10336Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gripes about LOTR films
- Nov 10, 2003At 09:19 AM 11/9/2003 , Joan Marie Verba wrote:
>I feel this is, in part, a case where Jackson and Jackson's defendersMaybe in part, but I don't see why it's necessary to bash Tolkien in order
>are apologizing (that's not "apologizing" as in "regret,"
>that's "apologizing" as in "defending") for the wholesale departures
>from Tolkien's text.
to defend Jackson. Jackson himself has done no Tolkien-bashing of this
kind. There are places where he's justified his changes with the
implication that he knows story-telling better than Tolkien does, but he's
never said so directly, and he's never sweepingly criticized LOTR as a bad
book, which the defenders I'm referring to have done.
>Factor 1: Contemporary screenwriting is very forumlaic. InScreenwriting (not just contemporary) indeed tends towards the formulaic,
>screenwriting courses, there is a very strict dramatic line that
>students are encouraged to adhere to, and departures from that
>formula are given as examples of "bad" (or in the text referred
>to, "amateur") writing. It is interesting to note that those who are
>making the comments ARE connected to the screenwriting community
>rather than the literary community.
which is why there are so many bad and wearisomely predictable films out
there. It doesn't have to be so. The best films aren't that way, and
they're not unsuccessful. I think of the film "Memento" which broke more
screenwriting conventions than you could shake a stick at, and worked
splendidly. And I recently saw a film about two people who, despite every
opportunity and a clear inclination, do NOT commit adultery. I could
hardly believe it.
Before Jackson's LOTR was released, I was on a convention panel speculating
about the films (this was not the one at Mythcon), which was dominated by
an audience member who insisted that, as if it were a law of nature, that
Jackson MUST maul the structure of the book to fit it into the standard
structure which all screenplays must follow. As it turned out, Jackson did
nothing of the sort. Such changes as he made in general structure were
much less drastic than this man insisted on, and were not to fit it into
>Factor 2: There are people who never were able to get through Lord ofAnybody who wants to say that they personally prefer the book to the movie,
>the Rings (it certainly took me several tries, and I was an
>enthusiast of The Hobbit!), and therefore have memories of the LotR
>text being ponderous and boring. We may disagree (I certainly do),
>but they're out there. I wouldn't be surprised if such people are
>among those who say that they prefer Jackson's version (finding it
>an "improvement" over Tolkien's text), and would agree with an
>assessment that Tolkien's writing wasn't very good.
that's their personal taste and they're welcome to it. But the people I
was referring to said things like "Frodo ... eventually loses the sympathy
of MOST readers" and that "NOBODY ever read Tolkien for the writing,"
emphases added. As Shippey said about some other examples, "they insist
perversely in making statements not about literary merit, where their
opinions could rest undisprovable, but about popular appeal, where they can
be shown up beyond all possibility of doubt."
For the fact is that no matter how many people out there found LOTR
difficult - and there's no novel ever written that appeals to everybody -
it has overall been the most popular and lasting of its century. This
suggests that whatever its literary merit - and people like Harold Bloom
most eager to attack that probably wouldn't care for the movies either -
Tolkien did know something about story-telling and popular appeal. And
thus any changes to his story made by film-makers, unless their grasp of
these things is more profound than his, are liable to be for the worse.
- David Bratman
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