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Old 02-08-2005, 06:27 PM   #41
Ainaserkewen
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I’ve always had a certain mentality about Blockbuster movies. When I say Blockbuster I mean massively advertised, many theater-ed, multi-cultural, hugely popular movies...like Lord of the Rings. The way I view such movies is that they are entertainment. They are made for the “silver screen” as to be enjoyed by all that chose to see them. They entertain you with emotions, ideas, characters, plots, visual effects et cetera, and there is no reason to believe that if you pay to see a movie, that you will get anything more out of it. To me, that is a good blockbuster. In comparison, there are other movies and forms of story-telling art that are meant to contain more. Those types of stories are not made to make money or to be popular, simply to exist as what they are and what they were intended to be.

Quote:
"more strong female presence is required to make a marketable film"
Marketable is exactly it. Blockbusters are meant to make money and if they happen to have elements in them that would turn some audience members, then what’s the harm in correcting those elements?

Quote:
Once you choose to adapt an author's work you have a moral obligation to be as faithful as possible.
No, they really don’t. I could bring up hundreds of screen adaptations recent and old that are not only a reflection of the original author of the books their based on, but more so a reflection of the people who made the movie. Some people go see movies that are made by their favourite directors or screen writers, or Bob Anderson (I look for the movies he helped with now). Specifically, it’s the director’s style that will become more important to the audience, after all, it’s their work to make the movie, not the author’s.

Quote:
I really think we are getting dumber as a culture.
I tried to think of an argument to this statement but depressingly, I can’t think of a good one. As a species we have become more advanced, more civilised, and more complicated than ever recently, but at the same time the value of intelligence and philosophy and downright thinking has decreased. This may just be my teenaged mind talking, I welcome arguments to this particular opinion of mine.

Quote:
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.
No, that is how such things are meant to be viewed. Blockbuster movies are meant to be entertainment, if you thought the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was entertaining, then it was a good movie. The books however, are on a different and deeper playing field where much more is expected of them. People are far more choosy about the books they read and eventually enjoy than the movies they like and see. The only books that defy this explanation at Harry Potter, but that’s a completely different argument.

Quote:
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.
I would think that the “nitpicking” is a compliment. If it truly was a terrible drought of movies then we wouldn’t like to complain so much would we?
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Old 02-08-2005, 07:05 PM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
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.

Yes this is a problem. Besides the fact it's one of the things I missed very much from the books, it also fails to explain why so many men are willing to follow this man, this ranger, who’s shown as not much more then being good with a sword. There’s not really any majesty to him like there is in the books. He doesn’t want to be the king, in sharp contrast to the books, where it mentions Aragorn seeming to grow taller when he reviles himself from time to time he seemed “Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him.” it’s just something I would have liked to see.

Sorry I don’t have much time to make this post very good.
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Old 02-08-2005, 08:45 PM   #43
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Shield poor beleaguered Theoden

Wow, I seem to have touched a nerve.

In my original post, perhaps I was too hotheaded about the grammar and not emphatic enough about what really bothers me: as other people have pointed out, the tone and style of the dialogue is not consistent through the films, even within the lines of individual characters. To my ear, this line of Theoden's is a modern linguistic insertion (as well as a modern sentiment, as Lalaith rightly points out) into a film that, while outside of any historical chronology, is definitely not set in the modern day. For me, this line is just as clunky and out of place as "Game over" or "That's because my axe is embedded in his spinal cord" or Gandalf's "on our tail" line, for exactly the same reason.

Also, I really do love these films--I wouldn't know them well enough to pick out the (relatively few) lines that bother me if I hadn't seen them multiple times, right? And Theodred's funeral is one of my favorite scenes of all the films, so perhaps that's why this one tiny linguistic nit sticks out to me as ripe for the picking.
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Old 02-08-2005, 10:34 PM   #44
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After all these implements and texts designed by intellects...

I thought the movies were beautifuly made. While the standards of modernity often tweeks the device of appeal (such actors as Bloom etc.) in book-based movies I think it is safe to say that there is really no point in complaining about the little things...

OK I admit - that Legolas scene with the surf/shield board jig was a tad bit too macho but OH the cinematography. As a whole the movies are a piece of art and I admire Jackson for his visual genius - keeping in mind to slightly adjust some aesthetic aspect of the text -> movie to engross younger audiences - and namely people who have not read any of the books.

I don't think anyone could do a better job than Mr. PJ though

As Lalaith said before
Quote:
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.
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Old 02-09-2005, 03:52 AM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ainaserkewen
No, they really don’t. I could bring up hundreds of screen adaptations recent and old that are not only a reflection of the original author of the books their based on, but more so a reflection of the people who made the movie. Some people go see movies that are made by their favourite directors or screen writers, or Bob Anderson (I look for the movies he helped with now). Specifically, it’s the director’s style that will become more important to the audience, after all, it’s their work to make the movie, not the author’s.
I'd still defend the 'moral obligation' point. Certainly they don't have any legal obligation to respect an author's views/moral position, but I think there should be respect among artists for each other's work. They've put Tolkien's name on these movies & made numerous references to him in interviews & thanked him when they've recieved their awards, etc, so as far as I'm concerned they taken that moral responsibility onto themselves.

Adapting a work of literature into a movie, rather than coming up with your own story, does impose certain moral obligations of respect for the original artist & their work. As Petty has pointed out in the interview, they have misrepresented characters like Aragorn, Faramir & Denethor, & rather than making them more 'real' & psychologically complex have actually reduced them to Hollywood stereotypes. They've done this purely to produce 'popular' movies which would make money. They have dumbed down the story & watered down the meaning. I keep quoting from a review in Mallorn, I know, but I think the point stands: 'Jackson clearly thinks Lord of the Rings is an action movie in book form.' But its not. Neither should it been seen as a 'first draft screenplay', to be improved upon in order to make it more 'accessible'. For one thing, if Tolkien himself had thought that way we'd either have no LotR at all, or we'd have got a very bland, shallow, 'Dungeons & Dragons' style fantasy which would have been a nine days wonder in the mid fifties & then disappeared forever.

The Downs, all the other Tolkien sites, & even the movies themselves, exist because Tolkien spent time & effort producing a profound, complex, moving & beautiful tale. His motivation was not 'popularity' or cash, but art.

In short, if his motivations had been the same as PJ & New Line then there wouldn't have been anything for them to make a movie of because by now The Lord of the Rings would only be remembered as a failed sequel to The Hobbit.

There are many things in the movies I do like - Theodred's Funeral being one - but overall I think they fail to be what they should & could have been...
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Old 02-09-2005, 06:46 AM   #46
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The books, as I see them, are intricately constructed, and to remove crucial elements of the story risks failure. Jackson effectively rewrote parts of the story, and he did fail at that. I thought I would extract and look at one aspect of the films which fails in comparison with the books, and that is the whole New Faramir episode.

I still fail to work out what the changes mean in terms of the revised plot as they simply do not fit into the narrative. If New Faramir has indeed been enraptured by the Ring, and he is taking it to Minas Tirith then what is the moment of realisation that he has done wrong? Is it when the Ringwraith appears above Osgiliath? Surely if he has indeed been enraptured then he is going to fight this Ringwraith in order to keep the Ring? And why does Frodo offer it up to the Ringwraith when he has been so successful in hiding it throughout? Why does the Ringwraith then not report back to Sauron on the whereabouts of the Ring, thus changing the eventual outcome of the story? These are just some of the puzzled questions that people who have not read the books have asked me.

I wondered why Jackson decided to alter this and I found this interview with himself and Boyens. His reasons for the changes are simply not justifiable. He says of New Faramir:

Quote:
we've spent a lot of time in the last film and in this one to establish this ring as incredibly powerful. Then to suddenly come to a character that says, "Oh, I'm not interested in that," to suddenly go against everything that we've established ourselves is sort of going against our own rules.
But this does not follow on from the storytelling he has been doing. Frodo has already offered the Ring to various characters who have all recoiled in horror at the very suggestion that they take the Ring, so Faramir too should reject the Ring, if he is indeed a ‘good’ person on the same level as Aragorn or Gandalf. Instead, this episode detracts from the good nature of Faramir, as it makes him appear to have doubts, and ultimately, it ruins the whole plot line as it simply does not make sense. I shall be cynical here and wonder if the real reason behind the change was to get better value from the money spent on the Osgiliath set and the Fell Beast FX.

Jackson is a great film-maker, but neither he nor anyone else on his team comes close to Tolkien as a storyteller. LotR is not as simple a tale as your average bestselling novel, it has layers and complexities beyond imagining, and it’s risky to remove too many layers as eventually you will pull out the wrong one. It really does make me want to smack my head when I think of how easily he could have let the story alone and not created these plot holes, as the films are great renditions of Middle Earth. Did he make these alterations through over-confidence or was it due to financial reasons? Will we ever know?
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:36 AM   #47
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I skimmed the thread and I see a lot of people who think Jackson somehow made the films more relevant and accessible. First, I don't think that's a good enough excuse to change something awesome. Second, I think if the movies would've been done without adding silly little lines and making every character weak and flawed that the movie would've been far more enjoyable.

Besides, the visuals and such alone were good enough to fill up the theater. The movie could've been about a Dwarf boy band and quite a few people still would've filled the seats because the scenery, sound, and action sequences were great. I seriously doubt making the movie true to the book would've hampered attendance.

Plus, Jackson did not make the movie more accessible.

I recently watched all three movies with a few of my friends. None of them had ever watched the movies before (they hadn't read the books either).

I had to stop the film on more than one occasion to answer questions. Here's a few that were asked-

1) It looks like that girl was making the river flood but then she looked surprised when the flood came. What's up with that?
(answer- that wasn't in the book, it was added, so I have no clue)
2) How come everyone's scared of those guys in black when that Elf girl wasn't and stood up to them?
(answer- that wasn't in the book, it was added, so I have no clue)
3) How was Aragorn able to take on five of those black guys on that hill including their leader but Gandalf gets his staff broken and about gets killed by him?
(answer- that wasn't in the book, it was added, so I have no clue)
4) Saruman knew what Frodo was doing with the ring, and since Saruman was always in contact with Sauron how could Sauron have not known?
(answer- same as before)
5) Why were there only 300 men in Rohan to fight Saruman and defend Helm's Deep and then they instantly gather several thousand horseman to ride to Minas Tirith? Why didn't Theoden try to get all those guys to help him before?
(answer- same)
6) So the Witch King is easy to kill? You just poke a knife at his leg and he'll kneel down in front of you for a couple minutes and wait to be stabbed in the face? How'd he live so long?
(answer- same)

And here's some random comments that were made-
1) Legolas: "A diversion!" My friends: "Duh! We're not that dumb."
2) Friend: "That elf-guy is mean." Me: "Tolkien said Elrond was 'as kind as summer', so he really wasn't that mean."
3) Galadriel: "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future." My friends: "Ha, that was cheezy."

