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Jackson’s Hobbit: Too Much?

August 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm by Ostadan  - 

The following is an editorial by long-time staffer and original Green Books contributor Ostadan and does not necessarily represent the opinion of our entire staff:

Most people agree that Jackson’s film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was both an artistic and commercial success. For many fans of the book, it was as good an adaptation as they had any reasonable right to expect (although with some questionable choices); for those who did not know the books or did not remember them well, it served as an introduction to Tolkien’s work. For my part, although there were numerous scenes and bits of dialogue that were distracting — whether because they strayed unnecessarily far from Tolkien’s text (Denethor), or because it simply didn’t ring true to the story at hand (the very over-the-top Hollywood treatment of the Army of the Dead) — there was much more that did feel like reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time. This is very important to me in watching a cinematic book adaptation, even if it is not fully faithful, whether the work in question is The Lord of the Rings or Watership Down. In some undefinable way, the film should remind me of the experience of reading the book so that I feel that I am reading a translation of a sort, rather than a new work inspired by the original.

When the first teaser trailer for Jackson’s The Hobbit appeared, I had a mixed reaction. While it was nice to see Rivendell and Gandalf again, and the casting of Martin Freeman is inspired — not even Jackson’s harshest critics could find much wrong with his casting in The Lord of the Rings — the only time it invoked the feeling of reading The Hobbit was the portrayal of the Dwarves singing at that unexpected party. The rest of the trailer felt more to me like More The Lord of the Rings Footage (in 3D, as the incongruous solid block letters proudly announced). It seemed that Jackson wanted to make The Hobbit over into the image of The Lord of the Rings, which is a troubling idea. Since then, we have learned a fair bit of what Jackson has been adding to the story of The Hobbit, and with the decision to go to a three-film adaptation, one might infer with some justification that Jackson (who, it will be remembered, did not originally intend to direct these films) does not really like The Hobbit very much as a book, and considers it to be a kind of simple-minded early attempt by Tolkien before settling down to the more weighty and serious matters of The Lord of the Rings. A book suitable only for children, and not sufficiently epic in scope for a feature film.

As the director, he is entitled to this opinion of the book, and indeed it is one shared by some Tolkien fans as well. No justification or defense is needed, although one can well criticize the decision from a filmmaking or storytelling standpoint (about which more later). What is far more troubling is that Jackson has attempted to justify this by hinting that he’s just doing what Tolkien himself would have done, and has made statements bordering on misleading and self-serving revisionism, to put it politely. Consider the interview reported by Mike Fleming of deadline.com from the San Diego Comic-Con:

“That goes back to JRR Tolkien writing The Hobbit first, for children, and only after did he develop his mythology much more over the 16 or 17 years later when The Lord of the Rings came out, which is way more epic and mythic and serious.”

Here already, Jackson is glossing over the context in which The Hobbit was written: as most Tolkien fans know, the mythology had been developed for more than 16 years before the writing of The Hobbit. Elrond, the Necromancer Sauron (or Thû), the tale of Gondolin, the ancient quarrel of the Dwarves and Thingol … these were all established parts of Tolkien’s mythology; as he wrote (Letters, #19, 1937), The Hobbit began as, a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent Grimm’s fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of [the mythology] – so that even Sauron the terrible peeped over the edge. The mythology impinged itself on The Hobbit as it was written, not as a new idea resulting from the writing of The Lord of the Rings. But of course, Jackson has no rights to The Silmarillion; perhaps this is why he chooses to omit this information. But more likely, it would lend less credence to his assumption that The Hobbit is just a sketchy first attempt at The Lord of the Rings.

Jackson continues,

“What people have to realize is we’ve adapted The Hobbit, plus taken this additional 125 pages of notes, that’s what you’d call them. Because Tolkien himself was planning the rewrite The Hobbit after The Lord of the Rings, to make it speak to the story of The Lord of the Rings much more.”

Riddles in the Dark, by David Wenzel

Well, no, that is not what I would call them. The Appendices for The Lord of the Rings were certainly not notes or jottings to make The Hobbit speak to the later story more; they were an intrinsic part of the writing of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien did, famously, rewrite the Riddles in the Dark chapter (as he was completing The Lord of the Rings) to bring that critical matter of plot in line with the narrative – the newly established facts, if you will – of the later book, but as he wrote to Stanley Unwin in 1947 (Letters, #109), Talking about revising The Hobbit. Any alteration of any radical kind is of course impossible, and unnecessary. Where, then, does Jackson get the idea that he was planning a rewrite? Even though, as Tolkien reports, readers wanted to know more about Gandalf, the Necromancer, and so on, it was not his intent to alter the narrative of The Hobbit to provide those answers; that was done quite well by the later book. Indeed, that is one of the reasons it was begun!

