18814RE: [mythsoc] Jackson Films
- Sep 2 5:52 AMThe essay by Tom Shippey to which I was referring was the one in Zimbardo
and Isaacs' "Understanding The Lord of the RIngs". Perhaps "lukewarm" was
not the best word to describe Shippey's approach: "apologetic" might be
more like it.
So far as I know, Shippey is the only scholar to maintain that Tolkien's
Council of Elrond is a badly-chaired committee meeting. What on earth is
he talking about? Yes, it's long, but that's because it's really more a
conference than a meeting. And it's a very logically organized conference.
It begins with background papers by the chairman and Messrs. B. Baggins
and G. Mithrandir, among others, followed by a fairly brief (8 pages out of
41 in the abridged transcript, Ballantine ed.) discussion session that's
very much to the point of the decision that has to be made, and it's
concluded by a final action statement ("I will take the Ring"). Jackson's
version of the meeting is the one that's badly-chaired, with all that
squabbling that doesn't exist in Tolkien.
I wrote that I agreed with John Rateliff's proposition that there are good
things in parts of the Jackson films, including some of the things he
itemized. But I certainly don't endorse all of them. Wendell Wagner is
right: the transformations of Bilbo and Galadriel are entirely ridiculous.
This is because they have entirely missed Tolkien's spirit. Look at what
Tolkien actually writes.
Frodo looking at Bilbo: "a shadow seemed to have fallen between them, and
through it he found himself eyeing a little wrinkled creature with a hungry
face and bony groping hands." Frodo is having a vision of Bilbo as he
would become if he kept the Ring, and it's clearly marked as a vision
("eyeing" him "through" the "shadow"). Unlike in Jackson, Bilbo does not
actually transform, either in Frodo's eyes or in reality (so badly does
Jackson handle this that the latter is a possible interpretation), and
though he's reaching towards the Ring he doesn't jump out at Frodo like a
horror-film monster, as he does in Jackson.
And Galadriel: "She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement,
and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful." First, that's
just one short sentence of description; it doesn't go on and on elaborately
like Jackson's transformation does. Second, she has _already finished_
speaking; she doesn't recite her lines through an SFX filter. Third,
"seeming"; again, it's a vision, not Jackson's physical transformation. If
Jackson doesn't know how to convey the difference he's a hopeless twit of a
film director. Last, look at those adjectives. Jackson has based his
Galadriel only on "terrible", and he doesn't even know what that word
means; surely nobody would argue that his transformed Galadriel is remotely
either beautiful or worshipful.
Here we have the problem that dogs Jackson throughout the parts of the film
where he thinks he's keeping to Tolkien. There's a superficial adherence
to the plot (Frodo grasps how horrible it would be if Bilbo or Galadriel
had the Ring, OK, we get that), but a complete, total, and utter failure to
understand the spirit, and indeed the letter, of the book he's supposedly
keeping on hand for constant reference. And the result looks ridiculous.
This is an endemic problem, even in most of the places where Jackson mostly
gets it right. His own storytelling spirit keeps dominating the film. And
that's not surprising; it's his film. The problem is how completely alien
his spirit is to Tolkien's. Denying that difference won't make it go away.
Jackson can do awesome. Galadriel speaking the film's opening lines in
darkness: that's awesome. The rising, sweeping panorama of the Tol Brandir
country as the Fellowship comes to it on the river: that's awesome. But
there ain't much like it.
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>