And while we’re talkin’ Tolkien…

here’s Tolkien (Christopher) on Tolkien (Dad).  Or more precisely, on what pop culture (including Peter Jackson) have done to Dad’s work.

Synopsis:  Christopher is Not Happy.

"Interesting discussion on some points. What Trump Administration is doing to immigrant families is truly ..."

I had Lillian Vogl, the Chairwoman ..."
"Maybe I grew up in a moderately cynical household--My Dad despised the Kennedy family. He ..."

Some thoughts on the Royal Wedding
"Lillian Vogl should join run as a Democrat in 2020. She's definitely not going to ..."

I had Lillian Vogl, the Chairwoman ..."
"I would. Anything for a Buckley-style purge of the pro-life movement. Abby Johnson is the ..."

I had Lillian Vogl, the Chairwoman ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tim in Cleveland

    I don’t blame Christopher Tolkien for being unhappy. Those movies were bad in my opinion, but I appear to be in the minority with that view.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I enjoyed them and wouldn’t call them bad movies; I would simply say that they missed the point.

      I don’t want to go see The Hobbit because it looks so much darker than the book. Again, I can already tell that it missed the point.

      • “I enjoyed them and wouldn’t call them bad movies; I would simply say that they missed the point.”

        My thoughts exactly.

    • There are a few of us who were not entirely happy with the movies. There are scenes left out, and new scenes put in. Jackson often seemed to get lost in the technology, and put in scenes for no purpose than their gee-whizerry, for no reason other than to say “hey, look what we can do!” Characters were changed often. Frodo is made a coward, Merry and Pippin idiots, Strider a hunk and an action hero.

      I believe the books would have been incredibly difficult to adapt to movies. Take the Balrog scene, one of the key scenes in the first book. Tolkien gives a vague description of the Balrog. It is wrapped in shadows and flame, with a man shape at the heart of it. It has shadows like wings, and a little later it has wings. It has a sense of terror coming out from it. A filmaker has to turn that into a creature that can be seen. Jackson gave it a shot, but in the end I believe he failed. The creature he came up with seemed to be a beast, not a creature of spirit and intelligence. And the scene where Gandalf kills it, with lightning striking his sword and then Gandalf strikes the beast- ugh. the books were subtle, the movies were not.

      I think the heart of the problem lies in this: Tolkien wrote a work that was not of the literary movements of his time. Some people call his writing a rejection of modernism, but I think that may be too strong a word. I think it more a case that he wanted to tell his own stories, and they were nothing like what was going on at the time. But certainly, he distanced himself, one way or another, from the literary movements of his time, and therefore he was never a “modern” writer. Jackson, on the other hand, is a thoroughly post modern director. His earlier works involve pastiche and parody, and he has a tendency seen in some of his movies of taking something that is good, and sweet, and innocent, and shredding it. The idea of quiet dignity and stoicism, of sacrifice and dignity, of long standing wisdom- look at what he did to the Entmoot- are utterly foreign to him. Jackson was never the man to bring the boos to the screen.

      • I meant to say “books”. Sigh. Another way of putting it is to say that Tolkien had a spirit that makes, but Jackson’s is a spirit that mocks.

    • bob

      I second the opinion of Tim. Read the book. Flee from the Dolby.

    • Jon W

      I absolutely hated the movies. As has been said by someone earlier, Jackson never missed a chance to miss the point.

  • Will

    And people can’t understand when I tell them that I hate Jackson’s effort and the animated version is MUCH better….

    • Ditto, though I wouldn’t say I hate Jackson’s movies. As long as I pretend they’re just clever fantasy swords and sorcery movies that only have occasional similarities to some books written by Tolkien, I actually enjoy them.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Christopher Tolkien’s comments are the perfect example of making a mountain out of a mole hill. He’s got a valid point, but he’s being a complete curmudgeon about it. Remember that this is the man who disowned his own son and grandchildren over these movies. It’s time for him to switch to decaf.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      They’ve reconciled.

      Since Christopher Tolkien is probably the best authority in the world on the work, I’d say he has every right to say what he’s saying.

