Two on Tolkien

Richard Fernandez writes a review of the new Hobbit movie, which makes me think I might ought to go see it after all. I hated Jackson's treatment of LoTR very much -- well, the first movie, which I hated so badly I didn't see the others. The MTV swinging-cameras and technicality seemed to me to do violence to Tolkien's vision. I can't imagine he wouldn't have hated the movies at least as much as I do.

Still, Fernandez mentions a couple of Jackson's additions to the plot kindly. That's another thing of which I was suspicious. I can't imagine that Jackson's ideas about what the plot should contain are so superior to Tolkien's that the expansion is a great idea. Usually a novel benefits from cutting, not expanding, extra elements.

A man much more after my own heart, Lars Walker, writes the second piece for today on the subject. He looks back at older editions of LoTR that meant a great deal to him. Now this is the kind of thing that Tolkien would have understood!


Cass said...

When I was growing up, I read LOTR so many times that I had entire passages (including some of the poems and lays) memorized.

So I expected to dislike the movies. My first take was to be slightly disappointed, but once the normal objections every book lover has when a movie plot dumbs down or changes beloved passages, I found that I quite like the movies.

Try again - you may be surprised!

One of my biggest objections was the changes made to Faramir's character. He and Eowyn loomed large in my childish imagination and I got to enjoy their story all over again when I read LOTR to my boys as an adult.

I was never terribly fond of The Hobbit, on the otter heiny. Didn't hate it. It just didn't have the magic of the Return of the King (my favorite of the series) or the other two LOTR books.

raven said...

Likewise a fan of Tolkien,I did really enjoy the LOTR movies , the first 1/3 of the Hobbit, not so much- the deletion of a few "Hollywood over the top action scenes" would have helped it, and perhaps a closer following of the story- I had the advantage of having re read the story again shortly before watching the movie.
Ah well, still better than 97% of what is out there.

Tom said...

The movie isn't bad at all, really, as long as you don't go expecting to see 'The Hobbit.'

It had been years since I'd read the LOTR before I saw the movies. I enjoyed the movies a lot. But then I read the books again, and they really are notably better.

douglas said...

I'd like to see it, out of curiosity if nothing else (I haven't even seen any of the LOTR movies). I'm currently reading the Hobbit to my son (my daughter isn't so interested at 7 years old) at bedtimes. It's from a nice slip covered edition I picked up in the mid-nineties. Hopefully, someday that book will be an important one in my son's library...

I had only read the LOTR books in the school and local libraries in my youth- oddly, I never owned it. I remember the high school library had a version with the old dust jacket art- a beautiful cover.

Cass said...

It's funny - the covers Lars Walker posted are the same ones I remember from reading the books as a girl.

My Mom and grandfather were both talented artists. I got only a bare smidgeon of their ability, but I was so fascinated with both the LOTR books and the cover art that I drew all three panels in pencil.

Motivation must really mean something, because they came out quite well - I was very proud of them. But I never managed to do anything that good again. I guess I'll have to leave the artwork in the family to my mother and stick to crafts!

Cass said...

Grim will probably get a kick of this, but I also remember spending a goodly part of one summer making spears and practicing throwing them at a target whilst imagining I was Eowyn, battling the Lord of the Nazgul :p

I also memorized both the Elvish and Dwarvish rune alphabets. My best friend and I used to write notes to each other in "code" (runes) during class.

Am I the world's biggest Geek-ette, or what?

Grim said...

Probably not the very biggest. :)

Besides, anyone would enjoy throwing spears at a target. I was doing that with a pitchfork at one of the hay bales not that long ago. It's just good fun!

MikeD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MikeD said...

Sorry, let's try again:

My my my, an author, born in the 19th Century, writing positive female role-models? C'est incroyable!

That's sarcasm btw.

Lars Walker said...

Thanks for the link. The publisher made a big poster of all those covers joined together, minus the words. I had one, which I put up in various apartments for years until it fell apart.

When I think about it, those covers are pure '60s psychedelia, not at all appropriate for Tolkien's work. But when I look at them the old beloved feelings come back vividly.

Cass said...

Lars, I was surprised to see the covers on your site b/c when I saw Grim's post (and before I clicked on any of the links) I did an image search for the book covers I remembered from childhood and stumbled onto the poster!

I was dying to write about this yesterday but there was too much going on at work and I ended up at my desk until 9:30 or so. They are very 60s.

