Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Mogadishu survivor dies in Iraq: CWO Aaron Weaver. He was an extraordinary soldier. I pray he is in the arms of God.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Alfred Pugh dies: Oldest wounded vet. The Statue of Liberty division, the 77th U.S. Army Infantry division, has lost a legend.

Read the article. He was a lot more than a wounded vet.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Meanwhile, Dennis Prager notes in a great satire that Jimmy Carter believes that the Lord of the Rings films are evil. The satire remains second behind Bored of the Rings, but that's saying a lot.

Monday, January 05, 2004

My own thoughts on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I've seen all three films now, including the extended editions of the first two films. First and foremost, Jackson captured the look of every location with superb faithfulness. I can still remember the chills I felt two years ago when I saw Bilbo Baggins' round door, and again when the panorama of Rivendell unfolded on the wide screen. Perhaps the one sour note in the symphony was Weathertop. It didn't fit the book quite well enough, even though the natural location was striking. Still and all, it was Middle Earth up there, from Hobbiton to Barad-dur.
The characters were pretty close, but there were a few more misses. Viggo Mortenson had the look of Aragorn, hood and bedraggled hair and all, with the piercing eyes and ranger's build. His speeches were well done, but some of his best words were left out. The hobbits were fair matches for personality, but didn't quite hit my ideal. They weren't fat enough, or perhaps small enough or even provincial enough. They didn't strike me as a unique race, but instead just smaller versions of our own humanity. Thinking through Tolkien's essay at the beginning of the trilogy, it felt like there was a missing charm. The elves, I felt, were the big miss of the movie... Somehow Elrond and Galadriel were far off the mark and big disappointments. Elrond lacked the agelong wisdom of his counterpart in Tolkien, and Galadriel fell short of any real attraction or ethereal beauty, despite the magic of the filmmakers. I believe there is a reason for the falling short (ahem) with the hobbits and elves: they are magical races being portrayed by common human folk, and it doesn't translate well, even with any amount of soft white lighting.
Among the race of men there were two dead center hits: Boromir and Eowyn. These were two fine actors making drama at its best and making the literary characters come to life. Both are tragic in their own ways, and both find redemption on the field of battle. When Boromir utters his last words the films find their most poignant moment, and when Eowyn strikes for glory, I believe she eclipses the climax at Mt. Doom. Faramir, unfortunately, becomes corrupt at the hands of Jackson, a far cry from his nobility under Tolkien's hand. The film Faramir is a mirror of his brother's weakness. Other bit players deserve kudos - Pippin and Merry, Eomer and Denethor, and the geniuses behind Gollum all come to mind, but there are many more.
Then there was wonderful Gimli, the comic relief of the film. "It still only counts as one!" resounds as one of the most clever lines in recent memory. Through Jackson, Gimli had more life and attention, and it worked exceedingly well. He was Sancho Panzo, the faithful sidekick, except here for the fellowship of nine. At the tension on the verge of battle at Helm's Deep, Gimli's provides a breath of relief without uttering a word. He falls from horses, has ugly, bearded women, is too short, and gives us all a laugh with perfect timing. Who would have thought that Indiana Jones' Arab friend would make such a great dwarf?
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings has been a delight to see, a good retelling of a marvelous myth. The battle scenes have not been equalled in any film, although for my eye there are too many combatants on the field to make sense, and the battle in front of Minas Tirith echoed the Star Wars battle on Hoth a bit too closely. But they shine with all the genius and techo-ability that are the blessing of modern filmmaking.
I am eager even now to see the extended edition of The Return of the King, especially to discover the full treatment of Sam and Frodo's journey through Mordor, a section of the film that was left sorely shortened for the general public. How they get from Shelob's Lair to Mt. Doom was terribly simplified in the film, and the editing didn't really do justice to their journey or even make that much sense according to space and time. It was in fact awkward, and I'd like to see it done better.
Regarding the ethics of the film, self-sacrifice is taught clearly and even forcefully. It exalts the worth of the common man, and the sacrifices of everyday citizens. This may be difficult for many to understand who have only a casual acquaintance with Tolkien, but in some significant ways the film secularizes the spirituality of Tolkien's work. Perhaps this is the greatest error of all, but it doesn't cast a debilitating shadow over a great work. A friend asked me whether we would ever see a remake of this work. My first response is absolutely not. From where we stand now the definitive work has been done. Finally, what s for me is this: God, I love the cavalry. The thunder of hooves and shock of horse and shield echoes in the memory of Middle Earth.