Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

LOTR Scorecard

We’re less than 48 hours away from the opening of The Two Towers, the second installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I gave the first installment a B grade after seeing it in the theatre, mostly because I thought the music was too loud and dominated the film. But this is typical of most movies and theatres these days, which have overinvested in sound systems; and when I saw Fellowship again on DVD, I had a better impression of it--a B+.

The book is impossible to fully adapt into even a three-part film, but the key criteria for judging the effort is the extent to which the filmakers remain true to Tolkien’s moral teaching. The first movie passed the test by keeping in one of Gandalf’s major speeches (thugh they moved it from near the beginning in the book to the mines of Moria in the film), where Frodo suggests that Gollum deserved death from the hand of Bilbo.

"Deserves it!" Gandalf says; "I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be so eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

The criteria for The Two Towers will be whether they keep Aragorn’s reply to Eomer’s question "How shall a man judge what to do in such times?" Aragorn’s answer gives Tolkien’s attack on modern moral relativism: "As he has ever judged. Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house."

Early word is that The Two Towers is better than the first installment in terms of a filmgoing spectacle. But to have any chance at getting an A grade from me, Aragorn’s line must survive.

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