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Beleg Cuthalion 02-06-2005 06:28 PM

Dumbing it down
 
This is partly inspired by my own thoughts and partly by the avatar of Elrond's Daughter.

I don't really think it's the fault of Orlando Bloom or any of the other cast members that Legolas comes off as some sort of outrageous M-E equivelant of Neo, given to constant overstatement. It was Peter Jackson and his co-writers who introduced the stunts that many Tolkien enthusiasts revile (such as mself), the at times overtly-modern in influence dialogue (Legolas proclaiming "Game Over" as though he's just finished up a brisk session of Pac-Man, or Gandalf's "You'd better hope we don't have one of those on our tail", sounding suspiciously like a seasoned Bomber Command pilot inveighing against the likelyhood of Messerschmits come to mind), and plot points that ought to already be obvious made explicit ("A diversion!").

My point is that I feel that the writers, despite their stellar work on much of the films seem to, in my opinion at least, attempt lower the bar far enough that even the most witless theatre-goer will not fail to have the message pounded into his brain. It just seems as though all subtlety is abandoned in many cases in favour of making a point in as broad a fashion as possible.

To make a comparison with a film I loathe, having Legolas surf down the stairway or the Mumak's trunk is similar to the WWF references found in one scene of Shrek. It's as though if we don't include at least a few references to prosaic modernity that the audience will develop no interest in the film they're watching.

Are we really as dumb as all that?

Nimrodel_9 02-06-2005 06:38 PM

Welcome to the Barrow-Downs, Beleg!

I'm not quite sure where you are going with this, but ok.
Quote:

You'd better hope we don't have one of those on our tail
I didn't like that line. It sounded to modern, and my brother noticed it too. It's the same with the "game over" part.
As for the part where Lego slides down the oliphaunts trunk, it reminded me of Tarzan. :p

Nim

Beleg Cuthalion 02-06-2005 06:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nimrodel_9
As for the part where Lego slides down the oliphaunts trunk, it reminded me of Tarzan. :p

Nim

Whoah! That's freaky. Here I was writing this and I'm thinking, "Legolas swing! Angry Oliphaunt take Jane!! Jane!!". :D

Nimrodel_9 02-06-2005 07:09 PM

Quote:

Whoah! That's freaky. Here I was writing this and I'm thinking, "Legolas swing! Angry Oliphaunt take Jane!! Jane!!".
Heh heh. Great minds think alike? That or LotR obsessed minds are connected. :)

Encaitare 02-06-2005 08:26 PM

Quote:

You'd better hope we don't have one of those on our tail
Well, horses have tails... and they were on a horse... :rolleyes:

Beleg Cuthalion 02-06-2005 08:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Encaitare
Well, horses have tails... and they were on a horse... :rolleyes:

Indeed. But that particular turn of phrase wasn't originated until recently. A much more accurate (and I think, more pleasing to the ear) line would have been "And you had better hope we do not have one of those at our heels".

Kitanna 02-06-2005 09:00 PM

Mmmmm, are we really that dumb? Well, Tolkien fans would have no problem understanding the movies without those kind of lines thrown in. But the LOTR movies are for everyone and not everyone can understand Tolkien's works. (like myself, I can't read the Silm without stopping and rereading, trying to get a grasp on what the heck is going on) Personally I think PJ and team threw those lines in to help/ add a modern feel for the casual movie goer. Kinda of like the whole Aragorn and Arwen thing. Don't you think that would confuse people if at the end of ROTK Aragorn just married some random elf instead of Eowyn if you hadn't read the books? Things had to be added to help people who hadn't read the books. It just helps to understand things. I didn't read FOTR until after the movie and I found understanding a lot of the history easier because of those dumbed down parts from the movie. But to each his own.

Though a lot of those lines are even more dumbed down then they should be. Like Gimli at the Black Gate "well that concludes negoations (sp? oh whatever)". Well duh. That kind of thing is really not needed. It takes away from the dramtic scene with some mindless line. And from Gimli of all people (and dwarves). Gimli is way to cool for something like that.

The Saucepan Man 02-06-2005 09:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Beleg Cuthalion
My point is that I feel that the writers, despite their stellar work on much of the films seem to, in my opinion at least, attempt lower the bar far enough that even the most witless theatre-goer will not fail to have the message pounded into his brain.

I suspect that it has more to do with making the film relevant and accessible to film audiences than with patronising them.

Neurion 02-06-2005 11:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
I suspect that it has more to do with making the film relevant and accessible to film audiences than with patronising them.

Yes, but it's still more than possible to carry such good intentions way too far.

The Saucepan Man 02-07-2005 03:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Neurion
Yes, but it's still more than possible to carry such good intentions way too far.

That, of course, depends on your perspective. From the point of view of most ardent fans of Tolkien's works, you are right. But vast numbers of film-goers, many critics and those responsible for nominating and selecting films for awards would probably disagree.

From where I am standing, it looks like Jackson and co suceeded greatly in making the films relevant and accessible to modern audiences. Perhaps they would have suceeded in equal measure had they not used the techniques described above, but we cannot know that for sure unless and until a more faithful film adaptation of the book is made.

