16

First up, let me be clear this isn't a purist's question. Books are books and films are films and both should be considered on their own merits.

However, every time I watch the film version of The Two Towers, the events at the end of the film regarding Faramir and Frodo annoy me, not because they've been drastically altered but because those drastic alterations don't seem to make sense, even within the film's own version of the story.

A warning for all the people who haven't seen the film yet: major spoilers follow.

Here's what I find problematic:

First, Faramir's aggression and (worse) the cruelty his men inflict on Gollum, stand at odds with the picture painted elsewhere of the men of Gondor as wise and just. Not only does this jar when the characters are introduced, but it lessens the viewer's sympathy with the people of the white city in the travails that are to come.

Second, there doesn't seem to be any good reason why Faramir doesn't simply take the ring off Frodo and bear it to Minas Tirith, alongside his captives. Given that the film has established Faramir and his troops as being fairly ruthless, and that Faramir makes light of the corrupting power of the ring, this seems an odd choice.

Third, and most difficult for me, is Faramir's motivation in letting Frodo go. He chooses to do that after watching Frodo almost become enslaved to the will of a Nazgul, underlining, surely, that Frodo is not fit to undertake the perils of bearing the ring into Mordor. How does this demonstration of powerlessness convince Faramir that he is wrong in bringing the ring to his father, and that it's actually safer in Frodo's hands?

The crux of my question is this: have I missed something in the films, or is there interview material elsewhere, that help make sense of these apparently bizarre plot points so I can enjoy the film in the future without them bugging me?

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    This is exactly why I gave up on the films at that point and didn't bother seeing the third. Not only are Faramir's (and Theoden's as well) actions totally out of character, they make no sense at all. – Daniel Roseman Jun 6 '14 at 13:51
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    @DanielRoseman The third is rather better, and worth the time. The first is still the best, though. – Bob Tway Jun 6 '14 at 13:59
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    +1 Continuity and story line faithfulness have prevented me from seeing part II of the Hobbit film series. As a fan of the books, IMHO, Jackson's revisioned version of Middle-Earth is a visually stimulating yet intellectually unsatisfying experience. – Major Stackings Jun 6 '14 at 17:40
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    Taking the film on its own merits, when you paint yourself into a corner, you're likely to leave some footprints in the wet paint. – Spencer Dec 26 '16 at 10:35
9

Oldcat wrote:

The filmmakers do have a point that Faramir does make a quick decision to forget the Ring that might be hard to put over in a movie. On the other hand, they could have had a tense psychological scene in the cave with his men and flashbacks to his father and Boromir to do it..

I'm not satisfied with either of the two answers thus far, because they fail to reference exactly that -- a 5-minute long, tense psychological flashback involving Faramir and his brother Boromir.

As numerous people who were unsatisfied with the changes to Faramir's character have pointed out over the years that this cut scene (from the Extended Edition) is essential to understanding film-Faramir's character and motivations, and is the #1 scene that should have been left in TTT.

The key phrase explaining Faramir's motivation here (from the book) is when Faramir is ostensibly tempted by the Ring in the cave, where he says

"here in the wild I have you.. a chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to show his quality."

In the book this is an ironic statement, as he quickly discounts the Ring, asserting that he would not pick up the Ring if he found it on the highway, which always bugged me about Faramir in the book. (it seems unrealistic -- consider for starters whether it would be better to leave it on the highway for some Orc to find?) Faramir in the book is very much a Mary Sue, with some evidence that he is an author stand-in of sorts.

PJ (perhaps clumsily) wanted to be more realistic with Faramir's character, while also highlighting Gollum's "mistreatment" as a major turning point for Gollum's character (his near-repentance on the Stairs being sadly left out of the third film, which is a glaring omission). It's a lot less clumsy with the scene left in, and a lot more psychologically motivated.