And of course, I also mentioned at the end that Faramir and Aragorn weren't really that weak and Frodo didn't really send Sam home (and a few other little things). My friends said "Well, why the heck did they change it? It would've been better that way."

The movies are NOT more accessible or relevant. They're like the books but with extra muddling and a side order of watered down lines.

I love what Davem said-
Quote:
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
That's the way the movies should've been done. It wouldn't have hurt sales and the movie would've been better.

PJ's movies are some of the best ever, but they could've been better. He took them down from what they could've been pretty much every time he changed something from the book.

If PJ really wanted to make the movie more accessible he would've-
1) combined Sauron and Saruman
2) trimmed the Fellowship to Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, and Gandalf
3) replaced Faramir with Boromir (and have him try to take the Ring in Ithilien)
4) leave out Arwen and have Aragorn end up with Eowyn
5) have Gandalf beat the Balrog and not die
6) leave out the Ents
7) make Sauron a bad elf and Gandalf an old man (so there's no maia-caused confusion)
8) leave out Celeborn (some people think the book did anyway)
9) have the characters continually get out a map and point to where they are
10) have the characters talk in third person (so we hear their names more often)
11) leave out the bit with the Ring
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Last edited by the phantom; 02-09-2005 at 09:57 AM. Reason: forgot one ? my friend asked
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Old 02-09-2005, 10:35 AM   #48
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White-Hand Warning: ridiculously long (but not quite so ranting) post coming up ...

Fascinating thread. And I’m beginning to get a sense of just why some people are disappointed, irritated or just downright angry over the films in some of the comments that have been made:


Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
… 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.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
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 …
Quote:
Originally Posted by lindil
Tolkien created a masterpeice. PJ a bastardized 'hit' … PJ took something refined, morally uplifting, challenging, linguistically subtle and powerful and did something very different and very hollywood with it.
I get the feeling that, as far as many here are concerned, Lalwendë is spot on with her description of LotR as a “sacred text”. The book is, of course important to all of us here and that is clearly what is behind our tendency to analyse the films down to the nth degree. But to some, it has clearly taken on a greater significance to the extent that they feel protective of it and react negatively towards any attempt to reproduce it in a form which they do not believe lives up to Tolkien’s high standards and ideals. I do not criticise this approach, and I think we all share it to some degree or other. I certainly felt uncomfortable (at first, at least) about some of the changes made, particularly in TTT. But, although LotR is a book close to my heart (and has been ever since I first read it many years ago) and one in which I can find ideas and themes applicable to my life, it is not, to me, a “sacred text” in the same way as I think many here regard it. And so my reaction to the films is far less pronounced than others. I can accept them for what they are rather than view them as an imperfect rendition of an invaluable masterpiece.

If you don’t agree, just ask yourself whether you would feel as strongly about a film adaptation of another classic novel, one which you don’t have particularly strong feelings for? Would you see it as a source of irritation? A bastardisation? A failure of a moral duty? Or would it not really bother you, on the basis that the original novel is still there for its aficionados to enjoy? I know what my reaction would be.

And so to that awful phrase, “dumbing down”. What does it mean?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
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.
My main problem with the phrase is that it assumes, by the very nature of the words used, that those for whom things are “dumbed down” are indeed dumb. But I reject that assumption, in the field of arts at least. I do think that the phrase is applicable in the case of news, where it is assumed (perhaps correctly) that news must be simplified in order to be made accessible to everyone. To my mind, if people are not interested in having the news presented to them objectively and in its entirety, then they are dumb. I see the simplification, yes the “dumbing down”, of news as dangerous as it carries with it the risk of misinformation and manipulation.

But it’s different in the field of arts (and I use this term in its broadest sense). There is no danger in presenting people with art (whether it be films, books, theatre, visual art or television) in a format which appeals most strongly to them and with which they therefore feel most comfortable. And people who do not enjoy “high falutin’” art are not necessarily “dumber” than those who do. They simply have different tastes. I am a great fan of many aspects of pop culture. I prefer pop music to classical music. I am a great fan of reality programmes (or was, until they started to wear a bit thin). But I would not regard myself as dumb (no comments please ).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
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.
But it seems to me that this is an artificial distinction. If one adapts or translates a work of art in order to meet a (perceived) demand, then one is essentially creating a new work of art. And if it is necessary (or perceived as necessary) to simplify it or make it less challenging in order to meet that demand, because that is what its intended audience wants, then I don’t see a problem with that. But it does not follow that the intended audience is in any way dumb, and so I regard the expression “dumbing down” as entirely inappropriate in this context.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
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'.
Well perhaps I am revealing my middle-class liberal credentials when I say that I thoroughly agree that everyone should have the right to learn and use those “big words”, but that I don’t believe that it is something which should be forced on them. If, despite the accessibility of The Guardian or The Times, they still want to read The Sun, then that’s fine with me. If, despite the availability of Dickens, Orwell and Austen, they still want to read Archer and Collins, then so be it. If, despite there being some arty French film on the other channel, I still want to watch Big Brother, then that is my right.

Clearly, one of the objectives of the films was to appeal to as many people as possible. I do not believe that this was Jackson’s primary motivation, nor the primary motivation of most of those involved in their production. But it was clearly a major consideration, particularly for the studio and those backing the films. I accept that it was not Tolkien’s motivation in writing the book, and I accept that the book has ended up having broad appeal nevertheless. But self-evidently, the films would never have been made, at least not in a form that captured Middle-earth so wonderfully from a visual perspective, had commercial considerations not come into it. And because such considerations did come into it, they had to appeal - and therefore be made relevant and accessible to - as wide an audience as possible. Is that wrong? Does that mean that they should never have been made? Does that make them somehow immoral? I don’t think so for simple reason that they are meeting a demand and, in so doing, bringing pleasure to millions (and, I might add, doing no harm to anyone or anything, least of all Tolkien’s reputation). If they were not, then they would not be so successful.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Eomer of the Rohirrim
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.
Well, I said “If that is "dumbing down", then yes the films were dumbed down”, but I hope that it will be clear from what I have said above that I regard that expression as inappropriate in this context. Yes, it was made more relevant and accessible for modern audiences. Yes, Legolas’ boyish good-looks and acrobatic antics were included to appeal to particular sections of the audience. Yes, the language was simplified and updated. Yes, the characters were changed with the intention of making them more appealing and/or credible to modern audiences (whether you agree or disagree that they succeeded, that was their intention). But I do not believe that anyone who would have been disinclined to see the films as a result of the absence of any one or more of these factors is any more dumb than someone who found them irritating, unnecessary and/or gratuitous. I would not therefore say that they were “dumbed down”, but rather that they were simplified and updated and their appeal was broadened. As I have said above, I do not see anything wrong in that. Whatever may have been lost in the translation from book to screen is still there in the book.

So did this process of “simplifying, updating and broadening the appeal of” the films make them:
  1. any better; or
  2. any more popular or successful
than they might otherwise have been?

The first question is an easy one. Whether or not they were better is a subjective one, depending on the tastes of the individual. Some will think they were better as a result of this process, while others (and I would probably include myself in this category) will think that they would have been better without at least some aspects of it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
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.
We can never really know for sure if the films would have been more successful if they had remained more faithful to, and retained more of the original language of, the book. My own sense is that they would have been successful, but less so. They would have been successful in the way that adaptations of the likes of Jane Austen are successful: respectably so but nothing spectacular. Certainly nothing on the scale of the LotR trilogy. A good thing? Perhaps, although they might then never have been made. And even if they had been, many who might otherwise have seen the films would not have seen them. And that would have been a shame for them, particularly as a proportion of such viewers will have discovered the book through the films.

As for Tarantino’s films and the Matrix trilogy, well I would hardly describe them as “high brow”. They are examples of pop culture. And, again, none of these enjoyed the critical or popular success of the LotR trilogy. And, personally, I found the pseudo-intellectual philosophising of the second of the Matrix films so off-putting that I couldn’t be bothered with the third (my opinion, I know).

I should add (in references to the phantom’s point) that individual experiences provide little evidence of a film’s broad popularity (and therefore, relevance and accessibility). Critics’ reviews, awards and, most important of all, audience figures, provide much better evidence. And it seems to me that, on the basis of that evidence, it cannot be denied that they have succeeded in gaining mass appeal. Indeed, the only criticism of the films that I have ever read in media reviews of the films is that they were too long and should have ended with Aragorn’s coronation. Imagine what a furore there would have been here if Frodo had not ended up sailing West!

Finally (do I hear heavy sighs of relief ), with regard to the changes made to the script - and Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh should take most of the credit/criticism (depending on your perspective) here:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
The books, as I see them, are intricately constructed, and to remove crucial elements of the story risks failure. Jackson effectively rewrote parts of the story, and he did fail at that.
I agree that it is difficult to remove sections of the story without this having a knock-on effect. And I also agree that there are places where Jackson and co could have handled it better. But that would be asking a lot. It is inevitable, in adapting a book of the complexity and length of LotR to film (even 12 hours’ worth of film), that elements of the story, often quite lengthy and important ones, will have to be left out. I think that, had they been able to achieve this without the (to my mind limited) number of inconsistencies that are present in the films, it would have been an amazing feat. As to the specific example you raise, I do not see film Faramir as succumbing to the Ring. He does not want it for himself, but to prove himself to his father. The fact that he takes the Hobbits by force to Osgiliath and subsequently decides to let them go free is little different to the series of events in the book, when he takes them to force to Henneth Annun and then decides to let them go free. It just takes place over a longer period and wider geography. The incident with Frodo and the Nazgul is intended, by showing the effect of the Ring on Frodo, to highlight its peril to Faramir, thus giving him a reason to free them. Although, visually impressive as it was, I agree that this is one of those scenes that could have been handled better.

But, given the changes that had to be made, a substantial degree of re-writing was necessary. And, as I have said, they were attempting to re-write the lines of a masterful story-teller and linguistic expert extraordinaire. How many of us could have done Tolkien’s lines justice, retained a (broadly) coherent script, and made it appealing to a wide range of the film-going public? In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that the adapted screenplay Oscar was well-deserved.

And quite clearly, to my mind, there are aspects of Tolkien’s writing that would seem strange to modern day sensibilities. It seems to me that Theoden’s line at his son’s burial is a case in point.


