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10336Re: [mythsoc] Re: Gripes about LOTR films

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  • David S. Bratman
    Nov 10, 2003
      At 09:19 AM 11/9/2003 , Joan Marie Verba wrote:

      >I feel this is, in part, a case where Jackson and Jackson's defenders
      >are apologizing (that's not "apologizing" as in "regret,"
      >that's "apologizing" as in "defending") for the wholesale departures
      >from Tolkien's text.

      Maybe in part, but I don't see why it's necessary to bash Tolkien in order
      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. In
      >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.

      Screenwriting (not just contemporary) indeed tends towards the formulaic,
      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
      that mold.


      >Factor 2: There are people who never were able to get through Lord of
      >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.

      Anybody who wants to say that they personally prefer the book to the movie,
      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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