Rant: Han Shot First!

In fact I’m actually going to write a rant about two bits from the Lord of the Rings movies, but they’re directly related to the Han Shot First controversy. In both cases, Hollywood seems to be demonstrating a classic far left bias I can only think of as Limp Dick Syndrome.

In the Star Wars case, the bias is so strong it involves revisionism of previously published material!

But let’s first discuss those two bits from Peter Jackson’s film version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It’s kind of more of the same sort of LDS problem (and I don’t mean Latter Day Somebodies, and I didn’t misspell LSD).

Naturally there are constraints on movies of books, and those constraints doom most such movies to being pale imitations of their source.

That said, I have to say that Peter Jackson did an amazing job considering both the usual constraints and the source material. His vision comes very close to what was in my head all these years, and that’s apparently not an uncommon reaction. That’s pretty incredible considering LotR is one of those books you’d sort of think was too richly textured to film.

[Speaking of which, Zack Snyder blew the doors off with his movie version of the graphic novel (what I call a gnovel), Watchmen. I would have said Watchmen (the gnovel) was an even more challenging source material than LotR, and the man not only made a great movie, but was true to the source to a degree that left me breathless.]

But back to Jackson and my rant. I have two very specific issues with Jackson’s choices in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

I’ll be honest. When I say I have two “issues” I mean that I have two foaming-at-the-mouth rants. There are two significant changes Jackson made that I find highly offensive (in a it’s just a movie mild sort of way). They are along the same lines as George Lucas’ also offensive revisionism of Hans Solo.

The first concerns the Ents and how they decided to make war on Sauron. The second concerns the brothers Mir (Boromir and Faramir) and their attitude towards The One Ring.

The Ents Decided To Go To War!

In the books, Merry and Pippen meet the Ents, describe the situation and wait while the Ents hold their days-long council.

The important distinction here is that the Ents decide to go to war based on what the Hobbits have told them.

In the movies, the Hobbits lead the Ents to Sauron on the pretext of dropping them off on their journey. It is only when the Ents see the destruction of the trees that they are enraged into assaulting Sauron’s keep. In this case, the Ents need to have their faces rubbed in Sauron’s actions. They are not allowed to decide to make war.

The implication is that war is a reaction, not an action. The underlying presumption is that the good guys never strike first.

This is exactly the awful revision that Lucas made on Star Wars DVD releases. In the original movie, Solo shoots first. (I know this is true; I saw it the day it opened.) In the revision, a blaster shot has been added so that Solo reacts to being shot at.

So, again, the Hollywood namby pamby approach: the Good Guys can’t hit first. You have to be hit; sometimes a lot. Then, and only then, can you kick their ass.

Boromir was tempted; Faramir was not!

In the books, of course Boromir is tempted by the Ring and chaos ensues. (In fact, from a narrative point of view, his temptation is vital to the plot.) Later, when Frodo meets brother Faramir, Faramir wants no part of The Ring.

In the movies, Faramir is tempted and needs to be shown that it’s a Bad Idea. Unlike the books, Faramir is not allowed to be wise and noble. The implication here is of Faramir’s human weakness and ignorance.

Which is fine, certainly all humans exist in some state of weakness and ignorance. (If you doubt this, please hand me that piano while explaining quarks.) What bothers me is the lack of real “hero” figures in modern storytelling. Mostly what we have are anti-heros, and sometimes what we have are outright assholes.

[I recently wasted about 10 hours slogging through the fourth Torchwood season, Miracle Day. A rant for another time, perhaps, but I really, really, REALLY hated Rex Matheson for being a dumb, blustering dickhead. And therefore, I found the ending hugely disappointing; there seems something of a variation of the Bechdel Test to my sense. But let that go.]

We’ve adapted the anti-hero and the flawed hero to the point of excluding the super hero. Many people complain that Superman is boring, but he has been the most enduring and popular hero ever. Modern sensibility seems to have become post-superman, and our heroes are all dark knights now.

[Another place we see the wise and noble displaced with the childish and petty is in Rick Berman’s revision of the Vulcans in the Enterprise series. But, again, a rant for another day.]

Han Shot First, Damnit!

I suppose it’s a counter-reaction to the Bush Doctrine. The idea that we can go in and kick some country’s ass just because we consider them a threat.

The question is whether this is a reasonable assumption sometimes, or do the good guys always need — Rocky style — to get their ass kicked first?

Han Solo (and presumably Lucas), back in the 70s, thought not. These days, even after 9/11, it seems some of us resist preemptive action.

Consider this: in the revised edition, what if Greedo hadn’t missed? Considering he was a bounty hunter operating at very close face-to-face range, the only reason he did miss is the Magic Morphic field that surrounds Hollywood good guys.

[rant ends; for now]

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

5 responses to “Rant: Han Shot First!

  • Sheikah

    In the movie, the Ents were upset about their brothers being killed — There weren’t just regular trees in that forest, there were dormant Ents. So technically, Saruman DID strike first.
    And Jackson explained that they had to have Faramir be tempted by the ring because, see, if the ring is powerful enough to tempt the millenia-old Elf-Lady of the Galadrim, and then fails to tempt some human guy, then you’ve kind of stripped it of its power there.
    And you’ve already got Aragorn as a sort of superhero.
    That’s my side of the argument.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      And it’s a fine argument!

      Much of this is a matter of taste and perception. You are, of course, correct that Saruman was the attacker, both in the book and movie. My point is that, in the book, the Ents decided to go to war based on the accounts of Merry and Pippen. In the movie, they had to be (tricked into being) shown before they then got angry and attacked.

      You make a very good point regarding the temptation of The Ring. On the other hand, lowly Sam Gamgee did a pretty good job, and I would have no problem with a noble human having more sense than an ancient magical Elf. Often the point of such fiction is that humans can rise to noble heights on their own account. One could even argue that magical Rings may well have more power over magical beings.

      But as I say, much of this is in how you choose to see it! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Sheikah

        I think that the Ents being tricked by Pippin instead of choosing to fight might mean that they wouldn’t want to risk themselves in someone else’s war. When they saw Saruman’s massacre, it then became personal.
        Otherwise, I agree with you on the “magic affecting magical beings” thing; it’s a cool way of seeing it!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Sure, I’ll buy that! Who wants to fight in someone else’s war?

  • Amping the Ante « Logos con carne

    […] recently wrote (ranted, actually) about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, and it was during the big battle for Gondor […]

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