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Originally Posted by Lalaith
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.
I agree entirely. But wouldn’t it seem strange to modern audiences, and wouldn’t it alienate Theoden to a degree in their eyes, if he did not grieve over the loss of his son in this way? One might ask why modern readers don’t react in this way to the book. I don’t doubt that there are readers who find it peculiar that Theoden hardly grieves for his son. But I also think that it is easier convincingly to portray an entire culture, one quite alien to our own in many ways, in print than it is to do so on celluloid.
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Old 02-09-2005, 11:02 AM   #49
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Here, out of interest, is an authentic bit of 10th century parental grief, which I thought was quite appropriate to Theoden:

But strength to cope
I could not muster,
so me seemed,
with my son's slayer:
soon will it be seen by all
how helpless
the hoary warrior.

(excerpt from the long poem Sonatorrek, or Loss of Sons, by the Viking poet Egill Skallagrimsson)
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Old 02-09-2005, 11:18 AM   #50
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I should add (in references to the phantom’s point) that individual experiences provide little evidence of a film’s popularity (and therefore, relevance and accessibility). Critics’ reviews, awards and, most important of all, audience figures, provide much better evidence.
You do realize I was never trying to say that the movie would've been more popular? My whole point was that had they been faithful to the book it would've done next to nothing to popularity. It would've done next to nothing to awards and critics.

Almost every last thing that was good about the movie (what made it popular) was all Tolkien. The experiences of my friends watching the movie were included to demonstrate that much of what Jackson added got in the way.

Making the movie "right" would've cleared up the PJ problems, made us happier, and likely not done a thing to popularity.

And also, considering that every person I have watched the film with has been confused by at least one of Jackson's add-ons, I think that my "individual experience" does matter. My individual experience is a testament to PJ not making the movie easier to understand.

And if he didn't make it easier to understand then how was he making it more accessible for the masses? Yes, Saucepan Man, it was very popular and accessible, but you don't seem to get that it does not mean the same thing as more popular and accessible.

(Plus, if "individual experience" doesn't matter then why the heck are we posting? Why are we giving opinions on anything? We should just say "LOTR sold a lot of tickets and won a lot of awards so we can't say anything about it. We can't talk about making changes. It was obviously popular so there's no way we can make it any better.")
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Old 02-09-2005, 11:47 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by the phantom
You do realize I was never trying to say that the movie would've been more popular?
Of course I do. I think we can both agree that, as they stand, the films achieved mass broad appeal. We cannot know whether the films would have been as successful or more successful without the changes that were made with the intention of making them more accessible, but my feeling is that, your experience notwithstanding, they would not have been.


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Originally Posted by phantom
My whole point was that had they been faithful to the book it would've done next to nothing to popularity. It would've done next to nothing to awards and critics.
I disagree but, as I said, we can only speculate.


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I think that my "individual experience" does matter.
Of course it matters. I am not saying that it is not relevant to the discussion. I am simply saying that, on an evidential basis, it doesn't convince me that these films would have been as successful had they remained more faithful to, or retained more of the language of, the book. But, when I look at the critical and box-office success of the films and I consider that Jackson and co were clearly intending to make the films more relevant and successful, I tend to think that they succeeded in doing so.
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Old 02-09-2005, 11:55 AM   #52
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[QUOTE=Lalwendë]The books, as I see them, are intricately constructed, and to remove crucial elements of the story risks failure. Jackson effectively rewrote parts of the story, and he did fail at that. I thought I would extract and look at one aspect of the films which fails in comparison with the books, and that is the whole New Faramir episode.

I still fail to work out what the changes mean in terms of the revised plot as they simply do not fit into the narrative. If New Faramir has indeed been enraptured by the Ring, and he is taking it to Minas Tirith then what is the moment of realization that he has done wrong? Is it when the Ringwraith appears above Osgiliath? Surely if he has indeed been enraptured then he is going to fight this Ringwraith in order to keep the Ring? And why does Frodo offer it up to the Ringwraith when he has been so successful in hiding it throughout? Why does the Ringwraith then not report back to Sauron on the whereabouts of the Ring, thus changing the eventual outcome of the story? These are just some of the puzzled questions that people who have not read the books have asked me.

I wondered why Jackson decided to alter this and I found this interview with himself and Boyens. His reasons for the changes are simply not justifiable. He says of New Faramir:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
we've spent a lot of time in the last film and in this one to establish this ring as incredibly powerful. Then to suddenly come to a character that says, "Oh, I'm not interested in that," to suddenly go against everything that we've established ourselves is sort of going against our own rules.
That’s easy to see how they would think that way after making Aragorn expound about his “weakness” Faramir had almost full Númenorean blood (Boromir and Denethor did not) this is funny in context with Elrond saying “the blood of Númenor is almost spent” as if it were a bad thing, but if we believe Aragorn’s whole weakness act then maybe that a good thing.


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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
But this does not follow on from the storytelling he has been doing. Frodo has already offered the Ring to various characters who have all recoiled in horror at the very suggestion that they take the Ring, so Faramir too should reject the Ring, if he is indeed a ‘good’ person on the same level as Aragorn or Gandalf. Instead, this episode detracts from the good nature of Faramir, as it makes him appear to have doubts, and ultimately, it ruins the whole plot line as it simply does not make sense. I shall be cynical here and wonder if the real reason behind the change was to get better value from the money spent on the Osgiliath set and the Fell Beast FX.

Jackson is a great film-maker, but neither he nor anyone else on his team comes close to Tolkien as a storyteller. LotR is not as simple a tale as your average bestselling novel, it has layers and complexities beyond imagining, and it’s risky to remove too many layers as eventually you will pull out the wrong one. It really does make me want to smack my head when I think of how easily he could have let the story alone and not created these plot holes, as the films are great renditions of Middle Earth. Did he make these alterations through over-confidence or was it due to financial reasons? Will we ever know?
Yeah that’s the thing. The Lord of the Rings is so tightly woven together that if you change to many things then you make all those plot holes. I mean I can appreciate left out Tom Bombadil, and shortened the council of Elrond; those are things that can be done for the films sake.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:08 PM   #53
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Oh Beleg, Book-Denethor *did* have almost pure Numenorean blood. The movie people decided for reasons best known to themselves to have Gandalf say that Denethor was just like Boromir. In the book Gandalf says the opposite - he was more like Faramir, albeit corrupted. Was this a change for the sake of dumbing down, or for some other reason? Who knows....
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:10 PM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beleg Cuthalion
Faramir had almost full Númenorean blood (Boromir and Denethor did not).
How is this? Faramir and Boromir had the same parents. One of which was Denethor. Boromir's ancestry is the same as Faramir's.

I get what you're saying about Faramir having received a much purer strain of Numenorian traits than his brother, but it would be wrong to say that Faramir is more Numenorian-like than their father.

Denethor was the most Numenorian-esque Steward in generations. It says so quite clearly in the books. It also says that Faramir takes after Denethor in this respect. Of course, they have totally different personal values, but that isn't a matter of blood...

*NOTE: I am, of course, referring to the real, book, characters, in keeping with the replied-to posts. In the movie, the fact that Denethor, Boromir, and Faramir are of Numenorian descent isn't even acknowledged, much less the fact that Denethor and Faramir had inherited many of its strengths.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:14 PM   #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
I skimmed the thread and I see a lot of people who think Jackson somehow made the films more relevant and accessible. First, I don't think that's a good enough excuse to change something awesome. Second, I think if the movies would've been done without adding silly little lines and making every character weak and flawed that the movie would've been far more enjoyable.
I think so too, if PJ and Co had left more of the actual story intact then they would have been much more accessible. Things like “Arwen is dying” don’t really make any sense at all. Like you say and I said early on in this thread, the movies would have been better with less change.


Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
Besides, the visuals and such alone were good enough to fill up the theater. The movie could've been about a Dwarf boy band and quite a few people still would've filled the seats because the scenery, sound, and action sequences were great. I seriously doubt making the movie true to the book would've hampered attendance.

Plus, Jackson did not make the movie more accessible.

I recently watched all three movies with a few of my friends. None of them had ever watched the movies before (they hadn't read the books either).

I had to stop the film on more than one occasion to answer questions. Here's a few that were asked-

1) It looks like that girl was making the river flood but then she looked surprised when the flood came. What's up with that?
(answer- that wasn't in the book, it was added, so I have no clue)
2) How come everyone's scared of those guys in black when that Elf girl wasn't and stood up to them?
(answer- that wasn't in the book, it was added, so I have no clue)
Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
3) How was Aragorn able to take on five of those black guys on that hill including their leader but Gandalf gets his staff broken and about gets killed by him?
(answer- that wasn't in the book, it was added, so I have no clue)
That bugged me to no end. Here is Gandalf, a Maia facing some half dead wizard who busts his staff, where as with Saruman who hits him with a fire ball and at that time still had power as great as Gandalf’s new power can not do anything to him. Wuz up wit dat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
4) Saruman knew what Frodo was doing with the ring, and since Saruman was always in contact with Sauron how could Sauron have not known?
(answer- same as before)
5) Why were there only 300 men in Rohan to fight Saruman and defend Helm's Deep and then they instantly gather several thousand horseman to ride to Minas Tirith? Why didn't Théoden try to get all those guys to help him before?
(answer- same)
6) So the Witch King is easy to kill? You just poke a knife at his leg and he'll kneel down in front of you for a couple minutes and wait to be stabbed in the face? How'd he live so long?
(answer- same)

And here's some random comments that were made-
1) Legolas: "A diversion!" My friends: "Duh! We're not that dumb."
2) Friend: "That elf-guy is mean." Me: "Tolkien said Elrond was 'as kind as summer', so he really wasn't that mean."
3) Galadriel: "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future." My friends: "Ha, that was cheezy."

And of course, I also mentioned at the end that Faramir and Aragorn weren't really that weak and Frodo didn't really send Sam home (and a few other little things). My friends said "Well, why the heck did they change it? It would've been better that way."

The movies are NOT more accessible or relevant. They're like the books but with extra muddling and a side order of watered down lines.

I love what Davem said-

That's the way the movies should've been done. It wouldn't have hurt sales and the movie would've been better.

PJ's movies are some of the best ever, but they could've been better. He took them down from what they could've been pretty much every time he changed something from the book.

If PJ really wanted to make the movie more accessible he would've-
1) combined Sauron and Saruman
2) trimmed the Fellowship to Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, and Gandalf
3) replaced Faramir with Boromir (and have him try to take the Ring in Ithilien)
4) leave out Arwen and have Aragorn end up with Eowyn
5) have Gandalf beat the Balrog and not die
6) leave out the Ents
7) make Sauron a bad elf and Gandalf an old man (so there's no maia-caused confusion)
8) leave out Celeborn (some people think the book did anyway)
9) have the characters continually get out a map and point to where they are
10) have the characters talk in third person (so we hear their names more often)
11) leave out the bit with the Ring
Wow…. LOL!!!!
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:25 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalaith
Oh Beleg, Book-Denethor *did* have almost pure Numenorean blood. The movie people decided for reasons best known to themselves to have Gandalf say that Denethor was just like Boromir. In the book Gandalf says the opposite - he was more like Faramir, albeit corrupted. Was this a change for the sake of dumbing down, or for some other reason? Who knows....
Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
How is this? Faramir and Boromir had the same parents. One of which was Denethor. Boromir's ancestry is the same as Faramir's.

