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August 2, 2003

Pirates of… Soundtrack
I’m listening to the score for Pirates of the Caribbean, composed by Klaus Badelt (The Time Machine) and produced by Hans Zimmer (Gladiator), for the first time. It’s a reasonably good Hans Zimmer score, insomuch that it is basically a slight alteration to his score for Gladiator, with vague Irish motifs in place of vague Mediterranean ones. It is not, however, a good pirate score. Better that Gore Verbinski had just bought the score, lock-stock, from Cutthroat Island and used that instead.

This CD is plenty good for listening to, but not so much good for plundering to.

The Two Towers, The Second Time
It turns out that a lot of what bothered me in the theater about The Two Towers didn’t bother me when I saw it on DVD last night. What did bother me, though, was that it was boring. The film lacks to momentum of Fellowship, as well as that film’s clarity of purpose and filmic language.

What The Two Towers is really missing — or so I decided last night — is a nice, complete action set piece. Fellowship has four, I submit; three of them work well. I still don’t hold that the sword-battle at Weathertop plays well enough as our introduction to Aragorn, the action hero. It was a disappointing premiere action sequence for the film. Fortunately, the battle agains the cave troll in Balin’s tomb plays out very nicely, very clearly, and with a lot of attention to the individual characters in the scene. It’s a little story unto itself. Likewise, the flight from the Balrog and the attack of the orcs at Amon Hen work quite well.

So what are the action sequences in The Two Towers lacking? First of all, villains. The cave troll, the Balrog, and the figurehead Uruk-hai (Lurtz), all serve as identifiable enemies in their set pieces. The warg-bound orcs are essentially faceless, and the army at Helm’s Deep is only moreso. Saruman not only has very little to really do in The Two Towers, but he isn’t really present for any of the meaningful action sequences. He only stands around and watches the Ent’s revenge, after all.

The more I follow this argument, the more it begins to explain what worked for me, too. When we’re not sure if Gollum is good or bad, when he’s the antagonist, he lends an almost electric charge to his scenes. Grima Wormtongue makes our time at Edoras more meaningful at the beginning. These are the really satisfying parts of the film, even though they’re devoid of adventure elements. (By which I mean fighting.) I’m honestly not sure if my enjoyment for the early scenes in Rohan have to do with some dramatic thread that’s doing its job there, or if I just think everything in the land of the horse-lords is very pretty. Whatever it is, I know that I spent a fair bit of time during this second screening waiting for the better scenes to happen.

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