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Lord Of The Fantasies: The Nature Of Men

Changes made from book-Faramir to film-Faramir, from “The Lord of the Rings,” reflect two approaches of showing human nature. Stories should reflect both: our bent toward sin and corruption, and our capacity to do good and act with nobility.

Last week re-confirmed a truth set on foundations of stone: that while most Christian fantasy fans love The Lord of the Rings books, the films may meet with mixed reactions.

Example A: my captivation by the film and music, contrasted with author R.J. Anderson:

The look of the movie was breathtaking, but I found myself numb and indifferent to all the ACTION ACTION ACTION BATTLE BATTLE BATTLE INSERT VERY UN-TOLKIENESQUE SCENE OR JOKE HERE MORE ACTION STOP that seemed to be going on. Where were the quiet, thoughtful moments that defined the characters so well? Who was this Aragorn who didn’t even seem to know who he truly was, or want to be king?

Aragorn’s and Arwen’s character changes are among the most interesting developments of the film adaptation, I believe. Yet I think I’ll save those for next week. Instead, this issue underlies that one — the issue of perhaps the most extensive character changes made for the Lord of the Rings films. I speak of Faramir, or to use my wife’s reaction, He Who Must Not Be Named … named Faramir, that is.

Faramir gets carded

When we were courtship-dating, in December 2007, I sent my girlfriend an e-card I’d made. The occasion was her work in a “Nutcracker” performance. The background was our first real dispute, as a couple-in-development, and not only about Lord of the Rings.

The first page showed this:

As you prepare for your performance …

Find tonight these greetings and good wishes from someone you know in a faraway land.

He is an overall-good man, flawed in some ways, depending on his presentation mostly … often misunderstood, though, yet fully capable in things such as what few real-world combats do occur, and certainly worth a little re-evaluation.

Of course I am referring to …

And inside — well, here’s the animated equivalent of that part:

In The Two Towers book, Faramir, a Man of Gondor — son of Lord Denethor, the land’s steward, and brother to Boromir, a Fellowship member — finds the two Hobbits, Frodo and Sam, lost in the wilderness. As a soldier tasked with protecting his land, Faramir takes them back to his hideout and quizzes them about their intent. When finally the truth emerges about Frodo’s errand to destroy the evil One Ring, the Hobbits — and readers — are relieved to learn of Faramir’s nobility.

‘But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory. No, I do not wish for such triumphs, Frodo son of Drogo.’

Film-Faramir does eventually say "I would not use the Ring," but only in the third film, and only after he very nearly does.

Then Faramir and his men escort the Hobbits to the Cross-roads, where the halflings resume their quest to Mordor. “Go with the good will of all good men!” Faramir says.

The film version is only slightly different. Faramir (or Filmamir, if you prefer) captures Frodo and Sam, brings them to his hidden hideout, and questions them as in the book. But then, when Faramir learns what Frodo carries, he’s filled with Ring-lust similar to that which had taken Boromir. Partly out of desperation to “show his quality” to his critical father, Faramir instead escorts the Hobbits to the besieged city of Osgiliath.

Only minor changes, you see, but still meant to honor the spirit of Tolkien, and the original character as portrayed in the book, or. … Or, just maybe, you disagree.

Two different journeys

In the behind-the-scenes footage for The Two Towers’ extended edition, film co-writer Philippa Boyens explained the screenwriters’ motives for their change. With all that we have done to show how evil the Ring is, she argued, how could we have any character come along and say, breezily, that he wouldn’t even pick it up from the side of a road?

What she describes seems another path, from another crossroads, leading to a different exploration of real human nature in a fantastic story. And Christians can know both are equally true, equally Biblical — and equally dangerous, if we ignore the other side.

This is what we read about in texts like Jer. 17:9 (“The heart is deceitful …”) or Rom. 3: 10-11 (“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God”). By themselves, human hearts are ugly and dead. Before God, we have nothing good to offer in this world. And in created worlds, it’s realistic, and God-glorifying, to show the same.

