Archive for December, 2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

So where to start. I’ll start with the conclusion; Loved it. That is not to say I have no nits to pick. I’ll get to those, but I just wanted to get it out of the way up front that I loved this movie, and it is a classic that stands far above the vast majority of movies. Now to the details.
I thought “Fellowship of the Ring” was as good of a movie version of the as was possible. Every change that was made, every part that was left out, I could totally understand why it was done. I’m pretty sure I even agreed with all the changes. I can’t say the same about “The Two Towers”. It was a bit slow to get going, and the flow and pacing was not as good as it could have been. There were definitely far more liberties taken this time around than on “Fellowship”. Again, I’m not against liberties in principle, and sometimes they’re even necessary to make a story work in the film medium, but some of the changes from the book just seemed pointless and unnecessary. Never the less, I found it enthralling, and destined to be a classic. I’m sure I will go to at least a few more showings, and will buy the DVD on the day of it’s release. I just hope Peter Jackson and company pull in the reigns a bit for the next movie and don’t get quite so loose with it. I never questioned anything about the first movie, but this one did leave a few criticisms with me. Still highly recommended though. I wait eagerly for “Return of the King”.
The Specifics
Let ye be warned, thar be spoilers ahead! Big nasty spoilers with pointy teeth!
I could spend endless amounts of time and space going over each bit but here are the ones that jump to mind:
Gandalf: The whole story of exactly what happened to him was highly confusing and surreal. He’s falling into a crevice, wait he’s on a mountain top battling the Balrog…
Admittedly, it was equally confusing and surreal in the book.
Wormtongue: I actually really liked Wormtongue although he was very obviously a bad guy. As soon as you see him you think “well there’s an evil dude”. I thought it probably shouldn’t have been so obvious.
Theoden: The whole bit with Saruman actually “posessing” him was a bit odd. not necessarily bad, but yet it didn’t quite sit right with me. Especially since Wormtongue “influencing” him doesn’t work with that scenario. Why would Wormtongue be whispering persuasive words if Saruman was in control of Theoden anyway.
Faramir: He was not much more than a Boromir copy, while in the book it was his contrast from Boromir that gave him such character. The entire journey to Osgiliath with the hobbits was not only completely fabricated but pointless and unnecessary. This was one of the changes that left my wife and I truly scratching our head.
The Ents: After their long decision, the Ents are supposed to decide to go and take Isengard, but instead they decide not to go, only to change their mind later when Pippin tricks them into seeing all the trees that had been killed. Again, a bit pointless to me. In the book, the Ents are already quite outraged at Saruman, and it is their own decision to go to Isengard and do something about him. I personally think this would have been a much better way to go.
Aragorn: The fabricated Warg attack scene was fine, but having Aragorn fall off the cliff to his apparent doom felt a bit contrived and unnecessary.
Arwen: I like Arwen’s increased role in the story, as opposed to barely being mentioned in the book, but was a bit confused when Elrond was lecturing her about how if she stayed, she would have to bear Aragorn’s death, and watch as those around her all died. This confused me because the whole point is that Arwen was becoming mortal herself if she stayed with Aragorn so she too would eventually die. The only sense I could make out of it was that maybe Elrond was saying that even as a mortal elf, her life span would still be much longer than humans, and therefore she would have to bear Aragorn’s death, plus many more before she herself died.
Helm’s Deep: Brilliant scene, but why the gratuitous company of elves? There was never a company of elves who showed up at Helm’s Deep. Not to mention they were led by Haldir, a lothlorien elf, but yet they said they came from Elrond (true that is possible that they were collaborating, but still an odd choice). I agreed with the change of Gandalf showing up with Eomer instead of the original character from the book. This played up the drama of Eomer’s banishment and provided a good conclusion to that angle, while also eliminating the need to introduce a new character just for that one scene who had no other purpose.
The Ending: While I can’t say I really have much of a problem with where they ended, I do think it would have been better to end where the book does. A big, cliffhanger ending where it looks as though all is lost. It just lends itself perfectly. This is why “The Empire Strikes Back” is such a strong movie.
Also check out Jess’s review.

Christmas is Dead. However for $19.95 you can have this collectible replica of Christmas!

