We’ve been digging through the Green Book archives a bit to find relevant articles discussing the ‘purity’ of Tolkien and his works. We came across this classic from Green Book author, Anwyn, where she addresses the questions that came out of watching the 2003 MTV Movie Awards. If you aren’t familiar with it…read on!
I admit it. I’m at a loss for a stunning literary topic, one that will provoke your emotions, stimulate your mind, and offer some insight into Tolkien’s life or works. I sat down this evening with my brain half fried, knowing that I had a deadline to meet, and started flipping channels. Lo and behold, what did I pass but the MTV Movie Awards, and hark, who should be sitting behind Kirsten Dunst but the intrepid trio of Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, and Billy Boyd? Moreover, what award should they be announcing at that very moment but the award for “Best Movie?” I stayed to watch, having not bothered the first time they ran it.
I admit it. My finger is not on the pulse, as they say, of the pop-culture acclaim the Lord of the Rings movie phenomenon has generated and continues to stoke. I have not followed marketing trends; I couldn’t tell my father what TTT had grossed at the box office when he asked. I know, in a general way, that these films are wildly popular beyond the book’s fan base, that the movies have started their own fire that, due to the modern climate, burns higher than the literary one created when Tolkien was still living. What I don’t know is whether or not that’s a good thing.
The intro was cute. Keanu Reeves was charming. And the winner is … The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Elijah, Billy and Sean, looking MTV cool in untucked, unbuttoned shirts, bounded up on stage, where Sean apologized for Gollum’s previous tirade. “That dude is out of control!”
I admit it. I didn’t watch TORn’s clip of Gollum’s “acceptance speech.” I read a transcript and was horrified enough that I had no desire to watch it. Why? you ask. It was funny! you say. Perhaps. But the issue, in my mind, was not whether or not it was funny, but the fact that Tolkien is barrel-rolling in his grave at having one of his characters co-opted into speaking such filth. Puritan, you remark. Perhaps. “Purist” would be closer to the mark, I think. The hallmark of Tolkien’s work is the very purity of his language, and to find the most vile of modern insults coming out of the mouth of a digitally created Gollum disgusted me and, I think, would have appalled and disgusted Tolkien.
The boyishly handsome trio accepted the award on behalf of the production and left the stage. I came to my computer wondering. This new popularity: good or bad?
There is no need to speculate about what Tolkien himself would have thought. Though the popularity of his books, in his day, was smaller in scope and lesser in frantic, frenzied intensity than that we are observing now in response to the movies, he still had to fend off a wave of targeted questioning and obsession with minutiae, causing him to make remarks about his “deplorable cultus” and the dangers of becoming involved in the stories “in a way I’m not.” That tendency is more alive and well than ever today, thanks partly to the very wonderful establishment with which I am connected and others like it on the internet. “Fan fiction,” which I assume to have existed before the web but which certainly has suffered an unbelievable popularity explosion since, with access to an immediate and free forum, proves this in and of itself, as do the myriad questions we get at Green Books every day.
My colleague Quickbeam and many others have come down to the baseline opinion that if it encourages people to read Tolkien, then the indignities that come with the Hollywood marketing machine are well endured. But arepeople reading Tolkien as a result of all this hype? The evidence that I see is mixed.
We get many letters at GB that include notes like “I am now reading the books to my [sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, grandchildren], and they LOVE them. They would never have been interested in them before the movie.” That’s wonderful, and of course I couldn’t be anything but pleased. But we get a greater number of notes, questions for the Q&A, that clearly show that their authors have not read and have no desire to read—only to know more about the world that their current idols [insert Elijah, Orlando, Billy, Dominic, Sean, Sean, or Viggo here] inhabit in these films. “Who is Aragorn and where did he come from?” “Who are Legolas’s parents? Does he ever fall in love? Is it true that he dies in the third movie?” and my personal favorite, “Can you give me a complete history of Elrond? Who is he, where did he come from, who are his parents, what is his significance?” Don’t tell me that these folks have any intention of reading—this stuff could be readily found if they’d ever even cracked a book.
So if people are not reading, what’s the fuss about? Special effects, swordplay, hot guys, and hot chicks, apparently. Again I hear that scraping, swishing sound … Tolkien is rolling.
I am not intending any commentary here on Jackson’s films themselves. My opinions on that score are well documented elsewhere. My concern is with the ultramodern hype that has followed.
