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<   No. 9   2003-01-29   >

Comic #9

1 Alvissa: Well met, wizard Kyros. What news?
2 Kyros: Good and bad news. Helm's Deep has held out well and the Ents have destroyed Isengard. But ill news from the east. Faramir has taken the ring-bearer captive to Osgiliath!
3 Alvissa: But, but... that's evil!
4 GM: Can we stop talking about plot changes in The Two Towers and get on with the game?

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2011-11-09 Rerun commentary: The joke here refers to Peter Jackson's film version of The Two Towers, which had been released just a few weeks before this strip was made. I'd recently reread the book in preparation before seeing the film, and so noticed the plot changes easily as they unfolded on the big screen. In hindsight, some of the changes do make sense, as explained by the film writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, though at the time it seemed verging on travesty. Indeed, some of the fan reaction to the movie at its release was negative, based on the plot changes from the book.

I've since grown to enjoy the movie in its own right. Converting any story from one medium to another is always going to involve some sort of original creative decision. All of the visuals in the film have to come from the mind of an artist - none of it is present beyond prose description in Tolkien's books. It's true, the story could have been made to hew closer to the plot of the book, but then, as the scriptwriters point out, the Ring would hardly have been much of an all-corrupting temptation if Faramir had taken one look at it and simply decided he didn't want it. (Also the reason for the removal of Tom Bombadil in The Fellowship of the Ring, a change which I heartily applauded.)

My point is: When you adapt a novel for film, you're already necessarily making new creative decisions about stuff that isn't in the book, so tweaking bits of the plot to make it work better on the screen isn't all that huge a step from the so-called "faithful" reproduction that can never truly be realised. Done right, this leads to at least an equally good film, or in some cases an indisputably better film than if the book had been filmed with the plot unchanged.

The James Bond film Goldfinger is a classic example. In an inversion of later films (particularly of the Roger Moore era), the plot of the movie is actually more grittily realistic and less over-the-top ridiculous than the plot of the book. The book has Auric Goldfinger planning to steal the gold from Fort Knox. But as Sean Connery's Bond points out in the film, when you do the sums you realise that simply shifting that much gold (which weighs over 10,000 tons) would take "Sixty men ... twelve days to load it onto 200 trucks. Now, at the most, you're going to have two hours before the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines move in and make you put it back." The book Goldfinger doesn't let this detail stop his mad plans, but the film Goldfinger has a much, much sneakier and more diabolical plot in mind...*

Appropriately enough, this strip sees the introduction of Kyros, who is named immediately. Alvissa was first named back in #5, but so far Lambert and Mordekai haven't been named in the strip.

* I'm not going to say what it is. See the film if you haven't. Trust me, it's worth it.

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