Hey there folks.... Harry here. I have to set this up for you. It turns out that what Moriarty has read was the Miramax stage of production on THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the 2 script, 2 film version. Which basically means that when Moriarty says the first film ended... Well that isn’t necessarily the ending any more. Also, there has probably been tweaking and polishing as well as adding in some of the things that Peter couldn’t fit into a 2 film telling of LORD OF THE RINGS. There is a revolutionary film upon our horizons I feel. A movie that will make fantasy films a viable endeavor again. For the last 30 years our cinemas have been ruled by science fiction and horror.... We’ve had some very good Fantasy films in that time period, but for my tastes I still haven’t seen fantasy done to absolute perfection. That is the hope I have in this project. And everything Moriarty says below reinforces that. He steels my resolve that these films will be something we can’t yet imagine on screens. That’s my hope.
Now here’s a warning. There are spoilers below, both if you are familiar with the books and definately if you haven’t read them. So tread carefully. The dear Professor is beside himself about these two scripts. He called after reading them and babbled for a very expensive phone bill’s length of time (had we been using Ma Bell and not the longest link of fishing line and two tin cans the world has never seen). He babbled like a billowing bail of bovine fodder desperately in search of a lobe or two. A condition that will befall us all.... when this cinematic novel opens wide. I can’t wait.
NOTE TO LOTR FAN SITES: Please just link to the article.
Hey, Head Geek....
You people make me smile. Maybe it's because I've been in a good mood lately, enjoying films, drunk on this weekend's stellar line-up. Maybe it's because I set aside some of my nefarious activities to take care of a few personal details. Whatever the reason, you seem to have been lulled about the goings-on here at the Moriarty Labs. You seem to have forgotten that you can't be an Evil Genius without doing a little Evil..
It was to those exact ends that I instigated "Project Jamboree." For something that's paid such rich dividends, it was surprisingly simple. Step One: announce a script review for LORD OF THE RINGS. Step Two: sit back and do nothing while the Tolkien fans go progressively more and more insane..
Ahh... sweet victory. While I was basking in the growing frenzy, enjoying all the hate mail, the damnedest thing happened. I was sitting at the Big Board, reading the 2,324th letter that began, "You suck! I bet you never read it, you liar! Oh... and you suck!", when there was a knock on the door to my Inner Sanctum. I tripped the magnetic locks, admitting two henchmen and a stranger..
Immediately, I was struck by his intense eyes, fixed on me in a piercing stare. He was dressed in dusty grey robes, wearing a silver scarf and a pointed blue hat. He had long grey hair and a great beard. For the first time in my climb to total world domination, I was speechless. You would have been, too, if you were face to face with Gandalf the Wizard..
I'm not used to feeling intimidated, especially not in the privacy of my own Labs, but I got the immediate and overwhelming feeling that I should listen, not talk, and answer any question asked of me. My henchmen retreated as Gandalf circled, eyeing me warily..
"I've heard some dangerous whispers on the wind, Professor... I believe you have something in your possession that you shouldn't, a certain document." I'm not sure exactly what I babbled, but he kept eyeing me like a hungry hawk would regard a hobbled mouse; he knew I was his whenever he chose. I know I told him I didn't have the script. I know I told him I was dying to read it. Whatever order I put the words in, something must have worked. I saw his attitude soften, and from some hidden pocket, he produced two thick screenplays, at least 300 pages of material..
"You want to talk about the scripts? These are the first drafts, before Peter knew he'd be making three films instead of two. You hold in your hands THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE WAR OF THE RING. Review them if you must, but don't share them with anyone. Put them somewhere out of sight. Keep them secret. Keep them safe.".
With that, the old wizard turned and hurried out, leaving me alone with the scripts. All thoughts of evil set aside for the moment, I tore into the text, and found myself reading and rereading it, unable to believe my eyes..
I don't know about anyone else's relationship with the novels. Unlike STAR WARS, we aren't all united by one common time and place when we first experienced them. Anyone who's a Tolkien fan came to it at their own pace, in their own way. For me, memories of the book are tied to one particular road trip I took with my family when I was only ten years old. We flew out to San Francisco, drove down to Los Angeles, then over to Arizona. We visited all sorts of natural landmarks, drove the coast along Big Sur, went to various LA tourist spots. During the whole vacation, though, I was preoccupied, couldn't be bothered to get out of the car. Grand Canyon? Who cares? Petrified Forest? No, thanks. I was on another journey, one I have never forgotten. I was engrossed in the four paperbacks I had purchased just before leaving home -- THE HOBBIT, FELLOWSHIP, THE TWO TOWERS, and RETURN OF THE KING. I devoured every page of the books over the sixteen days of the vacation. Images from the books burned themselves deep into my psyche..