Lalaith 02-07-2005 03:56 AM

I didn't mind "one of those on our tail" or the surfing, but I do agree about the dumbing down in general...and of Gimli in particular.
One of the things that bugged me was that many of the additions made by the film-makers involved the spurious imposition of 21st century sensibilities onto these characters.
It's a small thing I know, but something that rankled with me was Theoden's weeping at Theodred's grave, "no parent should have to bury their child." Now, that is very much a 21st century feeling. In societies like that of Rohan, parents buried their children ALL the time. Illness, war and so on. I'm not saying they wouldn't have grieved deeply, of course they did, but it wasn't that feeling of "this is all wrong" that we have today.

tar-ancalime 02-07-2005 10:18 AM

theodred was rolling in his grave
 
Quote:

It's a small thing I know, but something that rankled with me was Theoden's weeping at Theodred's grave, "no parent should have to bury their child."
I was just watching TTT last night, and this line struck me too, but for a slightly different reason. It made sense to me that Theoden should grieve openly--a king losing his only heir has wider repercussions than an ordinary death, and especially a king who's already been weakened by an outside influence should rightly be concerned about the future of his kingdom and about succession.

What bothered me was the clunky, ungrammatical, and anachronistic language Theoden used: Why not "No father should have to bury his son." Or "No king." The insertion of gender-equal language in this situation rings a little false to me, not to mention the lack or agreement between "parent" and "their."

Essex 02-07-2005 12:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tar-ancalime
What bothered me was the clunky, ungrammatical, and anachronistic language Theoden used: Why not "No father should have to bury his son." Or "No king." The insertion of gender-equal language in this situation rings a little false to me, not to mention the lack or agreement between "parent" and "their."

No disrespect, Tar-ancalime, but I think if we were to disect the movie to this level, then we will be here till doosmsday! :)

davem 02-07-2005 02:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpM
From where I am standing, it looks like Jackson and co suceeded greatly in making the films relevant and accessible to modern audiences. Perhaps they would have suceeded in equal measure had they not used the techniques described above, but we cannot know that for sure unless and until a more faithful film adaptation of the book is made.

I think that's why they fail for me - this desire to be 'relevant & accessible'. I don't think this played much of a part in Tolkien's thinking. He told the story in the way that felt 'right' & hoped readers would respond, though we know at first he held out little hope for that. I've just finished reading 'The Lord of the Rings:The Films. the Books, The Radio Series' by Jim Smith & J Clive Matthews (Virgin Books) & their opinion is that the movies improved on the books immeasurably. They criticise Tolkien on virtually every page while praising Jackson & the writers for putting right all his numerous 'faults'.

I know movies have to appeal to a mass audience & studios are averse (to say the least) to any kind of risk taking, but my feeling has always been that if they didn't want to be as faithful as possible to Tolkien's work they should have written their own story & filmed that. Once you choose to adapt an author's work you have a moral obligation to be as faithful as possible. One can argue whether the writers/director did that as far as the story is concerned, but I do question whether they had sufficient respect for Tolkien's language (or for the English language itself - 'Our list of allies is growing thin'! 'Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.' etc.). What irritated me most was characters jumping, often in the course of a sentence, from an archaic to a modern idiom. I have to agree with tar-ancalime in this regard. If we take the line given to Galadriel which I just quoted, it sounds wrong & out of character for her to say something like that because up to that point she has been using a very archaic style of speech. To suddenly change her speech pattern & phraseology causes serious problems for some of us, because one of those idioms must be 'false' - in the sense of not being her 'natural' way of speaking. Either the archaic style was false & the modern 'true' or vice versa. If the archaic is her natural 'style' then she is being condescending in suddenly adopting a modern idiom - which turns what she says into an insulting platitude - or if the modern idiom is her natural one then her earlier use of the archaic just comes across as pretentious. The language & speech patterns a character uses reflect the way that character thinks. Galadriel simply would not say 'Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.' because she wouldn't find that form of expression natural. She might say something like 'Oft has it been seen that the deeds of those deemed insignificant by the Wise have shaken the Towers of the Mighty' or some such (with abject apologies to Tolkien!!!) but she wouldn't talk about 'small persons changing the course of the future'.

(And I just know someone is going to pounce on all my grammatical fox paws in that post :( )

Boromir88 02-07-2005 03:29 PM

SpM:
Quote:

From where I am standing, it looks like Jackson and co suceeded greatly in making the films relevant and accessible to modern audiences.
I would agree. It is second on Imdb.com, just below "The Godfather." This is an opinion poll of imdb's users on what movies would people MOST likely enjoy. Also, we can credit Mr. Jackson for having Tolkien recently being reinstated as the top selling Author's of this century.

I know for me personally, the movies got me to pick up the book again. I hadn't picked up LOTR for about 15 years, and when the movies came out it got me back into appreciating him like I did back in the day. As a fan of Tolkien that is the best thing the movie has done, introduced more people into the world of Middle-earth, and gotten them into Tolkien.

Sophia the Thunder Mistress 02-07-2005 04:24 PM

Patronising Arwen
 
davem, fox paws or not :p, I think that may be the best expression that I have seen given to my opinion on this subject. Thanks for putting it in those terms. Now on to the meat:

Quote:

Personally I think PJ and team threw those lines in to help/ add a modern feel for the casual movie goer. Kinda of like the whole Aragorn and Arwen thing. Don't you think that would confuse people if at the end of ROTK Aragorn just married some random elf instead of Eowyn if you hadn't read the books? Things had to be added to help people who hadn't read the books. Posted by Kitanna
People frequently make this argument about Arwen's expanded role. It makes absolutely no sense to me why Arwen's part in the story is any more confusing in a film medium than it was in the original book. Her role is very small indeed as Tolkien wrote it and he took no pains to explain why Aragorn would pick Arwen over Eowyn. If we can understand it once we've read the book with no expansion of her role, I don't see that it makes a difference when translated to film.

