Did M. Garcia even *see* the movie?

Feb 21, 00:00 by John Frost
That's what someone asked me. What do you think?
Feb 22, 07:09 by Greg Gerrand
Or has he ever read the works of Moorcock or Mieville? The arguments were weak, based on selective quoting and rubbery timelines, and structured to support a fundamentally flawed proposition.

More later.
Feb 25, 14:29 by Adrian Simmons
I tend to agree that the omissions made in the film make the characters weaker, not stronger. Especially Frodo.

Some of it, I suppose, can be atributed to the need to compact the story to fit on the screen and in the appropriate timeframe. Some of it, though, I just can't understand.

As for the more general complaints of Tolkien's work, if it's not your cup of tea it's not your cup of tea. How hard is that for people to understand? Ditto the other side of the coin. Can't get it through your thick skull that sometimes people like a nice good v. evil story? Get over it already.

As a personal aside, I've noticed that most people who don't like Tolkien don't like it because of all the, you know, reading they have to do. They hardly ever say they don't like the story, or the characters, it's all the words. All the words about trees. Which, if you've ever walked for a few days through a forest (as Tolkien did on the network of British walking paths), the trees do take up a lot of your time and attention.

Sep 11, 12:11 by Pat Richards
The only exception I take to this piece is to its title. I believe that what M. Garcia proves here is that Peter Jackson did not so much "deny" the hero as to *humanize* the hero -- something almost always missed in filmatic heroic fantasy.

This is an insightful analysis that cuts through the lavish praise heaped on the film and examines how it really relates or departs from Tolkien in an important conceptual way instead of the usual "but I always thought Aragon would be clean-shaven" approach. M. Garcia attempts a realistic evaluation of the film's characters, which is exactly what Peter Jackson wanted to do with the source material. And while I can't find fault with Garcia's evaluations of the film's character depictions, I don't know why he felt the need to reference Moorcock's self-serving criticism of the original books so extensively, as Garcia's analysis stands on its own.

Suffice it to say that Tolkien is quoted repeatedly as saying that in LOTR he set out to create a "mythology for the English people". This stated intent completely disarms Moorcock's rantings. One might just as well level the same complaints against Homer and the Greeks because their mythology doesn't reflect modern life and complexities very well!

How successful Tolkien was in achieving what he wanted doesn't really matter -- his intent was to create larger-than-life mythic and iconic characters -- that's clear enough. Peter Jackson was smart enough to realize than in film-making going for that kind of characterization would inevitably appear comic book-like on the screen and had sense enough to convent the characters into human beings and thus ensure that his film would be taken seriously.

So, the transformation of Tolkien's deliberate myth into the more visceral reality of modern film was a big step to take. Pulling it off and still preserving so much of the flavor and appeal of the original books was pure genius. I'm surprised most people missed it and can only find in within their critical facilities to carp about how "weak" a given character was in the film compared to the book.

Even though my own favorite passage from the book -- Eowyn standing up to the Nazgul -- also had to suffer demythicfication in the film, I must admit that Jackson's version was inherently more believable on screen than Tolkien's version would have been. It worked on a gut-level where the purest heroic-fantasy version would have come across like cotton candy, sweet but insubstantial.
Nov 19, 09:55 by Doug Mullane
The films are good by themselves. But Jackson does change the characters to make them "other than" what one finds in the books.

Boromir is a rude, arrogant, proud man in Tolkien's text. Where he fails, Jackson's Boromir succeeds. The camera captures Boromir in all of his success while Tolkien shows him in much too much failure: Jackson visually makes Boromir a great warrior who lives to defend the fellowship while Tolkien's "southern man" is rather weak in combat (although readers do read that he "kills many" but are not "shown" it); Jackson's Boromir makes observations that are generally accurate in regard to the protection of the fellowship, yet Tolkien's Boromir asks all the wrong questions and is scolded for it; and Jackson's Boromir really does die a hero where Tolkien's character dies in failure and despair.

Gandalf is almost a Sherlock Holmes of Middle Earth (I am not the only one to think this--check http://www.gfy.ku.dk/~ams/sh/gandalfeng.html ) who is not visually aged as he is in the first movie. Gandalf is the movies makes mistakes and is a grumpy, old man, but Tolkien more or less makes him into a character who really does know everything (well, mostly) and belittles everyone else who does not match his knowledge base. As Gandalf the White, Jackson uses the wizard to be far more active in destroying Sauron, including his bullying of Denethor. The wizard literally beats and pounds the steward into submission (unconsciousness). Where, oh where, do readers find this in the text?

Treebeard, a wise, old tree-like thing becomes a man with tree parts. Understandably, indentifying what the heck Treebeard looks like is quite diffcult, but Tolkien does have a purpose in making him more man than tree: the ent can become just as hasty as anyone else (and, in the films, everyone is hasty). The ents have to be tricked into attacking Isengard--where the hell did that come from? From what viewers see on screen, Merry and Pippin cause a riot, and the ents become the senseless mob that destroys all the businesses and livelihoods of Isengard's "business district." The ents are dramatically weaker than in the original text.