The other path reminds us to show that God’s glory and goodness, are also revealed even in evil people (Matt. 7: 9-11), and even more so in His saints (2 Cor. 7:1). In reality, people can do good things, thanks to God, and this also should show in our stories.

This may explain why people don’t want only angsty dark brooding heroes with secrets, closet skeletons, and mood lighting. Witness the irritations, and parodies, that result when rumors emerge about a superhero or another character getting a “gritty reboot.” People don’t want only “gritty” heroes who have conflicted, just-barely-good character. They also want to be reminded that heroes can act redemptively, nobly, even now.

We want both bright colors and simple nobility, such as Superman.

We also want dark tones and conflicted motives, such as Batman.

That’s why I am mostly all right with the change in Faramir’s character. But I know I’m in the minority, solely because I did not grow up knowing Faramir from the books; I was never attached to him. Would I miss the presence of his nobility, and (we also learn) longing for Gondor’s true king? Perhaps. Yet in the films, we do get some of that from other characters. Those virtues are not entirely missing.

Still, I can also understand people, like a certain lady of mine, who think the film, even with some changes, could have done better. You may have similar criticisms, or maybe even specific suggestions for improving movie-Faramir. Or Filmamir. Or Faramir …

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Kaci Hill
Member

Book Faramir owns Movie Faramir, Stephen. 0=)

Galadriel
Guest

Faramir beats Film-amir, but since I was introduced to the films and books at the same time, it doesn’t bug me as much as it otherwise might.

Kessie Carroll
Member

A lot of LOTR changes they made for the movie were to jazz up the story a bit for the screen. Faramir was a gentleman in the book, but how boring would that be on screen? He captures the hobbits, he talks to the hobbits, he catches Gollum, and then he lets them all go. The audience would be thinking, “Yawn. What happened to the movie?”
 
The film Faramir, on the other hand, actually struggles with temptation before he overcomes it. And there’s some action and stuff. And it sets up for the third movie, where we see what a nutjob Denathor is and why Faramir wanted so desperately to please him.

Kaci Hill
Member

Aragorn’s and Arwen’s character changes are among the most interesting developments of the film adaptation, I believe. Yet I think I’ll save those for next week. Instead, this issue underlies that one — the issue of perhaps the most extensive character changes made for the Lord of the Rings films. I speak of Faramir, or to use my wife’s reaction, He Who Must Not Be Named … named Faramir, that is.

 
I was introduced to the books and movies at the same time, too.
I didn’t mind Arwen too much, because it was either remove her completely for the movie, or beef up her role a little (I kinda think the “attached to the Ring” thing was a bit much).  I thought Aragorn came off too insecure at times (which is not something I got in the book).  And Faramir….the whole point was that, unlike Boromir, he listened to his teacher. Who was Gandalf. That does not come across in the movie. Instead, it comes off like he’s no better than his brother, which is opposite the intent.

film co-writer Philippa Boyens explained the screenwriters’ motives for their change. With all that we have done to show how evil the Ring is, she argued, how could we have any character come along and say, breezily, that he wouldn’t even pick it up from the side of a road?

 
From a storyteller’s POV, I understand that. And I completely get most of the pace changes. But Tom Bombadil  (whose presence I did not miss) was another who thought nothing of the Ring, but the point of him was that he’d be a fool who’d misplace it.  It probably would eventually corrupt Faramir, but it’d take a very, very long time.  I don’t even recall it affecting Sam that much.

This may explain why people don’t want only angsty dark brooding heroes with secrets, closet skeletons, and mood lighting. Witness the irritations, and parodies, that result when rumors emerge about a superhero or another character getting a “gritty reboot.” People don’t want only “gritty” heroes who have conflicted, just-barely-good character. They also want to be reminded that heroes can act redemptively, nobly, even now.
We want both bright colors and simple nobility, such as Superman.
We also want dark tones and conflicted motives, such as Batman.

 
I thought this was very, very well-said.
 
 
 

Michelle R. Wood
Member

Let us all remember that this film depature is really symptomatic of the much larger weirdness that is the LotR film trilogy: how, when they were all filmed at basically the same time, with the same cast/crew/production team, did two movies come out so consistent to the source material and one turn out so … not? I refer, of course, to Two Towers.