“In the novel, Gandalf disappears for various patches of time. In 1936, when Tolkien was writing that book, he didn’t have a clue what Gandalf was doing.”

Since Gandalf does tell us what he was doing, though without unnecessary details, this is an extremely odd thing to say. The storytelling purpose of Gandalf’s absence, of course, is explained by Tolkien in a letter (Letters, #257, 1964): [The Necromancer’s function] … was hardly more than to provide a reason for Gandalf going away and laving Bilbo and the Dwarves to fend for themselves, which was necessary for the tale. Tolkien had a good sense of what was necessary in his story.

But now Jackson really leaves the track:

“But later on, when he did The Lord of the Rings and he’d hit on this whole epic story, he was going to go back and revise The Hobbit and he wrote all these notes about how Gandalf disappears and was really investigating the possible return of Sauron, the villain from The Lord of the Rings. Sauron doesn’t appear at all in The Hobbit. Tolkien was retrospectively fitting The Hobbit to embrace that mythology. He never wrote that book, but there are 125 pages of notes published at the back of Return of the King in one of the later editions. It was called The Appendices, and they are essentially his expanded Hobbit notes.”

I am surprised that Tolkien fans, no matter how much they may love Jackson’s films so far, have been quiet and let him get away with this revisionist (to put it politely) history. If such a thing had been written by, say, George Lucas, everyone would be loudly calling him out for promulgating such claptrap; but — so far — Jackson has not squandered the fans’ goodwill as Lucas did.

Again, the Appendices are certainly by no stretch of the imagination a collection of notes for a revised version of The Hobbit: they were published with the first edition of The Return of the King, not thrown in as an afterthought in one of the later editions. The history of the Appendices, including early drafts and some material that was evidently omitted in haste to get the finished volume to the publisher in time, can be found in Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth series. And as the 1937 letter quoted earlier demonstrates, Tolkien certainly knew that the Necromancer was indeed Sauron the terrible when he wrote The Hobbit.

“So we had the rights to those as well and were allowed to use them.… We haven’t just adapted The Hobbit; we’ve adapted that book plus great chunks of his appendices and woven it all together. The movie explains where Gandalf goes; the book never does. We’ve explained it using Tolkien’s own notes. That helped inform the tone of the movie, because it allowed us to pull in material he wrote in The Lord of the Rings era and incorporate it with The Hobbit.”

Tolkien did, around 1960, undertake to revise The Hobbit substantially to bring the narrative more in line with The Lord of the Rings. From the manuscripts of the chapters he completed (which can be found in John D. Rateliff’s The Story of The Hobbit (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007)), he altered the narrative style (omitting the first- and second-person asides) and tried, without success, to get the geography, times, and distances (including moon phases) to be consistent with the maps and text that had been published. He did not, notably, significantly alter the names nor dialogue of the Trolls, as an example of the sort of revision that he did not feel was productive; nor is there any basis in this material for inferring that he would have digressed into extensive details of the off-stage action involving the Necromancer.

In Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, even when the adaptation diverged greatly from the text (lack of Bombadil, Arwen filling in for Glorfindel), it was not hard to see why Jackson made these decisions from a storytelling standpoint (story pacing in the case of Bombadil, and introducing Aragorn’s love story more visibly at an early stage). In the case of The Hobbit, the book as it stands presents far fewer difficulties for a screenwriter. It has a straightforward story-line, in an almost perfectly standard Hollywood three-act pattern rising to a climactic battle and a swift denouement. And it is first and foremost Bilbo’s story. The title of the book is not The Quest for Erebor; it is The Hobbit, and almost every page of the story is from Bilbo’s point of view. In fact, bringing in the whole White Council B-plot creates story problems that must be solved. If it is simply a side matter to explain Gandalf’s absence, then it serves no purpose to the main story (rather like the unnecessary excursion to Osgiliath in Jackson’s The Two Towers). On the other hand, if it does affect the main story, then the result must be major changes to the last few chapters of the book. And so we have speculation about whether Radagast will be at the Battle of Five Armies, the sort of question which makes me cringe. And for what? To create unneeded connections between this film and The Lord of the Rings.

Jackson has decided to make The Hobbit into a prequel, and this itself creates problems. Prequels can be well done, but too often they fall into the trap of going through a lot of narrative complexity just to retroactively set up the story. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, a prequel written after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in his Narnia series, isn’t a bad story, but goes through some absurd machinations to explain the mysterious appearance of a lamp-post in the middle of a snowy woodland in the earlier volume. If this book is read first, it spoils the earlier volume: Narnia is no longer a mysterious land to be discovered, with the magical lamp-post improbably burning in the wood; it is a familiar land, and one might well wonder why so much effort is being spent to re-introduce it, and Aslan. In the case of The Hobbit, the book is not a prequel, and can (and should) be read first as an introduction to Tolkien’s world. But by being framed as a prequel, the film can never serve as an introduction to Middle-earth to viewers five or twenty-five years from now, for it will be filled with unnecessary and confusing characters (My dear Frodo …) and events that depend entirely upon the earlier films for comprehension. Nor will it encourage people to read the book as The Lord of the Rings did in its time, for prospective readers will quickly recognize the difference in tone and subject matter between the film and book, and will likely (as Jackson seemingly does) consider the book to be far inferior and not worth their time. Nor can I easily imagine what a child who has just read The Hobbit for the first time, and decides to watch this film before reading The Lord of the Rings will make of it. Nothing good, I think.