And now, nearly two decades later, I've rediscovered my love for this story, these characters, this incredible journey. Before I even begin to discuss the work done by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Stephen Sinclair, and script editor Philippa Boyens, let me say that I can't imagine the combination of excitement, pride, fear, and expectation that they must all be feeling as they ramp up to bring this epic to the screen. This is a story that is known in every country on Earth. This is one of the best-loved stories in literature. I know that Jackson has demurred a bit about that sense of responsibility, saying this is only one vision of the books, his vision, but the truth is I wouldn't want to try and create anything under such intense scrutiny. The trade-off, of course, is that he's going to get to go on the whole journey with Frodo, Sam, the Ring, and the rest, and I deeply envy him the experience..
Rest assured, the material is in the right hands. It's obvious from the first page of the first script. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I read Frodo's first voice-over, delivered as the opening TITLES are shown:.
When we turn away from the darkness of
our past to take comfort in our peaceful
lives, we sometimes forget how dearly
that peace was bought. But there is
much worth remembering in the darkness...
Any questions I had about how seriously Jackson planned to treat the darker aspects of the material evaporated as I read of the great battles that closed out the Second Age of Middle-earth. The imagery is stark, brutal, and sad, effectively etched in just a few short pages. It was wrenching to read the intensity with which the armies of Elf and Man stand against the power of Sauron. When Isildur has the opportunity to destroy the Ring but doesn't, it's crushing. Then, just like that, Isildur is struck down, and as the One Ring settles to the bottom of a river, Frodo speaks again:.
Thus a Third Age of Middle-earth began.
History became legend... legend became
myth. And some things that should not
have been forgotten were lost.
It's a striking opening, richly imagined, and it states clearly that this is no children's film, no "family-friendly" adaptation, no Rankin Bass musical. Jackson's serious about his stated goal of making a film that feels drawn from history, not fantasy. So often, fantasy films are bogged down in needless exposition, tons of silly names designed to make sure we understand we're in another world. This story is so human, so firmly drawn from an emotional reality, that it feels like our world once removed..
Who can't relate to the simple joy of a party? When the story jumps forward 3,000 years, we join Gandalf the Wizard as he rides into Hobbiton, where he's greeted by young Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee in a charming introductory scene. Once again, Jackson and his collaborators work quickly to create a real sense of community among the citizens of Hobbiton. Bilbo's introduction is suitably iconic. He's got a secret, a plan, and he can't help but drop hints..
When he finally reveals his secret to the assembled partygoers, the script is suddenly off and running. .
From this point on, the writers wisely focus all the action on the Ring. Bilbo vanishes, leaving Bag End to Frodo's care. Gandalf warns Frodo to hide the Ring carefully, only to show up seven months later, dirty, exhausted, dishevelled. He knows the true nature of the Ring now, and his explanation to Frodo does a wonderful job of filling us in without burying us. Jackson and company seem to have learned their lesson from the adaptation of DUNE, where the exposition was so dense that Universal actually handed out glossary guides with each ticket purchased. Everything in these scripts is handled with a feather touch..
In the midst of Gandalf's explanation, we get our first teasing glimpse of the character I think most of us are dying to see -- Gollum. It's a quick flash of the creature in a torture room at Barad-Dur, glimpses without a single good look at him. Under duress, it's Gollum who cries out "Shire! Baggins!" It's that knowledge which drives Frodo out of his home and onto the road to Rivendell. When Gandalf discovers Sam, Merry, and Pippin eavesdropping, the roles are set for the four friends..
There's an achingly lovely scene on Hobbiton Fields, just pre-dawn, as the four "silly, kind, ridiculous Hobbits" say goodbye to their homes and their lives. You can't help but feel for them. These are not conventional action heroes. These are just good souls trying to do the right thing..
I've heard many people ask if there's singing in the film, and there are indeed walking songs at a few points. They're quick, though, and I'm curious to hear how they're handled. They mainly mark the passage of time, and Jackson really keeps things moving. The first Ringwraith appearance is duly freaky, and the initial encounter between Gandalf and Saruman is great, tense and exciting..
With Jackson's casting in mind, I can already see the film coming together. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are perfectly cast in the movie in my mind, as is Ian McKellan. I can see him as both Gandalf the Grey in the early part of the films as well as Gandalf the White..
It's the smaller roles I'm looking forward to hearing names attached to now. I can't wait to see the faces that fill the Prancing Pony, or to meet Butterbur the innskeeper. I can't wait for the introduction of Strider, and I am dying to see that terrifying encounter with the Witch King and the other Ringwraiths on that midnight road..
And I am literally kept awake by the thought of my first glimpse of the power of MASSIVE, the new WETA software that will bring to life the hatchling army of Uruk-Hai in the caverns below Isengard. It's such a crazed, nightmarish sequence that I can't help but imagine the sound millions of geek jaws will make hitting the floor simultaneously when Saruman inspects his new troops..
I love the touches like when the Hobbits camp in the shadow of Bilbo's trolls, a canny nod to adventures not yet seen yet somehow remembered. It's a lyrical little interlude before another horrific encounter with the Witch King. Arwen's introduction here is strong, and it's amazing how each sequence builds, never letting up on the tension and the fear, somehow turning it up a notch each time..