I admit it. There’s not much reason to care whether or not the marketing machine runs at full efficiency and creates these millions of screaming Orli drones. After all, what does it hurt Tolkien’s books or my enjoyment of them? From one perspective, it doesn’t hurt one iota. From another perspective, it hurts to see characters that I regarded as the highest of the high, the pinnacle of heroic epic, degenerated into pop-culture icons. And it is not so with some of my other favorites. Anne of Green Gables, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility, and others have all been brought with sensitivity and grace to the big screen. And sensitivity and grace are not lacking in the majority of Jackson’s characterizations, either. So the difference must lie in the public reaction to them and to the supposedly clever accolades, like Gollum’s fling at the MTV awards, that follow.
Forgive me, dear readers, if I am indulging in a ramble without a point. This musing is simply part of a bigger question—how healthy is all this fandom, anyway? “Frenzy and intensity,” I said above to describe the modern fanboy and fangirl machines, and it’s true. The nearness of people to one another through the media and internet allows them to mass-embrace one concept in a way they never could have done a century ago. Is this healthy for our individual and collective minds and spirits? The screaming, the shoving for a picture or an autograph … I digress. Those are issues connected with all popular Hollywooders, not with Lord of the Rings alone, of course. And I guess that’s the crux of the matter—something formerly so exalted in the realm of literature alone has been brought to a level equal to that of the Backstreet Boys or Britney Spears. I guess that’s where the real rub lies. Like the rub of a tweed jacket upon the inside of a coffin. Tolkien is rolling.
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What lessons can Amazon learn from the team that’s been there & back again? Let’s find out! Join TORn Tuesday hosts Cliff Broadway and Justin Sewell for an epic All-Star LOTR panel tomorrow! Joining us will be Mark Ordesky (Executive Producer), Sean Astin (Actor – Sam Gamgee), Rick Porras (Co-producer), Jim Rygiel (Visual Effects Supervisor), Michael Pellerin (Producer, multiple LOTR & Hobbit documentaries), Keith Stern (Ian McKellen’s Digital Manager), and Sala Baker (Actor – Sauron), as we all relive memories of filming LORD OF THE RINGS. What were those early days on set like? Did producers follow the fan discussion online? What made this effort so special? Get your deep knowledge questions ready for this multi-Oscar winning team and join the Live chat tomorrow 5pm PT. There are three options to watch the live stream, each of which let you comment and ask questions of your own:
One of my favorite lines from our freinds at Weta Workshop is the mini-statue line. As I’ve mentioned before, these statues are really super well done, and done at a price that allows for collectors on a budget to get some Middle-earth goodness.
A statue of Samwise was long over due, as he has not had one from Weta since the Sam and Bill statue 17 years ago. Samwise comes in with a price tag of $79 and is a short pre-order with a shipping due date of just this month.
We are now about halfway through the first Round of our Middle-earth March Madness, and some of the match ups are really close, while others have one contestant running away with the race. Because this year’s bracket has the newly added twist of featuring characters portrayed by the actors who brought our most beloved Middle-earth characters to life, this rundown will include a little about those non-Middle-earth characters.
The traditional match ups first: Boromir is facing off with Gimli in a close race, make sure you vote before the evening of March 22, this one is close enough that your vote will definitely matter. The contest between Samwise and Merry has the acclaimed gardener running away with nearly all the points on this one. Surprisingly, the other match up of Hobbits is unexpectedly close, with Frodo holding a slim lead over Pippin. To cap off the Fellowship match ups, Aragorn is soundly beating Legolas.
With the non-ME characters, there is just as much variety in vote percentages. Sean Bean’s portrayal of Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones has a narrow lead over Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner, from Pirates of the Caribbean. The next race is just as close, between Viggo’s portrayal of real life long distance, endurance horse racer Frank Hopkins with a slim lead over John Rhys Davies’ Sallah from Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is a neck and neck contest going on between Dom’s Charlie Pace, the recovering addict rock star from Lost has a very narrow lead over Billy Boyd’s Barrett Bonden, the coxswain on the HMS Surprise in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Not close is the fact that Sean Astin’s earnest performance of Rudy is decidedly running away with the race, leaving Elijah Wood’s Ryan Newman from Wilfred.
“You All Everybody” should get out and vote before 10pm et on March 22.
In this division, the ME match ups are as follows: Galadriel has firm control of the contest with Eomer, the Lady of Light is not easily taken out of events. Faramir has a small lead over Old Bilbo, so you may still be able to give a helping hand to the Hobbit that found the One Ring in the first place. Eowyn and Gollum are nearly neck and neck, can the Shieldmaiden of Rohan defeat the sneakiness of Smeagol? Her uncle Theoden, however, is wiping the floor with Denethor, who became tainted by his contact with the Palantir.