Warning (if needed): spoilers abound in this comment.

Now, I fully recognize that the other two films (Fellowship and King) had departures as well, but for the most part (in my humble opinion), they could be understood as reasonable adaptive choices. While die hard fans might not like it, the decision to drop Tom Bombadil (and for that matter, the lesser remembered and lamented Fatty Bolger or Bill Ferny) makes good sense when you’re trying to condense such a massive work into the scope of three films. Same with the scouring of the shire: while this sequence is perhaps one of my favorite parts of the series, I fully understood why it was cut. It would have thrown a real narrative crimp in the films. To get all these excessive details in would require a television series of epic porportions (which is really the better medium for telling such stories).

But, in my mind, Two Towers is where Jackson went just a little mad, to put it kindly. Departures and changes were made in this film that had little rhyme or reason. Take Strider’s “death.” Why was this put in? What purpose did it serve, either for the narrative or the character? If it was to strengthen the love triangle the movie ads tried so hard to promote, the effect on that subplot was so subtle that it might as well have not happened. To make Theoden more amendable to him? Well, in this film he’s already grateful to the triumvirate of Strider, Legolas, and Gimli for helping to free him and so doesn’t really need any further encouragement, and it certainly has no affect on his actions in the next film where he seems to be in opposition to Gondor and its representative (another weird departure). Was it just an excuse to flash more CGI, violence, and (implied) sex? But there’s plenty of that (minus the sex, I guess) in Helm’s Deep, and it’s such a fleeting episode that in the grand scheme of things I don’t most audiences even remember it now. So, what is the reason? It’s a mystery.

Same with the elves at Helm’s Deep: it happens, but for no reason, and with no consequences on the forward motion of the last film at all. There’s never another mention of it, even when Elrond meets with Aragorn to give him Narsil. It’s simply added, without a second thought.

When I saw all the crazy weirdness of Two Towers for the first time, and realized that based on the way it ended half of that book had been pushed into the next film (which was already bulging with action), I thought “There’s no way it’ll work.” Too much had been changed/added/distorted/moved. Imagine my surprise and delight when Return of the King returned to the faithful storytelling of Fellowship of the Ring, managing to make right the things that had been wronged (like Faramir) and still managing to deliver an incredible cinematic experience. Even after viewing the extended editions, I can’t explain it. All that’s to say, anything that happenes in that middle film I just gloss over with “Yeah, it’s that one.” I don’t know any other way to describe it.

But I have to agree with your wife: after viewing Two Towers, I joked with a friend that Faramir should have sued for character defamation. This departure didn’t show just temptation: it showed him bloody well taking Frodo (and the Ring) almost to the gates of Mordor, which as any good reader of the books knows is the exact opposite of what he did in the book. To me, this is way worse than any of the critiques aimed at Aragorn’s depiction as a reluctant king, which actually has a basis in the text (how much of one is, of course, up for debate). Here’s a character who already has to play second fiddle to his father, his brother, and his king: why is it so hard to believe that he might do what Strider does in the first movie? Good heavens, if they really wanted to show the power of temptation, why not depict what Tolkien already gave them: Sam’s possession (and reluctance to give up) the Ring??? On top of that, Faramir’s love story gets whittled down in the film to a single camera shot of him and Eowyn glancing at each other. If anyone got shafted in these movies, it’s certainly Faramir.

Hm. That came out as more of a rant than I meant. I really do love these movies and think they’re some of the best examples of adapation ever created. Return of the King deserved those Oscars. I’m ultra excited for The Hobbit (both films). But, even as good as they are, there are those points that should be improved when a future adapation is made. And regardless of how the estate or the production companies manage their copyright right now, there will be a future adapation. That much money doesn’t lie fallow for long.

Timothy Stone
Member

Grrrr! This is a sore spot for me. I think that they did TOO MUCH in the way of changing and for the wrong reasons. Though I still think Bombadil and the scouring of the Shire should have been in the films, I can understood why those parts were dropped for the reasons outlined in comments above. But the rest? No way. They cut out the POV in the book that showed that it WASN’T a deathbed conversion of Boromir’s, but that he was sorry and protected the Hobbits for that reason, giving his life in the attempt.

