Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Great Tolkien Debate

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I've spent the last half-hour reading Christopher Tolkien's opinion on the LOTR movies, and then a bunch of comments.  [Note: if you don't want your faith in humanity destroyed, don't read comments.  Ever.]  So now of course I've got to give my opinion.

First, to the commenters (who obviously aren't reading this...): have some respect.  Christopher Tolkien was extremely close to his father and made maps, advised, and acted as his copyist for years.  The man knows what he's talking about.  He's the next-best thing to having Tolkien himself available for criticism.  (Tolkien père would probably have been much more communicative and explanatory, but that's beside the point.)  And Christopher Tolkien is eighty-seven years old.  You can't expect him to be either active in the LOTR phenomenon or accepting of changes to his father's beloved work.

At any rate, in principle I agree with Christopher Tolkien.  There is a great "chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become."  The changes and many of the choices made by Peter Jackson do make a Tolkien purist, or anyone who understands his vision of his works, cringe.   

However.  First of all, one cannot expect perfection, least of all from Hollywood. Also, there is a huge gap between the culture of the era in which the books were written (and hence Christopher Tolkien's era) and modern culture of the era in which the films are made. I think it would probably be literally impossible to make a film that grasped Tolkien's ideas, was accurate as to characterization and events, was stylistically accurate, and didn't leave anything out.  Peter Jackson is guilty on multiple counts, but he did get some things right - sometimes amazingly right.  Considering what he was up against, he did a fairly good job.  Sometimes.  Agh, I don't know.  It is very confusing.  And I actually haven't even seen The Return of the King.  Anyway, what I wanted to say is that the films, in and of themselves, are gorgeous, glorious works of fantasy.  It's just when you compare them to the books that you run into issues.  But of course, every bookworm knows the maxim that the book is always better than the movie.
 (Note: now I feel a slight bit guilty for my positive-ish review of The Hobbit.)

So yes, Christopher Tolkien is right in condemning the film franchise's deviations, but I think that if you realize that the films are flawed (and make sure you don't get too wrapped up in them), you're fine.

Just in case anyone was wondering, yes, I have had a slight (oh, very slight) relapse into active Tolkien fangirling.  It has to do with reading The Silmarillion and seeing a certain independent film which I shall post about another time.

So, comment and give me your opinion on the LOTR books-vs-movies debate.  I love to discuss these things and hear others' opinions.


  1. Victoria! This is EXACTLY what I have been thinking about lately!

    I'm actually reading The Return of the King right now (almost halfway in!), right after watching the movie with some friends a few days ago. One thing I realized is that the movies and books are pretty different, if you think about it. I read the Fellowship and Towers in my Freshmen year, but never got to the last book of the trilogy until now. Now, that I'm older, I realize that some things were done kinda badly!

    But all things considered, you do have to give Peter Jackson a few pats on the back. I mean, I was introduced to the movies before the books and was always in wonder at the breathtaking and epicness of the films-- something I would have certainly sensed in the books later on, but the movies definitely give you that jaw-dropping beauty.

    All in all, I applaud Peter Jackson for his work. Maybe there can be a documentary that he can put together explaining why he did certain things? :P :)

  2. Gosh, I don't know. I always felt that the Lord of the Rings movies were the best book to movie adaption that I'd ever seen. The books are beautiful because they are books, and the movies are beautiful because they are movies. I'm beginning to feel that you really can't compare books and movies at all. (I mean, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop ranting about The Voyage of the Dawn Treader anytime soon. THAT I can't help.) but for the most really can't compare. In books we get to step inside every character, BE every character. In movies we will always be on the outside, grasping at characters emotions from facial expressions etc.

    I don't know. They're just so different.

  3. The first thing that I think everyone needs to realize is that making a move and writing a book are two completely different art forms! In a book you can be inside the characters head, but that is not really possible in a move.

    I also have noticed that personally if I really really love a book and the move is a very bad portrayal of the book I am more likely to be up in arms about it. An example of this is the Harry Potter movies. I was really upset about movies 4, 5, and 6 vs. books 4, 5, and 6. My family was threatening to not let me watch he moves with them. However that are certain times when I am completely okay with major changes from book to movie. North and South would be an example. How Margaret and Mr. Thornton met is very different in the movie than in the book. I prefer the move version because I just could not figure out why Margaret hated Mr. Thornton in the book but I understood why in the move.

    I think it should also be considered what kind of book they are trying to make into a movie. Considering how colossal the Lord of the Rings books are they would be very difficult to put on the screen. I am not an expert in the Lord of the Rings having not read all the books or watched all the movies. Those are my thoughts.


  4. Yes, the book is always better. The world that Tolkien made up is so real, so vast, that you can't help but feel that it really does exist. I mean, he went the extent of making up the languages! So, I respect Christopher Tolkien's opinions, as he would be, like you said, the next-best thing to Tolkien for criticism. His father was the creator of Middle-Earth so he would obviously know what was what concerning all of that.

    Yet, I love the movies. Peter Jackson did make some flaws in my opinion, namely leaving out poor Tom Bombadil. While I can understand why he did that, I miss the cheery presence that Tom lent to the Fellowship. But on the whole, I personally think that PJ did a great job with the films. They have that epic LOTR feel. And in The Hobbit: AUJ, I loved how he incorporated so many direct-from-the-book quotes. "And so the battle was won, and the game of golf invented at the same time." :)

    So, I guess I stand on mixed ground. I'll have to agree with Elizabeth when she said that making a movie and writing a book are two completely different art forms. No movie will be exactly like you pictured it as you read the book. There are a few things in the movies that I was disappointed with, but overall, I am pleased with how Peter Jackson handled it.

    Oh... and before I forget: The Elevensies Tag is coming around again, and I'd like you to participate!

  5. I love the book. the movies are ok (the 2nd two hobbit movies not included)
    the book is always better.


Your comments make my day! I read every single one of them, and I'll usually check out my commenters' blogs, if I don't follow them already. I try to reply to my comments, but please don't be offended if I don't make it to yours. Procrastination habits do extend to comment replies, unfortunately.

Of course, courtesy is necessary. I will delete any comments which do not meet my requirements.

Thanks for making the effort to tell me your thoughts!

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