So, though I disagree with the "more strong female presence is required to make a marketable film" argument, I think it makes a whole lot more sense than this one. This one, I feel, is patronising to the casual moviegoer.

Sophia

Beleg Cuthalion 02-07-2005 04:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sophia the Thunder Mistress
People frequently make this argument about Arwen's expanded role. It makes absolutely no sense to me why Arwen's part in the story is any more confusing in a film medium than it was in the original book. Her role is very small indeed as Tolkien wrote it and he took no pains to explain why Aragorn would pick Arwen over Eowyn. If we can understand it once we've read the book with no expansion of her role, I don't see that it makes a difference when translated to film.

So, though I disagree with the "more strong female presence is required to make a marketable film" argument, I think it makes a whole lot more sense than this one. This one, I feel, is patronising to the casual moviegoer.

Sophia

Arwen's role in the book isn't confusing at all, if you actually read the Appendices. According to Brian Sibley, Tolkien wanted to expand on Aragorn and arwen's love and history together within the Lord of the Rings, but he could never figure out how, so he included it in the the appendices instead of the main body of the story.

Tolkien did intend his mythology to be relatable to his readers, but not in the sense that an adolescent raised on a steady diet of pop-culture would find readily familiar.

The Saucepan Man 02-07-2005 06:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
... their opinion is that the movies improved on the books immeasurably.

A view that is probably surprisingly common. And I suppose it depends how one comes at the question. If they are arguing that the films are better at making the story accessible to as wide a range of people as possible in the early 21st century, then I would agree with them. Personally, I prefer the books, but it's a matter of taste and opinion and they are entitled to theirs.


Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
Once you choose to adapt an author's work you have a moral obligation to be as faithful as possible.

But what does that mean? Jackson and co would no doubt put up a respectable argument to the effect that they made as faithful an adaptation as was possible in the circumstances and within the constraints within which they were working. One could dispute that (and many of course do), but how far do you take it? What exactly is an adaptation that is "as faithful as possible"?

And I am rather perplexed as to why it should be a moral issue. Clearly they had the legal right to make the films, so no issue there. By selling the film rights, Tolkien gave his permission to anyone holding those rights to film his book. And, given that Jackson and co have made a trilogy of films that has brought pleasure to millions of people (and indeed have led many to the books), I cannot see that they are due any moral censure either. If they are, who are they answerable to? Who is responsible for deciding whether they have discharged their moral duty or not? I'm sorry, but I really don't see it as being a moral issue at all.

Kitanna 02-07-2005 06:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
Once you choose to adapt an author's work you have a moral obligation to be as faithful as possible.

Is it really an obligation to do that? If they have the rights they can do as they choose. It's not what I would call an obligation, it's more of a respect thing. Jackson and company kept many things the same and I think that's more out of respect for Tolkien and his work then because they were "obligated" to. I can see though how taking respect as a moral issue, but I don't see this as an moral obligation.

The Only Real Estel 02-07-2005 07:18 PM

backing up a few posts
 
Quote:

What bothered me was the clunky, ungrammatical, and anachronistic language Theoden used: Why not "No father should have to bury his son." Or "No king." The insertion of gender-equal language in this situation rings a little false to me, not to mention the lack or agreement between "parent" and "their."
I don't see any problem with the 'gender-equal' language that he uses here. I don't think that he needs to specify a son because surely he would not only be grieving because he's lost his heir? 'No parent should have to bury their child' works well for me becaue it is true--no parent should have to bury their child. I don't think it would've made much difference to Theoden whether he had lost a son or daughter, he would be grieving over either one of them equally IMO.

Beleg Cuthalion 02-07-2005 09:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
I think that's why they fail for me - this desire to be 'relevant & accessible'. I don't think this played much of a part in Tolkien's thinking. He told the story in the way that felt 'right' & hoped readers would respond, though we know at first he held out little hope for that. I've just finished reading 'The Lord of the Rings:The Films. the Books, The Radio Series' by Jim Smith & J Clive Matthews (Virgin Books) & their opinion is that the movies improved on the books immeasurably. They criticise Tolkien on virtually every page while praising Jackson & the writers for putting right all his numerous 'faults'.

I agree. While I enjoyed the films, I find it disapointing that the films seem to be, in some ways tailored to the current generation.

Those who say that Jackson and crew supposedly "improved on Tolkien's work by making it more accesible" are really not taking it for what it is. In my oppinion, the biggest reason for the popularity of the films is because they dramatize Tolkien's epic, not because the characters drop "accesible" lines like "Let's hunt some orc". I really believe that if they had included more of the actual story, the films might have even been more succesful (they certainly would have avoided some annoying plot holes, like why Arwen braves the Ringwraiths sword in hand, and then spends the rest of the film pensively waiting, or why exactly Arwen was dying, or why Aragorn decided to let the Army of the Dead go when he did, instead of ordering them on to Minas Tirith).

I really think we are getting dumber as a culture. To just cite one example, one sentence of George Washington's inaugural speech lasted one and a half pages. The fact that we've been trained to think within the span of ever-shrinking sound-bites for three generations now, and the fact that the films tend to reflect this at times, is dismaying.