I get what you're saying about Faramir having received a much purer strain of Numenorian traits than his brother, but it would be wrong to say that Faramir is more Numenorian-like than their father.

Denethor was the most Numenorian-esque Steward in generations. It says so quite clearly in the books. It also says that Faramir takes after Denethor in this respect. Of course, they have totally different personal values, but that isn't a matter of blood...

*NOTE: I am, of course, referring to the real, book, characters, in keeping with the replied-to posts. In the movie, the fact that Denethor, Boromir, and Faramir are of Numenorian descent isn't even acknowledged, much less the fact that Denethor and Faramir had inherited many of its strengths.
I am looking for that part in the book right now, I'm pretty sure it says that.

And here's something.

Quote:
Denethor might well have approved of the learning of his younger son, but was angered by the way Faramir interpreted what he learned (with help in that interpretation by Gandalf, as Denethor correctly suspected). For Faramir discovered a different philosophy used by the old Kings and lived by that rather than the way his father did, an indirect way of calling his father wrong. Yet that same ancient philosophy may have been a part of the reason men and beasts both obeyed Faramir's commands. He believed in being completely fair even to trespassing strangers who would have been summarily executed by others, as in the case of Frodo and Sam. Faramir took the time to learn "why" and to act on compassion, rather than go strictly by the letter of the law.
Faramir also loved music. This, added to his interest in lore, made him seem less a warrior to others, yet it was not so. Rather he made battle with purpose, knowing exactly what he was doing.
Both Denethor and Faramir could see into the hearts of men, yet treated that knowledge differently. Denethor felt scorn; Faramir felt pity.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:27 PM   #57
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Quote:
Originally posted by Davem
I'd still defend the 'moral obligation' point. Certainly they don't have any legal obligation to respect an author's views/moral position, but I think there should be respect among artists for each other's work. They've put Tolkien's name on these movies & made numerous references to him in interviews & thanked him when they've recieved their awards, etc, so as far as I'm concerned they taken that moral responsibility onto themselves.
I think one needs to be more specific about what "respect the author" means. This thread was created to discuss the possible "dumbing down" of the movie for fans, and in a sense also being watered down as someone said earlier. This this that is a better explanation of what has happened to our beloved movies. I think I took your point too literally when I spoke of respect, I believe that the Director has no obligation to respect (and follow through with) the direction and decisions that lay in the books. I mean that the Director doesn't have to do everything in the book simply because it is respect for the author. Oh course however, Mr. Jackson respects Prof. Tolkien, he wouldn't have had these movies if he didn't. Everyone working on the films had a passionate love affair with the Lord of the Rings books, that was clear in the making of the movies. I think that's nice. However, because the movies are a wholly different and new way of expressing the general story, changes had to be made. That is evident in other examples too.

The follow, though it may not seem so but is a relevant example:
I saw "Queen of the Damned" recently without reading the books first. I though the plot was obviously cut short and, as some say, stripped of the moral and spiritual undertones of the original print. I didn't like the plot, I thought it was kind of dumbed down so that more people would understand Madam Rice's complex world. But I loved the movie. Why? Because though it faulted big time in the story department, it was pure art and can I say "Eye Candy" everywhere else. It was a wonderfully made movie with all the components of good entertainment. That's the point, isn't it? For the record, I did go on to read the books because I liked the movie so much, similar to how I came to read Lord of the Rings.

Now, how was that relevant? I just found out yesterday that Stuart Townsend, The Vampire Lestat, was the original Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings. I didn't know that I thought that was kind of neat, though after Lestat, I don't think I would have liked seeing him as Aragorn.

Quote:
The Downs, all the other Tolkien sites, & even the movies themselves, exist because Tolkien spent time & effort producing a profound, complex, moving & beautiful tale. His motivation was not 'popularity' or cash, but art.
Oh I agree, but how many blockbuster movies, my dear Davem, have you seen that would also measure up to the art that books can be? When I went into the theatre for LOTR the first time, I did not expect art, and not many people did, I expected to be entertained, and I was...that's why I'm here.

So what's my overall point to this? The movies were "dumbed down" or watered down for various reasons: Money, popularity, pride, Director's understanding and style and stuff that just didn't work. But why do we need exact version of the books we already love? I think we can all agree that when we left the theatre, we were entertained, not because of the exactness of the movie, but because it was well made with differences of style and opinion. That's what makes things interesting in the first place.
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:39 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by SpM
I do not see film Faramir as succumbing to the Ring. He does not want it for himself, but to prove himself to his father. The fact that he takes the Hobbits by force to Osgiliath and subsequently decides to let them go free is little different to the series of events in the book, when he takes them to force to Henneth Annun and then decides to let them go free. It just takes place over a longer period and wider geography. The incident with Frodo and the Nazgul is intended, by showing the effect of the Ring on Frodo, to highlight its peril to Faramir, thus giving him a reason to free them. Although, visually impressive as it was, I agree that this is one of those scenes that could have been handled better.
Yet to have New Faramir wish to take the Ring to his father does not work either. The way that Denethor is portrayed in the films makes him come across as the kind of father that Faramir would if anything wish to defy and distance himself from. Real Denethor is a noble man who a son could be proud of, who has lately gone 'bad' as he has fallen under a bad influence. Yet New Denethor just comes across as a negative, bad-tempered man who would never have such an influence over a son he so clearly despised. Time and again I have people ask why Faramir did not just tell his father "where to stick it". This is funny, as if the scriptwriting team indeed intended to update and make more relevant Tolkien's words then they have failed in this aim. Tolkien actually had this right in the first place when his own Faramir hoped to win back the love and respect of a father who had clearly once showed him love and respect; the modern audience just see a horrible man who they would tell where to get off (or something to that effect ). The whole Faramir episode would only have worked if Denethor had been presented as a man worthy of such sacrifice.

To have done the Faramir sections properly would not have taken up any longer than they did when changed.

The Nazgul incident might have been intended to show the effect of the Ring on Frodo, but not only did it come across as confusing and 'break the rules' that have been set in place (whereby all along we have been told that the Nazgul's 'every thought is bent on getting the Ring'), but it also made Frodo look like a mere victim yet again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
If you don’t agree, just ask yourself whether you would feel as strongly about a film adaptation of another classic novel, one which you don’t have particularly strong feelings for? Would you see it as a source of irritation? A bastardisation? A failure of a moral duty? Or would it not really bother you, on the basis that the original novel is still there for its aficionados to enjoy?
I can think of one adaptation which offended me, and that was the version of Possession, which failed miserably. It actually does bother me a lot that someone might see this as a terrible film and assume the book is the same. And remakes of classic films have bothered me intensely. The rather famous composer of the musical version of Whistle Down The Wind ought to be shot at dawn for what he did to eradicate the simple joy of the classic film. But this all boils down to whether the 'new version' or 'adaptation' sets out to be definitive or not. My reasons for getting up in arms about LotR are that some of the changes simply weren't necessary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
And people who do not enjoy “high falutin’” art are not necessarily “dumber” than those who do. They simply have different tastes. I am a great fan of many aspects of pop culture.
I totally agree with this. I hate ballet, in fact dance in all its forms bores me to tears. But I think that there is a very fine line to be trod as regards possibly denying people the chance to see if they do like the high brow. I remember someone once reacting very peculiarly because I mentioned Goethe's Faust in a conversation and realised that they had assumed due to my accent that I would never have contemplated reading such a thing. But that's my chip frying itself up again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by the phantom
The movies are NOT more accessible or relevant. They're like the books but with extra muddling and a side order of watered down lines.
My final thought (for now, as I have domestic matters to attend to) is that I agree with what the phantom says (shock! ). I do not see how the changes made the movies more accessible, as everything in the books is incredibly potent today, just as it was when they were written and published. Why else would we all be here hotly debating them right now? Those characters are archetypes. We do not need to 'update' King Arthur or Robin Hood, why do we need to update Aragorn or Frodo or Faramir?
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Old 02-09-2005, 12:52 PM   #59
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Hey I'd just like to make a quick request to one of the Mods to change the name of this thread to Dumbing it down. I just think it sounds better and more to the point.

Thanks.
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Old 02-09-2005, 01:01 PM   #60
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I have to agree with Phantom on this one, PJ's changes, many of which were uneccesary, added nothing to the story but "refrigerator moments" ( that is, things in the story that don't make sense that you realize later). I don't think that the language made the films any more popular, to the contrary they just seemed out of place. If they wanted to make the films "accessable" then why not do them entirely in modern language, rather than switching back and forth. People don't love these movies because of anything PJ added (those of us who hate his additions still love the movies), they love them because of the parts that are true to Tolkien's story.

As to the "dumbing down" of the stories I agree that they were but I don't think that the people who like things "dumbed down" are necessarily less intelligent. After all Saucepan is obviously anything but dumb but he said he likes pop music! Instead I tend to look at it as meaning the movies in themselves were "dumber" (that is, they do not stimulate us intellectually). You may like pop music for example, but you can not claim that Britany Spears(or even a real band like Metallica for that matter ) is the intellecual equivilant of Mozart. To me the difference between the books and the movies is the difference between hearing great classical music from an orchestra and hearing the cell phone ringer version.

As for Theoden's line, the problem I had with it is that it is a cliche. I have heard that same line used in so many other movies and shows. We know losing a child is horrible we are not idiots, all that was needed was maybe showing him grieving. If you are going have him say something about the pain of losing a child you should at least come up with something original, and it wouldn't heart if it was appropriate for the times either.

Even so I love the movies.
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Old 02-09-2005, 02:03 PM   #61
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The story has been simplified in the transition from book to film. This was inevitable.

I think a major idea emanating from this thread is the nature and extent of the simplifications. Some of us have been arguing that the filmmakers went too far, and assumed that the film audience would not like the film as much if it were more faithful to the story.

Saucepan, please realise that I feel for you, fending off us ferocious dogs single-handedly like you are! However, a point I would like to send to you is this: I realise that the films have been immensely successful, but should mass opinion really be the barometer of quality here?

