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18844Re: [mythsoc] Jackson con't

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  • David Bratman
    Sep 3, 2007
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      >At 05:06 PM 9/3/2007 -0700, John D Rateliff wrote:
      >
      >On Sep 3, 2007, at 8:03 AM, David Bratman wrote:
      >> Jackson's distinctive sin wasn't that he made some films. His
      >> distinctive sin is that his films were BAD, and could have been
      >> better.
      >
      >This argument fails, since the films are GOOD at the bare minimum,
      >SUPERB at their best.

      Even you don't really think that. I've read your reviews of the films, and
      your criticisms of films 2 & 3 are far stronger than compatible with such a
      summary.

      But now I see why you were so anxious to pass off the idea that Jackson
      critics are a small anomalous minority of Tolkien fans. The fact that
      strong criticism of Jackson is widespread in Tolkien circles, far beyond
      this list and other odd corners; the fact that you are, with all your
      critiques, by far the most pro-Jackson of all Tolkien scholars of the first
      rank, and one of the very few such to be more favorable than un-; the fact
      that five out of six of the greatest living Tolkien scholars object to the
      films far more strongly than I do; these put the lie to your claim that the
      films are unambiguously good.

      >> The badness of his films is not what brought readers to the books.
      >
      >Irrelevant, since the films are GOOD, not bad. Hence one must
      >conclude that their excellence is what inspires viewers to become
      >readers.

      I believe that what brings the readers is the goodness of Tolkien that
      Jackson cannot entirely erase, despite his strenuous efforts to do so.
      That's the "felix peccatum" that Mike Foster was looking for: it's like
      Saruman inadvertently bringing the hobbits to Fangorn.

      >> Better films would have brought more readers
      >
      >I'm unaware of any proof for that. I can't even think of any way TO
      >prove that.

      Absolute proof, no, but it's a very easy logical hypothesis to support. As
      I wrote to Mike, was not Bakshi's film worse than Jackson's? Did it not
      bring in fewer readers? Did you not just argue that the excellence of
      Jackson's film brought readers to the book? Why wouldn't greater
      excellence have brought even more readers?

      >> I am quite certain that, had I never read LOTR,
      >
      >That, of course, would have been a great loss. But surely the same
      >thing happened to millions over the years who were put off by the
      >Remington, or Hildebrandt, or Sweet covers and calendars and posters,
      >the "Frodo Lives" buttons, Led Zeppelin songs, and all the rest?

      Yes, it surely did. And so has ignorant criticism of Tolkien, from the
      Edmund Wilsons and Catharine Stimpsons of the world. Isn't that the whole
      reason that we Tolkienists have complained and warned against bad
      interpretations and discussions of Tolkien, and praised good ones? It's
      because the bad ones do harm, according to the limits of their power, to
      Tolkien's image among non-readers, and among readers who know little else
      of him, and the good ones are beneficial.

      I've written dozens of reviews of scholarly works studying, and artistic
      works inspired by, Tolkien over the years. Why would I bother developing
      this expertise, and take the time to write all these reviews, if I didn't
      think I could help spread a better understanding of Tolkien's work among my
      readers?

      >Not
      >to mention the problem of deciding what books you're going to read by
      >whether or not you liked the movies based upon them, and not reading
      >a book if the movie didn't appeal to you, is a strange way to compile
      >a to-read list;

      This is totally disingenuous.

      As your own phrasing acknowledges, if it's strange to decide not to read
      the book because you didn't like the movie, it's equally strange to decide
      _to_ read the book because you _did_ like the movie. Yet above you write
      that the films' "excellence is what inspires viewers to become readers."
      Now you call that "a strange way to compile a to-read list."

      Here's the thing about _any_ decision to read, or not read, a book you've
      not yet read: it has to be made on the basis of something other than
      reading the book, because once you've read the book, you've already made
      the decision. And time is not infinite, nor tastes universally broad: you
      have to make your choices on the basis of _something_.

      This is it, as bluntly as possible: Had I never read Tolkien's LOTR, but I
      had seen one or more of Jackson's films, and if I then read an accredited
      Tolkien expert, like John D. Rateliff, Ph.D., author of _The History of The
      Hobbit_, write that "these films are good at their bare minimum, superb at
      their best," my reaction would have been that Tolkien would not be for me.

      Had that happened, it would have been tragic, at least for me. And it is
      happening right now, and we will never know, because these people will
      never read Tolkien. Whereas they might have read him had they not been
      misled by Jackson as to the nature of Tolkien's work. Only continued and
      vehement warnings that the spirit of Jackson (whether praiseworthy in
      itself or not) is unlike the spirit of Tolkien will prevent this. That is
      one of my responsibilities to the younger generation: to keep people like
      me from being driven away from Tolkien by Jackson. Or by the wretched
      Tolclone novels. This responsibility didn't begin with Jackson: it began
      with Terry Brooks in 1977, and I'd already been at it for over twenty years
      before I ever heard of Peter Jackson.

      >It's thus disingenuous, and a
      >misuse of the analogy, to focus both on the so-called sinfulness of
      >the original act (Jackson's temerity in making the movie) AND claim
      >that the end result wasn't desirable or caused by the act anyway.

      I'm not exactly sure what you mean here, but I don't believe I'm making
      either half of this argument. I have repeatedly told Mike Foster that the
      sin I'm discussing here is not the making of the films, but the making of
      bad films (or, if you refuse to accept that adjective, of films that could
      easily have been far less flawed). If the second half means that "it's bad
      that readers have come to Tolkien through Jackson" or that "no readers are
      coming to Tolkien through Jackson," I'm certainly not saying that either.

      >Jackson's films, being superb works of art, don't need the excuse
      >that "out of this evil, at least some good came". They're self-
      >evidently a positive good in themselves.

      I want to see you stand up in front of your Tolkienist peers, and you know
      exactly which ones I'm thinking of, and utter this complete nonsense to
      them. They're not even great films on their own merits, divorced from
      judging them as Tolkien adaptations. In that capacity they're merely
      pretty good, but nowhere in the category of "superb works of art" as films
      go. What is superb is Jackson's technical and administrative achievement
      in large-scale film-making, which is unprecedented on its scale, but that's
      not the same thing.

      >Although on the whole I think the latest round of posts provides
      >yet more evidence for my theory that discussion of this topic on this
      >list is an essentially pointless exercise.

      If you think this discussion is pointless, why are you participating in it?
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