The changes made to characters, subtle as they are, cause bigger changes throughout the film. And, of course, the focus on the ring over all other things changes the films as well. I liked the films, but I see them for what they are: translations. In any translation, something is lost. And translating mythic forms into something on the big screen will always ruin the individual imagination of the non-visual form.

Feb 2, 21:52 by Kaylene McInnes
I have to agree. The changes, particularly those made to Aragorn, really bothered me. My major difficulty was with the way that Aragorn's actions throughout the books were cut so drastically in the films. In Tolkien, Aragorn progresses through a series of challenges and trials, from smaller feats like healing folk with the herb Athelasto major efforts like raising the ghost army of the Oathbreakers. These are the heroic exploits required of a legendary king. Jackson cut out almost all of these, with the exception of the summoning of the Oathbreakers, and so Aragorn arrives in Gondor and claims the kingship with little more authority than I would have (And I'm a thirty-five year old mother of two little boys). This bothered me after my first viewing of the films, though overall, I think Jackson did a sterling job, within incredibly difficult parameters.
Jan 26, 01:37 by Oliver Hauss
I emphatically agree with most of the analysis, and I think its main weakness is its focussing, preventing it from making an even stronger point. Unfortunately, Jackson cut out practically all of the, let's call it "Beowulf-style" storytelling qualities of LotR. He overlooked that there were two different chains of narrative: One of the Hobbits, were we do have "human" characters (only ridiculized by the described changes to Frodo) who do show character development (especially visible in Merry and Pippin), and the other chain of Beowulf-style epic storytelling, in which Tolkien not the least wanted to show that such stories can still touch an audience. By transforming characters that are meant to be larger than life into your average guy, Jackson deprives Tolkien of the means to do so AND deprives the hobbits of their heroes. Without the motivation, however, character development becomes rather haphazard.

In Excalibur, Arthur exclaims near the end "Now, my brother, I shall be King!" Aragorn is King, from the get-go, even if he doesn't look like it as Strider. He is made King because he is King, because he does what a King does: Heal the people, inspire it and unite it against an enemy and beat the enemy on the field of battle. (cf. Beowulf who also ends up being king after doing what would have been a King's job for several)

But Jackson does more: As was pointed out, Frodo chooses his destiny. Free will and how you use it is one of Tolkien's grand themes. Yet Jackson butchers it time and again, including in the Summoning of the Oathbreakers, who come freely, eager to finally make their peace, in the book, but who have to be awed into redemption in the movie.

Practically all of the legendary themes of the books are lost under a veneer of visual opulence which hides the fact that we're dealing with, in the movies, a rather standard "fantasy adventure story".
May 23, 16:28 by Ryder W. Miller
The Real Middle Earth: Exploring the Magic and Mystery of the Middle Ages, J.R.R. Tolkein, and “The Lord of the Rings”. By Brian Bates. Palgrave Macmillan (November 2003) 292 pages.

Reviewed by Ryder W. Miller

The real Middle Earth comes to life in Brian Bates’sThe Real Middle Earth which explores the roots of J.R.R. Tolkien’s influential fantasy opus “The Lord of the Rings”. Bates takes the reader back in time to first millenium AD Europe, a time that created much of the folklore, superstition, and literature which Tolkien drew upon to create his epic. In this fascinating book Bates, a Professor from the University of Brighton, contends the roots of Tolkien’s Middle Earth are not just historical but also spiritual, psychological and archetypical.

Magic was real for the people of Middle Earth, a pre Dark Age realm stretching from Western Europe to old England and Scandinavia. The people of Middle Earth included the marauding Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. Tolkien made this world accessible for modern readers, but Bates would have done so differently. Bates shows that Tolkien did not always mirror this time accurately in his famous epic.

Tolkien tends to cast a dark perspective on the spiritual beliefs of the people of this time. Bates does not describe as many evil forces, relaying that much of the war that took place then was between groups of people. Bates’s Middle Earth does not have a dark lord like Morgoth from the Silmarillion or Sauron. In Bates’s Middle Earth the spider is a magical and spiritual rather than always an evil creature. Tolkien personified evil and his addition to the history of fantasy were the hobbits who became Post-Nuclear heroes which the children and the rural English could also associate with. Bates’s work also describes the psychological and spiritual elements of those times, contending that the search for such is part of the appeal of Tolkien’s epic.

The book is insightful, covering the many elements that those times and Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” has in common. There are sections on the “Towers of Doom”, “Dragon’s Lairs”, “Elves’ Arrows”, “Plant Magic”, “Wells of Wisdom”, “Shapeshifters”, “The Seeress”, “Ents”, “The Dwarves’ Forge”, “Spellbinding”, and more.

Bates work provides a reference and starting point not only for Tolkien studies, but for a lot of fantasy literature which finds some of its roots in those times. Tolkien appears to have borrowed from these times as others did before and after him. But Tolkien and fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis influenced what we read and studied. Due to their efforts Anglo-Saxon and Medieval literature is more widely taught, and fantasy and science fiction is more widely read. Tolkien wanted to create a new mythology for England, and he wasn’t very thrilled with Shakespeare either. Tolkien paid back by subsequently inspiring interest in fantasy literature. Bates’s work helps you not miss its symbolism and significance.

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