I - like many others - lament the lack of what could have been. You know I love the films, it's just that even someone such as myself knows that they could have been so much better. And I am not sure that there are excellent reasons for why that scenario could not have been played out.
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Old 02-09-2005, 02:51 PM   #62
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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:

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. .. 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.
Yes, I'm requoting what I quoted yesterday, because I think it sums up where the moviemakers went wrong. Its not only Tolkien's invented world that is strange & unique, but in many ways its also his characters. These beings, Aragorn, Faramir, Denethor, Frodo, are not 'just like us'. They are not characters we are meant to 'identify' with. What the writers have done is take a 'legendary' figure like Aragorn, a being with supra-human wisdom, strength of character & a high destiny, & traduce him into an angst-ridden 'new man'. All the characters in the movie have to a greater or lesser degree lost their uniqueness, & have become 'cliches'. I'm not impressed by the movie characters because I've seen them in a thousand & one other movies. These characters wander through every episode of a million soap operas across the globe every day, with their surgically enhanced 'beauty', constantly changing back story & their meaningless platitudes.

All the depth, the strangeness, the 'queerness', of Middle earth has been sacrificed & replaced 'hollywood standard' 'characters'. Yes, there are moments when something of the real Middle earth & its denizens shines through, when the light of another world briefly illumines us from the screen, but not nearly as often or as brightly as it should.
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Old 02-09-2005, 04:17 PM   #63
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Yes, I'm requoting what I quoted yesterday, because I think it sums up where the moviemakers went wrong. Its not only Tolkien's invented world that is strange & unique, but in many ways its also his characters. These beings, Aragorn, Faramir, Denethor, Frodo, are not 'just like us'. They are not characters we are meant to 'identify' with. What the writers have done is take a 'legendary' figure like Aragorn, a being with supra-human wisdom, strength of character & a high destiny, & traduce him into an angst-ridden 'new man'. All the characters in the movie have to a greater or lesser degree lost their uniqueness, & have become 'cliches'. I'm not impressed by the movie characters because I've seen them in a thousand & one other movies. These characters wander through every episode of a million soap operas across the globe every day, with their surgically enhanced 'beauty', constantly changing back story & their meaningless platitudes.

All the depth, the strangeness, the 'queerness', of Middle earth has been sacrificed & replaced 'hollywood standard' 'characters'. Yes, there are moments when something of the real Middle earth & its denizens shines through, when the light of another world briefly illumines us from the screen, but not nearly as often or as brightly as it should.
Mae lammen, (Well spoken) davem. That’s exactly it, in their attempt to make the characters into something that people can identify with, they lose the real meaning. These characters are like Beowulf, and so many other heroes, they are powerful, they are more then human, more then the norm, they are people that lead, that men will follow because they are more then just someone that Joe-shmo can relate to they are not stereotypes. They are based on an old ideal that the great will lead and men will follow them because of that. But not just because they just powerful but because they are good they have wisdom and the many other things that men will look for. Aragorn is not weak, he is not just a man, he is a King and the men will follow their king. It was stated that in the paths of the dead that the men only stayed because of their love for Aragorn, and his will alone that held them fast to follow him through.

This sadly, never quite comes through in the movie.
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Old 02-09-2005, 08:05 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by Eomer of the Rohirrim
Saucepan, please realise that I feel for you, fending off us ferocious dogs single-handedly like you are!
Don’t worry, it seems to happen most times I post on a thread about the films, so I’m getting used to it. And I have never been one to shy away from an argu … er … healthy debate.

Mind you, I do find myself once more reduced to a state of confusion. I can understand those who are angered by the films because they view the book as a “sacred text” that should not have been tinkered with in the way that it was. But most people here seem to adopt the “I loved the films BUT …” approach. That I don’t understand. If you loved the films, why spoil your enjoyment by picking them apart? Why not enjoy them for what they are?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Eomer of the Rohirrim
However, a point I would like to send to you is this: I realise that the films have been immensely successful, but should mass opinion really be the barometer of quality here?
Fair point. No, I don’t think that it should necessarily be a measure of quality. But, to my mind, quality has always been a very subjective thing. My own personal opinion is that these films are extremely high quality in comparison with other films in the same and similar genres, but I value the book more. However, I do think that mass appeal is an appropriate measure when we are considering whether it was right to make changes to the story and characters or not. Films such as LotR have to be have mass appeal or they do not get made. And the film-makers clearly felt that they had to make changes in order to give the films that broad appeal.

Which does raise an issue that has clouded the discussion somewhat so far (and this may have been my fault for suggesting that the changes were necessary to make the film “relevant and accessible”). Not all of the changes were made in order to achieve that end. Many of them, including some of those discussed here, were made in order to fit them within the 3½ to 4 hours’ of screen time available for each film. This, for example was why The Old Forest, Tom Bombadil and the Barrow Downs were excluded. Such changes and omissions were necessary, but they will inevitably have had knock-on effects in a story as tightly-wrought and complex as the one that Tolkien was telling in LotR. Without the Barrow Downs and the discovery of the Barrow Blades, for example, it is unclear why Merry’s sword has the power to wound the Witch-King. An explanation could have been given but it would have taken up precious time, and it does not really impair the films in any significant way. To my mind, a far more grievous omission (perhaps because Merry and Pippin are two of my favourite characters) is A Conspiracy Unmasked. Merry and Pippin simply bump into Frodo and Sam in Farmer Maggot‘s Field, and that’s it. They are off on a perilous Quest with them without even stopping to cancel the papers. But, again, I can understand the omission and their loyalty and friendship to Frodo is put across well enough not to make it a major issue.

Other changes were made because the film-makers wanted to bring across particular themes, such as the weakness of Men and the power of the Ring. Again, they have knock-on effects, but any film-maker will want to concentrate on particular themes to give the film greater cohesion, and what they choose will depend upon their individual interpretation. And yet more changes were made because the way that the story is told in the book would not have worked on film. In my view, this explains the concurrent, rather than sequential, telling of the tales of the War of the Ring (on the one hand) and the journey of Frodo and Sam (on the other), the movement of Shelob to the third film and the absence of the Scouring of the Shire.

I accept that none of these changes necessarily make the films any more or less popular. They are simply a function of the film-making process. I defy anyone to go away and produce a workable screenplay from the book for three 3½ to 4 hour films and come away without a bunch of gaping plot-holes.

But what we are really concerned with here is the changes that were made in order to make the films more “relevant and accessible”. Those that were intended to give it that mass appeal. These changes include Legolas’ stunts, the lengthening of the action sequences (which restricted the time available for other aspects of the books), the heavy use of special effects, the modern phraseology, the rationalisation of certain characters (Glorfindel, Erkenbrand, Imrahil, Beregond etc), the increased role of other characters (such as Arwen), Gimli’s wise-cracks, and those moments that tended to provoke cheers amongst film audiences (such as Gandalf whacking Denethor). And I do firmly believe that all of these aspects of the films did go towards widening their appeal. We may not like some, or even all, of them (perhaps because they impinge on that “sacred text”), but for many others these moments were among the highlights of the film. Legolas’ shield-surfing is not to my taste, but I have seen people say (on this forum and elsewhere) that this was one of their favourite moments. I can well imagine word spreading of a good-looking Elf who did amazing stunts, thereby piquing the interest of those to whom such things would (quite understandably) appeal. Similarly, the humour introduced by Gimli’s wise-cracks, unsubtle though they were, and Merry/Pippin’s antics were of a nature that will have broad appeal without being unduly offensive (except perhaps to devoted fans of the book ). And modern idioms such as “Let’s hunt some Orc” and “You and whose army”, while not to my taste (well, I actually quite liked the latter one), will appeal to many people more readily than some of Tolkien‘s more archaic (for want of a better word) language and make the films more relevant to them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Neithan
If they wanted to make the films "accessible" then why not do them entirely in modern language, rather than switching back and forth.
Well, it was inevitable that the changes made to the story (due to time constraints, the process of adaptation to film etc) would require a major re-write job. As I have said previously, there are few writers who could credibly match Tolkien‘s style and maintain the broad appeal that he succeeded (almost unwittingly) in achieving. In light of that, isn’t it better that they used Tolkien’s lines where they felt that they were able to rather than not using them at all? Funnily enough, Tolkien himself has been criticised for using different writing styles in the earlier and later chapters of the book (the homely, familiar style used in the Shire and the journey to Rivendell in contrast with the epic style used on the plains of Rohan and in the Halls of Gondor) by those who find that these contrasting styles grate on them. I have never found this to be a problem, but then there are few lines in the film which really grate on me either.

And so we come to the character changes. Again, it seems to me that many of the changes made in this regard were intended to garner that mass appeal. So, Aragorn’s indecision over his destiny (which is there in the book, albeit fleetingly) is played up. He is made more “human” and less “lofty”. Similarly with Frodo and Faramir. The extraordinary resistance of the latter to the Ring is downplayed because the film-makers thought that it would lack credibility with audiences without greater screen-time being devoted to his development. I agree that these characters lose something in the reduction/exclusion of their mythical qualities. But I do also believe that, for many people, they become more credible characters as a result. I know that words such as “character arc” and “humanising” cause great distaste on this forum, and I agree that the changes made, to some extent, “Hollywood-ised” the characters, but it also increased their broad appeal.


Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
These characters wander through every episode of a million soap operas across the globe every day, with their surgically enhanced 'beauty', constantly changing back story & their meaningless platitudes.
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But I would note that soap operas are extremely popular.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Time and again I have people ask why Faramir did not just tell his father "where to stick it".
Actually, I have the same thoughts when I read the book. I recall that, when I first read it, I got very cross with Denethor for his treatment of Faramir, and also with Faramir for not standing up to his father. And I have to say that (perhaps for this reason) I found Faramir’s desire in the films to prove himself to his father, particularly after his brother’s death, very convincing and rather touching. And there are real life precedents of children yearning for the love of cruel and uncaring parents and doing all manner of things to gain that love.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
To have done the Faramir sections properly would not have taken up any longer than they did when changed.
I think that they would have done. Faramir is not one of the principal characters. To develop his character to the extent whereby his attitude towards the Ring, as depicted in the book, would have seemed credible would, I believe, have taken up screen-time that simply was not available. Similarly, to have developed Denethor’s character sufficiently to portray him in the way he is portrayed in the book and to allow the audience to sympathise with a man who ends up trying to kill his own son would have taken time. The film-makers did not have the luxury of being able to devote the time to developing a relatively minor character such as Denethor. Believe me, I don’t like what they did to the poor guy. But I can understand why they did it.

So, all in all, I remain firmly convinced that the changes made to broaden the appeal of the films had just that effect. Those who were drawn to the films by these aspects may well go away and read the books and find that they prefer them. But, without such changes, they might never have gone to see the films in the first place, and they might then have ended up never reading the book.

And it seems to me that there are few of these changes (the ones intended to broaden the films’ appeal) that will have had the effect of confusing film audiences. On the contrary, to have included the book characters who were omitted or to have had Aragorn marry a character at the end of the trilogy who we had only met once before, briefly, in the first film, would only have served to cause confusion. To the extent that plot-holes and inconsistencies were introduced, they were largely a result of the changes made to fit the films into the time available and adapt them to the screen and, to my mind, this was an inevitable consequence of the adaptation to film of a story as finely-wrought and complex as that which Tolkien tells in LotR. That gets us back to the question of whether the films should have been made, to which I would answer a resounding “Yes!”.