Let me be clear here: I am not arguing for a pure-and-faithful verbatim rendering of The Hobbit. I do not expect nor want the film to attempt to represent the chatty narration of the book, nor to give us childlike Elves in Rivendell who sing fa-la-li-lolly. (although having them sing Sindarin that Bilbo, ignorant of Elvish, thinks sounds like that would be marvelous). But there is likewise no compelling reason to add Frodo, Galadriel, Radagast, Saruman, and (perhaps most alarmingly from a certain standpoint) a speaking role for Sauron, nor a fan-fiction account of the Nazgûl and the battle of Dol Guldur, no matter how well-executed.

It should be remembered, after all, that in 1960, Tolkien abandoned the attempt to rewrite The Hobbit, partly because it was impractical, and partly because a friend who read what he had written told him that it was wonderful but, it’s not The Hobbit. He settled for minor revisions to the text (e.g., the mention of mithril) for the 1965 edition. Peter Jackson, it seems, does not trust Tolkien’s judgment in this matter. One can only hope that he can somehow make something coherent out of all this material so that, if it isn’t The Hobbit, it will at any rate be an entertaining film trilogy. But it does seem a shame that Jackson missed his opportunity to make the definitive film adaptation of the book that Tolkien wrote:

The generally different tone and style of The Hobbit is due, in point of genesis, to it being taken by me as a matter from the great cycle susceptible of treatment as a fairy-story, for children. Some of the details of tone and treatment are, I now think, even on that basis, mistaken. But I should not wish to change much. For in effect this is a study of simple ordinary man, neither artistic nor noble and heroic (but not without the undeveloped seeds of these things) against a high setting — and in fact (as a critic has perceived) the tone and style change with the Hobbit’s development, passing from fairy-tale to the noble and high and relapsing with the return.

— J.R.R. Tolkien (Letter to Milton Waldman)

=======================================

Ostadan is a long time contributor to TheOneRing.net and an original member of the Green Books team. He can be reached via email at ostadan@theonering.net.

 

 

Posted in Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, The Hobbit, TheOneRing.net Announcements, TheOneRing.net Community, Tolkien on August 23, 2012 by Jackson’s Hobbit: Too Much? | Discuss
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154 responses to “Jackson’s Hobbit: Too Much?”

  1. yaya gal says:

    OH GOD NO. There was a very good reason that character wasn’t in LOTR – he’d be completely ridiculous onscreen.

  2. hydroxide says:

    The problems are primarily in two fields: On a more general point, it leaves the taste of being purely done to draw more money out of the franchise. But even if we take this as pure speculation, more serious issues remain.

    It is one thing to visualize a story. But Jackson has been doing far more than that – he has used the story repeatedly as a vessel for his own values, concepts and ideas and dropped out a lot of Tolkien’s moral/philosophical framework. He pasted over the concept of free will practically wherever he could, from the villains becoming genocidal where they were oppressive enslavers to decisions made out of free will in the book being made out of coercion on more than one occasion. And coming to the Nazgul, they simply do not compute for PJ. His history in splatter shows in his reveling in physical threat. Monsters have to be huge, armies have to be huge, Sauron is a giant killing machine and physical death is something to be terrified by. When it comes to the Nazgul, Tolkien says their greatest weapon is fear. I simply don’t see Jackson pulling that off without them brandishing swords. He is far more into the explicit than the implicit. And for that very reason, he has to have people talked into things or forced into things they decide for themselves to do in the book, too: He can’t show their thoughts, so he has to do something else. But where others would work with the facial expression of the actor, Jackson works with a third party. That is visualisation, but it’s also a fundamental divergence from the actual reasons to make that decision, and in doing so fundamentally changes the characterization of the characters. They do not develop any self-reliance but become dependent on those who surround them.

    Middle-Earth for PJ is a conglomeration of physical actions and physical tidbits (“Saw the ring? The Ring of Barahir? Nudgenudge winkwink”) but on the metaphysical level, he replaces Tolkien’s ideas with his own on a large scale. But for mythology, the metaphysical level ist just as critical as the physical one.

  3. hydroxide says:

    I don’t think so. Because the resemblance is at best in the physical. And even there, Jackson’s background in splatter films shows. On the metaphysical level, the story is something that has precious little in common with the mythology Tolkien draws up.

