RE: [mythsoc] Beowulf film
- David, I don't think I've ever accused you of being "rabidly
anti-Jackson." I do share Tom Shippey's view that the films, despite
their many flaws, have brought many new readers to the book. Some of
them were college students of mine and some of them turned out to be
rather good undergraduate scholars. Is that bad?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf
Of David Bratman
Sent: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 4:04 PM
Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Beowulf film
Another somewhat dated reply, but it's on a subject I consider very
At 10:38 AM 8/20/2007 -0700, John D Rateliff wrote:
>Most feel Jackson did a fine job capturing the themes and feeling ofand later elaborated on who he meant by "most":
>the books in his film(s), and that the few egregious exceptions don't
>spoil the films as a whole. But this list is dominated by Jackson-
>bashers, as you've seen, which is why those of us here who feel
>otherwise generally don't bother to post on the subject much.
>Most of the members of two different Mythsoc reading groups; most ofSurely John is not arguing that sheer numbers give the weight of an
>my former co-workers at a company that specialized in creating
>fantasy stories; most of the people I know who enjoy fantasy
>literature; most of my Tolkien acquaintance; most of the millions
>upon millions of people who loved the books and saw the films.
>Most, not all. And some of the most articulate people who feel
>otherwise are on this list.
argument to one side, so it's fair to point out that most of these
"millions upon millions" don't know very much about Tolkien, as has been
apparent since long before Jackson was ever heard of. My first awareness
of that particular problem came many years ago when I read the letter in
early Tolkien fanzine suggesting, "Let's make Snoopy an honorary
My own experience discussing Jackson with ordinary casual Tolkien
is that they'd often be surprised when I criticized the films as
adaptations, but they'd find that they agreed when I explained this in
detail. Once they gave thought to the matter, they realized that
was not a successful adaptation.
There are two grounds on which Jackson's adaptation has been defended.
Some claim that it is a good adaptation. But others admit that Jackson
trashed Tolkien, but defend this on the grounds that it was necessary
because of "Hollywood values" or "to make the movies be successful to a
wider audience" or some such rot. The existence of this second line of
argument suggests that the argument that the films are bad adaptations
been making some headway. So does the comment raised at several
Jackson-reception sessions at the 2005 Birmingham conference, by Jackson
fans who said they were tired of all the Jackson-bashing they were
constantly hearing. They didn't all hear it on the MythSoc list.
As for people who have studied Tolkien in depth, I think opinions do not
break anywhere near the way John says. If John found two Mythsoc groups
most of whose members liked the films as adaptations, I've found two
which were far more critical than that, and overall were at least evenly
split. John knows as well as I do that the opinion among real Tolkien
scholars is strongly anti-Jackson. Of the six people I would consider
most renowned and learned living Tolkien scholars, no fewer than five
such vehement feelings against Jackson that they mostly refuse to talk
about it. For this reason I won't name them, though it shouldn't be
difficult to guess who they are. And the sixth, Tom Shippey, expressed
rather lukewarm feelings in his essay on the subject, hoping mostly that
the films will lead readers to the book. (Which they have. But that
doesn't make the films good. Ralph Bakshi led readers to the book.
Rankin-Bass led readers to the book. Even Leonard Nimoy singing "The
Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" led readers to the book.)
John certainly qualifies as a renowned Tolkien scholar himself, but I
think that if I expanded that list of six it would break much more his
Carl also qualifies, and he's unusual not because he's vehemently
anti-Jackson but because he's willing to talk about it. I'm supposed to
rabidly anti-Jackson (just ask Mike Foster), but I'm actually
compared to some of these scholars. I enjoyed watching the films. (Most
of them did not.) I acknowledge some virtues in the adaptations -
specifically most of the ones John enumerates. (He's made it easier on
himself by choosing the beginning of the first film, which is one of the
And on the other side, John himself is not as pro-Jackson as one might
conclude. He refers in his post to his disappointment with Denethor and
Faramir, and his reviews of the second and third films are clear that he
very critical of this and other matters. He's really not all that far
the rest of us; where he disagrees is in not thinking that such matters
massively overbalance the virtues.
So the implication that the Tolkien world is largely pro-Jackson except
a few dissenters who by some mysterious chance happen to dominate this
mailing list is simply false.
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- In a message dated 12/7/07 9:41:39 AM, dbratman@... writes:
> Very much the opposite opinion here. I don't recall anything harmful being
> done to the text, but the image was definitely a problem. Tolkien says she was
> "beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful." The only word in this
> that Jackson seems to have followed was "terrible" - and he seems to be using
> it in the sense of "scary and terrifying," rather than "eliciting awe" which
> is what Tolkien presumably meant.
> Good point David! Beautiful and Terrible like an angel would have been more
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