Finally:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Neithan
Saucepan is obviously anything but dumb but he said he likes pop music! Instead I tend to look at it as meaning the movies in themselves were "dumber" (that is, they do not stimulate us intellectually). You may like pop music for example, but you can not claim that Britany Spears(or even a real band like Metallica for that matter)
I should make clear that, by “pop music”, I meant popular music in general, as distinct from classical music. I am not a Britney Spears (or Metallica) fan (not that there is anything wrong with liking either), but I must say that, to my ear, the strains of Waterloo Sunset are far more pleasurable than many pieces of classical music.
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Old 02-09-2005, 08:53 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
Don’t worry, it seems to happen most times I post on a thread about the films, so I’m getting used to it. And I have never been one to shy away from an argu … er … healthy debate.

Mind you, I do find myself once more reduced to a state of confusion. I can understand those who are angered by the films because they view the book as a “sacred text” that should not have been tinkered with in the way that it was. But most people here seem to adopt the “I loved the films BUT …” approach. That I don’t understand. If you loved the films, why spoil your enjoyment by picking them apart? Why not enjoy them for what they are?
Because my friend, they could have been so much better.
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:03 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by Neurion
Because my friend, they could have been so much better.
Could they? Would they have been made? And, in any event, they are what they are. Why not simply enjoy them?

Then again, it's no skin off my nose if you would prefer not to enjoy them.
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:24 PM   #67
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Could they? Would they have been made? And, in any event, they are what they are. Why not simply enjoy them?
I enjoy most of them, up to RotK, but for the multifarious reasons mentioned above my enjoyment of the films is frustrated by the hasty and inexplicable nature of the increasingly gratuitious deviations from Tolkien's actual story.
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:53 PM   #68
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Could they? Would they have been made?
OK so maybe Jackson didn't really have a choice, that doesn't mean I have to like it. I want to see the movies and recognize Middle Earth as I know it from the books. I feel the same way as if Jackson were taking real history and distorting it to entertain people, often I find myself thinking but that's not how it really happened.

Quote:
But I would note that soap operas are extremely popular.
So what? If Jackson had actually reduced LotR to the level of soap operas then this would be a different conversation, and he would have earned my undieing hatred.

As far as Arwen goes I think that the scenes with her are completely unecessary. All that was needed was to mention that she was Aragorn's bride to be and there would be no confusion. Then you would free up more time for other things.

There was a lot more I wanted to say but I have already spentway more time on this forum today than is wise considering all the homework I have to do. It's going to be another long night.
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Old 02-09-2005, 09:55 PM   #69
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After hesitating over it for some time, I think I will give in to the temptation and ramble about my views on the changes.

Why I think many of Jackson's changes were mistaken

For some time, I was perplexed by Jackson's alterations to the story - not perplexed at the fact that he had made alterations but perplexed at the nature of those alterations. I think that my confusion arose because I initially bought the oft-used line "there isn't time in a movie to include everything in the book, and that's why so many changes are necessary."

Now it's true that there isn't time in a movie to include everything in the book. And some things certainly were left out, quite reasonably, I think, due to these time constraints. The whole Tom Bombadil episode, for example, is something that would either have added a half hour to the picture or have used up time that would have been better spent elsewhere.

But when one thinks about it, this explanation fails for most of the significant changes. In fact, many of those changes add events to the story and thus take up more time than would the story unembellished. For example, the whole element of the warg attack en route to Helm's Deep.

What accounts for the majority of the changes, then? The suggestion that started this thread is a good candidate: Jackson has "dumbed down" the story in order to make it more accessible. Or, if you like, he has altered the style of the story to bring it more into line with current Hollywood convention. This accounts, I think, for many of the jarringly poor lines of dialogue.

But I think that there is a third reason, one that perhaps accounts for most of the plot changes. Or perhaps it's not really a distinct reason but rather a facet of the "current Hollywood style" explanation. That is: I think that Jackson was quite over-concerned with maintaining tension and suspense. I would go as far as to say that this unhealthy obsession is a problem throughout Hollywood these days, at least when it comes to action/adventure/fantasy/science fiction movies. Directors (as well as producers and writers) are morbidly afraid that a single second of the movie will be declared boring by someone in the audience. So they try to load as much suspense as they can into every frame. The result, curiously enough, is often that the suspense fails, for two reasons. First, because its effect wears off and it eventually becomes tiresome; second, and more interestingly, because in trying to invest every moment with suspense, the director loses control of the more powerful element of long term suspense.

Consider some of the changes that add significantly to the length of the story. In Balin's tomb, instead of the troll sticking its arm and leg through the door, it comes all the way through and battles the Fellowship in a long action set piece. Clearly, the goal was to make the encounter more exciting; but it's cheap excitement. It is a battle, nothing more; it adds nothing to the overall progress of the story and does nothing to enhance the excitement or suspense in the movie beyond the confines of that particular scene. Or: the stairs begin to fall apart as the Fellowship flees Moria. Maybe the sequence is exciting and suspenseful in itself; but again it uses up a non-trivial bit of time and it is unneeded. What these and similar additions have in common is that they add suspense or action to non-critical moments. The business with the stairs, for example, is not needed because, quite simply, the stairs aren't the point; removing this and similar incidents would streamline the film, increase the relative significance of the truly important moments, and result in a more focused picture. That's why I can better understand additions made to increase the apparent significance of the Ring; even if I ultimately disagree with those additions, at least they attempt to emphasize an important element of the story rather than an unimportant one.

Why I was disappointed with the films

Davem argues that Jackson had a moral obligation to be faithful to the book. The Saucepan Man argues that there is nothing wrong with altering the story for the sake of accesibility, or conformity to Hollywood's style, or whatever you want to call it. I suppose my view is somewhere in between. I don't think I would say that there is any moral responsibility involved. Yet I do take issue with Jackson's changes - for the simple reason that I, personally, was disappointed with the movies as a result of these changes.

So, as a defender of the movies might ask me, why was I disappointed? What right do I have to complain about the movies, which have after all done nothing to hurt me, left all my copies of the book perfectly intact, and in fact provided me with some enjoyment? Well, I'm disappointed not because the movies were actively harmful (which they were not) but simply because they were not as good as they could have been. No doubt our hypothetical interlocuter would seize on my use of the word "good", asking me "Good in whose opinion?" Well, in my opinion, of course; it's the only one I've got.

So, while the altered scene in Balin's tomb did not harm me, I cannot help but to imagine how much I would have enjoyed seeing the scene as Tolkien wrote it on the screen. It would have been great to see the climactic scene at Mt. Doom the way it was written. It would have been sublime to see the Witch-king facing Gandalf at the gate of Minas Tirith and to hear the cock's crow taken up by the horns of Rohan. And Jackson could have done it. Here was an opportunity that will not come again for a long time, if at all. It's all very well and good to say that Jackson had the right to popularize the work, even to dumb it down - but I'm not concerned about whether he had the right; what bothers me, quite frankly, is that I did not like the resulting movies so very much - and that I could have loved them, had they been not so very different.

That sounds selfish, no doubt - and it is. After all, we go and see movies for selfish reasons - because we want to enjoy them.

Why I nonetheless own all the extended editions and have voraciously consumed the special features

I think that in many ways Jackson failed with these movies. I think he dumbed them down. I did not enjoy them as much as I might have. But I enjoyed them. I say this because I wonder whether this is a common phenomenon or whether I am the only one. Are there others who lament the popularization of the story and yet agree that in other ways, the films were quite good?

Why the whole enterprise was doomed from the beginning

Even when I consider the hypothetical perfect LotR movie - the one that Jackson could have made but didn't - I conclude that the book would be far superior. This reminds me of what Hitchcock said when Truffaut asked him if he would ever consider making a film version of Crime and Punishment (which does have a somewhat Hitchcockian story). He said that he would never make such a movie, nor a movie based on any literary masterpiece. Why? Because a literary masterpiece is already a masterpiece. It already exists in something like a perfect form. If its perfect medium is literature, then cinema is not its perfect medium. So a cinematic version will never improve upon the story. Hitchcock instead made movies based on imperfect books - books that contained interesting ideas but ideas that, he thought, could be better utilized in cinema. The more I think about this argument, the more sense it makes to me.

Edit: Well, it's happened again. I've wasted a good deal of time (that would have been far better spent on some homework that happens to be due tomorrow) composing a most verbose ramble only to find that in the intervening time, someone else (namely Neurion) has made exactly my point in a shockingly small number of words - one sentence, in fact!

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Old 02-09-2005, 10:05 PM   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Edit: Well, it's happened again. I've wasted a good deal of time (that would have been far better spent on some homework that happens to be due tomorrow) composing a most verbose ramble only to find that in the intervening time, someone else (namely Neurion) has made exactly my point in a shockingly small number of words - one sentence, in fact! I don't know a proper saying for such an occasion in my native American tongue, so I'll steal a British one.

Ho hum.
LOL. Strangely enough, I hate making short posts like that and I quite envy the long, well thought-out and intelligent post you just made.

Keep up the good work.
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Old 02-09-2005, 10:09 PM   #71
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Quote:
SpM:Mind you, I do find myself once more reduced to a state of confusion. I can understand those who are angered by the films because they view the book as a “sacred text” that should not have been tinkered with in the way that it was. But most people here seem to adopt the “I loved the films BUT …” approach. That I don’t understand. If you loved the films, why spoil your enjoyment by picking them apart? Why not enjoy them for what they are?
Because what they are, enters my porus mind and fight's with the stories that I know better than the texts of my own Faith and I have read many year before I converted, and a minature battle ensues, which thusly disturbs my heart.

I would rather be able to completely segregate Denethor and 'Denethor' but alas, few things in this world are pure...

I think that the more a person has ritulaized or made the M-E archetypes one's own, as any community does with a myth, the more any 'tampering' is felt as a negative. For those to whom LotR was 'a great story', the movies may well be ' a great movie' or even a fantastic one [my wiife loved ROtK but may well never read the books and is thus a perfect example of th 'pure PJ fan' her appreciation has no books to contend with.

But for those to whom the Legendarium has taken the palce of myth, if not sacred writ, as it has admittedly for me, they seem to have rather less pure enjoymnent of the movies. Big generalizations but...

Of course, there is no right or wrong response to the movies, but it is fascinating to try and understand why we feel what we do.

my personal solution seems to have been too stop watching the movies.

But I still enjoy coming here to serve back to PJ exactly what I experienced .
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Old 02-10-2005, 03:31 AM   #72
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Thumbs up the phantome rulez!

