February 7, 2002
Re: Swords in LotR
I wanted to respond to Jamie's and others' concerns about the Anduril vs. Narsil vs. other swords controversy. First I want to say that Peter Jackson takes relatively a LOT of time explaining Narsil and it's historic importance. Do you think he plans on this huge set-up with no pay off? If you notice from beginning of the movie until end, Aragorn uses the same sword. Now relate this to the major change in Aragorn's character from the book to the movie: In the book, Aragorn has committed himself to reclaiming the throne of Gondor before we meet him. In the movie, I do not think he has quite made that decision (we might have seem it right at the end of FOTR). So, at this time, Aragorn has no reason to have Narsil reforged and used as an heirloom of his kingdom and a weapon to threaten Sauron. Once he makes the decision to reclaim the throne, don't you think Narsil will be reforged and used? I certainly have every confidence it will. Plus I imagine the reforged sword might very well replace or supplement the banner from Arwen that is delivered to him while in Rohan. Wouldn't this be a nice touch that in show of support and understanding of his decision, that Arwen (who is already seen to encourage him on this path) has Narsil reforged knowing that Aragorn will need it? I think so; and I'm pretty sure Jackson will not disappoint in this matter. If he wasn't going to use Narsil/Anduril the way it was in the books, he would have simply ignored it entirely. Instead, he devotes a lot of screen time in an already long movie on the history of Narsil. Have patience, I'm sure we'll see this all work out.
Now, you might ask...why change Aragorn's character. Well, this goes back to the old argument of what makes a good book vs a good movie. In the book, the only characters we really see make life changing decisions in "real time" are the hobbits. Other character develop as well, but only the four hobbits really move from point a to b to c and beyond. (Don't get me wrong, I love Aragorn in the book, but we meet him after he has already made his big decision, everything in the book is just follow-through.) Now, this works GREAT in the books. But what would work great in a movie would be to have more characters facing more decisions/problems/development while ON SCREEN. I think seeing Aragorn decide to claim the throne, then claim Narsil/Anduril, then go after the goal all on screen will make for a wonderful movie(s). Is it different from the novel? Yes. Would it make a better novel? No. However, is it in the spirit of the novel and does it make for a better MOVIE? Yes and YES.
In general, I think a lot of the nitpicks from LOTR fans can be explained simply with the fact that a LOT of the action in LOTR the novel actually does not take place in a linear reading of the novel. We only learn of it much later in dialogue "flashbacks." (Gandalf imprisoned in Orthanc, Gandalf battles the Balrog, Boromir defends Merry and Pippin to his death, Ents destroy Isengard, Aragorn's battles in South Gondor, much of the battle before the gates of Mordor, plus some character things as well Aragorn's decision, Arwen's decision, Gandalf's suspicions, and largely Frodo and Bilbo's motivations too.) All of these scenes and character developments are CINEMATICALLY some of the best in the story. How they are used in the novel works to great suspense, but would that same form work in a movie? Probably not. As a MOVIEGOER, how disappointed would you be if FOTR ended simply with Frodo and Sam paddling off, no hint of an attack. You wait a year, then Two Towers opens with Boromir riddled with arrows. As a MOVIEGOER you would be extremely disappointed, shocked, and I'm sure it would get horrible review for such things. Overall, I feel most changes in the movie are within the spirit of the book and necessary to make a good movie. I have truly enjoyed seeing it each of (so far) three times.