The non-ME roles are proving interesting as well: Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death from Thor: Ragnarok has a decent lead over Andy Serkis’ Caesar, the ape leader from Planet of the Apes. At the same time, Karl Urban’s Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy is soundly beating Sir Ian Holm’s Ash, the rather inhuman android from the original Alien movie, who admired the xenomorph just a little more than he valued human life. There are two battles that are very close and would benefit from a last fit of voting on your part. Those are between David Wenham’s Carl from Van Helsing just edging out Bernard Hill’s Captain Smith from Titanic, who did his duty and went down with the ship. The other close battle is between Miranda Otto’s Mary Ann from War of the World with a slim margin over John Noble’s brilliant, but crazy Walter Bishop from Fringe.
On the other side of the bracket, let’s see who is doing well for the traditional match ups: Believe it or not, Gandalf is stomping all over Young Bilbo, guess that is punishment for not telling the truth about finding the One Ring. Dwalin has a sizable lead over Radagast, but then, he does have a massive War Hammer, this is not surprising. Amongst the Dwarves from The Hobbit, Kili is slaying pick pocket Nori, while Thorin is not really faring well against Saruman. Feel free to give a boost to those you wish to support and share with your friends, it’s all in good fun.
The non-ME side of things has: Sir Ian McKellen’s Magneto soundly thrashing Richard Armitage’s John Thornton from North and South, the clever mutant is probably dismantling all of Thorton’s looms as this is written. Graham MacTavish’s Dougal from Outlander is all but finished at the hands of Martin Freeman’s Dr. Watson, it’s those modern Doctors he can’t handle, clearly. As expected, Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith is trouncing Jed Brophy’s Dagda More from the Shannara, this writer would love to see this battle realized on screen. A little less expected, but even cooler for that is that Sylvestor McCoy’s Doctor has the upper hand on Aiden Turner’s Ross Poldark, Time Lords really do know how to come out on top when needed.
Last division match ups, for the traditional segment: Elrond has a decent lead over Smaug, which is fascinating to see. The Master of Laketown is no match for Tauriel, she saw his selfishness and is leaving him to his own ruin. There is a relatively close match between Thranduil and Bard, with the Elven King of Mirkwood edging out the Bowman of Laketown. Bard’s son Bain is faring even worse in his match up with Azog. This calls for some voter help, Bain came to his father’s aid while the town was burning under the wrath of an angry dragon, the least we can do is vote for them and see how things play out.
Over on the final division of non-ME characters: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is so soundly beating Stephen Fry’s Oscar Wilde, it’s almost as if something very large has been dropped on him. This writer’s favorite match up in this round is Luke Evan’s Gaston from Beauty and the Beast against Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith from the Matrix. A battle of the bragalicious Gaston up against the master manipulator within the Matrix is just something that should be onscreen. Right now, Agent Smith is defeating Gaston. A match that is all but over is that of Lee Pace’s Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy wiping the floor with John Bell’s Young Iain from Outland, poor lad never stood a chance. And the very last match up to get coverage tonight see’s a near tie between Evangeline Lilly’s Kate Austen from Lost squaring off with Manu Bennet’s Deathstroke from Arrow, another match up I would love to see on screen.
Last chance to vote in Round 1 is 10pm et on Thursday, March 22. Round 2 will begin on Friday, March 23.
It only makes sense, with the last of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy coming out this December, to have some kind of presence from Middle-earth at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. You will get that and more to keep you happy, if you are a fan of Middle-earth! You have some of the actors who have been in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy there for various projects, our awesome Laketown Luau sponsors Weta Workshop and Badali Jewlery, and of course the Laketown Luau. So with just eight days left before Comic-Con 2014, we wanted to list for you all the Middle-earth presence you will find at this year’s event.
Season 2 of Hollywood Treasure opened with a segment sure to spark the interest of Tolkien and Lord of the Ring fans. Actor Sean Astin, commonly known as Samwise Gamgee around these parts, was treated to a viewing of one of only three original maps of Middle Earth, illustrated by Pauline Baynes who was commissioned to do all of the artwork for the book’s first publication. In a bit of quid pro quo Sean returns with some of his cherished mementos from the shoot including his elven broach and Sam’s pack. The episode is available to watch on Hulu as well at SYFY.com’s site. (and also after the break) If you were wondering – Hollywood Treasure boss Joe thinks the original map will go to auction later in 2012 and should fetch something in the neighborhood of US$30,000 to US$50,000. Don’t forget you can follow Sean on Twitter . Our thanks to Spy elswifto for the heads up. [Hollywood Treasure]