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Old 12-31-2011, 08:23 PM   #1
TheLostPilgrim
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Would Tolkien have accepted the films?

For more knowledgable readers--those who have read Tolkien's letters and the like--Do you think he would've felt Jackson's LOTR was a successful effort? Do you think he would've accepted the films and approved of the treatment of the books?
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Old 12-31-2011, 09:10 PM   #2
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I am convinced he would have hated and despised the movies.

Jackson did a great many nonsensical things that in some respects ruined the story.

Here are some further thoughts I have related to this issue that explain my position in a bit more detail.
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Old 12-31-2011, 09:50 PM   #3
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Reading Tolkien's Long-Dead Mind

From what I understand, Professor Tolkien did not think that anyone could make a film version of his literary work. That anyone actually did might have surprised him. Tolkien expressed the wish that others might take up his re-invented mythology and embellish it. Therefore, it does not seem plausible to assume that he would have taken umbrage at Peter Jackson's basically faithful but occasionally licentious adaptations.

Regarding the up-coming film bastardizations of The Hobbit, I will most likely manage to suspend disbelief right up until the moment that an incongruously youthful Thorin appears. If I can make it past that, I may enjoy the fantastic presentation for awhile longer. But when the elf-click security guard Itaril/Tauriel appears to kick her some goblin or warg groins, I don't see how I'll manage past that. And on this point, I feel certain that Professor Tolkien and I would puke simultaneously.
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Old 12-31-2011, 10:28 PM   #4
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Around the time when the film rights were being sold at last, Tolkien said:

Quote:
'No film nor any 'version' in another medium could appear satisfactory to any devoted and attentive reader. On the other hand some of the greater pictorial and dramatic scenes could, with modern resources, be a moving experience. All possible precautions have been taken that the story should be presented without serious mutilation and without alteration or alterations.'

JRRT, Chronology, Hammond and Scull

Although Jackson fans will likely quibble that Tolkien would think differently upon seeing Jackson's films.


Anyway, I've always thought this answer might depend a lot upon whether or not the person posting thinks the films are faithful enough to the books. I mean, if one thinks these films are faithful 'enough', wouldn't that greatly colour if one thinks JRRT would have accepted them? and the other way round.


I think some of the 'Zimmerman commentary' could be fairly aimed at Jackson, but yet I've seen at least once person use the same letter to argue Tolkien would have approved of Jackson's films!



But thankfully Tolkien had a vision of the future or something, so that we know his opinion of Jackson's films:

Quote:
'Even the Christmas vacation will be darkened by New Zealand scripts.'

JRRT, Letters of JRR Tolkien
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Old 01-01-2012, 03:38 AM   #5
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I would second something of what Galin said, and I believe Tolkien's opinion would have even a bit deeper foundations. It isn't just about movie, it is about any attempt of visual arts - even drama! - to capture the story. A director, even if he was thousand times better than PJ, can only show you his portrayal of Middle-Earth - and that, in my book, is already something else than my Middle-Earth. The thing I dislike about blockbuster movies being made out of LotR is the fact that it imposes a certain image of the world on unaware and unprepared masses of people. For them, then, Legolas will forever be blonde skating thing with weird ears. Or even things which even picky fans could consider right - even a beautiful Rivendell scenery, let's say - are given simply one particular portrayal, and that is wrong, in my book. As for those who have been prepared, even they face the inevitable pressure of the author's depiction, and sometimes "some begin to attune their music to his rather than to the thought which they had at first".

Anyway, to quote the Professor himself:

Quote:
Originally Posted by On Fairy-Stories
However good in themselves, illustrations do little
good to fairy-stories. The radical distinction between all art (including drama) that offers a visible presentation and true literature is that it imposes one visible form. Literature works from mind to mind and is thus more progenitive. It is at once more universal and more poignantly particular. If it speaks of bread or wine or stone or tree, it appeals to the whole of these things, to their ideas; yet each hearer will give to them a peculiar personal embodiment in his imagination. Should the story say “he ate bread,” the dramatic producer or painter can only show ”a piece of bread” according to his taste or fancy, but the hearer of the story will think of bread in general and picture it in some form of his own. If a story says “he climbed a hill and saw a river in the valley below,” the illustrator may catch, or nearly catch, his own vision of such a scene; but every hearer of the words will have his own picture, and it will be made out of all the hills and rivers and dales he has ever seen, but especially out of The Hill, The River, The Valley which were for him the first embodiment of the word.
Personally, I could say I don't (usually) mind illustrations - maybe it has something to do with that they are nothing "definite". I think a LotR cartoon is also not a big deal for me. But once it attempts to be too "realistic", I start vehemently disliking it. Maybe because fantasy should not be realistic in the way of depicting things by the means of "flesh and blood". But in general I share Tolkien's opinion above when it comes to the movies.
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Old 01-01-2012, 08:32 AM   #6
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I would second something of what Galin said, and I believe Tolkien's opinion would have even a bit deeper foundations. It isn't just about movie, it is about any attempt of visual arts - even drama! - to capture the story. A director, even if he was thousand times better than PJ, can only show you his portrayal of Middle-Earth - and that, in my book, is already something else than my Middle-Earth. The thing I dislike about blockbuster movies being made out of LotR is the fact that it imposes a certain image of the world on unaware and unprepared masses of people.
From the start, the only strong point I could see in favor of the movies was the hope that they might inspire people to read the books, and get the true story as its author meant for it to be told. Sadly, I fear for many that just hasn't been the case.