So I have this friend. Every year, his family all basically tell each other exactly what to get for Christmas.
“You get me X, you get me Y, you get me Z”. If in fact someone decides to be spontaneous and get a gift that was not specifically asked for, chances are it will get returned.
So yesterday another friend of mine comes into work carrying a big box. It turns out he ha just returned from buying his own Christmas gift. He told his wife “I want this for Christmas”, but since she didn’t know the exact specifics and details involved as to exactly what to get and where to get it, he just went out and bought it for himself. When I brought up the subject of how I thought that was kind of lame, and against the whole spirit of Christmas (and how it reminded me of the first friend I mentioned) another co-worker chimed in and agreed with the other guy that it wasn’t lame but indeed was cool. Apparently he and his wife had also already gone and bought their own gifts for Christmas. The Christmas Spirit is officially dead. OK, I don’t really believe that but all these people make me feel that way. Christmas is supposed to be about giving. I like to get people gifts that I think they would like but that also say something about me. Something that they would want and yet that has a bit of my personality to it. I like to receive such gifts as well. I don’t mind giving possible suggestions as to gifts, and even getting things I’ve suggested, but I don’t want to just say “Ok, you get me this” and know for a fact that’s what I’m getting, or even worse yet just go buy myself a gift. Video killed the radio star, and commercialism killed Christmas. Apparently it’s now all about stuff. Junk. Things. Crap. Christmas isn’t a day which you show other people that you care, and that they mean something to you. It’s about having a special day when we can all go out and get ourselves something big that we want. In fact, don’t even wait for the day, anytime within about a month will do apparently.
“Merry Christmas! Here’s my present to you that you went out and bought yourself a month ago! Enjoy!” Evolution must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. This just reiterates my theory that the human race aren’t nearly as evolved and enlightened as we think we are. Can I go back to a saved game somewhere in history and try again?

“Alternative” Thanksgivings and the Changing Seasons of Life

So first off, I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Mine was nice. My uncle and cousin came up for Thanksgiving day (and getting my cousin to actually come visit is a miracle itself), and since no one really wanted to make a big fuss and spend eons preparing stuff, we ordered food from The Black-Eyed Pea. Much easier, and still good. Then on Friday, my cousin, my wife and I all piled in my little truck (very cramped indeed) and headed to Austin for Thanksgiving 2.0 with my aunt who couldn’t come up with my uncle because my other cousin had just had her wisdom teeth out and was having a really hard time. We decided that since none of us were all that crazy about “traditional” Thanksgiving food, that next year we wanted to have a totally non-traditional Thanksgiving with pasta or something like that. On a random note, we also went to the Alamo Draft House, this kick ass movie theatre that has every other row of seats replaced with a long table, and you can order food and drinks and such while you watch the movie. Very cool idea.
As I was laying with Jess on our makeshift bed on the floor of my cousin’s guest room, I suddenly had a strange thought. Now first you must understand that my cousin and I are like brothers. We grew up spending most of our school holidays, and summer breaks, etc. together. Whenever we get together, it’s always just pure fun and decadence. Junk food, all night video game sessions, and generally just hanging out and laughing and being incredibly silly. All my life, even into our adulthood, whenever I would visit I would make a little sleeping area on the floor of my cousin’s room, and whenever we did finally go to bed at some extremely late hour, we would usually lie in our respective beds and continue talking and being silly for a bit until we started to fall asleep. I realized that this will rarely if ever happen again. Now don’t get me wrong, as I told Jess, it’s not regret or longing that I feel. I’m much happier going to sleep with my arms around my wife, but never the less, there is a sort of wistfulness when you realize that something has forever changed. This isn’t the first time this has happened of course since things are constantly changing and most people will encounter these little episodes many times throughout life. Like “sleepovers” with your best friends. My friend Andy used to spend the night at my house as often as we could get away with when we were kids, and we would stay up all night playing games, walking to the convenience store to buy soft drinks and candy and such. At some point that just naturally changed (most likely when we could actually drive ourselves and therefore would just go home at the end of a night’s fun).
And so a new era has begun. An exciting, happy new era with my wife. A wife who happily takes part in silliness, and video games, and hanging out with my cousin. It’s even more fun with the three of us now. I suppose more than anything, I hope that my cousin doesn’t wax nostalgic like I do, because he has the raw end of the deal. I get to go to bed with my beautiful wife, while he just loses those times when he and I would lay there in the dark being silly until sleep took us. Who knows, maybe he’s celebrating that he now has that much less time that he has to put up with me. I guess the whole point is that even when things change for the better, you sometimes still get a bit wistful as you look behind you and watch memories fade into the sunset of your mind.