Neurion 02-07-2005 09:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Only Real Estel
I don't see any problem with the 'gender-equal' language that he uses here. I don't think that he needs to specify a son because surely he would not only be grieving because he's lost his heir? 'No parent should have to bury their child' works well for me becaue it is true--no parent should have to bury their child. I don't think it would've made much difference to Theoden whether he had lost a son or daughter, he would be grieving over either one of them equally IMO.

"No parent should have to bury their child" might have amused (or maybe enraged) Tolkien as a philologist, given the grammatical contradictions inherent in the juxtaposition of the words "Parent" (singular) and "Their child" (plural).

Encaitare 02-07-2005 09:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Only Real Estel
I don't see any problem with the 'gender-equal' language that he uses here. I don't think that he needs to specify a son because surely he would not only be grieving because he's lost his heir? 'No parent should have to bury their child' works well for me becaue it is true--no parent should have to bury their child. I don't think it would've made much difference to Theoden whether he had lost a son or daughter, he would be grieving over either one of them equally IMO.

It's the grammar, my good Estel, the grammar... :p

Although if he had said, "No parent should have to bury his or her child," it really would have sounded awkward.

Quote:

I really think we are getting dumber as a culture.
Quite possible.

Sophia the Thunder Mistress 02-08-2005 01:07 AM

Quote:

Arwen's role in the book isn't confusing at all, if you actually read the Appendices.
To clarify, I was speaking in the context of the main body of the story. The Appendices are great reading material but saying that Tolkien made Arwen clear in the Appendices is roughly like saying that PJ Merry and Pippin's friendship more detailed in the Extended version. It's all well and good or even great, but clearly, if it had been necessary for understanding it would have been included in the main text. I think you'll find that there is quite a large body of readers who begin after the Prologue and stop before the Appendices.

Sophia

Lalwendë 02-08-2005 03:45 AM

A few random thoughts because I need my breakfast...

"No parent should have to bury their child". This is a line I always find quite striking, and the delivery by Bernard Hill is perfect and it is very touching. But, I find it stands out a little too much and though I like it, I find it somewhat incongruous; it seems somehow too modern and emotional for a king such as Theoden. So, it's a well delivered line and provides an emotional moment, but it is also out of context.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Beleg Cuthalion
Those who say that Jackson and crew supposedly "improved on Tolkien's work by making it more accesible" are really not taking it for what it is. In my oppinion, the biggest reason for the popularity of the films is because they dramatize Tolkien's epic, not because the characters drop "accesible" lines like "Let's hunt some orc".

When I hear people say that the films are better than the books, that they improved on the books, my blood pressure starts rising and I start to get irrational thoughts. :eek: To me the books are LotR, the films are just something else, like an extra, like another appendix, or an extremely beautiful special edition in a different cover but with so many printing errors I have to put it on one side and go back to my battered paperbacks.

How could Tolkien's work be made more accessible? LotR was already one of the biggest selling works of all time, and most readers who were likely to have enjoyed it would have read it already anyway, unless they were too young to have done so by the time the films were released. It is not exactly a difficult or daunting read, so I wonder who are these people who would never have read LotR and had to have this accessible version? Surely this means all those people who never read books anyway? It can't mean those who read the books after the films and enjoyed them, as they would likely have come to the books in any case, despite the films. So the films were made for the class of people who hate reading? Or are they made for those who like reading but couldn't be bothered with the books? I know I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch, as it saved me reading a book I found unutterably dull; is it for this reason that the films were made? To save people from having to bother reading the books?

A final thought I had is that in many cases the books were adapted to such a ridiculous degree by the scriptwriters that many aspects of the story actually became more difficult to understand. One example is what they did to Aragorn in making him be such a reluctant heir to Gondor, and in the changes to Frodo, turning him into a victim. I've had to explain so many things in cases where parts of the story were changed from how they appear in the books; clearly, in many respects the films actually made Tolkien's world less accessible, and less explicable.

Lalaith 02-08-2005 04:32 AM

You know, in the same way as we now watch film adaptations from the 1960s and 1970s that were intended to be set in historical times, such as Tom Jones, and laugh at the anachronistic hairstyles and make-up, I wonder whether generations to come will watch movie adaptations such as LotR from our era and laugh at the psychobabble that has been inserted, as redolent of our obsessions with "emotional journeys" and "personal development" - the way that all characters, in order to be deemed interesting, have to explain constantly exactly how they are feeling, and how they feel slightly differently about something now, to the way they felt half an hour ago.

If y'all will allow me to veer slightly off-topic to illustrate this point: My OTHER favourite book of all time, I Capture the Castle, was also recently adapted for the cinema. And, would you believe it, the buggers did the same thing there. The original, despite being written as a first person narrative, was an intelligent story with plenty of room for the reader to draw his own conclusions and speculations as to motivation, past and present. The film's writer and director decided that they would create, and spell out, their own emotional hinterland for all the characters, and the story became a lot less interesting as a result.

This is the kind of dumbing down I dislike, even more than silly lines of script such as 'lets hunt some orc.' Lord of the Rings is heroic epic, for crying out loud. Why do we need Frodo, Aragorn or Theoden to be constantly blithering on about some inner angst they are having to conquer? Ben-Hur, Spartacus and all the old epic movie heroes didn't turn their audiences into therapists, they just got on with it.

Essex 02-08-2005 04:54 AM

Quote:

Although if he had said, "No parent should have to bury his or her child," it really would have sounded awkward.
I think I remember reading about this problem with the English language a while back. i.e. We don't have a word to use in the place of the singular 'his or her', and have the use the (grammitically incorrect) plural 'their'?