I think perhaps Tolkien might have been pleased with some of the visuals of the films, especially the Shire and Minas Tirith.
From his words in the letter about Zimmerman that Galin mentioned, I think though that he would have had serious issues with the multiple liberties Jackson took with the characters; specifically the overblown "comic" treatments afforded to Merry, Pippin, and most of all, Gimli. The oft-maligned alteration of Frodo and Sam's encounter with Faramir would have been another problem. Since Tolkien complained about Zimmerman calling Galadriel an "Elvenqueen", how much more would it have upset him to see his well-written account of Faramir's refusal of the Ring turned on its head?

In the letter, Tolkien said that Zimmerman's ideas about Lórien were in line with the "gimcrack of modern conventional fairy-tales".
As regards PJ's Arwen, I can see Tolkien similarly railing about Jackson's preference for the "gimcrack of modern movie romance".
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Old 01-01-2012, 09:27 AM   #7
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Tolkien is not alone. Alan Moore never watches the adaptations of his work. Even though some of them are awesome. That's just how it is when someone else's mind is putting their vision of the world and characters you created into another format. If writers were unhappy with this prospect they would not sell the film rights, and the end result is we would probably have half as many films to watch. The problem with Tolkien being involved is to put it bluntly, he was dead.

There are some notable writers who have been fully engaged in adaptations of their SF novels/stories/comics. JK Rowling is one, who though she hasn't written the scripts for the Harry Potter films, she has appeared at premieres and been involved in promotional work. George RR Martin even went so far as to write one of the episodes of HBO's A Game Of Thrones (and it was a superb episode, too) - though in fairness, he is also an expereinced scriptwriter and it's as specialised a skill as writing a novel. Davem tells me that Pullman also wrote a new scene for the film of Northern Lights (which goes by the name of The Golden Compass but I can't bring myself to call it that....).

Anne Rice wrote the script for Interview With A Vampire. Stan Lee appears in most of the modern Marvel films. Neil Gaiman writes scripts and novels, and his work has also been adapted, notably by Jane Goldman who rewrote the whole tone of Stardust into something much lighter and created a wonderful film. Gaiman says:
Quote:
Originally Posted by USA Today
"You have to find someone you trust and let them go on with it. The alternative is 'give me a check, and do whatever you want.' But the pain, if that goes wrong, is too great," he says.

Though many writers try to reassure themselves by divorcing themselves entirely from the film adaptations, Gaiman says the reach of movies is too powerful to ignore.

"On the one hand, it's very easy for a writer to say, 'Oh, they didn't destroy my book. Here's my book right here, and it's just fine.'

"But the truth is, maybe 2 million people have read Stardust. But 2 million people would see the Stardust movie if it was playing on TV during a wet afternoon in Germany," he says.
There's the rub. Tolkien sold the rights and was unable to be involved (just as Austen, Dickens and Shakespeare are unable to be involved in hundreds of adaptations), but what about his heirs?

The estate are not at all opposed to adaptation. Christopher Tolkien has said nothing derogatory about the films and helped with the radio version, and Tolkien himself helped with one adaptation of The Hobbit (of which there are many). Royd Tolkien also appeared in Jackson's RotK. And Joanna Tolkien approved of the Bakshi animation. I note - davem also told me about this, so any credit/brickbats to him please

As has been discussed many times on here, there are many things in the films which messed about with the story, but whether you accept and enjoy them as something fun to watch while lolling on the sofa is a different matter. I take them as highly enjoyable films which though they make me go "TCH!" quite a bit, do capture quite a lot of my own imaginings well (the Hobbits in particular) and which also have added something (my own mental picture of Saruman is something like a cross between The Master in late 70s Doctor Who and Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, but Christopher Lee's vision added another idea I liked).

My ideal would have been several series of BBC adaptations, complete with weird depictions of Tom Bombadil and a Faramir that was like Robin Hood, but that wasn't ever going to happen. And even if it was, then no doubt Moffat would have got hold of it and ruined it.

I think that you cannot be driven by what any deceased writer would make of an adaptation because you simply cannot ever know what they would think. It's what you think that's important. Even your own vision that you gain from reading the books is wholly different to what Tolkien himself will have seen while writing late at night in his study - it's the nature of subcreation.

Yes, some fools will forever think that Legolas is a himbo who skateboards and Arwen is Xena-lite, but if they don't care to pick up the books then I don't much care what they think, either. They are probably the kind of people I spend my life avoiding. The good thing is we have lots of members on here who did see the films and did pick up the books and did form their own visions. Before the films (and the internet), being a Tolkien fan was a decidedly lonely thing.

