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Re: [mythsoc] How Jackson's LoTR could have been better

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  • David Bratman
    Darrell - I understand what figurative comparisons are, so you need not insult my intelligence by suggesting that I don t. I did not imagine that you were
    Message 1 of 26 , Dec 10, 2010
      Darrell -

      I understand what figurative comparisons are, so you need not insult my intelligence by suggesting that I don't. I did not imagine that you were saying that anyone actually gets shot in the making of a movie adaptation, nor that Jackson trashing LOTR is as objectively bad for the world as the assassination of Lincoln.

      I would agree, too, that you cannot discuss the changes made for a movie adaptation without considering that condensation is the most important factor.

      But that is not what I was disputing. What I _am_ saying is that, in the course of a detailed discussion of the merits or demerits, success or failure, of that adaptation, you can take the necessity for condensation as a given, and consider other changes, not directly related to the need for condensation, by themselves. This gives you the opportunity of saying how the adaptation could have been better or worse, more or less faithful, than it was, while still remaining in the realm of what could realistically be done.

      Your assassination comparison opposes any argument of the sort. It says that you consider condensation itself to be a crime against the work so massive as to render any further discussion ridiculously bathetic. Either it means that or it means nothing at all.

      -----Original Message-----
      >From: "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...>
      >Sent: Dec 10, 2010 3:34 AM
      >To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [mythsoc] How Jackson's LoTR could have been better
      >On 12/10/2010 2:05 AM, David Bratman wrote:
      >> "Darrell A. Martin"<darrellm@...> wrote:
      >>>> So we are constantly told, but aside from condensation, I have yet to see
      >>>> any coherent argument explaining why particular alterations are
      >>>> necessary,
      >>>> nor have I seen any declarations of what is not possible in movies that
      >>>> some
      >>>> 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
      >> adaptation.
      >> 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.
      >> DB
      >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.
      > - Etc.
      >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
      >weakling? Hardly.
      > - Etc.
      >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
      >his favor.
      >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.)
      >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.orgYahoo! Groups Links
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