PS anyone want to join me in a sacrificial burning of the book mentioned above that says the films are better than the books? It's their opinion ok, but it's the wrong one!!!!!!!! ;)

The Saucepan Man 02-08-2005 08:28 AM

Warning: Saucepan rant coming up!
 
I have to admit that I find it strange how many people here are upset or annoyed by things in the films purely by reference to the books. I suppose that is inevitable with any adaptation of a book to film, particularly of one as well-written and well-loved as LotR. But it does seem to me sometimes that people here are going out of their way to find fault with the films.

As I have stated many times, I do not consider them to be perfect. But as films, they are some of the best that I have seen. And, as has been pointed out, they are there amongst the most popular and successful films ever made. So they must be doing something right.

I am sure that there are few (if any) here who would scrutinise any other film in quite the same depth to which they put the LotR films under the microscope. Of course, that's understandable, given that we are all here in consequence of a love of Tolkien's works. But woud you treat any other film in the same way? Personally, if I did not frequent this forum, then I would be blissfully unaware of about 90% of the criticisms that have been levelled against the films in this forum. Yes, I would be aware of the differences from the book, but most of those don't bother me. It is only those matters which are inconsistent or inexplicable within the context of the films themselves that concern me at all (and, to my mind, there are far less of those than the threads here might suggest). And, even then, they are not sufficient to impair my overall enjoyment of the films. Certainly, it would never occur to me to call into the question the likes of Theoden's line at his son's burial (which, grammatically correct or not, I thought was rather moving) or Galadriel's lines to Frodo in Lothlorien.

Tolkien was an exceptional story-teller with an in-depth knowledge of language and myth. Is it really any surprise that the screenplay does not fully do his lines justice? I should imagine that there are few writers around today who would have been able to write a script that would stand up fully in comparison with the lines that he wrote. Fewer still who would have been either able or willing to undertake the screenplay for these films. Perhaps they should have retained more of the original lines, but I was actually quite surprised at just how many they did retain (even though many were swapped between characters). Given that, on any view, major changes and omissions were inevitable in a translation of the book to screen, it was similarly inevitable that some of the lines would need to be re-written and additional lines added.

Perhaps I am just easily pleased. Perhaps I am strange in being able to separate the films from the books and enjoy them both without letting the one impair my enjoyment of the other. But I have never really understood why it is that people get so worked up about what I regard as fairly minor issues. As I see it, you either enjoy the films for what they are (and overlook their minor foibles) or you don't enjoy them (and don't watch them). Why should a "different take" on the characters or some dialogue which might seem at odds with the lines written by a man who was a master of language annoy you when you can sit and enjoy the films and then go and read the books and enjoy them even more? These are the kinds of questions that I always seem to find myself raising on threads like this, but I have never really got a satisfactory answer (or at least one that I can understand). I can come close to understanding those that say that the films are a huge disappointment compared to what they might have been. But would they really ever have been? And, in any event, I am one who tends to view the glass as half full rather than half empty. Or maybe, as I said, it's just because I am easily pleased.

Finally:


Quote:

Originally Posted by Lalwendë
How could Tolkien's work be made more accessible? LotR was already one of the biggest selling works of all time, and most readers who were likely to have enjoyed it would have read it already anyway, unless they were too young to have done so by the time the films were released. It is not exactly a difficult or daunting read, so I wonder who are these people who would never have read LotR and had to have this accessible version? Surely this means all those people who never read books anyway? It can't mean those who read the books after the films and enjoyed them, as they would likely have come to the books in any case, despite the films. So the films were made for the class of people who hate reading? Or are they made for those who like reading but couldn't be bothered with the books? I know I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch, as it saved me reading a book I found unutterably dull; is it for this reason that the films were made? To save people from having to bother reading the books?

I agree with you concerning the popularity of the book. But I would hazard a guess that the number of people (living today) who have read and enjoyed the book is still a small proportion of those who have seen and enjoyed the films. I do believe that there are many people who have read the book who would not have done so but for the films (particularly as my wife is one such person). But there are many more, I am sure, who have seen the films who will never read the book. Surprising as it may seem to us, there are many people in this world who would prefer to see a good film than read a good book. Books (or certain types of book) do not appeal to everybody. Neither does the kind of language that Tolkien uses appeal to everybody. There are many who simply saw the films as great action films - nothing more and nothing less (you know - they were the ones shifting uncomfortably in their seats during the final sequences ;) ). And fair play to them, if that is what they enjoy. Who are we to regard them as somehow inferior or "dumb"?

And that I would wager, is why the film-makers tried to (and quite clearly succeeded in) making the films accessible to as wide a range of film-goers as possible. If that is "dumbing down", then yes the films were dumbed down. But I do rather dislike that term, as it sems to me to be somewhat patronising towards those who have different tastes to us and perhaps want something slightly different from their films and books.

Essex 02-08-2005 09:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
I have to admit that I find it strange how many people here are upset or annoyed by things in the films purely by reference to the books. But it does seem to me sometimes that people here are going out of their way to find fault with the films.

Well said. I totally agree (not suprising). Some people seem to WANT to find fault in every part of the film.