      • Rebecca

        Sure he does, and Peter Jackson also has a right to make the movies of the books. I think stories are kind of like our children — we love them passionately, we fill them with our own genetic material and try to steer the way we believe they should go, but in the end, when we release them to the world, we have to accept that they will probably go ways we would not have preferred, keep company with people we don’t like, and be seen by others in ways we don’t agree with. That doesn’t mean all movie adaptations are good and we have to agree with Peter Jackson’s directorial decisions, but Tolkien’s work is not going to be seen the same way by everyone, and however propietary Christopher Tolkien may understandably feel about it, it’s unreasonable to expect others to see it his way. Me, I wish more people had gotten really mad about the 2008 version of “Brideshead Revisited” — now THERE’S a travesty.

  • I think the best explanation for the movies I’ve heard explains it all. In the end, Jackson is making mega-blockbusters for a generation that sees The Empire Strikes Back as the worst Star Wars movie, and thinks the Phantom Menace was one of the greatest space movies ever made. Like my boys said, when all is said and done, they’ll still go back to the Rankin/Bass version when needed.

  • Loud

    I love the movies, but there is alot Im not happy with either. The dumbed down some of the best parts, the ditched alot of the symbolism, they overglamorized alot of it. But even though I rage about how different they are from the books, I cant help but enjoy them as good movies. I cant wait for The Hobbit to come out on dvd so I can watch it.

  • Rebecca

    They are not perfect movies, and there are parts that make me cringe. But on the whole I love them and just accept them as being different from the books while in certain ways bringing the world of the books to dazzling life. I like what Steven Greydanus has to say about them over at Decent Films. He’s always great for a balanced and thoughtful view.

  • I loved the LOTR movies, and have seen them all at least 60 times each.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Just think: that’s almost a full month of your life you’ll never get back.

  • JimPV

    *60 times*…?!

    Definitely Jackson made these to be blockbuster movies, but considering that I think they’re surprisingly good, and I’m not a Jackson fan (I’m a huge fan of the orig. KING KONG, and I *loathed* his remake of that).

    That being said, I think PJ’s LotR trilogy is a lot better than THE HOBBIT film. I won’t be going to see the next 2 installments of that…

    • Jon W

      That’s funny. I rather enjoyed Jackson’s King Kong. But I suspect this is because I had absolutely nothing to compare it to, never having seen the original, and so wasn’t aware of the inevitable misinterpretation that is Jackon’s m.o. I went into KK expecting a goofy, pointless, adventure movie and was not disappointed.

      Those fantasy movies Jackson’s been making, on the other hand, have characters in them with all the same names as the characters in this set of books that I love and have loved since early childhood, so I have a real hard time enjoying them for whatever little popcorny pleasure they contain. I wish Jackson’s research team had come up with some more original names and settings – or at the very least have cribbed from a much wider range of sources – that would have allowed their creativity to stand on its own. They obviously had a movie inside them that they wanted to make. If they had put in the effort to deepen their vision and make that movie, instead of layering on surface details from someone else’s work, they might have produced something enjoyable instead of something so deeply confusing and confused.

  • Adolfo

    The LOTR movies are not terrible but they are substantially different than the books. Now, The Hobbit? That movie teeters on bad. Jackson never misses an opportunity to remind us that this is connected to the previous films, sometimes recreating whole shots. Subtle. The Hobbit also suffers from his refusal to pick a tone and stick with it. I was disappointed in The Hobbit.

  • Gege

    Well, I found the LOTR movies to be a real betrayal from the books on many level… (Although it had several good points too !). The were “gold nuggets” in that film.
    The problem was the LOTR book was epic, poetic, sensitive, nearly theological, etc….
    The hobbit was different; The book was for children…
    I went to that film thinking : “Hugh,.. will there be bad caracters such as Arwen or Aragorn from the LOTR films ? ,etc…”
    And it was a real good surprise… Execpt the action scenes that were too spectacular …
    I found that it cleverly introduced Radagast ( and allusion to the istaris) and some others elements..
    Thorin caracter is charismatic… Bilbo’s actor is very good.
    Well, as far as i’m concerned, I recommand it !

  • Andy, you wrote,
    “Just think: that’s almost a full month of your life you’ll never get back.”
    Given some of the things that I’ve spent a month of my life doing, frankly I’d do it all again without the slightest hesitatton.

  • The worst part of the Jackson films: Faramir.

  • AZLori

    Interestingly enough, the LOTR movies were originally going to be CONDENSED into two movies, instead of three, and now we have ONE book (The Hobbit) being stretched into three. I didn’t know this until about 15 minutes before we walked into the theatre for The Hobbit…perhaps that colored my viewing of it, but I really did not enjoy it at all.