From “Summa Jacksonica: A Reply to Defenses of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, after St. Thomas Aquinas”, by David Bratman, in Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Croft, The Mythopoeic Press, 2004.
A little relaxation in time can improve even an action film, making it go places instead of spinning its wheels impotently. It sets the atmosphere and contributes to the feeling that you’re visiting a world, not just following a story. This is something Jackson conveys well in The Two Towers (where he had the space to do it), and even better in the epilogue to The Return of the King (where he made the space), but fails to convey in The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s not just a matter of screen time. For instance, Jackson’s Gandalf on entering Moria says, ‘It’s a four-day journey to the other side’ (Fellowship, scene 24: “A Journey in the Dark”). But despite this statement, and the fact that over seven minutes – a long time in screen terms – pass before the orc attack, it doesn’t feel like four days. I wonder if that’s because of the absence of a little piece of cinematic vocabulary that brilliantly conveys the passage of time: the fade. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a fade in a new film. Perhaps it works too well at slowing down the pace, in a day when big-budget films must feel rushed-rushed-rushed. But just a quiet fade-out as the Fellowship set off through Moria, followed by a beat of silence, then a fade-in to the next scene somewhere in the mines, would have done wonders for conveying that they’d been there a while, at no cost in screen time. It would have contributed spaciousness, but not drag.