16 December 2003

What Has It Got In Its Pocketses?

Being essentially in the middle of nowhere, there are no 0001 (that's 12:01am to civilians) screenings of The Return of the King within 100 miles of here. Thus, I will be waiting for the weekend (or possibly even next week, if I end up getting the same bug that has evaded the flu vaccine and hit both kids and the ex). Fortunately, I don't have to worry about "spoilers," as it has been over three decades since I first read The Return of the King. Well over.

That said, I hope that Peter Jackson will not make the narrative mistake in this movie that he did with The Two Towers. Contrary to popular opinion, a three-hour movie can readily support multiple climaxes. The Two Towers, and the early parts of The Return of the King, do not hop among viewpoints; instead, we see the entire sweep of Rohan in one "book," and Frodo and Sam's journey in the other "book" (The Return of the King has a similar, if not so formal, structure). As an experiment, I programmed the DVD player on the computer to rethread those two stories in The Two Towers; despite the moderate continuity errors this introduces, it was much more satisfying literarily and structurally. Besides, the different natures of emotional investment in the storylines force one to view the climax of each story thread separately, so there were two climaxes anyway.

One of the first "rules" that young fiction writers are taught is that "head-hopping is bad;" that is, one should not rapidly change viewpoints. Marking such changes with "Chapter 17" (or whatever), however, is merely a formalistic device to disguise the problem. Fiction is inherently linear; trying to falsely create simultaneity by inching forward multiple plotlines ends up causing more problems than it might otherwise solve.

Yet more proof that I got too far along with that dissertation, even if I never finished it (and thus am entitled only to "JD," not "JD PhD," on my CV).