Ralph Wood's review of The Two Towers in the March/April issue of Books & Culture generated a good deal of response. In particular, some readers objected to Wood's claim that film as a medium is inherently inferior to literature, and moreover that Christians of all people should be aware of this distinction, since there is "little doubt that the biblical tradition elevates word over picture, hearing over sight." In contrast to this biblical hierarchy, Wood argues, our culture consistently values the visual image over the word, written or spoken. Here are two of the most thoughtful responses to Wood's essay. If you have strong opinions on this subject, we'd like to hear from you, too.

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Ralph C. Wood, in his "Hungry Eye: The Two Towers and the Seductiveness of Spectacle" [March/April], convincingly shows that the recent film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers fails to realize the significant moral and religious themes of the book, foregrounding instead visual spectacle in the form of gripping battle scenes and beautiful scenery. With this characterization of the failings of the film I have no quarrel. Wood goes on, however, to make broad points about the failings of film as a medium, and it is this constellation of claims with which I take issue. Wood believes that the problems of this film adaptation are attributable to the inferiority of the film medium itself.

Wood writes, for example, that movies are a fundamentally passive medium because they form images for us, while "even the tawdriest novel requires the mind to make its own mental pictures." As one who has taught film for over 20 years, I have heard this and similar claims over and again. But the "passive-image claim" isn't a sufficient argument to establish ...

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