In the movie, "show his quality" is an explicit reference to the deleted scene, which explains Boromir's, Faramir's and Denethor's motivations.1 Here's an excerpt of the scene in full. I trust it clears up a great many things about these three characters in the film:

Two Towers Extended Edition Scene 41. "Sons of the Steward"

Faramir sees a vision of himself standing by a river bank as the body of Boromir floats past in the elvish boat. He looks shocked and grieved.

FARAMIR: His horn washed up upon the riverbank, about six days past. It was cloven in two. But more than this, I know it in my heart. (pauses) He was my brother.

INT. Henneth Annûn. Scene 41.

Faramir sits alone holding Boromir's cloven horn. He sees a flashback to when Osgiliath was retaken. Boromir stands up high on a battlement, and raises the banner of the Stewards of Gondor. The soliders cheer.

SOLDIERS: Boromir! Boromir!

Boromir puts the flag down and unsheathes his sword.

BOROMIR: This city was once the jewel of our kingdom. A place of light and beauty and music. And so it shall be once more! (he raises his sword and the crowds cheer) Let the armies of Mordor know this: Never again will the land of my people fall into enemy hands. (more cheers) This city of Osgiliath has been reclaimed... (he raises his sword again) for Gondor!

CROWD: For Gondor!

The crowd cheers again. Faramir appears and walks joyfully to Boromir. They hug, laughing

FARAMIR: Good speech. Nice and short.

BOROMIR: Leaves more time for drinking! (they laugh) Break out the ale! These men are thirsty!

The crowd cheers and Boromir brings two goblets of ale, giving one to Faramir.

BOROMIR: Remember today, little brother. Today, life is good.

They toast and take a drink. Faramir glances warily sideways --

BOROMIR: (laughing) What? FARAMIR: -- He's here.

BOROMIR: (seeing Denethor talking to the soldiers behind them) One moment of peace! can he not give us that?

DENETHOR: Where is he? Where is Gondor's finest? Where's my first-born?

BOROMIR: (looks jaded and turns to face his father) Father!

DENETHOR: They say you vanquished the enemy almost single-handedly.

BOROMIR: They exaggerate. The victory belongs to Faramir also.

He looks towards Faramir who walks towards them

DENETHOR: But for Faramir, this city would still be standing.

Faramir looks uneasy

DENETHOR: Were you not entrusted to protect it?

FARAMIR: I would have done, but our numbers were too few.

DENETHOR: Oh, too few. You let the enemy walk in and take it on a whim. Always you cast a poor reflection on me. (he walks up to Faramir. Boromir drops his head)

FARAMIR: That is not my intent.

BOROMIR: You give him no credit, and yet he tries to do your will.

Boromir walks away and Denethor follows him. BOROMIR: He loves you, Father.

DENETHOR: Do not trouble me with Faramir......I know his uses, and they are few. We have more urgent things to speak of. Elrond of Rivendell has called a meeting. He will not say why, but I have guessed its purpose. It is rumored that the weapon of the enemy has been found!

BOROMIR: (looks worried) The One Ring. lsildur's Bane.

DENETHOR: (whispers) lt has fallen into the hands of the Elves. Everyone will try to claim it: Men, Dwarves, wizards..! We cannot let that happen! This thing must come to Gondor.

BOROMIR: (shakes his head) Gondor.

DENETHOR: (he clutches Boromir's arm) It's dangerous, I know. Ever the Ring will seek to corrupt the hearts of lesser Men. But you, you are strong! And our need is great. It is our blood which is being spilled, our people who are dying. Sauron is biding his time. He's massing fresh armies. He will return. And when he does, we will be powerless to stop him! You must go. (Boromir looks taken aback) Bring me back this mighty gift!

BOROMIR: (shakes his head) No. My place is here with my people! (he walks away) Not in Rivendell.

DENETHOR: Would you deny your own father?

Faramir appears.

FARAMIR: If there is need to go to Rivendell......send me in his stead.