Quote:

But as films, they are some of the best that I have seen.
They are the best films ever made IMO. (But this doesn't go against what I said in my last post. To say they are far superior to the books is IMO ridculous)

Quote:

I am sure that there are few (if any) here who would scrutinise any other film in quite the same depth to which they put the LotR films under the microscope.
Indeed, as I said earlier, we'll be here till doomsday discussing the films if we get down to grammatical issues (but yes, I've fallen into the trap, but am trying to explain Bernard Hill's use of words in my post)

Quote:

Certainly, it would never occur to me to call into the question the likes of Theoden's line at his son's burial (which, grammatically correct or not, I thought was rather moving)
I have had to bury one of my children, so yes, this is very moving and heartfelt to me. I know his sentiments entirely. IMO you do not know grief until the loss of someone close to you or that you love, especially a sibling.

Quote:

Perhaps they should have retained more of the original lines, but I was actually quite surprised at just how many they did retain (even though many were swapped between characters).
Yes, on re-reading the books, I was also surprised at how many of the lines WERE from Tolkien. Although I've yet to do this for the last film, but hey, this gives me an excuse to read it again!

ohtatyaro 02-08-2005 09:17 AM

Quote:

It is not exactly a difficult or daunting read, so I wonder who are these people who would never have read LotR and had to have this accessible version
um... foreigners? That is, me? Probably? Sure, I was provided the books by a friend, but, I mean, I asked for them after I watched the movies.

:D

Lalwendë 02-08-2005 10:22 AM

Firstly, my disclaimer. ;) I love the films, as they are the only decent films of my favourite book, and on the whole, Jackson did a wonderful job, but they are not perfect. Is this that they simply are not perfect or that they do not live up to my expectations given that LotR is something of a sacred text to me? A bit of both, I think, but I've still watched them over and over and I collect memorabilia, so that should tell you that I do like them.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpM
I do believe that there are many people who have read the book who would not have done so but for the films (particularly as my wife is one such person).

This is one benefit that the films did bring, more Tolkien fans, and more chances to talk Tolkien. Though I'm sure that there is a little something inside all long time fans that feels as though a secret has been torn away from them, alongside that feeling of pride that we were there before the films. That's quite an honest thing to admit, I'm sure, but nevertheless its something that may have a bearing on exactly why many long time fans have such a critical tendency. ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpM
But there are many more, I am sure, who have seen the films who will never read the book. Surprising as it may seem to us, there are many people in this world who would prefer to see a good film than read a good book. Books (or certain types of book) do not appeal to everybody. Neither does the kind of language that Tolkien uses appeal to everybody. There are many who simply saw the films as great action films - nothing more and nothing less (you know - they were the ones shifting uncomfortably in their seats during the final sequences ). And fair play to them, if that is what they enjoy. Who are we to regard them as somehow inferior or "dumb"?

But this is the very essence of dumbing down, that we should automatically assume that some people would be unwilling or unable to grasp, appreciate and enjoy more high-falutin' arts and entertainment. If the films had retained the more complex language and concepts then they would not have repelled anybody. Case in point, the well known BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice did not shy away from Austen's wonderful, yet to us somewhat archaic, dialogue and it was an immense success. Tarantino films are linguistically and symbolically complex but this does not prevent hordes of youths from adoring those films, and likewise, the Matrix trilogy got extremely thorny at times, but there was enough action and 'cool' stuff going on to keep the audiences coming through the doors. There is more than enough action in LotR to grip a non-reading audience and so there was simply no need to denegrate so much of the beautiful language from the books.

I could use the analogy of a good and a bad teacher. The good teacher has a class of 15 year old boys who want to do nothing more than mess around with their mates, but he/she presents lessons on poetry and Shakespeare which hopefully engage them. The bad teacher assumes they won't want to know this kind of thing anyway and so denies them the opportunity, instead focussing on such 'useful skills' as writing job applications and so forth. In the same way, there are people who think "art" is simply not for them and prefer to tune into reality TV etc. That's their choice of course, but they are denying themselves much pleasure. Sometimes I wonder if I would be happier not questioning things and just to get on with life without ever troubling my grey matter; after all, who is the happier? Who can say? But I think Tolkien's writing was spectacular enough to have been left umtampered with and the audiences would still have come rolling in, and it was a missed opportunity to get across some of that beauty.

And a "good on you" to anyone who has come to love the books from watching the films, as they must have found the language quite a weird experience after the way it was often used in the films.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SpM
If that is "dumbing down", then yes the films were dumbed down. But I do rather dislike that term, as it sems to me to be somewhat patronising towards those who have different tastes to us and perhaps want something slightly different from their films and books.

As to the general idea of "dumbing down", I don't find it patronising at all. To me, to dumb down is to render complex things into simplistic things. And all too often, dumbing down consists of removing that which is considered challenging or difficult. It in effect denies people the chance to decide for themselves. To me it does not refer to something which is in its essence different to the 'high-brow', but to media/cultural products which have been altered. The Sun could not be seen as 'dumbed down' because it never was 'high brow', but if The Times started producing articles which were like those seen in The Sun then that would be dumbing down. I think my working class 'chip' is coming out now; too many years spent under the assumption I am not intelligent enough to grapple with 'big words' has made me a keen defender of our right to learn and use those 'big words'. I'll slink off now and read some Walter Greenwood ;)

lindil 02-08-2005 11:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
I think that's why they fail for me - this desire to be 'relevant & accessible'. I don't think this played much of a part in Tolkien's thinking. He told the story in the way that felt 'right' & hoped readers would respond, though we know at first he held out little hope for that. I've just finished reading 'The Lord of the Rings:The Films. the Books, The Radio Series' by Jim Smith & J Clive Matthews (Virgin Books) & their opinion is that the movies improved on the books immeasurably. They criticise Tolkien on virtually every page while praising Jackson & the writers for putting right all his numerous 'faults'.
I agree that the movies were dumbed down, though I am sure PJ would characterize it differently.

