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Tom Shippey on Tolkien and the films.

September 24, 2002 at 7:46 pm by Tehanu  - 

Tonight at Illinois Central College, we had the honor and privilege of listening to Prof. Shippey give a lecture that compared the original books to PJ’s movie.

We are both sort of amazed by what he had to say. He was humorous and interesting; he brought up both good and bad points of the film translation. To both of our surprise, he wasn’t a ‘purist’. In fact, he poked fun at those who watched the movie while “hissing through clenched teeth” and writing details down in notebooks. He also jabbed at movie-fanatics a bit, but it was in good fun.

He did mention three things he did like about the movie. One of the major points was how he loved the ending of the council of Elrond and how Frodo said “I will take the ring” three times in that scene. He commented on how that brought Tolkien’s uses of suspense and silence back into the very visual form of the film.

Another thing he liked was the movement of Gandalf’s line from chapter 2 into the Mines of Moria and then replayed at the ending. He read directly from the book on this (and several other occasions), “So do all who lived to see such times, but it’s not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Oddly, he LIKED Arwen. He did comment on her “Xena: The Warrior Princess”-ness. But he felt it was a good way to tie her in and that it was inline with Tolkien’s portrayal.

Some of the things he didn’t like were how everything was ironed out. He mentioned that part of the story was how the characters were physically and mentally bewildered, and that the voice over kind of took out the confusion. “The characters and the first time readers,” he said, “have no clue what is going on. The second time readers do know what is happening, but then they are even MORE aware that the characters don’t know what’s going on.”

He also felt things were adapted to fit audience pressures – such as Narsil not being carried on Aragorn’s person. And the line “Let’s kick some orc” really seemed to bugger him. [I think this is a misquote and they mean the line “let’s hunt some orc,” – I heard Shippey mention that line, correctly quoted, at DragonCon – Tehanu] The intensity of the line he compared to “Let’s kick some ass.” — which is probably true. (What I though was kind of cute was how he made all the little kids in the audience cover their ears before he uttered what he believed to be the equivalent to Aragorn’s line.)

Despite living over here in America, he still has an accent. I thought he sounded a touch like Sean Connery, Cully thought he sounded like Sir Ian McKellen… which is really kind of weird… 🙂

He said the movie was good and he would have to see how PJ would handle all the intertwining of the plot threads. He also commented about buy this movie and the director’s cut, and TTT and TTT’s Director’s cut and so on and so forth.

They did mention that they were going to have him back (or try to) after TTT comes out – I think the date they mentioned was March 25th. And if all goes well, we shall try to email you a summary on what he thought about it then!

Thanks to Ringer spies Cully and Chiri for that report!

Posted in Old Spy Reports on September 24, 2002 by

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