  4. hydroxide says:

    At first, I want to accept for discussions sake that the characters have to make sense in the way you seem to think. But Aragorn is over 80 years old by the time the events take place. I don’t think it makes sense that by such an age, he has not figured out what to do with his life. The reluctant leader, destined to unite man might make sense to you. But a key concept for Tolkien is the exercise of free will. The reluctant leader might be a nice fantasy trope. But unlike Jackson stated in one interview, this isn’t a modern fantasy story. At least not in the context of Aragorn (it is more so in the narrative line of the Hobbits), This is a story in line with the sagas, full of symbolisms and archetypes. Aragorn is the king, long before he is crowned king. And he is crowned king not because of his bloodline (the claim of the north to the throne had been rejected eons ago anyway) but because he ACTS like a king. The athelas episode made that pretty explicit – he acts precisely as a king would, and as such, it is evident that he should be king.

    In a similar fashion, Elrond and his house have been a symbol for wisdom (Tolkien writes that even explicitly in one of his letters) but the film’s Elrond shows little of the wisdom you’d expect from someone thousands of years old.

    Characters and actions in Tolkien’s writings are full of symbolism. But as he is more concerned with the explicit than with the implicit, Jackson misses out on most of them.

  5. Stoltverd says:

    WHAT??????
    SAURON WAS IN THE HOBBIT!!!!!
    He was just called “The necromancer”, and so it is called in LOTR!!!! Maybe it was not called SAURON but use your brain a little!

  6. Riley Taylor says:

    Tolkien himself wanted these stories and the world of Middle Earth to take up a mythological form. Myths are told and re-told, by different story-tellers in different ways. This is not a movie based on the New York Times Bestseller, this is an amazing legend retold.

  7. LABits says:

    Oh, come on fans who are saying, “anything PJ/PB does is fantastic/amazing and shouldn’t be questioned.” Though I enjoyed the films, I’m not surprised that Jackson/Boyens doesn’t have the facts straight on the origin of the appendices or the setting of the Hobbit. They’re filmmakers, not scholars. They _might_ be fans of the original story now, but I’m sure their first approach to the text was one of problem solving… and that could kind of carry through to the whole corpus, and maybe spill over to the Hobbit. I agree doing the two works ‘out of order’ creates an issue.

    “It was in need of revision… Tolkein DID some revisions… Tolkein INTENDED to revise it ALL” and so forth. :p

    I’m in awe of PJ/Boyens as filmmakers… but I find them less than ‘unassailable’ as authors. A couple quick examples. Most of their revisions/edits/changes were understandable/cool/came out well: Arwen, Saruman’s death, etc. Others failed pretty much utterly and made the character insipid (Faramir) or killed the tragic nature of the character (Denethor), leaving nothing in its place, seemed unnecessary and didn’t achieve anything much dramatically (in the literary sense).

    “Not perfect, no precious. Not perfect at all.”

    Maybe the appendix material will fit in to the story well, like visual exposition of Gandalf’s fight with the Balrog, and maybe it will be out of place. I’m looking forward to seeing it nonetheless. It may be too late for PJ/PB to show the exhibit the hobbit story in its original tone after doing LotR (perforce), but let’s not tell Ostadan that awards mean the team can’t be questioned. Oi!

  8. hydroxide says:

    They might have dipped their feet in, but they never really looked under the surface. Middle-Earth is defined not the least by its mythology, and casting the entire metaphysical level aside for something more in line with a movie audience is hardly expanding upon Middle-Earth.

  9. hydroxide says:

    There actually IS logic in it. Because neither slavishly following the text nor “filling in the blanks” necessarily show that you have UNDERSTOOD what you are dealing with.

  10. hydroxide says:


    I know Tolkien fans seem to hate what Jackson did with Faramir, but I’ve never heard a good reason why, other than “It was too different.”

    Here’s two reasons:
    A)It destroys the dramatic dichotomy of Faramir vs. Boromir. That’s a dichotomy that works so splendidly in movies that it is almost an established trope – the two siblings with widely diverging characters ( http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SiblingYinYang ). So the “this is a movie, not a book” excuse doesn’t count. It makes Faramir LESS interesting as a character, because it reduces him to Boromir II. If Phillipa Boyens claims “It’s death on screen”, she’s simply not trying.

    B)It’s another kick in the groins for Tolkien’s importance of free will. Instead of supporting the Hobbits out of his own free will and insight, he does it only after external factors move him to do so. It’s one of at least half a dozen occasions where Jackson has given Tolkien’s philosophy marching orders and replaced them with some idea of his own.

  11. hydroxide says:

    Mythology depends critically on the metaphysical and the symbolical, both areas in which PJ cared little about Tolkien’s intentions.

