Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Tolkien vs. Jackson as outsider artists

Expand Messages
  • WendellWag@aol.com
    In a message dated 8/21/2007 1:45:20 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, ccematson@gmail.com writes: You re saying spending several years of your life on a single
    Message 1 of 66 , Aug 21, 2007
      In a message dated 8/21/2007 1:45:20 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
      ccematson@... writes:

      You're saying spending several years of your life on a single project,
      location scouting all over New Zealand, casting and wrangling all those
      actors, hiring and overseeing those huge numbers of designers, craftsmen,
      crew, and other professionals, editing the equivalent of a 12-hour or so
      movie, keeping the money guys happy at all times, managing several camera
      teams, directing the actors, and doing all the other hundreds of tasks that
      go into helming a huge, mega-cast, mega-special effects, mega-visuals
      leviathan of a film, to be released over a period of three years - *isn't* a
      Herculean effort? It's hard enough to put together a good small-cast bedroom
      drama, but Lord of the Rings? What does qualify as Herculean?

      What does qualify as Herculean is spending essentially your entire adult
      life creating a literary world, starting in 1917. Twenty years later, you
      finally publish a moderately popular children's novel that uses this world as its
      background. Seventeen years after that you publish an adult novel in this
      background. It takes ten years for this novel to establish a cult reputation
      and finally get the major push it needs. Up to that point, in your seventies,
      any proceeds from your writing about this world have been at best only minor
      contributions to your income and you work another full-time job for you and
      your family to live on. Indeed, you never even hope to get well paid for
      your work. When your adult novel in this world was published when you were
      sixty-two, the publisher said that he had few hopes of it becoming popular and
      expects to lose money on it. Only in 1977, four years after your death, does
      any significant part of the huge collection of legends and myths get published.

      If there's anything that Tolkien's writings resembles, it's what's called
      "outsider art." It's like those weird people who spend their entire lives on a
      huge art project that nobody else appreciates. Have you ever been to the
      American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore? It's got some of those life-long
      art projects. There's a certain craziness to such projects. Some of these
      people were literally crazy. After their death, most such huge art projects
      get thrown out. Some get saved and some even end up in outsider art museums.
      At best (other than Tolkien), some of those life-long art projects have a
      certain almost-crazy brilliance to their visions that make them worth looking
      at. Tolkien, though, managed to create out of this life-long project a great
      story that is now the best-selling novel of all time. That's what I consider
      a Herculean project. Tolkien wasn't quite as alone in his feeling for what
      he was creating as most outsider artists, since he had a few friends and
      relatives who also believed in his vision, but it's easy to imagine a world in
      which he never got published. Suppose the manuscripts for The Hobbit and The
      Lord of the Rings were sitting unpublished in the pile of Silmarillion
      manuscripts after his death. What are the chances that they would get published?

      In contrast, Jackson made an obviously wise business decision to take on the
      direction and co-writing of The Lord of the Rings. It was already the
      best-selling novel of all time. Jackson wasn't offered the chance to make a
      Transformers movie or a Spider-Man movie or an Adam Sandler comedy. He was
      offered the chance to make films from The Lord of the Rings, and he was lucky to
      get that offer. He had only a few moderately successful films at that point.
      Essentially, he had only a cult popularity. He was well paid for his work
      during the filming and post-production of the movies. He didn't have to travel
      around the world to do the filming, since he lived in New Zealand. He
      always had the hope that they would be successful and he would be extremely well
      paid for his efforts. The absolutely worst thing he might expect was that the
      films might lose a lot of money. He would get to keep what he was paid
      during the filming and would get to whine about how he was an unappreciated
      artist and would go on to his next, smaller-budget film. He would be in no better
      or worse shape than hundreds of other directors whose films didn't make as
      much money as hoped. You could make a better case that the people who put up
      the money for the filming of the Jackson films were heroic. They were the
      ones who had to worry that they might make a lot of money or lose a lot of

      Jackson was a brilliant manager in his work on The Lord of the Rings films.
      So what? He spent a lot of time on them and did a good job on managing many
      people. So what? We're evaluating the films as an artistic effort, not as
      a managerial one. Why are Jackson fans always pointing out how much work
      Jackson put into the films? Lots of directors put a lot of work into their
      films. We're judging the output of that work. If you disagree with us about the
      artistic value of the films, that's fine, but don't tell us that Jackson was
      some kind of a martyr for even taking on the job of directing these films.

      Could you give us a specific example where the book was consulted during the
      filming of the movies and changes were made at that point? I don't want
      just the claim that Jackson could have made such changes but specific examples
      of such changes. It's easy to claim that one referred to the book, but I'd
      like to see just what changes were actually made because of it. I'd then like
      to evaluate whether the change that was made was actually for the better.

      Merchandising is now such a standard part of any big-budget film that the
      decision to do merchandising is part of what motivates the producers and other
      people financing the film when they decide to invest in the film. Jackson
      was almost certainly told by the people putting up the money something like,
      "For films with this much investment, we have to have a lot of merchandise
      sales. We have to protect our investment. Make sure that there's lots of neat
      swords and jewelry and such that we can sell reproductions of afterwards. The
      only way to make enough money from this film is to flood the market with
      books about the making of the film and extended-edition DVD's and deals with
      fast-food restaurants for publicity and lots of expensive reproductions of
      artistic items. We were going to make even more money by publishing a
      novelization of the film, but the Tolkien estate has some weird, cranky objection to
      that." (O.K., I don't actually have any reason to think that they tried to
      publish a novelization.)

      Wendell Wagner

      ************************************** Get a sneak peek of the all-new AOL at

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Mike Foster
      In the cool light of day the morning after viewing this, Jo and I discovered that, while the movie was certainly wonderfully done, it was a bit off-putting for
      Message 66 of 66 , Sep 7, 2007
        In the cool light of day the morning after viewing this, Jo and I
        discovered that, while the movie was certainly wonderfully done, it was
        a bit off-putting for the reasons Pat and Carl noted below-though, as
        noted before, the girl's fate was something I would much rather not have
        known in advance.

        As Jo said, "It's fine that good finally overcame evil, but did there
        have to be so much evil?" The ending, where the girl's death amounts to
        the saving of her brother and her final glimpse of a beatific heavenly
        vision with a God the Father (as well as David Crosby) lookalike seems
        to be an obvious Christian parallel.

        In reviewing this thread, especially the business with the grapes, it
        seems fitting to cite Chesterton's "The Ethics Of Elfland" and his
        Doctrine of Conditional Joy, where all good and evil hang on a random
        choice to do or not to do a simple deed: Eve's apple, Pandora's box.
        Tolkien mentions this in "On Fairy Stories." It certainly looms in the
        amplification of the power of the Ring from -The Hobbit- to -The Lord of
        the Rings-, where what had been a handy little talisman for Bilbo
        becomes life or death for Frodo. That's why Jackson's plot change from
        Faramir refusing to take the Ring from Frodo to the muddled digression
        to Osgiliath is one of the more egregious offenses in the screenplay.


        -----Original Message-----
        From: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mythsoc@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
        Of Carl F. Hostetter
        Sent: Wednesday, August 22, 2007 8:48 AM
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Pan's Labyrinth

        On Aug 22, 2007, at 8:22 AM, Patrick H. Wynne wrote:
        > watching a helpless adolescent girl (probably delusional)
        > being physically and psychologically abused for two hours, then shot
        > dead, is NOT my idea of a good time!

        Boy howdy.

        > Am I the only one who absolutely loathed this film?

        No, you are not.

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.