Magazine article Tikkun

Will to Power

Magazine article Tikkun

Will to Power

Article excerpt

FILM REVIEW

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Directed by Peter Jackson. New Line Productions, 2002.

The nature of evil is no longer the great philosophical question it once was. In the last century, evil has been unmasked in the figure of Adolph Hitler, in the threat of nuclear war, in the flight of the Twin Tower bombers. So too in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, written in the decade following World War Two. In Tolkien's mythical Middle Earth, evil is personified by Sauron, a dark wraith whose shadow reaches out for the one ring of power he can use to bring every living creature under his dominion.

No, the question faced by Tolkien's characters and by us is not the nature of evil, but the nature of good. How do ordinary people take a stand against a power infinitely corruptible and corrupting? The traditional response is to answer power with power, and Tolkien is no pacifist. The Two Towers, the middle book of Tolkien's trilogy, is particularly occupied with military movements, and the film's director, Peter Jackson, has followed suit, turning Tolkien's landscape into a sweeping battlefield. The computer-driven cinematography of these scenes is amazing, a medieval Star Wars of swords clashing on shields. Yet Jackson's loving embrace of the niceties of medieval battle threatens to turn The Two Towers story into yet another action-adventure in which good outpowers evil.

That would be a shame, since the greatest achievement of both Tolkien's book and of this film is to question the old adage that might makes right. In the film, the struggle to define the nature of the good centers on the figure of Gollum. Gollum was once "Smeagol," a hobbit-like creature whose long possession of the ring of power has literally transfigured him into a grasping, deformed, frog-like monstrosity (magnificently depicted here through a complex technical process mixing human acting and computer animation). Both the wizard Gandalf and our hero, Frodo, have plenty of opportunities to kill Gollum, who is seeking to reclaim his "precious" ring from Frodo by any means possible-yet they do not. Instead, Frodo reminds Gollum of his better self by renaming him Smeagol, and entrusts Smeagol to act as his guide. As a result of this trust and generosity, Gollum, for the first time since his childhood, sees a chance to repent and turn to good. The best scenes in the film give us Gollum/Smeagol's inner dialogue, allowing us to witness the difficult psychological battle our impulse to the good faces from the evil forces of addiction, fear, and the will to power. …

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