When my boys got interested in longer books, I bought a one volume set of LOTR with the Alan Lee illustrations. They were closer to the pictures I formed in my head when reading the series.

Cass said...

Boy, was that a disjointed comment!

Sorry - perils of trying to type a quick comment during a 5 minute coffee break :)

Eric Blair said...

I got a set before I entered HS--the ones with Tolkien's own paintings on the covers.

I still re read them every so often.

That said, the LOTR movies, IMO, are ok, with some inexplicable changes by Jackson--Faramir, as Cass points out, and for me, Arwen.

He's done a bit of the same with 'the hobbit', but it does not ruin the thing.

Fernandez's essay is excellent.

Eric Blair said...

Oh, and one should really look at Tolkien's books in the 'boys own story' sort of category, not that females can't enjoy them--just that I don't think he wrote with them in mind at all.

MikeD said...

"That said, the LOTR movies, IMO, are ok, with some inexplicable changes by Jackson--Faramir, as Cass points out, and for me, Arwen."

Having seen the commentary on both those decisions, I shall attempt to explain the inexplicable.

On Faramir, the decision to make him susceptible to the Ring's influence was a conscious one. They felt it cheapened Boromir and made the Ring's influence too trivial for Faramir to be immune to it. For one brother to fall so easily, and yet have Faramir be immune to the Ring's call seemed incongruous. Maybe not to you, but that was what the director felt.

On Arwen, they did make her more active than she was in the book, because they felt her character, as presented, was weak and passive. And for her to hold the love interest of Aragorn, they felt she needed to be a vibrant and bold character. And they inserted scenes with her in the Two Towers that did not exist in the book primarily to keep her in the audience's minds. They didn't want her only showing up as a wallflower in Rivendell then again at the end.

Lars Walker said...

According to what I read, the reason for the added scenes in the 2nd film was that they'd originally planned to have Arwen, Warrior Princess, fighting at Helm's Deep. Because this dismayed fans so much, they instead added the sequence about Aragorn being rescued by Arwen's spirit, in order to, as you say, keep her in the audience's eye.

Cass said...

According to what I read, the reason for the added scenes in the 2nd film was that they'd originally planned to have Arwen, Warrior Princess, fighting at Helm's Deep.

Despite my comments on the Brave post Grim wrote, that would have really irritated the living daylights out of me. I wasn't terribly thrilled with the rewrites of the Weathertop scene either - Arwen wasn't an action hero in the book and it was jarring to me to see her portrayed that way in the movies (though thankfully they toned it down before it got too out of hand).

One of the reasons I loved Faramir in the book was precisely the contrast between him and Boromir. Especially contrasted with the "All that is gold does not glitter" prophecy concerning Aragon (who likewise had hidden depths to his character).

Faramir's character encapsulated everything I admire and value in a man, and yet such men (those who are wise and restrained rather than showy and full of bragadoccio) are often underappreciated or even despised - just as Faramir was by Denethor.

I can understand the scenes meant to keep her in the story for the sake of continuity, though. Some things are hard to translate from a book to the screen.

Tom said...

They really did more than a bit of the same with the Hobbit. The scenes w/ Radagast, Gandalf's hidden agenda in wanting to take out the dragon, the meeting with Saruman & Galadriel, this kind of stuff goes way beyond what Jackson did with LoTR. It isn't really the Hobbit anymore; it's trying to be a serious prequel to LoTR.

But again, if I just think of it as a fantasy adventure flick (and not The Hobbit), it's pretty good.

Joel Leggett said...

I hated the new Hobbit movie. I want those two and a half hours of my life back. It was such a shamless cry for cash it depressed me. At least in the LOTR trilogy each book got a single . Now Jackson has taken the shortest book and turned it in to a 3 movie trilogy. Everything is forced, every scene takes longer than it should. I could not waite for the movie to end.

Cass said...

At least in the LOTR trilogy each book got a single . Now Jackson has taken the shortest book and turned it in to a 3 movie trilogy.

Haven't seen the Hobbit yet, but that surprised me, too.

Now Radagast... if memory serves, he appeared in FOTR. I think he was in the Silmarillion too. I really wanted to love that book, but there was too much esoteric stuff in it. I was fascinated later in life to learn that one of my favorite authors (Guy Gavriel Kay) had a big part in editing the Silmarillion.

Grim said...

Radagast appears in Gandalf's flashback speech about how Saruman came to capture him. He doesn't actually show up in person (no more than Grimbeorn).