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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
A critic comes late to LOTR
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Eledhwen
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 2, 5:24pm

Post #1 of 39 (1739 views)
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A critic comes late to LOTR Can't Post

The Guardian has a series called "I've never seen..." and this week the subject is our favourite movie trilogy.
I've never seen... The Lord of the Rings
The comment thread is a mixture of:- book die-hards saying the films didn't cut it- book-first people saying PJ did a decent job, but ...- film-first people agreeing ROTK had too many endings- people who haven't seen it being dismissive!



Storm clouds


Chen G.
Rohan

Jun 2, 5:37pm

Post #2 of 39 (1666 views)
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His Star Wars comparison is kind of wild [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
For most of Fellowship, I couldnít help but feel like I was watching a knock-off of the first Star Wars movie, with Gandalf in the Obi-Wan role and Frodo as Luke. Gandalf even dies at a similar point in the story.


Yeah, that's because George Lucas did some reading when he was growing up, not the other way around...


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Jun 2, 5:37pm)


squire
Half-elven


Jun 2, 6:05pm

Post #3 of 39 (1667 views)
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It seems kind of unbelievable [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess I've never heard of someone who hated, hated, hated the Fellowship film and then loved, loved, loved the Return of the King film!

But, if as this professional film critic asserts, the best kind of film is a modern-day blockbuster with over-the-top effects, and maudlin sentimentality as the primary emotion shared by the characters, and RotK delivered that for him in a way that somehow FotR didn't, then one cannot argue with taste.

I don't suppose he'll watch The Hobbit trilogy next?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 2, 6:25pm

Post #4 of 39 (1663 views)
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or [In reply to] Can't Post

it could be that after 7 hours, he was finally expanding his comfort zone to include this sort of thing. It would be interesting what his re-appraisal of FR on a second viewing would be.

I am however dismayed that he held up as "good points" junk like Gimli's clownification, or schmaltz like the pointless Rohan mom-and-kids.

It is very telling that he drew the Star Wars comparison, which is more apt than he knows, and praised PJ's work as a mere "blockbuster."


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Jun 2, 7:40pm

Post #5 of 39 (1656 views)
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I'm guessing he's forgotten the Shire scenes [In reply to] Can't Post

when he calls FOTR a humorless slog. But it's very interesting that he was gradually drawn into the story. Like Solicitr, I'd like to know if this has broadened his tolerance - perhaps even appreciation - for movies with more depth and breadth than the usual fare.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


Eledhwen
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 2, 8:47pm

Post #6 of 39 (1638 views)
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Yes, I thought that was a shame [In reply to] Can't Post

I find the 'humour' a bit annoying. And 'I am no man!' is not a humorous note in ROTK! (Although interesting that he picked that, given it's straight from the book).

Storm clouds


Omnigeek
Lorien


Jun 13, 7:08pm

Post #7 of 39 (1320 views)
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Haven't bothered reading the link [In reply to] Can't Post

Over the past 40-50 years, I've come to the conclusion that professional critics seem to know the least about the subject they are supposed to be reviewing. The citation comparing LOTR to Star Wars just reinforces that -- the author just couldn't be bothered to do basic research like when things occurred (i.e., when the stories were first written) or one author's (Lucas) own accounts of where he drew inspiration from.


Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 13, 8:20pm

Post #8 of 39 (1310 views)
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Frankly [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Over the past 40-50 years, I've come to the conclusion that professional critics seem to know the least about the subject they are supposed to be reviewing. The citation comparing LOTR to Star Wars just reinforces that -- the author just couldn't be bothered to do basic research like when things occurred (i.e., when the stories were first written) or one author's (Lucas) own accounts of where he drew inspiration from.


Issues of priority and influence bug me a lot less than his placing them on the same plane. Yeah, PJ's LR movies are pretty good on the Star Wars scale. But that's a pretty damn low scale. The fact that this critic uses that as his frame of reference just shows how completely PJ turned Tolkien's material into nothing but an action-adventure popcorn blockbuster, rather than what it deserved.


Chen G.
Rohan

Jun 14, 9:46am

Post #9 of 39 (1235 views)
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You say "action-adventure blockbuster" like its a bad thing [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 14, 2:19pm

Post #10 of 39 (1207 views)
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Yup. [In reply to] Can't Post

Fine in their place- two hours of mental junk food. I enjoy Indy and Luke from time to time as much as I enjoy a cheeseburger with fries. But Tolkien's writing should never have been reduced to that level.