  12. yaya gal says:

    That’s your opinion. There are many fans who don’t agree. Besides, that’s the whole beauty of retelling a story – the teller adds his/her own spin to it. If you want the original story exactly as it was, go back to the book. Because you are never, ever, EVER going to get a film that is just like the book. It’s simply impossible to do. For one thing, a film of the book exactly as it is would be at least 20 hours long, probably much longer. All those pages and pages of long, drawn-out conversations? Would be literally HOURS of film. If you want Tolkien’s vision, read the book. And even then, what you are imagining as you read it is probably different from what Tolkien meant as he wrote it, because the pure fact of stories is that they are created by two – the teller and the listener. Until you own up to your part in that, you’ll never be satisfied by anything anyone does with Tolkien’s stories. They will always be “less” and “not as good”, because you’ve deified Tolkien but discounted your own intractable requirements.

  13. yaya gal says:

    You’re placing requirements on a film and filmmaker that are impossible to achieve. You want a filmmaker to adapt a book slavishly with no thought for his own experience as a filmmaker, or a reader, or even a person. That’s simply not going to happen, not with a screenwriter or a producer or a director. It is not possible for human beings to re-tell a story without influencing it, unless they just parrot word for word, and then what’s the point of re-telling? If you want a film that is exactly like Tolkien’s book, I’m afraid you’ll have to go out, raise the money and make it yourself. And when you do, I guarantee you legions of fans will come down on your head for how inaccurately YOU portrayed Tolkien. As sure as eggs are eggs.

  14. yaya gal says:

    So what will? Doing it the way YOU want? You’re expressing exactly the same attitude I was talking about. You want the film YOU want, not the film Jackson is making.

  15. yaya gal says:

    And how EXACTLY is Jackson supposed to include the “metaphysical level” in a film? Do you have any idea how incredibly hard it is to deal with any metaphysical subject on film, let alone a complex mythology you have no time to relate to the audience? You seem to either forget or just discount the fact that these films are not made JUST FOR THE FANS. They’re made for everyone who goes to see them, the majority of whom have not read these stories and have no knowledge of the complicated structures in Tolkien’s oeuvre. Take a step outside your own desires and try to see it from the point of view of others, and not just what you want to see privately.

    Of course, if you’ve got 400 million dollars sitting around somewhere to commission your own version, that’s a horse of a different color. Knock yourself out, and find out in the process how hard it is, and how many people will stomp on you for not doing it THEIR way.

  16. yaya gal says:

    Is that what he’s saying? Then I agree. The main reason I stopped getting into these discussions years ago here is that I got tired and frustrated with the whole HE’S RUINED THE HOLY TRILOGY BLASPHEMER!!!11!!! purist attitude. Why people think other artists have no right to put their own interpretation on it, I don’t understand. I’ve seen paintings and drawings done of Tolkien’s subjects that I thought were hideous, but I didn’t claim they had somehow “ruined” anything. I just don’t look at them again. Why can’t people just treat the films the same way? Don’t like ’em? Don’t watch ’em! Read the book. Problem solved!

  17. yaya gal says:

    Thank you. That’s exaly how I feel. Storytellers tell stories, and they tell them in their own way. Expecting to see what you want instead of what the teller wants to tell you is just self-defeating – you’re goin to dislike it no matter what the teller does.

    Here’s how I look at it: since Tolkien created what I consider to be a truly viable mythology, the original book is how they tell the stories in England, and Jackson’s version is how the stories are told in New Zealand, halfway around the world. Myths and legends are always changing, and I think it’s fitting that Tolkien’s oeuvre go through its mythological evolution too. (For a really cute example of this, see the film “Reign of Fire”, where an early scene depicts the re-telling of Star Wars as a crude stage play by a group of kids who’ve grown up post-apocalypse and thus have no experience of it other than their parents’ patchy re-telling of the story.)

  18. yaya gal says:

    Well, we only ever saw one dwarf in LOTR, so assuming these dwarves are somehow more “wild” isn’t very accurate. Or would you expect every dwarf to look and act exactly like Gimli? Tolkien didn’t, so why should you?

  19. yaya gal says:

    You complain about the shallowness of Jackson’s version of Faramir, yet you’vre blind to the shallowness of your own view of how people decide things. Jackson’s Faramir is a VERY complex character. He’s trying terribly hard – too hard, perhaps – to please an angry, hateful father and to honor the memory of his brother, whom he loves no matter what his father says. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place. Having grown up with just such a father, the film character made me cry in a way the book character never did, because he’s a real, conflicted son, not some mythical version of a noble hero. That’s why I like Jackson’s characterizations – they’re real people who act in real ways.

  20. yaya gal says:

    You gotta wonder about someone who claims to know the book but didn’t know THAT.

  21. yaya gal says:

    Yeah, I’m amazed by people who claim to be Tolkien fans, and yet say they want The Hobbit “but not all thre rest of that stuff” as if the things in the Appendices are somehow not Tolkien enough for them.