Maybe it's just me being positive...
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Old 01-01-2012, 09:59 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
Tolkien is not alone. Alan Moore never watches the adaptations of his work. Even though some of them are awesome. That's just how it is when someone else's mind is putting their vision of the world and characters you created into another format. If writers were unhappy with this prospect they would not sell the film rights, and the end result is we would probably have half as many films to watch. The problem with Tolkien being involved is to put it bluntly, he was dead.
I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I think the issue lies with the question of how the original authors viewed their product to start with.

Did they see their work as a primarily a commercial product in itself, a means to a living? If so, they probably wouldn't be all that fussed about a muffed adaptation that misses the mark of the source material completely.
Is that what Tolkien had in mind when he wrote his books?


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I think that you cannot be driven by what any deceased writer would make of an adaptation because you simply cannot ever know what they would think. It's what you think that's important. Even your own vision that you gain from reading the books is wholly different to what Tolkien himself will have seen while writing late at night in his study - it's the nature of subcreation.
No, we here cannot know for a certainty what Tolkien would have thought. However, we do have things that he'd said and written before his death that may guide us. Those are, or course, open to interpretation, and in the end this is likely a never ending debate.
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Old 01-01-2012, 10:56 AM   #9
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I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I think the issue lies with the question of how the original authors viewed their product to start with.

Did they see their work as a primarily a commercial product in itself, a means to a living? If so, they probably wouldn't be all that fussed about a muffed adaptation that misses the mark of the source material completely.
Is that what Tolkien had in mind when he wrote his books?
The boundaries are very blurred with Tolkien. He certainly didn't sit down with the intention of writing LotR as a money spinner, it was more the culmination of a lifetime's imaginings. And a little nudge from the publisher who wanted a sequel to The Hobbit. I think there may be a letter referring to how The Hobbit helped pay for medical bills in the days before the NHS. There's certainly something about how selling film rights helped pay for private school fees. And he enjoyed the money brought in from the books in his and Edith's old age. Academics in the UK have never become rich just from lecturing, sidelines are always necessary.

In any case, I doubt that whether the author enjoyed earning money from his/her work would have any bearing on whether they enjoyed any films. Alan Moore for example must have earnt a packet by now but he never watches the films of his stories.

And I don't think the films do miss the mark completely. They capture one person's vision, and it's not possible to capture everyone's.
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Old 01-01-2012, 12:09 PM   #10
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The boundaries are very blurred with Tolkien. He certainly didn't sit down with the intention of writing LotR as a money spinner, it was more the culmination of a lifetime's imaginings. And a little nudge from the publisher who wanted a sequel to The Hobbit. I think there may be a letter referring to how The Hobbit helped pay for medical bills in the days before the NHS. There's certainly something about how selling film rights helped pay for private school fees. And he enjoyed the money brought in from the books in his and Edith's old age. Academics in the UK have never become rich just from lecturing, sidelines are always necessary.
The question would seem to be whether Tolkien envisioned other adaptations in the process of writing, and of that I have my doubts.

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In any case, I doubt that whether the author enjoyed earning money from his/her work would have any bearing on whether they enjoyed any films. Alan Moore for example must have earnt a packet by now but he never watches the films of his stories.
Again, to me it goes back to how the author views the source work. Was Tolkien writing to live, or living to write?

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And I don't think the films do miss the mark completely. They capture one person's vision, and it's not possible to capture everyone's.
I think the films do flounder in imparting the meaning of the story, but that's apparently because you and I have differing opinions of just what that meaning is.
Opinions are all we have, though.
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Old 01-01-2012, 01:46 PM   #11
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Old 01-01-2012, 02:08 PM   #12
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The question would seem to be whether Tolkien envisioned other adaptations in the process of writing, and of that I have my doubts.
I don't think he did, either. But then this tends to be something entirely limited to writers over the past ten years, when it seems anything committed to paper can be, and usually is, turned into a film, even a newspaper column.

Quote:
Again, to me it goes back to how the author views the source work. Was Tolkien writing to live, or living to write?
He was a hobby writer. He never set out to write a blockbusting novel, never even set out to write novels. However, that wouldn't stop him from enjoying the proceeds! It's quite a dismal prospect, but Lord of the Rings could easily never have been completed due to the demands of his academic career. Tolkien did many other things in order to bring in extra cash to fund a large family - marking exam papers, recording a Linguaphone course, I think he also wrote exam papers for prisoners. That The Hobbit had made some money, both from the novel and from selling performance rights, we ought to be grateful as otherwise he'd have been even deeper in the mire of checking whether 16 year olds from Grimsby had correct spelling on their exam papers.

Quote:
I think the films do flounder in imparting the meaning of the story, but that's apparently because you and I have differing opinions of just what that meaning is.
Opinions are all we have, though.
Well I argue that they don't have a 'meaning' at all, so make of that what you will If someone wants to find out for themselves what they think the meaning is, they can go and buy the books and read them - if they are that daft they think a film will convey it to them it's not in my heart to feel sorry for them
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