In Reply To



(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jun 14, 2:20pm)


Chen G.
Rohan

Jun 14, 3:23pm

Post #11 of 39 (1200 views)
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Dunno what you're after [In reply to] Can't Post

But The Lord of the Rings has much more pathos than an Indy film or most Star Wars films. Look how they lean into - and simmer in - the sadness of Gandalf's demise. Its not just a plot-point like Old Ben's death - its something that continues to weigh on Frodo for another 45 minutes of movie.

But they ARE action movies, and there's nothing wrong with that.


Paulo Gabriel
Lorien

Jun 15, 3:26am

Post #12 of 39 (1131 views)
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Did you not notice... [In reply to] Can't Post

that there's no arguing with this guy? Wink

Of course, you are free to post whatever you want.


Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 15, 12:27pm

Post #13 of 39 (1075 views)
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Dunno what I'm after? [In reply to] Can't Post

An approach to filming Tolkien that is taken with all the seriousness of filming Tolstoy or Shakespeare.


Paulo Gabriel
Lorien

Jun 15, 12:56pm

Post #14 of 39 (1069 views)
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Though I'm no purist... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
An approach to filming Tolkien that is taken with all the seriousness of filming Tolstoy or Shakespeare.


...such an approach would indeed be wonderful to see, to say the least.


(This post was edited by Paulo Gabriel on Jun 15, 12:57pm)


Noria
Gondor

Jun 15, 1:51pm

Post #15 of 39 (1064 views)
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Agreed. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But The Lord of the Rings has much more pathos than an Indy film or most Star Wars films. Look how they lean into - and simmer in - the sadness of Gandalf's demise. Its not just a plot-point like Old Ben's death - its something that continues to weigh on Frodo for another 45 minutes of movie.

But they ARE action movies, and there's nothing wrong with that.


There is a lot of action in LotR the novel, from the small or brief skirmishes of FotR to the attacks on Helmís Deep and Isengard and the major battles of the Pelennor Fields and the Morannon. Old Man Willow, the Balrog, Shelobís Lair and so on are some of the many lesser examples.

I must admit, that though overall I loved it, the first time I saw Fellowship I was a little taken aback by the way small or brief skirmishes in the book turned into big fighting sequences in the movie. Not that I didnít appreciate their quality or relevance, but they were unexpected. Later I learned that the studio and filmmakers had thought their primary audience would be teenage and young adult males. Even so, they realized that these very expensive movies needed to attract a much larger and wider-ranging audience than Tolkien aficionados alone and crafted the movies accordingly. It worked. As it turned out, the audience for LotR was much more varied than originally expected, and IIRC, at least half of it was female. There is much more to those movies than action-adventure and they engage the audience much more deeply. Not that there is anything wrong with action-adventure. Movies like Star Wars are modern mythology.

It always amuses me that some Tolkien book fans are so snobbish about the movies or certain film genres in general when, for the first few decades after they were written, Tolkienís works were ignored and/or denigrated by the intellectual elite of English literature. It seems to me that only when the baby boomers who had read LotR in their youth aged into positions of academic influence did Tolkien gain some literary respectability outside of nerddom.

For me The Lord of the Rings is not a sacred text. I love it deeply and it has been my favourite book for more than fifty years but it is a novel, a piece of fiction.


Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 15, 5:38pm

Post #16 of 39 (1045 views)
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That [In reply to] Can't Post

more than anything represents the narrowmindedness of midcentury critics and academics, with their 'modernism uber alles' creed; they were, through their own self-donned blinkers, incapable of perceiving Tolkien's greatness or whereof it consisted; he didn't color inside the then-approved lines (nothing new about this; just ask the shades of Charles Dickens and Henry Fielding).

It isn't a case of what seems to have arisen in tandem chronologically, boomer-driven academe attaching 'seriousness' to pop culture. Tolkien is, though I dislike the usage, "literature" as Coleridge would have recognized it, which is a whole 'nuther category from colleges classes in Batman or Buffy.
________________________
Action sequences: War and Peace has 'em too.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jun 15, 5:39pm)


FrogmortonJustice65
Lorien


Jun 16, 4:07pm

Post #17 of 39 (943 views)
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there are many parts of the PJ films that give the source material their due [In reply to] Can't Post

and adapt them with the seriousness and reverence you would expect of a Shakespeare adaptation. Strider discussing Luthien, The Council of Elrond, the entire Lothlorien sequence, Boromir's death, virtually every scene with Theoden in TTT and ROTK, I could go on and on.