DENETHOR: You? Oh, I see. A chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to show his quality. [beat] I think not. (Faramir lowers his eyes, deeply hurt) I trust this mission only to your brother. The one who will not fail me.

Boromir is on his horse. He looks up at the Gondor banner, sadly, and then at his brother.

BOROMIR: Remember today, little brother. (He rides out of Osgiliath for Rivendell)

[This is the last time we see him in the series, and the last time Faramir sees him alive.]

Here's shots from the scene in context.

1 Note that in the film-verse, Elrond explicitly summons one of Denethor's sons to the council (not just through a dream) and Denethor already suspects that the Ring has been found. He has already instructed his elder son to bring it back to Gondor, and doesn't consider Faramir, the "wizard's pupil", up to the task.

So Faramir's motivations in the film are all about family dynamics.

3

Insofar as the TT film made Faramir into Boromir: The Sequel, I can confidently argue that his actions, at least in allowing Frodo to escape, are not consistent. True, Boromir reclaimed some bit of honor by fighting off the Uruks to (attempt to) protect Merry and Pippin, but the ring lost its grip on him only after Frodo slipped it on and got it out of range, so to speak. If Faramir is as cruel as he seems prior to that point, I doubt strongly that he would overpower the pull of the ring at that crucial juncture. After all, if a purer heart such as Frodo's could not cast it into the fire of his own will, what hope does someone who exhibits Faramir's traits have?

As a brief side note, Faramir's resemblance to Dave Mustaine has always made it difficult for me to take him seriously, anyhow.

-1

First, Faramir and his men beat Gollum in the books, so this is not a difference by Peter Jackson. In the books, Faramir decided to release them in the cave, rather than taking them to Osgiliath and doing it there. So if beating = subjection to ring, JRRT has to explain it away too.

The filmmakers do have a point that Faramir does make a quick decision to forget the Ring that might be hard to put over in a movie. On the other hand, they could have had a tense psychological scene in the cave with his men and flashbacks to his father and Boromir to do it, rather than a 20 minute or so special effect extravaganza.

Second, well this is correct, he could have killed the Hobbits or robbed them. But not doing so keeps his options open be he evil or good. And if Sam's assertion that the Ring is dangerous is true, the less contact the better.

Third, I didn't get the impression of Frodo as unfit quite the same way. The choice is to trust in the mission to destroy the ring or to wield it to save his city. I was more bothered by how you get past the orc armies back to the forest safely than by what you mention.

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    Where in the book did they beat Gollum? I've read all through "The Forbidden Pool" and the beginning of "Journey to the Cross-Roads", and though I see Gollum being seized forcefully when Anborn and company capture him, I don't see him being beaten. – Matt Gutting Jun 6 '14 at 20:56
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    After Frodo betrays him to the men, they question him and find out that the Frodo has the Ring. Gollum certainly did not volunteer this, and Smeagol growing hatred of Master Frodo for his betrayal begins here. If they gave Gollum doughnuts and coffee, why the hatred? – Oldcat Jun 6 '14 at 21:00
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    My question (since you mentioned it) was "where in the book was Gollum beaten?" In the book, Faramir finds out about the Ring well before Gollum even arrives at Faramir's hiding place; and Smeagol's hatred of Frodo after this point is, I think, easily explained by Frodo's deception in Gollum's capture. – Matt Gutting Jun 6 '14 at 21:09
  • Perhaps the orc armies disappeared into thin air, in the same way that Saruman's did. At least that howler was corrected in the extended version. – Ian Thompson Jun 7 '14 at 9:56
  • Considering that the penalty for entering the Forbidden Pool was death, and they were essentially a guerrilla force operating in hostile territory, I suspect that even the noble Faramir of the books was not always gentle with would-be spies of Mordor. But certainly in the film it's implied that Gollum was treated harshly as a sign of his "turning point". – Ber Apr 10 '16 at 9:31

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