Tolkien created a masterpeice. PJ a bastardized 'hit'.
I have been criticized for using the 'bastardized' word in regards to PJ and his work before, but it really works best in a literal way.

PJ took something refined, morally uplifting, challenging, linguistically subtle and powerful and did something very different and very hollywood with it.

In virtually every case where he invents [or approves PB's inventions] the result is often pitiful.

I mean seriously, would any sane person not want to use absolutely as much of JRRT's dialogue as possible? Any substitution of JRRT's dialogue w/ recently fabricated hollywoodisms is and was a sad thing.

I wanted to like the movies I reallty did, and can pretty much enjoy the exp. FotR. but I lost all interest in the films after RotK. We have the expanded RotK, but I have never wanted to endure another watching to see what the actors and Howe and Lee managed top salvage of PJ's attack on M-E. :rolleyes:

So I concur wholeheartedly Beleg C, it was dumbed down, and maybe it truly had to be, but then, maybe better to not do it, or maybe as Alf says in Smith of Wooten Major, "better a glimpse of Fairy than none of all".

-------------------------

addendum

Lalwende makes a few excellent points about old-timers and criticism and they all c ertainly apply to me. But I would say this, If the movie wee done with the same love of Tolkien and integrity as this website and forum is run by the Admins, it would have been a true masterpiece in far more peoples eyes.

Accomadations to modern tastes may be sweet for a season but it will never endure as long or deeply as JRRT's writings. They movies are destined I imagine to be a more than a footnote, but not much more, in the History of M-E.

Quote:

Lalawende posted:But this is the very essence of dumbing down, that we should automatically assume that some people would be unwilling or unable to grasp, appreciate and enjoy more high-falutin' arts and entertainment. If the films had retained the more complex language and concepts then they would not have repelled anybody. Case in point, the well known BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice did not shy away from Austen's wonderful, yet to us somewhat archaic, dialogue and it was an immense success. Tarantino films are linguistically and symbolically complex but this does not prevent hordes of youths from adoring those films, and likewise, the Matrix trilogy got extremely thorny at times, but there was enough action and 'cool' stuff going on to keep the audiences coming through the doors. There is more than enough action in LotR to grip a non-reading audience and so there was simply no need to denegrate so much of the beautiful language from the books.
A long quote but 100% spot on imo.

Formendacil 02-08-2005 02:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Essex
I think I remember reading about this problem with the English language a while back. i.e. We don't have a word to use in the place of the singular 'his or her', and have the use the (grammitically incorrect) plural 'their'?

"No parent should have to bury its child."

Okay, I admit that sounds even worse than "their", but I had to say it....

Personally, I agree that Theoden would have been more likely to say "No father should have to bury his son." than the in-movie version, had he expressed such a sentiment out loud. Had it been a daughter who had died, he would have said daughter. Had it been a female character, she would have said mother (not father). Really, gender-inclusiveness has been taken too far.

Eomer of the Rohirrim 02-08-2005 02:12 PM

These films can be twisted to suit any propoganda.

You dare criticise? You patronise me!

You dare to love? You are dumb.

The films were dumbed-down; even those who do not like the expression still concede this when we consider the usual accepted definition of the term. Never let anyone tell you that you are an imbecile for caring as much about the films as you do about the book. However, it must be accepted by all right-minded people that the films are a pale imitation of the book.

Now I'm not knocking pale imitations: after all, I myself usually pose as a pale imitation of an intelligent person! *groan*

But facts are facts. Theoden's death scene in the book is better than anything ever seen on Big Brother. Opinions reflect truth.

Eruanna 02-08-2005 03:08 PM

As much as I love the books, I am also a huge fan of the films. Perhaps because I do not expect every word of the page to be literally translated to the screen.
As to charges that certain characters would never say 'such and such', perhaps this is true of some, but I fail to see why Galadriel would not try to make a humble, doubting little Hobbit feel better about himself and his appointed task, by speaking to him in plainer and kinder terms.
In the interview with Bernard Hill on the ee TT, he says that he himself asked PJ if he could say the line; "No parent should have to bury their child." The line had a personal resonance for someone he knew and he was pleased when PJ agreed. As a parent myself, I found the line (and his acting) very moving and was certainly not about to leap on his lapse of grammar.

The films may indeed have been 'dumbed down' but in my opinion only slightly. Peter Jackson and his team did a wonderful job in filming what many had said were unfilmable books, far better than I had ever imagined.