  22. hydroxide says:

    No, I am not blind at all, you merely read things into my comment that I didn’t actually say at all. I did NOT complain about the shallowness of Jackson’s version of Faramir, but about the shallowness of the character constellation.

    And yes, I know Jackson’s fans like him for his “real” characters – but Tolkien uses archetypes for a reason.

  23. hydroxide says:

    And I would suggest you familiarize yourself with the meaning of the term “metaphysical”. There are a gazillion of movies out there which very much breathe a philosophy or hard philosophical questions from the live action to the animated. Tolkien’s philosophy is in large parts markedly absent from the movies and in some parts replaced by its antithesis.

    What makes it hard to incorporate such levels is a focus on the physical. Of course when your thoughts revolve around the physical level, it is hard to come up with a way to incorporate non-physical aspects. And that’s precisely what I dislike in Jackson’s interpretation.

    I would urgently advise you to view a few more movies, cause there’s plenty of directors who have no problem whatsoever in this field.

  24. hydroxide says:

    You are the one who is expressing slavish devotion, not me.

  25. hydroxide says:

    And given that you ignore what people actually say (repeatedly now), instead propping up strawmen to insult and berate people, kindly stop pretending that you are willing to debate the issue.

  26. Hugh Mungus says:

    Get a life people. We are not taking about the works of Homer or some re-interpretation of “the Good Book”…you know the one Hollyweird recently ruined… (I am talking about Dr. Suess’s the Lorax of course). But we are talking about a beloved myth just the same, with less archaeological evidence no doubt, but a myth nonetheless.

    In the end, the beauty of all great literature be it Beowulf, Virgil or Yeats, CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien, is that on some level we all have our own unique emotions and memories associated with these great works with our own personal agendas, which are often open to interpretation. Of course there will be different reactions and opinions. Middle Earth to Ringers,,, that is what makes the whole thing so “derned” interesting!

    Remember the Hobbit is supposed to be fun?!” I am no anthropologist but isn’t that what makes great “Faire” Tales the world over, the idea that a similar theme is told slightly differently in various cultures and settings?

    If you want scientific proofs study chemistry or mathematics. For me, perhaps like young Oliver Twist, I am happy and content just to acquire another helping of PJ’s interpretation of Middle Earth or any artful re-calibration for the silver screen however I can get it. (I wouldn’t be upset if The Farmer Giles of Ham or Smith of Wootton Major could be next).

    Instead of criticizing PJ perhaps there is someone else out there who bethinks they could tackle the Simarillion in its entirety. Good luck to whomever (in the Dickens) thinks they could cut that cake and find a magic star inside.

  27. StriderIsMyDog'sName says:

    I’m not too worried. Peter Jackson has shown us that he is more than capable of pulling off something as big as The Lord of the Rings, so what’s the big deal? I mean, Ostadan does make some good points, but I think he’s worrying about it too much. And BTW people, some of us DO remember the dates, places and cities in the books. That tends to happen the 39th time you’ve read it! (: Go Peter Jackson!

  28. Frodosonofdrogo says:

    Very good points. However I was under the impression that the 3rd film would be more of a backstory to the hobbit. (ie war of dwarves and orcs and throw and thrains death and smaug coming to the loneley mountain, ) anyone agree?

  29. Frodosonofdrogo says:

    Hey I’m on silmarillion too!

  30. Mark says:

    I’ve read LOTR and The Hobbit. I get where the author is coming from in that The Hobbit is its own “thing” and you definitely do get a different feeling when you read it compared to LOTR.

    But c’mon! The two are attached in a very real and meaningful way. I’ve been dying to see The Hobbit made into a movie, especially after LOTR. With that said, I always hoped that PJ would do it and was actually a little miffed when I first heard that he wouldn’t be. Now that he is, i’m excited because like it or not, The Hobbit is a prequel and is a vital part of the Middle Earth saga. Yes, it was originally written as a childrens book…but does that mean that PJ has to make the movie child’esq to stay true to the book? I mean really, the story lacks details and explanations. PJ is going to beef it up and tie the two together. Explain to me how that is a bad thing?

    Just because the narrative is written at a children’s level in the book, it does not mean that J.R.R. wouldn’t like added depth inferred by older readers…especially those that read LOTR after.

    J.R.R. did not write apendices and THe Silmarillion for the hell of it. He wanted to provide his fans with as much information and depth to fully enjoy his works. Why is a director who is trying to do the same with his movies beind ridiculed?

  31. Olorin says:

    yaya gal, everything you’ve been saying is spot on–100%–I totally agree. I’m glad there are people like you in this world.

