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Old 06-15-2017, 03:37 AM   #26
The Sixth Wizard
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1420! Long post, procrastinating, apologies

I found this interesting article which suggests that JRRT would support Jackson's adaptation had he been alive to see it. At least, he would have been less hostile towards the trilogy than Christopher Tolkien turned out to be.

I think we need to remember that JRRT was already a practiced borrower and integrator of different sources - old English myths, Scandinavian myths, stories of civilisational conflict, mixed with his training as a linguist. I wouldn't say he was the Jimmy Page of fantasy, but obviously he drew on many sources and he was open to revisions and re-tellings of his stories to some extent. He revised Gollum's chapter in The Hobbit, for example, as part of his effort to integrate his two main works with each other. And before CT collated the Silmarillion, there was no set backstory to Middle Earth outside of what's written in LOTR. He said he was trying to create a sort of English national myth, a story which was more like history than fiction. Why wouldn't he be in favour of its realisation on the big screen?

As a side point, I will never understand why George RR Martin allowed the Game of Thrones show to be made before he finished his novels. Surely he must have known that he wouldn't finish A Time for Wolves by the end of the HBO series. It's a travesty that the ending to our generation's fantasy epic will be spoiled by a couple of hack showrunners who have to invent the characters' dialogue and actions from a list of plot points. I guess that's what the offer of a truckload of money will do to an author. But JRRT's seminal work is forever complete and self-contained - no movie trilogy, however terrible, can undermine it as an experience. Luckily, Jackson's first effort was pretty good.

As an example of a major change I think was quite justified: giving Glorfindel's role to Arwen.
Definitely have to agree with that, especially given the modern world's gender politics. If the films were totally faithful, Eowyn's cameo in ROTK would be just about the only female appearance in the entire series. Remember that she gets hitched to a stranger almost immediately afterwards! There's Galadriel too, but she isn't exactly a relatable character for women.

I think we should be allowed to want a different kind of cake.

Perhaps in this instance a cake that doesn't have so much stupid trash in it like elves at Helm's Deep, Faramir trying to take the Ring back to Minas Tirith until a Nazgul suddenly shows up, Théoden being reluctant to go aid Gondor, Denethor being a cowardly lunatic, the list goes on and on.
I think I can justify a few of those changes. Movies need more explicit, character-driven tension than books, story arcs with clear conclusions, whereas I think that space can be filled with exploration and worldbuilding in written form, because we experience the story in each character's mind rather than as a vista. The enjoyment of meeting Faramir in the novel comes from learning about his people and history, and we don't need him to desire the ring to keep us entertained. But it would undermine the dread surrounding the Ring to see him resist it in the film. We've already seen Galadriel, Gandalf and Aragorn bypass the temptation of the Ring at that point - how can we fear its corruption if some guy we just met resists it as well? It gives our heroes another challenge beyond "pit-stop at the Forbidden Pool" for TTT.

The same goes for Theoden, unfortunately. Narrative tension must be driven by characters. The book's excitement comes from material constraints - can they muster enough of the Rohirrim and travel to the Pelennor in time? There is less sense of geography in a film, where characters can travel hundreds of kilometres between scenes, without page-turning establishing a feeling of time passing, so we need something else to establish the same narrative roadblocks. That's why we need Denethor refusing aid, Theoden refusing to help, Faramir's rout, and Gondor's military failure all building towards the final triumph. The long list of failures makes final success more vivid - Theoden's initial reluctance ramps up his change of heart and bravery in the battle as well. Think of the movie Ents initially deciding to take no action, for another such example. I do agree that Denethor was a badly-written caricature, though.

To me, the most annoying, but not deal-breaking features of the films are a) tonal shifting between gritty realism and video-game action and b) character setbacks which are particularly contrived.

For the former, think of Legolas riding an Oliphaunt minutes after we've watched hundreds of skilled riders fail to take it down. We want our characters to do heroic things, but we want their feet on the ground when they do it. We can accept Eomer throwing his spear through the Mumak's handler, as a once-off, because he still seems mortal while doing it, but Legolas's antics were a step too far. If he simply shot it through the eye from a distance, PJ could have still hit the hammy "still only counts as one" dad-joke and our credulity would be intact. Maybe even make it a bit of character development since the fight scene in FOTR, where Legolas has to try three times to hit that cave troll in the neck (that would actually be a cool idea ... I wish I was on set for these movies). Another example was the Bridge of Khazad-dum bit, with the pillars conveniently swinging like a pendulum for our heroes to leap. What was so likeable about LOTR was how we could see the rain on the Uruks' helmets and the rust on their blades, how we felt the pain of Boromir being pin-cushioned and Frodo losing his fingers. We were viscerally engaged, on the ground, in the action scenes, despite their heroic elements. It goes without saying that Hobbit CGI trilogy was all video-game, and no grit.

For the latter, I think of Frodo deciding to tell Sam to "go home" as a plot contrivance in ROTK, and Aragorn falling off a cliff, Skyfall-style in TTT. I get that these movies needed something interesting to happen in the middle of their three-hour runtime, but those two examples stood out for me most as cliched or out-of-character. I was also a bit annoyed that Pippin and Gimli were painted as quite so stupid and comical, respectively. Then again, the uniform, demonstrative heroism of every Walker in the novel is a bit boring too (don't shoot me for that one). I would cut a few scenes and lines as egregious in all three films, like Pippin dropping the suit of armour in FOTR to set off the goblins. Again, these aren't massive quibbles, because they don't really affect the core elements of the story. They don't affect the communication of the themes of the work, unlike in The Hobbit, where Bilbo is nonsensically sidelined for large parts of a story supposedly about his courage and self-development.

I think we can definitely tell when dialogue has been written by an author rather than a screenwriter, and the more authorial source material, the better (assuming they're a decent author and not Suzanne Collins). You can just imagine how certain lines would have been written had there not been written dialogue to parse from the novel in LOTR. "I would cut off your head, dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground" would become something like "don't make me behead you, dwarf". Gandalf's fantastic dialogue would be eviscerated. This is what makes me fear most for A Song of Ice and Fire, actually, as the showrunners have finally expended the last dregs of source dialogue now, and I think the difference will be (ahem) stark next season.
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