Most amazing of all, the whole build-up to Rivendell is accomplished in a mere 50 pages. It never feels rushed, but it also never dawdles. It's always urgent, but never manic. Once we reach Rivendell, we are able to take some time and really get to know Arwen, Elrond, and the cleaned up Strider, revealed now as Lord Aragorn. We're also able to get to know Rivendell itself, a marvelous place that I've waited much of my life to see. The "last homely house east of the sea," the seat of Elven Wisdom, it is a place of magic and splendour, of great history..
It's a marked contrast to the creeping despair of Helm's Deep, home of King Theoden and Grima Wormstongue. Gandalf's escape from Saruman leads him into even more peril here, and only the intervention of the King's niece Eowyn saves Gandalf. Only the powerful Shadowfax is able to transport him to safety..
Anyone who's visited the official LORD OF THE RINGS site has no doubt seen this beautiful image of Arwen and Aragorn together in one of Rivendell's final quiet moments. Gandalf's arrival and Galadriel's vision to Frodo both signal another acceleration of events. A meeting in Rivendell's Council Chamber gives us the rest of the information we need to understand exactly what's at stake here. From a cacophany of voices and a storm of dissent emerges the Fellowhip: Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. This time, though, there's nothing giddy about the departure. This is no mere adventure they're embarking on; this is the most important mission imaginable..
For me, there's no scene in either script that more effectively illustrates the power of the Ring than when Bilbo says goodbye to Frodo at Rivendell. These are two people who love each other dearly, but at the first sight of the Ring, something dark and animal comes out in Bilbo. Even if it's just for a moment, it's unforgettable, haunting, and Ian Holm should kill in the role. He's been a favorite actor of mine since the year I saw both BRAZIL and the lamentably forgotten DREAMCHILD, and he should make the most of his screentime here..
Over mountains, through the Mines of Moria, the Fellowship pushes on. Jackson starts to tease us with more of the history of Gollum as the creature shadows the travellers, and Jackson finally gives the Fellowship an enemy to meet head-on in battle. A cave troll and 20 goblins serve as a warm-up to one of the most menacing movie monsters ever, a Balrog of Morgoth. When Gandalf makes his stand against the Balrog, will anyone in the audience even be able to breathe? This is no enemy we've ever seen on film, no threat we've ever faced..
One of the things that has always struck me about the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy is the sense of sacrifice. Characters die. The group is split up. Friendships are tested. Every choice matters. Another thing that has always struck me is the eccentricity of Tolkien's vision. Characters like Treebeard and the Fangorn trees are unique, and it will require real vision to make us believe in them..
The first script draws to a truly magnificent close as Gandalf the White leads the remnants of the Fellowship against Helm's Deep to free Theoden from the thrall of Saruman, then against an army of 10,000 Uruk-Hai in what will no doubt be one of the largest film battles in history..
Amidst this, Sam and Frodo finally have a direct encounter with Gollum, and he is painted as alternately pathetic and calculating. He promises to help the Ringbearers, a promise which sets up the almost operatic movement of the second half of the story. As the battle rages at their backs, Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol must confront the horror of the Nazgul before they can head into the living hell of Mordor, where they hope to destroy the Ring and Sauron's chances at the destruction of Middle-earth..
The last moments of the first script with Frodo and Sam on Emyn Muil Bluff are shattering. I'm not sure how the three films will be broken up as opposed to the two, but this ending would have me starting a line for the next film that very day. Forget STAR WARS. This has a chance at being the film myth of our time. Every element is in place. All this I've discussed is just one half of the story, and in my opinion, the second half is even greater. Despite the epic size of the project, there's not one single moment when Jackson loses track of his characters against the massive backdrop..
One final observation about the scripts: I'd never really thought about whose story LORD OF THE RINGS is, but I think Jackson has made the case persuasively that these stories belong, in the end, to Samwise Gamgee. He is a character of rare courage and integrity, and when all is said and done, the weight of the journey falls squarely on his stout shoulders. I was so moved by him, by his actions, that I read the last 20 pages of the story through the fish-eyed lens of tear-stained eyes. It's just exhausting to plow through this all at once, but the final effect for me was one of exhilaration. For all the violence, all the horror, and all the pain, this is a story of simple triumph..
The artwork used to illustrate this story is by the gifted artists Alan Lee and John Howe, both of whom are working on Jackson's films. I'm not claiming that these are images from the film; they're not. Instead, they're here to give you a taste of what to expect. They may suggest the style of the films..
And now I take my leave of you. I could write page after page about these marvelous scripts. I could tell you more about Denethor, Faramir, Minas Morgul, Cirith Ungol, or Shelob. I could tell you about how powerful and beautiful the final sequences between Sam and Frodo are, or how magnificent the final battles with the Orc armies are. I could tell you all of this without it being traditional spoiler material; it's from the books, after all. Still, all I'm doing here is telling you that all our hopes concerning this project are more than justified, and isn't that the most important question? I would gladly padlock the Labs tomorrow and beg, borrow, or steal my way to New Zealand if I thought there was any job for me on these films. As I contemplate the grand adventure these lucky filmmakers are about to have, Bilbo's words echo in my head:.
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow if I can...