The LOTR films stand out from garden variety blockbuster fare precisely because they deliver the excitement you'd expect in a Star Wars film while also providing an epic, high fantasy experience using much of the professor's world-building and dialogue. The LOTR films certainly play within the action/adventure blockbuster genre (and are arguably the supreme representatives of this genre) while also transcending that genre.


Noria
Gondor

Jun 17, 12:28pm

Post #18 of 39 (837 views)
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Beautifully said [In reply to] Can't Post

The LotR Appendices make it clear that the movies were approached with seriousness, respect and reverence. I seem to recall PJ remarking that, in his view, all that gravitas needed to be punctured now and then by humour, even if the form of that humour wasnít appreciated by everyone.


Noria
Gondor

Jun 17, 12:52pm

Post #19 of 39 (832 views)
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I agree, mostly [In reply to] Can't Post

The problem was (and is) the inability of the literati to recognize the greatness of Tolkienís works, to accept that anything that didnít fit their notion of what a twentieth century novel should be could have worth or weight. It seemed that the more popular Tolkien became, the more he was despised by some.

Perhaps something can be pop culture, as in popular, and literature at the same time. Just because something is well liked by the unwashed masses doesnít mean it is valueless any more than something that only a few people know of and like is great.

But what I was suggesting was that as boomers who read LotR in their youth and recognized its greatness later became part the literary establishment, they continued to take Tolkien seriously and treated and taught his works as literature.


Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 17, 3:24pm

Post #20 of 39 (821 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Perhaps something can be pop culture, as in popular, and literature at the same time. Just because something is well liked by the unwashed masses doesnít mean it is valueless any more than something that only a few people know of and like is great.


This much is true, which is why I invoked Dickens (very popular, published as serials in popular magazines. So very infra dig) and Fielding ("novels are casual entertainments for maidservants and housewives, you know; proper literature is poetry. Pass the port.").

However, I'll take exception to the alleged "seriousness" of PJ's project, given Gimli's reduction to comic relief, even dwarf-tossing jokes), together with farts, stoners and pratfalls; but even more to the warping and dumbing down of characters to fit pop Hollywood tropes.


Starling
Half-elven


Jun 17, 5:38pm

Post #21 of 39 (804 views)
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What is [In reply to] Can't Post

a 'pratfall'?




Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 17, 5:51pm

Post #22 of 39 (803 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post

Tripping, falling down, more generally what should be painful accidents played for laughs; slapstick humor.


Chen G.
Rohan

Jun 17, 8:10pm

Post #23 of 39 (781 views)
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"You don't earn the pathos if you don't make people laugh" [In reply to] Can't Post

is how Jackson puts it. I think he's absolutely right, I think its easy to conflate how serious a movie is (which all these films are) and how stately it is or isn't.

When Shaye first saw dailies he said: "everything is so serious!" That was also what drew me in: I've never seen a FANTASY played this seriously on the screen.

My family once happened upon the end of The Battle of the Five Armies and had a similar response. Thorin was locked into combat with Azog, and my mother was just astonished: "its a movie with monsters, how come its THIS serious?!"


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Jun 17, 8:16pm)


Hasuwandil
Lorien


Jun 18, 8:21am

Post #24 of 39 (706 views)
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The monsters and the critics [In reply to] Can't Post

That's pretty much what the critics who first heard "Beowulf" performed said, I imagine.

Hêlâ Auriwandil, angilô berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


Solicitr
Gondor


Jun 18, 5:05pm

Post #25 of 39 (682 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
"You don't earn the pathos if you don't make people laugh"


Yeah, I'm sure that was what was in Shakespeare's head while writing King Lear. And Schindler's List wouldn't have had nearly the emotional impact without Spielberg writing in all those pratfalls and zany chase sequences. {/sarc}

Even when we concede that Tolkien was not without humor, and there's good bit of it in The Hobbit, it was a droll, donnish humor. Not PJ's clodhopper Three Stooges idea of "humor." The one appeals to intelligent readers, the other to mouthbreathers.


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Jun 18, 5:06pm)

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