I LOVE the list

additional entry:

12. Leave out Eagles - no bird that big can fly! (or replace them with some flying machine 'wise elves' cotrived )
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Old 02-10-2005, 05:53 AM   #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lindil
Because what they are, enters my porus mind and fight's with the stories ... [so] my personal solution seems to have been too stop watching the movies
Sometimes I do feel likewise, sometimes I can muster enough mental resource to segregate two sets of characters completely. Cf. Two Frodos , excellent thread by Child of Seventh Age. I see you haven't posted there SpM, and the 'dogs' may prove somewhat less ferocious in that kennel

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
But most people here seem to adopt the “I loved the films BUT …” approach
Ah, but outright Like/Not Like is a bit simplistic, ain't it? It has to be a little more complex than that, so, BUT comes into play. Let me present you with an analogy:

I like my friend ***. I would not apply a term friend to him , if I liked him not, eh? He's handsome and clever, generous and funny, good playing mate when it comes down to bowling or billiard et cetera et cetera. But he's a bit talkative at times, and maybe tiresome too when in pursuit of his favourite subject. He's perfect, but for one flow. Now, and analogy is crooked, as neither I, nor any living man (but for himself) wield the power to eliminate that flow (that is, feature is a flow from my point of view anyways), and I whether like him 'as he is' or do not like him at all. But I may be inclined to say at times: *** would be a great person if only he could be less prolix.

Or, another analogy - imagine yours truly and his chosen in a haute style restaurant. We are served a dinner of our dream, with all proper things and stuff, four types of forks and knives, gentle candlelight, perfect band and the kind of service which helps you forgive and forget. Got a picture? Now, imagine spinach (that b*****d of a plant always apt to try the trick) stuck in yours truly's teeth. Imagine furthermore desparete, even hunted looks for toothpick-stand on behalf of yours truly, and disenchantment one feels as soon it is clear no toothpick-stand is present, and it is an alternative of finger-into-your-mouth-when-you-think-no-one-looks-but-in-fact-half-the-world-is-giggling-at-you technique or nervous tongue-action for the rest of the evening. (Of course, there is always a possibility to ask for one, but that's not the point here)

The fact being, I would not have complained about missing toothpicks in a snack-bar round the corner, and talkativenss would not bother me if *** were outright mean, not a grand person I know him to be.

Almost-perfect thing is more of a pest (or, 'almost' part of it is a pest), than the humble mass consumption product. You don't expect much of the latter, but when former falls short (and within an inch! - just a little less alteration, and it would have been nailed!) - well, it's not a nice feeling. Have you heard people nitpicking about Banshee cartoon details? Exactly for the films being so good, we can't help complaining, as it seems to us they might have been even better.

Hence the 'but' sticking in the middle of sentences starting with 'I love the films...'
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Old 02-10-2005, 08:17 AM   #74
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Thumbs up Great posts!

The latest posts provide some of the best answers that I have seen to my eternal question (and I find myself wondering why I always seem to agree with Aiwendil, even when we are discussing something that we disagree on ).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Well, it's happened again. I've wasted a good deal of time (that would have been far better spent on some homework that happens to be due tomorrow) composing a most verbose ramble only to find that in the intervening time, someone else (namely Neurion) has made exactly my point in a shockingly small number of words
Not at all. I find it very interesting to gain some insight into why it is that people feel the way that they do about these films (as opposed to simply the specific things that they dislike about them, most of which I have heard now about a hundred times each).

I do, of course, agree that the films could have been better. Flippantly, I might ask whether there is anything that cannot be improved on in some way, however minor (yes, including the book). But I too would have loved to have seen many of the scenes filmed just the way that Tolkien wrote them. My point is that a film which adheres as closely as possible to the book (within the constraints of the film medium) can and will probably never be made. Yes, another production team might have done things slightly different. They might have excluded more of the additional scenes and included more of the original scenes and lines. But any film-maker is going to approach it from his or her interpretation of what will work best and, in the case of a film that is unlikely ever to be made other than as an action-heavy blockbuster, this will involve significant changes to conform with that approach and gain mass appeal.

When I first saw the films, TTT particularly, I did feel pretty disappointed with some of the changes that had been made. But, having now seen them a few times each, I just sit back and enjoy them. I take the view that they are what they are and, since I find them enjoyable, I might as well not let my initial disappointment spoil that enjoyment. That all sounds terribly analytical, but it is not really a conscious approach at all. It is simply the way that I have come to feel about the films.


Quote:
But when one thinks about it, this explanation fails for most of the significant changes. In fact, many of those changes add events to the story and thus take up more time than would the story unembellished.
True enough. But audiences have come to expect thrilling action sequences throughout "blockbuster" films and so it is inevitable that they will be written in where they are not present already. Again, I firmly believe that the LotR films would not have been so successful if the action sequences had (as they are in the books) been fewer and further between. People have different expectations from films than they do from books. Books are there to be savoured, to take one's time over, whereas films are far more immediate. That's a massive generalisation, I know, but it applies when we are comparing the techniques used to write a tale such as LotR with the techniques used in making what is intended to be a highly successful blockbuster film.

I know that people will say that they should not have been made as blockbusters, but I really don't think that they would have been made in any other way. They would have been left unfilmed (which, though an appealing prospect, no doubt, to some, would have denied countless others of the pleasure that they derived from them).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
But I think that there is a third reason, one that perhaps accounts for most of the plot changes. Or perhaps it's not really a distinct reason but rather a facet of the "current Hollywood style" explanation. That is: I think that Jackson was quite over-concerned with maintaining tension and suspense.
Yes, I think that this does fall within the category of broadening the films' appeal. I do agree that the films might have worked with less outright action and more tension building. I often find people staring blankly at me when I say that my favourite of the Alien films was the first one. Most people seem to prefer the action-heavy second film in the series. But it is precisely because most of the first film is taken up by lengthy periods of suspense-building and has suprisingly few moments of full-throttle action that I find it superior. That said, I find the two scenes that you give as specific examples (the Cave Troll attack and the crumbling stair-block) to be incredibly exciting and enjoyable sequences.

We blithely refer here to the films being "Hollywood-ised", but this style of film did not just come about randomly. It arose to fulfil a demand. Film studios have sophisticated ways of discovering what it is that their target audiences want. They don't always get it right, but they are usually pretty accurate. They have found that people want lots of action in their blockbusters, and that's what the LotR films give them. But I would say that, in my view, these films are infinately superior and put across a far more uplifting message, than the average (or even above average) blockbuster film. In this regard, I would put them on a par with the Star Wars films (the first three) and the first of the Indiana Jones films, all of which have a special place in my heart.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I wonder whether this is a common phenomenon or whether I am the only one. Are there others who lament the popularization of the story and yet agree that in other ways, the films were quite good?
I would say that you are in the majority of those who have also read the book. As I have said, I was initially disappointed with aspects of the films, and I do still sometimes wonder at what might (but probably never would) have been. But mostly I just enjoy them for what they are.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Because a literary masterpiece is already a masterpiece. It already exists in something like a perfect form. If its perfect medium is literature, then cinema is not its perfect medium. So a cinematic version will never improve upon the story.
I do not disagree. And I can well understand why a man like Hitchcock thought it a good reason for him to make such films. But I do not think that it is a valid reason for the films not to be made at all. If they are made well enough (which I think the LotR films are), then they will bring pleasure and enjoyment to people and might lead them to read the original literary masterpiece. I think that is reason enough to justify their production.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lindil
Because what they are, enters my porus mind and fight's with the stories that I know better than the texts of my own Faith and I have read many year before I converted, and a minature battle ensues, which thusly disturbs my heart.
Thanks lindil for providing further insight into what I call the "sacred text" approach. I fully understand your reaction, even though I do not share it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by lindil
my personal solution seems to have been too stop watching the movies.
A sensible approach to adopt, I would say, given the way that you feel about them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Cf. Two Frodos , excellent thread by Child of Seventh Age. I see you haven't posted there SpM, and the 'dogs' may prove somewhat less ferocious in that kennel
Hehe. The dogs don't worry me. And they woudn't get any exercise if I wasn't here for them to bark at.

I have read and enjoyed that thread, HI, and I agreed with much of what was said. But I didn't feel that there was much more that I could add that had not been said already. I can't recall whether Helen has posted there, but I rather like her approach of keeping the two Frodos separate and appreciating the different qualities of each.


Quote:
Originally Posted by HI
Let me present you with an analogy
You do surprise me!

As with the films, I would overlook the friend's minor flaws and simply enjoy his company. On the other hand, the spinach would bug the heck out of me (far more so than the changes to the films), so the analogy doesn't really work for me.
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Old 02-10-2005, 09:34 AM   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpM
I do find myself once more reduced to a state of confusion. I can understand those who are angered by the films because they view the book as a “sacred text” that should not have been tinkered with in the way that it was. But most people here seem to adopt the “I loved the films BUT …” approach. That I don’t understand. If you loved the films, why spoil your enjoyment by picking them apart? Why not enjoy them for what they are?
It's a fair question, and I am one of those people who really enjoys the films yet still criticises. It's something I have given thought to, however.

It may be that I simply love the books to such an extent and have loved them for so long, that it would be impossible to match up to the experience of reading them. I dreaded the films to a certain extent, as LotR is so precious (sorry!) to me and I only heard about them being made some three or four months before FotR arrived in the cinemas. I was excited, and yet I was filled with fear that they would be dreadful. When I finally saw FotR my fears were dispelled, yet I still found aspects of the film raised my hackles a little. I think it was the best of all three films, and the most true to the books (despite the omission of the Old Forest, Tom and the Wight). I knew I would be critical, as time and again I had seen films of much loved books, virtually all of which failed to meet my expectations.

Some of the changes made for the films were, and still are, incomprehensible to me. At first my main gripe was with the character of Arwen. Now I have come to the conclusion that it was acceptable to include elements of the love story, as they are in the text anyway, just hidden away in the appendices. It is not altering the storyline to show how the story of Arwen and Aragorn unfolds. But I still object to the action sequences, particularly the scene at the Ford as this denigrates the struggle and bravery of Frodo. In addition, it alters the character of Arwen in my mind, as she ought to be presented as the protected Elf maiden rather than a "She-Elf" who is allowed to ride out and out herself in danger. Now I can see why this may have been done: to cushion Jackson from the same accusations of sexism that Tolkien himself suffered. But it does not improve the film.

In the same way, Gimli was turned from a droll yet noble Dwarf into a bumbling belching buffoon. Yes, this gave some laughs, but again it was a denigration of a character. I now fear what any film of The Hobbit will be like, lest it sounds reminiscent of the QEII leaving port with all the bodily noises that Dwarfs seem to have been linked to. This was a shame as the performance given was good when the actor was not required to act basely - and I'm not prissy about that kind of thing, but it doesn't 'fit' to have a character eructating at a King.