His story and that of Faramir and Eowyn were changed. And I expect, given how they tried to make Arwen an action girl, that it was for modern cultural reasons, and ignoring Tolkien’s vision in lieu of our own (sort of like how Adamson changed Father Christmas’ words in the LWW movie). They dropped the part of how Eowyn was struggling to accept her life and wanted “glory” and was not right in wanting it. After all, that would be “sexist” to the mind of Hollywood to have that one of the only 3 main female characters portrayed that way. *Rolls eyes*

The pursuit of “personal greatness” could be said to be the downfall, and near-downfall, of Boromir and Eowyn, respectively. The two of them relished the “sword” and the notion of going down in history for, and being remembered by, their “great deeds”. This was in sharp contrast to the attitudes of the Rangers and their allies, who never seek credit for their long and dangerous work in protecting the free areas of Middle-Earth.

Boromir’s desire was much more tempered by his desire for his people than was Eowyn’s, but in the end, it lead to his own ruin, just as Eowyn’s nearly did. Boromir learned the error of his ways after attempting to steal the One Ring from Frodo. His grief was immediate once the Ring was out of his proximity, and the knowledge that Aragorn had figured out his attempts to seize the Ring made the guilt all the more prominent. He did repent, however, and made it his job to guard Merry and Pippin with his life. He died failing to save them, tis true, but he died honorably, and with the earnest respect and forgiveness of Aragorn (who forever protected his memory) as well as the love of Pippin and Merry. The point to this, that the movie loses, in my opinion, is that his Last Stand was not hailed and remembered as so honorable due so much to his skill in battle, as to the fact that he died serving others.

Eowyn had a similar arc, but hers ended more happily than Boromir’s. Eowyn was filled with a desire to have her own personal glory. She pursued romantically Aragorn for that purpose (as both Aragorn himself, and later Faramir, pointed out to her), and wanted to escape the responsibility of governing the people of Rohan, so she could fight with the King. This was bad because of her desire to fight was for “glory” not for Rohan so much. The marked thing about it was that this desire to have something “more” had gnawed and eaten at her very soul, to the point that she barely had the will to live and recover from the wounds she and Merry received while they fought and killed the Witch-King.

The strange part is that her victory in which she did a great deed came not from pursuing battles, but by desperately fighting for the life of her uncle and guardian. Like Boromir, only when she fought for the sake of defending others instead of seeking her own glory did she finally find glory. But the movie doesn’t SHOW THIS. She’s reduced to a typical, modern feminist “I can do it as good as the boys”, and given no arc, other than being “cool”.

The false notion of the “glory of warfare” is made clear throughout the book, but not the movie. There were several instances. There was Faramir’s lament to Frodo and Sam over how much his brother and the City of Gondor value and love “men of arms”. Then there was the Hobbits’ views of battle.

This includes Pippin’s horror of warfare and wish that maybe he hadn’t come to the battle/diversion, after all with the Captains of the West. As well as the very poignant (for me) instance midway though the story, where Sam was thinking of how sad the lot was of the fallen Haradrim warrior, felled in legitimate battle by Faramir’s men.

*It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace….*

Tolkien was a man who had seen warfare first-hand, and knew through his long life and studies the horrors of it. He also knew from losing friends that war is NOT GLORIOUS! It is scary, and dirty, and uncertain to all but the Lord. The movie left this out. The book makes Legoas and Gimli to “count” kills to cope with the horrors, which nearly kill Gimli from a nasty head wound. The movie has them joyously slinging snarky remarks back and forth.

They really ignored the horrors of war except for a couple of scenes less than a minute in length showing scared women and children. I was in war, and it is NOT some epic battle with a soundtrack playing in the background. It is not FUN, and killing enemies in battle is NOT JOYOUS! Tolkien made that point, but the movie ignored it to have the audience be entertained. Apparently, the feel the audience is too stupid and shallow to be able to reflect on warfare’s evil, whilst cheering on the good guys.