  32. elanor says:

    For Hydroxide,
    I agree that Jackson has infused his LOTR films with his own “values” and that in several instances he leaves Tolkien’s blueprint (Faramir torturing Gollum, dumb Dwarf jokes, Sam crushing the discovered lembas, Frodo’s heartbreak that he ultimately lost his battle against the Ring, and his continued longing for It, etc), but for the most part, in all three movies, he got it right.
    I find the Nazgul exceedingly frightening and “authentic” to my conception of them in PJ’s movies. I am sorry you feel differently, but I would love to know what YOU would have done differently to convey Tolkien’s idea that “their greatest weapon is fear”? How would you convey, visually and aurally, that these beings are wasted, (butter-scraped-over-way-too-much-bread!) evil-sustained corpses of long-dead mighty kings, who sold their souls for greed and power and endless “life” hundreds of years before?
    You are right that the metaphysical level is just as critical as the physical one, but in a book, the metaphysical is easily conveyed, while in film it is quite difficult.
    I am mystified that you would mention the Ring of Barahir – for me, it was a delight to see that Weta designed it and placed it on Viggo’s hand. What would you have preferred? A spoken explanation? A flashback? Please let us know your ideas.

  33. elanor says:

    Again for hydroxide,
    Again, I agree with your assessment of Aragorn as the character Tolkien created. But again you ignore the needs of 1.film and 2. the great un-read audience. Like it or not, his film version of LOTR was intended for a wide audience, yet (to me) still mostly pleasing to those who know and love the books.
    For example: Tolkien’s Aragorn carries with him the broken shards of Narsil. That is a potent idea in the book, but when you are actually showing the man who is walking around in a physical environment, living as a Ranger would, sleeping on the ground (outside of an occasional stay at an Inn), what sense does that make? He needs working weapons to defend himself, feed himself, and to defend the Hobbits, once they come under his care. Carrying pieces of a broken sword all over Eriador is just plain nonsense. Works in a book/doesn’t work in a film.
    Above all, films need tension. If they don’t have tension, they get boring. The film Aragorn was portrayed as fearless, heroic and skilled (all in the book) but with personal self-doubt. That gave the film tension. (the origin of the self-doubt is also in the book – at least in the Appendices – see the tale of Aragorn and Arwen)
    As for Elrond, the visual design of Rivendell with its numerous “scientific” props alone conveyed that this was a place of learning and wisdom. Elrond the character conveyed a mistrust of “men” that was not portrayed in the book, but I felt the movie justified it by the fact that he did witness Isildur’s choice first hand, and because he knows his daughter loves a mortal. PJ didn’t make this up – both those “facts” were created by Tolkien – but PJ & co found an emotional connection for the actor to play which created….tension.
    I would like to suggest what to do with the time that is given you before the first Hobbit film appears in December: get used to the fact that the movie will be different from the book; it will be a film interpretation of the book – not the book in film form. It will be full of characters we love, some quite similar, some bound to be different. But it will be a journey back to Middle Earth again.

  34. hydroxide says:

    You would be far more convincing if you didn’t simply disregard what people actually wrote and simply copy/pasted the same mindless rants whether appropriate or not.

    I never said anything about adapting a book slavishly, nor about wanting anything that is exactly like Tolkien’s book. What I want, however, is not using Tolkien’s work as a Trojan horse for a completely different philosophical concept.

  35. hydroxide says:

    The only example of deification is your crusade against criticism. You neglect completely the body of work that exists on Tolkien, and has existed long before the movies, you never, EVER touch the actual arguments brought by people and instead fall into a diatribe with the same ol’ same ol’ copied arguments the moment someone dares criticise the movies.

    Once you actually touch on the specific arguments being brought up instead of plainly claiming there were none and that people just wanted a slavishly copied book, come back. As long as all you can do is scream out “Burn the heretic!”, your accusation that others deified Tolkien, especially when they rely on academic literature, is nothing but disqualifying yourself.

  36. Mickey Bitsko says:

    Food for thought, but I’m reminded of Orson Welles’ comment during a 1962 interview with Huw Weldon about Welles’ film adaptation of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” some of which I quote below:

    WHELDON: Do you have any compunction about changing a masterpiece?

    WELLES: Not at all, because film is quite a different medium. Film should not be a fully illustrated, all talking, all moving version of a printed work, but should be itself, a thing of itself. In that way it uses a novel in the same way that a playwright might use a novel– as a jumping off point from which he will create a completely new work. So no, I have no compunction about changing a book. If you take a serious view of filmmaking, you have to consider that films are not an illustration or an interpretation of a work, but quite as worthwhile as the original.

    WHELDON: So it’s not a film of the book, it’s a film based on the book?

    WELLES: Not even based on. It’s a film inspired by the book, in which my collaborator and partner is Kafka. That may sound like a pompous thing to say, but I’m afraid that it does remain a Welles film and although I have tried to be faithful to what I take to be the spirit of Kafka, the novel was written in the early twenties, and this is now 1962, and we’ve made the film in 1962, and I’ve tried to make it my film because I think that it will have more validity if it’s mine.

