January 2, 2004
I Love It When Things Turn Political
But we'll get to that later. First off, I'm going to bring up some of my other problems with the movie vis-a-vis the book, and secondly, I'm going to bring up a possible topic for debate. Then, thanks to Annatar, I'm going to take the opportunity to engagre n one of my favroite pastimes: UN bashing. I'll also respond to Bob Praz' comments on the state of politics around the world. So, if you have no interest in reading about politics on this site (quite reasonable, in my view), you can feel free to skip the end of my piece.
Anyhow, I've posted on this topic before (after TTT came out), but I think it bears repeating because the same problems are present in RotK. The first problem is philosophical. In the book, the heroes are noble, driven by a sense of duty and a love of their own, their friends and their lands. Though they are not perfect, the heroes, especially Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo and Sam have a clear knowledge of their ultimate purpose, even if they are not always clear on how to accomplish their purpose, and they pursue it resolutely. They are men (Hobbits, Elves, etc.) of high character and greatness, the best Middle Earth has to offer going confidently into combat against the powers of darkness, despite the severity of the odds.
For some reason, Peter Jackson (Even if he didn't write the characters this way for the movie, it's still his movie, so ultimate responsibility lies with him.) couldn't leave well enough alone. Instead of high, noble characters with a clear sense of purpose, every single hero becomes an anti-hero with major personal hurdles preventing them from doing what they need to do, be it fear, doubt or their own will to power. Aragorn has no idea of his ultimate goal through the first two movies (evidenced by the fact that he lets Frodo go after swearing to protect him and only looking to take up the throne of Gondor an hour into RotK) and fears his lineage, in sharp contrast the Aragorn in the book, who is aware of the dignity of his lineage, as well as the his own strength. Theoden is dominated by fear until Aragron leaves for the PotD. Faramir is dominated bith by a desire for glory and a desire to please his father. Frodo is overcome by doubt well before his strength is anywhere near givin out, and he is also blinded by his pity for Gollum, in sharp contrast with the book Frodo, who does not allow his pity to blind him. Even Gandalf seems to have his moment in RotK These changes may make for more dynamic characters, but it lessens them all the more, and unnecessarily so because the characters from the book are dynamic enough as they are.
Interestingly, the only characters who aren't cast from this mold are Boromir and Denethor. Boromir gets better treatment in the movie than he did in the book (esp. in Faramir's flashback). On the other hand, Denethor's portrayal in the movie is a caricature of the Denethor in the book.
The other major problem is in the dialogue, which is banal compared to the dialogue in the movies. In fact, the quality of the dialogue in A Long Expected Party is better than anything in any of the three movies. Just read it. Now, I know that we are dealing with the limitations of film, so I can forgive this fault, even if I don't enjoy it as much as I do the dialogue in the book.
Moving on, I would like to raise a question. Who is more powerful, the Lord of the Nazgul, or the balrog in Moria?
And now for the fun part. I for my part enjoy a good bit of invective and spirited debate, so long as everything is done in good spirits and the participants try to avoid shots below the belt, so to speak. And so, in this spirit, though also in all sincerity (I'm saying what I think, but I'm being strident to add a little spice to the argument.) intend to take on the credibility of the mighty UN.
Let's start off with the old Solzhenitsyn point that "The UN is not so much the united nations as the united governments, or regimes. The organization is only as good as the governments that compose it. And most governments-or a good chunk-are illegitimate [no cracks about Florida, please;)], ruling without the consent of the governed." If the UN were meant to be simply an humanitarian organization, this would not be that big of a deal (Though I guarantee that small, private organizations can do the UN's humaniarian work much more effectively than the UN. I'll take Doctors Without Borders over the UN any day.), but the UN is supposed to be a body of international governance, and each government represented at the UN has its own interests and pursues those interests as best they are able. This isn't so bad, in and of itself. After all, this is what happens within individual countries, but it's different within the UN because there is no underlying world interest or set of principles to actually unite the governments of the world. Some are republics; some are constitutional monarchies; some are despotisms; some are Communist; some are rich; some are poor; some Christian; some Muslim; some Hindu, etc. There is no underlying vision of dignity or rights of man, let alone their source. In other words, there is no common purpose, leading to the insertion of the agendas of one large faction or another as a substitute. Why do you think there have been so many UN resolutions (non-binding, thankfully) condemning Israel? Is it because Israel is so awful? True, Israeli Arabs are in many ways second class citizens, but they have it better than Arab in any other country in the region. It isn't because of the plight of the Palestinians, though that is the pretext. After all, Kuwait expelled many thousands of Palestinians after the first Gulf War and there was no outcry from the UN. No, the reason so many resolutions against Israel are passed is because there is a large faction within the UN is that there is a large faction within the UN opposed to the very existence of the state of Israel. However, this is only one of the UN's underlying problems.
The late, great James Burnham highlights the second: "Why in the world should any sensible person give a darn (sic) what some spokesman for cannibalistic tribes or slave-holding nomads thinks about nuclear tests?" Simply put, the UN gives power to countries who have absolutley no business wielding it. Libya is the chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, which also includes such shining lights as Syria, Sudan, Cuba, and China. Until May of this year, Iran was the chair of the UN disarmament commission, when it was to be replaced by Iraq. These are the worst examples, but it is also a grave error to give countries authority in areas where they have no underlying national interest because they look for some way to benefit themselves, thus making them available to the highest bidder.
The Iraq situation illustrates these problems perfectly. The US and UK deemed it was in their vital national interest to go to war in Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, while France, Russia, Germany, and China deemed it to be in their best interest to keep Saddam around. Both sides acted accordingly and proceeded to try and buy the votes of other member nations of the Security Council.
I've got a New Year's Eve party to attend, so I have to go. If anyone wants, I'd love to continue any of the above conversations. If anyone specifically wants to continue the UN conversation, but feels this is an inappropriate forum, drop me an e-mail. The address is in my profile.
P.S. Bob, world politics isn't at an all-time low. The handkerchief has just been removed from the steaming pile of dung.
P.P.S. I'm sorry for carrying on like this and hope the read was worth your while.
P.P.P.S. God bless and Happy New Year.