Then there was Aragorn. One view of Aragorn in RotK that I've been asked about is "why didn't they make him into an inspirational leader figure who all the men wanted to follow?". Well, that's how Aragorn truly is, but just not in the films. It seems that Jackson picked up on his occasional moments of doubt and ran with them in an attempt to create Angst-a-gorn.

And the primary reason I get frustrated with the films is the alterations in plot which are inexplicable. This is a finely crafted plot and to alter it is incredibly risky. As I've already said, the messing about with Faramir was a ridiculously dangerous thing to do. I still cannot see why this change was made. It leaves a huge plot hole, and he may not be one of the Fellowship, but he is still an important character. It might have been better to leave him out altogether than to mess about in this way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Maybe the sequence is exciting and suspenseful in itself; but again it uses up a non-trivial bit of time and it is unneeded. What these and similar additions have in common is that they add suspense or action to non-critical moments.
Aiwendil sums it up nicely. Perhaps some of the necessary yet seemingly "boring" scenes or exposition were omitted in order to include more "action". It is incredibly frustrating to think that certain parts of the plot were altered for inexplicable reasons, as these changes seem to have only resulted in greater inconsistency and incoherence.

Now about these changes being necessary to increase the popularity of the films. Who is all this action going to appeal to? I would say it would appeal to young men of course. And who are often stereotyped as typical avid readers of Tolkien? Well, a lot of young men, again. There was already plenty of action in the books, I would argue that there did not need to be additional action.

Then there is the question of language. A few of the new lines were amusing, yet others are glaringly obvious as poor writing. And when people pull out examples of their favourite lines in the films, they are invariably those written by Tolkien in the first place. Also, the themes and the characters are timeless and there is no reason to be updating these whatsoever.

So what did I like about the changes? There are a few, surprisingly. I thought that moving the episode with Shelob on to the final film was justified from a viewpoint of narrative, as it gave more 'story' for Frodo, Sam and Gollum in the final film and it did not alter the plot. As said above, bringing Arwen's love story into the main plot did not affect it and was acceptable. And some amusing new lines were written for the Hobbits; surely this was easier as their idiom is not quite so different to our own.

I think the films are quite beautiful to watch, the music is splendid and the acting superb. I like the way that so many little 'details' were brought in, particularly in the art/design ideas. I like the films a heck of a lot. But I still don't like that script. There are points where I feel like cringing, and others where I start wondering where my books are, as some parts just don't make any sense.
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Old 02-10-2005, 12:05 PM   #76
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On this moral duty question, it occurred to me that it would be somewhat unfair to impose restictions on the manner in which the film rights may be exercised by a purchaser of those rights that:
  1. were not contemplated at the time he purchased the rights; and
  2. were not therefore taken into account in calculating the amount to be paid to the person selling those rights.
Quite apart from the fact that such restrictions would be unenforceable at law, it seems to me to be morally wrong to try to assert restrictions on the use of the rights when the author has been paid for those rights on the basis that such restrictions do not apply.
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Old 02-10-2005, 01:09 PM   #77
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Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I like the movies, but....

The truth is that like SpM, I understood and appreciated the plot changes made to the story. While I mourned the losses, I was able to take them in stride because I appreciate that you can't fit a book that takes something like 7 1/2 hours to read out loud into a 3 hour movie (that would be the Fellowship).

Therefore, I was able (with a great deal of sighing and groaning) to appreciate the loss of "A Conspiracy Unmasked", Glorfindel in general, Halbarad and Co., and things along those lines.

But here's where PJ screwed up where my fandom was concerned: the LITTLE things. I can understand and even come close to approving the big changes, but the little ones elude me. Why does Aragorn's crown not fit the description of the one in the book? Why does Arwen have a CURVED sword? Why is so much of the new lines written in Modern American instead of Middle English? These sorts of things could have been changed to remain consistent with the original version without any extra cost. The losses would have been nonexistent, the benefits would have been greater consistency and greater approval from the fans (those of us who met Frodo and Aragorn, etc, before PJ made stars of them).

On the subject of Gimli, surely it would have been possible to make him humourous without making him so... crude. Gimli's humour has no sophistication.

As for Merry and Pippin... Why make them carbon copies of each other? Protests to the contrary, they were pretty much identical characters. Why not let Pippin do all the comic stunts, and let Merry develop a character of his own?

And then there's Aragorn.... I have to wonder at times why they even bothered making him "accessable". Why not just make him more or less super-cool like Legolas? Oh wait! People today don't think that high lineage, wisdom, and a supernatural aura aren't cool.

Basically, my points are that PJ screwed up in the little things. The big changes HAD to be made. The little ones are another matter entirely.
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Old 02-10-2005, 04:28 PM   #78
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Just what are we accessing anyway

OK, so the conversation has been about how the film attempts to be more "accessible" -- but just what is being accessed.

I've got to say right from the outset that I am a wholehearted fan of the films, both as films and as adaptations of the story. I think that they succeed in every respect. Sure, the characters and events got changed, plot elements were rearranged, relationships altered, but the thematic concerns of the story came through loud and clear. The movies celebrate friendship, and self-sacrifice, and the perservation of the natural world, and humility, and pity, and duy and honour and bravery; they deride cruelty and disregard for nature, they abhor the unthinking application of force and power, they postulate that the only response to tyranny and self-aggrandizing power is resistance: bloodless resistance, if possible, but armed if unavoidable. In the book and in the movie the central conflict is the same (Power vs free will) and in the end both resolve that conflict in the same remarkable manner: a miracle happens and the Powerful Object is destroyed rather than used. The Men of the West kneel and pay homage to Hobbits. The Towers are thrown down and evil defeats itself. When I put these really important similarities up against an alteration in the order of events, or more screen time for Arwen, or even the wholesale rewriting of Faramir and Denethor -- well, those kinds of changes seem relatively unimportant to me.

Greaty to PJ's credit he was always very clear that he was making "a version" of LotR and not the definitive translation of it to screen (which he knew as well as Tolkien was impossible). Another word that's been getting a lot of play in the thread is "successful" -- are the films successful? Well, certainly they were with audiences, but I also think they were entirely successful with their intended aim: they preserved and presented the ideals and themes of the story in a completely different medium.

I like to think about the films as 'covers' of the story, like in music. With all really good covers, the differences between the original and the cover version are what make it a good cover. The music is kind of the same, but there are more differences than similiarities really: shifts in tone and tune, key, pace, melody even. But the words are always the same -- the message is still there even though the song, and thus our experience of it, is entirely different. My favourite examples are "Stand By Me" and "My Way". Whereas the original SbM is a slick 50's pop song about boy and girl togetherness, Lennon's cover is full of an angst, and anger, that makes the song far more social and even despairing, I think. Both versions of the song are about the need for togetherness and relationship in difficult times, though. "My Way" was famously covered by Sid Vicious in such a way that they satirically ironised the song -- so it is possible to mangle the original but only by changing the words. Sid did deliberate violence to the intent of the song.

PJ and crew did not do anything of the kind to the core values and vision of LotR. They changed all the props and stays of story telling, and adapted them to the screen so that those core values and vision could be maintained and made accessible to a movie going audience. Moral? Yer darn right that PJ and crew had a moral obligation to Tolkien to maintain his vision -- and they did, by maintaining Tolkien's moral vision!
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Old 02-10-2005, 05:27 PM   #79
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Fordim, the essential message could have been propagated just as well had PJ and co. made a trilogy of films set in Han Dynasty China.

What is missing from the filmic adaptations in many instances are the many individual episodes that stick in your mind and make the story, and characters so endearing. Lord of the Rings isn't just small-person-takes-evil-Ring-to-Land-of-Shadow-and-drops-it-into-volcano, it's Gimli capering about when he hears the message Galdriel has sent him, Aragorn leading on the levies of Gondor with the Rangers at his side and the Star of Elendil on his brow, Barliman Butterbur musing over the unprecedented excellence of his beer, Gimli dwelling on the beauty of Aglarond, the three banners of Gondor, Rohan and Dol Amroth waving in the wind, sable, green and blue.

In many ways, certainly visually, I love the films and am deeply indebted to Peter Jackson, yet there are needless flaws that rankle.
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Old 02-10-2005, 08:16 PM   #80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neurion
Lord of the Rings isn't just small-person-takes-evil-Ring-to-Land-of-Shadow-and-drops-it-into-volcano, it's Gimli capering about when he hears the message Galdriel has sent him, Aragorn leading on the levies of Gondor with the Rangers at his side and the Star of Elendil on his brow, Barliman Butterbur musing over the unprecedented excellence of his beer, Gimli dwelling on the beauty of Aglarond, the three banners of Gondor, Rohan and Dol Amroth waving in the wind, sable, green and blue.
Actually, LotR is none of those things to me -- I am sure that it is to you, and for that we should both be grateful for it is personal to each of us. There are moments in the text that I have taken to heart in the way that you have apparently taken to these, but these moments are utterly indvidual and variable. Some of my favourite aspects of the story made it into the film, others did not. What's more, the film has given me new moments (like the charge of the Rohirrim -- I still can barely breathe as they rush forward crying out "death! death! death!".

And while I agree that LotR "isn't just small-person-takes-evil-Ring-to-Land-of-Shadow-and-drops-it-into-volcano", I would argue that this is precisely what it is for everybody who cherishes it, either in book or movie form. We may disagree on our favourite bits or views (I, for one, have no real qualms over the lemming like wargs, but I think that Minas Tirith was far too dirty and ragged about the edges) but the one thing that it is for everyone is that story you have just retold. Of course, it's much much more than that: a lot of that "more" is personal and idiosyncratic (wargs, tone of language, look and feel of scenes, how characters are 'supposed' to be) but not all of it. Much of that "more" is thematic and this is the "more" that I think PJ and crew have successfully adapted to the screen.

I think that there's a violent sense of outrage when something we feel propriety rights over seems threatened. I know what a balrog is supposed to look like, and so when PJ gets that "right" I am unruffled. But when he shows Bree to be a drunken, ramshakle town of brigands, which is just "wrong" I am ruffled. But I am sure that if I could actually look into the mind or imagination of any other reader I would find an infinite number of other such wrongnesses. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that Saucepan Man, for example, has got balrogs totally incorrect; I know that davem couldn't pick Galadriel out of a one-person lineup, and that HerenIstarion is lamentably incorrect about the type of accent charateristic of the Shire. But I know equally, and more importantly, that we all agree on the core value of the tale, and that we share (albeit not always in perfect accord! ) a similiar sense of the story's moral vision. The only difference between any of us and PJ is that he was the lucky son of a so-and-so who actually got to put his own personal vision of the story on film!
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Last edited by Fordim Hedgethistle; 02-10-2005 at 08:19 PM.
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