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by ajhall (ex_ajhalluk585)
at October 19th, 2005 (08:35 am)

The Faramir/Haldir fic lexin recently reviewed sounds like a classic example of the operation of two of the aspects of film canon which I referred to a couple of posts ago namely Denethor as mad as a brush, and Haldir as sex god (and part time bike of Middle Earth) which produce a particular type of problematic writing.

Haldir in the book is a minor jobsworth of a border guard who seems to specialise in racially-motivated trouble-making in the course of his duties, presumably so Galadriel's graciousness to eg Gimli will appear yet more awe-inspiringly gracious by contrast. So far as I'm aware after the exchange of insults on the borders of Lothlorien he never appears again, and while he may have done sterling service in repelling the Orcs who, we learn from the Appendices, thrice assaulted Lothlorion from the borders of Mirkwood we do not, so far as I am aware, know whether he survives the war of the Ring or not. Possibly he survived to set up his own security consultancy ("Haldir and Sons; Repelling People at the Borders since it was Laurelindorenan").

Book-Denethor, likewise, is a competent steward if a somewhat chilly individual, who is suffering when we meet him from perfectly understandable grief at the recent (just because it actually happened for us two books and endless songs ago in actual time Pippin arrives in Minas Tirith less than a fortnight after the death of Boromir) together with Shadow-induced clinical depression exarcerbated by the depair, stress and exhaustion of trying to defend a key strategic place against a massively superior force. Notwithstanding that, his decisions are rational (even the decision to continue to defend Osgiliath is taken in Council of War and is endorsed by the Prince of Dol Amroth who does not appear to be either stupid or prone to gibbering lunacy) and if he is going on a bit about Boromir's virtues compared to Faramir's, well, parents do have favourites, and anyway Boromir has been away for over a year and is now dead, which is hardly the time when Denethor is likely to be going over all Boromir's little habits that used to irritate the hell out of him when he was actually present in Minas Tirith.

However, in the film Haldir is given a much more extensive role which, as the actor playing him engagingly admitted, he hammed up to the hilt because "otherwise I was only going to be remembered as the short fat elf". And you can see why Jackson did it. Those of the audience who had not read the Appendices might have got a trifle restive half way through the second film and started muttering "For the Eldest Race, them elves don't seem to be doing a lot in the Great War For Middle-Earth. One (admittedly fetching and well-connected) bowman, sundry items of clothing and jewellry, three coils of rope, much good advice and some ration-packs (doubtless wholly non-compliant with Gondorian or Rohanese regulations on imported foodstuffs) do not a major contribution to a war effort make. Can't they even do Lend-Lease?". However, it did mean that Haldir got to have a death scene, and better, a Doomed Last Stand. And Craig Parker took what the director offered like the trooper he was, and a very fine job he made of it.

Now, Denethor - John Noble - was principally given the job of Making Aragorn and Faramir Look Good. In order no doubt to console him for the wreckage the script made of his competence, motivations, consistency and table manners Jackson handed out not only a really, really good death scene (With Added Blazing Plummet!) but an extended scene of frantic grief, and one heck of a mad scene. A director shouldn't do that to a classically trained actor, you know. It's like firewater.

Basically, both characters were given the opportunity to emote. Which they seized with both hands. But emoting is like nam pla fish sauce. In the right hands, wonderful. Used heavy handedly and the whole dish stinks. And I think that the film version was just on the borderline between the right quantity and two much. Unfortunately, fanfic's tendency is to replace the teaspoon the original canon recipe called for with a barrelful. And with Haldir and Denethor it happens an awful lot, I've noticed.


Posted by: Quiet desperation (lexin)
Posted at: October 19th, 2005 10:12 am (UTC)

For the Eldest Race, them elves don't seem to be doing a lot in the Great War For Middle-Earth.

This, indeed, forms part of my rant about the problem Valinor poses.

Posted by: Gloria1 (gloria1)
Posted at: October 19th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)

The difference in movie/book canon fan fic has intrigued me too – and I do think the more dubious changes to book plot and tone have spawned some of the more egregious fic, rather as weeds will grow in the cracks of the strongest walls. Book Denethor’s sin (despair) had particular resonance for Tolkien (and me, as a semi-Catholic) since despair is way up there in the Sin Top Ten. Denethor’s actions arising from that are entirely believable and quite harrowing. Movie Denethor’s more selfish reasons carry less emotional impact yet translate more easily into facile fan fiction: it is easier to write and lazy writers will take that option more times than not.

As far as the movie, I sort of ‘allowed’ them one big screw up. In my opinion it was Faramir, rather than Dene-Nuts-thor or the Arwen Dying bollocks (I gave most of that a pass since it was so beautifully acted, shot and dressed). But they got Faramir flat out wrong. Considering how scared I was before the movie came out, I’m just glad it wasn’t worse. And my real Faramir is still there, in Ithilien, in his cave behind his waterfall, being stern and noble and Numenorean. Where he will always be.

Posted by: beta_aquilae (beta_aquilae)
Posted at: October 19th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC)

The only 100 % pure pleasure I had out of the three films was seeing Alan Lee's and John Howe's artwork in 3D. I don't even know how to coherently explain why I felt disappointed with the last two films. The elves at Helm's Deep I don't mind that much, but the entire battle was blown out of proportion - I haven't watched the gorefests with a stopwatch, but Helm's Deep feels much longer than Pelennor. At some point I started to feel as if the producers had realised that as long as there was enough splatter, cool monsters and closeups of Orlando Bloom, plus a couple of esoteric details that showed that the writing team was familiar with the appendices, the project was a licence to print money and no one needed to bother their heads with making the storyline or the characters make sense.

What was the point in screwing with Faramir's character if he was still going to be good as gold and "a wizard's pupil" in the next film (a Faramir who'd been under the influence of Gandalf wouldn't have been a jerk in TT)? What was the point of showing off Arwen's little crafts project (and as a battle standard it leaves something to be desired) if they weren't even going to show it proudly flying at the prow of a pirate ship?

Seeing John Noble's job with the screenplay was one of the revelations that throws light on the fate of the many stage-trained actors that end up at Betty Ford's or in therapy after attempting a Hollywood career. You can't perform unlimited amounts of alchemy - input lead in the shape of typecasting and crap screenplays, output gold - and still stay sane, clean and sober.

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