Give that man an Oscar...oh, they did :cool:

Lalaith 02-08-2005 04:03 PM

I abase myself humbly to those who accuse me of nitpicking about Theoden's line at the tomb. They are absolutely right - it is nitpicking. (Although it wasn't the grammatical subtlities of "their" or "its" or "his/her" that bothered me)
But I also still maintain that this line, while full of truth and resonance to us, in the 21st century - and my especial respect and sympathy to those of my fellow Downers for whom it has personal meaning - is still not the right thing for a king of Rohan to say. He is the king of a people who would have seen so many of their children die of disease, their young men die in battle, and so on. What I was trying to get at, by talking about this line to illustrate my point, is that it seemed to me one of those moments, if not perhaps the most obvious one, that was shoehorned in for the sake of Relevance To A Modern Audience.
But do you want to make a classic, timeless piece of art, or something that might, in 20 years time, feel too much 'of its time' to be anything other than a dated if charming period piece? I'm not a snob about film, I think it can be art in the same way as literature, music or painting. But if you spend too much time listening to the focus groups about how it's going to play to the 15-17 year olds of Armpit, Arkansas in December 2003, then you're going to lose a lot in the process.
There were many moments in the movie trilogy when I felt moved, in the way that I do by great art, and I pay tribute to the creators of the films for their achievement. The trilogy is a masterpiece, I think, but nonetheless a flawed masterpiece.

davem 02-08-2005 04:29 PM

Some comments by Anne C Petty in this with Herenistarion (no, not him)interview seem relevant here:


Quote:

Heren Istarion. Do you feel there is justification for the changes made to characters in the films?

I have a love/hate relationship with Jackson's films. I love the look and feel of the films and the exquisite detail put into the production. For the most part, I also enjoyed the earnestness and integrity with which the actors portrayed their characters; Jackson's attitude of approaching the films as if they were shooting history rather than fantasy contributes to the things that make me happy about the films. On the "hate" side of the equation I have to place the scriptwriting and the film editing (i.e., the manipulation of the storyline). I am most appalled by the way some characters have been shifted off plumb and torqued to serve a dramatic purpose that has little to do with Tolkien's story.

My chief objection is the way Aragorn has been turned into a mostly physical action hero who is completely human, with no magical or heightened qualities. Gone is the aura and radiance of the kings of old with the hint of a star on his brow that on several occasions signifies to others who he is and why they should follow him. Film Aragorn has lost his greater than human powers such as understanding the speech of birds and healing with the touch of his hands. He is of "supra-human" lineage, yet the scriptwriters have him continually harping on the weakness that flows in his veins, without acknowledging the fact that his bloodline flows straight from High Elven sources: from Lord Thingol (a High Elf) and Melian (a Maia) to Lúthien Tinúviel and Beren to Dior (Thingol's heir) and Nimloth to Eärendil and Elwing to Elros (Elrond's brother and founder of the Númenórean line of Men). In the films he is just an ordinary man, albeit a great fighter, but in the book he is so much more and clearly worthy of marrying into the Elvish side of the family once he accomplishes the task of regaining the throne of the kings of Men.

I also highly dislike the misuse (and deliberate misreading) of Faramir. I really don't buy the excuses the scriptwriters have given for this change, and feel compelled to point out that it's important for Faramir to mirror Aragorn in his ability to withstand the lure of the ring and to see the greater vision of where Middle-earth is headed. Faramir is the type of Steward required for Aragorn's type of king - they complement and reflect each other. This is the kind of symmetry with which Tolkien carefully crafted every aspect of his story. Denethor is yet another problem. In the books, he is stern, with the potential to become a tyrant, but he's a genuinely noble, capable leader for much of his stewardship. Tolkien says he's the closest the line of Stewards has come in many years to the Númenóreans of old. It's Denethor's belief that he has the High Númenórean ability (supra-human strength of will) to challenge Sauron through use of the palantír that erodes his leadership into madness. In the films he is just a crazy old pig of a despot who hates his second son for no apparent reason. Film Denethor gives Faramir no reason to want his favor or love, especially at the risk of death. Book Faramir and Denethor have a less simplistic relationship, wherein Denethor was once someone worthy of a son's worship and love.

And Elrond… eh, don't get me started. Hugo Weaving certainly looks the part and acts with dignity, but the scriptwriters have turned him into a cranky, frowning, angry old Elf who shows no love at all toward his foster son Aragorn. I think the Hobbits were better served than Men and Elves by the scripts. But the films certainly are beautiful to look at, and the music is rapturous for most of the ride.
(Whole interview: http://www.herenistarion.org/parmano...Interview.html)

Lalaith 02-08-2005 05:49 PM

I enjoyed reading that, thank you davem. And I agree with her....and I also have to agree with this quote from the interview:
Quote:

Do you feel that Tolkien's humanity and world concerns come across in Peter Jackson's film trilogy of The Lord of the Rings?

That is perhaps where Jackson's films most closely resemble Tolkien's great story
I think the films convey a genuine sense of concern for one's fellow creatures and for the fate of their world in general. The emotional impact of the films on that level seems to be quite strong.

Beleg Cuthalion 02-08-2005 05:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davem
Some comments by Anne C Petty in this with Herenistarion (no, not him)interview seem relevant here:




(Whole interview: http://www.herenistarion.org/parmano...Interview.html)

Wow! Thanks davem, great interview. That's my thinking exactly. http://webpages.charter.net/connectingzone/agree/35.gif

Eruanna 02-08-2005 06:04 PM

Originally quoted by Davem:

Quote:

I think the films convey a genuine sense of concern for one's fellow creatures and for the fate of their world in general. The emotional impact of the films on that level seems to be quite strong.
And yet one of the most sympathetic characters in the books, Faramir, is perhaps the worst written in the films. His characterisation is one of my few 'niggles'.

I saw this quote by Professor Tolkien and thought it was quite ironic, considering how much emphasis some place on the sanctity of his writing:

"A new character has come on the scene (I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him, but there he came walking through the woods of Ithilien): Faramir, the brother of Boromir."


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