Everything I have pointed out was stripped from the film. I want to iterate that I LOVE the movies, they are my favorites of any film, ever, but to have taken out these ideas for modern cultural reasons, or because such introspection on war wouldn’t supposedly be entertaining to the audience, was beyond the pale. 

Just my thoughts.

Timothy Stone
Member

Another point that might be minor to some, but not to me. Sauron HAD A BODY in the novel, whereas in the movie, he is a huge fiery eye. His eye was more metaphorical. The movie had Sauron as incorporeal without the ring, being killed upon it’s destruction. The book had him as corporeal, turned into a spirit upon it’s destruction, as his essence was destroyed. That made Sauron less of a threat to me, and kind of cheesy. The only time we see a body on him in the movie proper, it looks like he’s trapped in the eye. Ridiculous.

Galadriel
Guest

Did he have a body in the novel? I do not have access to my copy of the Silmarillion at the moment, but I know he could not take a fair form after the destruction of Numenor. If I remember correctly, he had poured so much of his power into the Ring that he remained ‘diminished’ without it. 
Personally, I find him creepier without a body. As only an Eye, he is much closer to omnipresent, watching forever.

Kaci Hill
Member

Even in the book, that  actually drove me insane. I found Saruman much more real a threat as a result. (Because, honestly, I’m the type who thinks you’re a coward if you hide.) Even if he’d looked more wraith-like, it’d have worked. For me, the movie only highlighted the “Come out and fight like  man” mindset.  Course, then I got annoyed that Frodo and Sauron were never in the same room.
Yeah….a friend tried to explain that one to me. 0=)
 

Maria Tatham
Guest

Timothy, good observations.

I’d forgotten that in the books Sauron was corporeal until the Ring was destroyed. Others have noted, and I agree that the ‘Great Lidless Eye’ looks ridiculous as it glances this way and that as the Tower falls. And It doesn’t ever seem like much of a threat–things that cannot move and are under such constraints seem powerless.

Greg
Guest
Greg

You must write a post about Tom Bombadil. His absence from the movies bothered me more than anything else about them.

Leanna
Guest

The change in Faramir’s character has bothered me since my first viewing of the movies when I was willing to let most other things slide in exchange for all the pretty music and scenery. 🙂
It is just so shallow and missing.

And what you quoted from one of the screenwriters just makes it worse, “With all that we have done to show how evil the Ring is, she argued, how could we have any character come along and say, breezily, that he wouldn’t even pick it up from the side of a road?”
Breezily? Really? For one thing, the whole ‘wouldn’t pick it up from the side of the highway’ is a quote some 12 pages back from the moment when Faramir actually learns about the ring. At that point, he and Frodo are just talking in generalities about the events of Boromir’s death.
The scene when he learns that Frodo actually possesses the ring reminds me more of Galadriel’s reaction then Tom Bombadil’s (which was breezy in a wonderful way).

“So it seems,” said Faramir, slowly and and very softly, with a strange smile. “So that is the answer to all the riddles! … And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings … A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality!” (Two Towers, p. 358, HarperCollins 1999 paperback)
The big difference between him and Galadriel being Faramir doesn’t actually know the power of the Ring. He has a vague idea which is enough to make him wary. He feels no lust for the ring not because he is actually immune to its effects but because his small understanding of it is enough to make him draw back from it. (It definitely helps that he finds no glory in war or battle and has no ambition to rule others)
I think the best line that sums up his answer to the Ring’s temptation is when he says, “Or I am wise enough to know there are some perils from which a man must flee” (emphasis mine, same citation as paragraph above).
I don’t actually agree that Faramir would share the hobbits ability to withstand the Ring for a long time. He would fall as the Nine did if given the chance but he simply refuses to give himself the chance. He “flees” the temptation. A final quote (promise!), “I do not wish to see it, or touch it, or know more of it than I know lest peril perchance waylay me and I fall lower in the test than Frodo son of Drogo.” (p. 359)
IMHO. 🙂