain. Also, it would mean a revision on the adapted timeline. Leaving them out - simplifying the race of Ents - putting Elves at Helm's Deep instead - was undoubtedly the smart thing to do.
Another problem at the Deep is that they had already killed Hama in the added Warg battle. Hama was supposed to be the important guy killed at the Deep. They ended up replacing that death with Haldir's, which is another good reason for the Elves to show up.
After much deliberation, I have decided that the departures made from book to movie were just. All in all, I loved the film. Andy Serkis deserves an award. It's too bad there aren't more awards for motion-capture acting and voice acting. It's also too bad that there isn't an award for "most realistic digitally created character". Gollum was the greatest thing in the movie - the greatest thing in ANY movie. His inner dialogue was perfect, in both delivery and cinematography. Kudos to PJ and the rest of the team. Even more kudos to Andy, who was responsible for the cinematic experience of a lifetime.