    The complete interview: http://www.wellesnet.com/trial%20bbc%20interview.htm

  37. Binks Webelf says:

    I will see this movie in the same way as Jackson’s “Peter Jackson’s Return Of The King, By Peter Jackson”.. “Oh look, here’ something kinda cool-looking, somewhat based on a set of books I love, but generally misunderstood as a dramedy (drama-comedy) about something or other.” My perfect Hobbit exists in my imagination– and, unlike Peter Jackson’s answer when asked “What The LOTR was All About, I don’t answer “Freindship.. and stuff.” However, it’s interesting how the argument & discussion on the article headed for some into the solipsistic “it’s all a matter of interpretation” (really? even that statement itself?). For this formerly obsessive trekkie-starwars-lort nerd, that’s right up there with the worst line in moviedom ever, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” (absolutely?). Tolkien’s Middle Earth was not a deconstructionist fantasy, nor DIY moral universe. When PJ, by the authority and limited wisdom of PJ, misunderstands, omits, flips upside-down, or inserts George Lucasite whatnot, he is doing violence to the mythic world, the characters, the moral, spiritual, and dramatic themes of the story- of something he did not create or sub-create. I hope these movies are a “themes & variations” on The Hobbit story, and not a filmic equivalent of that woman who “restored” the fresco of Jesus into something looking like a monkey. In any case, the books are still the real thing– and no matter if PJ is a vandal or an artist with the material– he cannot do better than J.R.R. himself did. His or our misunderstandings of these novles says more about our confused times, than it does about the books, or Tolkien’s mind & faith & wisdom.

  38. elanor says:

    Then tell us, hydroxide, which movies you believe are examples of how metaphysical ideas/philosophy are best put on film.

  39. Jake Conde says:

    I really think that this whole thing could have been avoided by naming these films The Lord of the Rings, with the subtitles being Riddles in the Dark, The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, and Return of the King.
    Riddles in the Dark refers to the following elements: The meaning of the map and key in Rivendell, Gandalf trying to discover the ancient evil affecting the land, the strange choice of Bilbo as part of the party (and Thorin wondering why), the iconic scene in the cave with Gollum, troubling developments like finding the Morgul Blade, etc.
    The Desolation of Smaug is obvious, it’s about not only the land wasted by the dragon and the physical fight, but it delves deeply into Thorin’s fears and griefs and losses, trying to be King Under the Mountain of a Broken Kingdom, and Bard’s struggles as a King in exhile, his Kingdom in ruins to the north.
    The Hobbit is about Bilbo, it shows and delves into his courage, his desires for peace above war, his cherishing friendship and warmth over power and wealth. The movie ends with Bilbo as vindicated as a hero.
    Just make them all Lord of the Rings: __________________________ and suddenly it all fits thematically and its clear this will not be The Hobbit the book, but the events of the Hobbit as well as the other information will form a prequel to the events in the Lord of the RIngs.

  40. Ayup Ostadan…
    Agree 100%.

  41. bohemond says:

    Give me a break!

    Boyens may call herself a fangirl, she may have read HOME and letters, but it’s painfully clear from the filler she added to the Lord of the Rings that she has never, ever actually understood what she was reading. Clueless in every respect.

    “They each have distinct names because they are portraying crucial years of history in MIDDLE EARTH. So in that sense, Jackson could have called this Movie, MIddle Earth Sagas”

    In other words, fan-fic.

  42. bohemond says:

    False. Like everything else in the Appendices (except certain passages on Hobbits and the history of languages), it was retconned after the narrative was finished.

  43. bohemond says:

    “Brilliant?” I’m not sure I’d use that for a script which dumbs down its source material at every turn, leaving in nothing which might prove challenging to a retarded 8-year-old.

  44. bohemond says:

    More Jackson crap is better? God save us from fanboyz!

  45. bohemond says:

    Strawman, and an oooold one. Yawn.

  46. bohemond says:

    “You seem to either forget or just discount the fact that these films are not made JUST FOR THE FANS. They’re made for everyone who goes to see them, the majority of whom have not read these stories and have no knowledge of the complicated structures in Tolkien’s oeuvre. ”

    In other words, you’re admitting they’re made for dummies.

  47. bohemond says:

    ” like Philippa said, “I don’t think it’s as important as to who says certain lines, as much as someone in the film says it.””

    Proof again of her cluelessness.

  48. bohemond says:

    wow, that lame argument again. Since film necessarily requires adaptation, therefore we should just accept any old crap?

  49. bohemond says:

    “an angry, hateful father”

    A shallow cartoon created by simpleminded screenwriters who never understood the source they were attempting- poorly- to adapt.

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