21680How Jackson's LoTR could have been better
- Dec 10, 2010On 12/10/2010 2:05 AM, David Bratman wrote:
> "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...> wrote:David:
>>> So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
>>> any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are
>>> nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that
>>> movie-maker hasn't violated with impunity.
>> "Apart from condensation" is
>> a bit like, "Apart from that
>> awkward moment with Mr. Booth
>> and Mr. Lincoln, the evening at
>> Ford's Theater went well." The
>> effects of condensation flow
>> through every cinematic work.
> I profoundly disagree. Not that you're wrong about your main point:
> condensation does indeed, as you say, affect the entirety of any cinematic
> Yet it is possible to discuss the causes and effects of other changes
> independently of those of condensation. For instance, in Jackson's LOTR's
> case, the changes of the characters of Denethor and Faramir were not driven
> by the need to condense the story; indeed, they hardly were condensed
> relative to the rest of the story at all, and indeed were expanded in
> relative importance somewhat, with new material invented by the
> screenwriters added.
> It is also necessary to make that distinction, if one wishes to criticize
> movie adapations in any form other than sweeping condemnation of the entire
> idea. The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you believe
> that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no point in
> discussing them further. I disagree. I believe it is possible to make a
> good movie adaption of at least some literary works, and that this has
> occasionally happened.
> I further find that, when I'm discussing Jackson with his defenders, that no
> matter how often I explain that I'm looking for something that conveys
> Tolkien's tone and spirit, not the entirety of his story, and that longer
> movies would not have been better - indeed, I think Jackson's films would
> have been superior had they been shorter - I have to keep fending off claims
> that the only kind of adapation that would satisfy us "book fans" is
> something 70 hours long with Bombadil in it, and that since that's obviously
> impossible we're just being unreasonable.
> No, that's not what I want at all, and I don't think it's what others who
> agree with me want, but comments like yours, comparing condensing a book
> with interrupting a play by assassinating the President, don't help.
The Lincoln comparison was not an allegory. I used it to make one point,
and one point only, that one *cannot* set aside condensation as a factor
in adapting books to film, any more than one could discuss activities at
Ford's Theater the evening of 14 April 1865, and ignore the historical
event which took place. It will not bear a heavier load than that.
You said, "The comparison with Lincoln's assassination suggests that you
believe that condensation in adaptations is so poisonous that there's no
point in discussing them further." I meant to suggest no such thing, and
I don't believe it. It was a figure of speech with limited application.
I could have said "condensation is the 800 pound gorilla in the
book-to-cinema room" and I would not have been alerting anyone to danger
from large primates. I made no "sweeping condemnation of the entire
idea" of condensation because I do not condemn it at all. It is simply a
crucial fact about the process of adaptation.
My Lincoln reference may not have been the best choice -- I have made
that mistake before and am unfortunately likely to do so again,
especially when attempting humor -- but even so I do not think it
supports your characterization of it.
In fact, I agree that Jackson's films *could* have been superior had
they been shorter, depending on what was cut. Not only superior as
artistic efforts in their own right, but possibly superior *adaptations*.
- Why so much time spent on the Birthday Party, if there is to be no
Scouring of the Shire?
- I think Arwen is superfluous in the books (in the main narrative),
but in her minor role she does not get in the way. In the films her role
is expanded to the point of intrusion.
- Bilbo could have been off visiting Bombadil with no damage done.
- We waste time watching Saruman grow his Uruk-hai (wrong in many ways).
- Where did Aragorn-over-the-cliff come from? What does it add to the
- The journey of Frodo to Mordor bored me nearly to literal tears, it
dragged so; to a lesser extent, same for the Entmoot.
- Faramir, one of my favorite characters in LoTR, could have been
dispensed with, perhaps.
I also agree with you that Jackson made alterations that profoundly
departed from Tolkien's concepts, with no seeming rationale.
- His Orcs are way too fearsome individually, and worst of all way too
- Gimli is unrecognizable comic relief, a Tolkien Dwarf in height and
beard only. "Toss me. But don't tell the Elf." Gack!
- The Rivendell Robot Drill Squad that joins Aragorn at Helm's Deep
resembles neither Elves nor the Dunedain.
- Denethor somehow acquired a quivering lower lip. Mad? Obviously. A
My greatest disappointment is that the two events with the most
emotional impact for me are butchered, and they are in the same part of
the story. The Ride of the Rohirrim is not about the Riders, but about
squadrons of Oliphaunts, and Legolas preparing his Olympic gymnastic
routine. And the arrival of the black ships, instead of the end of all
hope turned suddenly and gloriously to victory with the unfurling of
Aragorn's banner, is merely the end of a ferry ride for the Army of the
There is plenty to like about Jackson's LoTR. I was particularly
impressed by the scenes at Bree, by the drowning of Isengard, by Merry
and Pippen at the gate afterward, and by Gandalf vs the Balrog. Both
Gollum and Sauron are fiendishly good, as is Wormtongue (illustrating
Jackson's greater success in portraying evil as opposed to good). And I
do love the New Zealand scenery, even when it does not look at all like
Middle-earth, especially in Rohan.
Last but not least, Peter Jackson is not Ralph Bakshi, a huge point in
What I think we are both saying is that Jackson could have done better,
and that does *NOT* mean that every last word Tolkien wrote, and not a
letter more, had to be slavishly duplicated on film. (At $375 per set,
the DVDs would have sold like Picassos.)
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