Monday, 10 September 2007


The second Lord of the Rings film was on TV last night; I enjoyed watching it, but was surprised at how poorly it's stood the test of time. I loved the films when I saw them in the cinema - really came out of them raving - but now I understand that it's mainly because they are such great cinematic experiences rather than great movies.

That's not to say there aren't wonderful moments. But the flaws stand out to me as sore thumbs now: the hyping up of Legolas (really a rather minor character in the books) into some sort of superhero (Elf Man, he could be called) and his sometimes embarassingly silly stunts; the plot inconsistencies (Treebeard gives a shout and literally ten seconds later all the Ents in Fangorn are by his side, a la Liono from Thundercats); the odd lack of tension in the battles despite all the digital brilliance.

Worst of all are the continuous comic nods to the audience, like Gimli's running joke about dwarf-tossing; the books had some humour of a kind, but it was never a knowing humour, and as the chief virtue of the books is the fact that they present a consistent world without any reference to our own, those jokes really detract from the authenticity.

Maybe it's because I'm a bit of a LOTR boffin. I feel very uncomfortable with this new-found acceptance of 'geek culture' - fans of Buffy and Star Trek and whatnot are really just modern-day trainspotters, it seems to me - and I've never been able to understand why people manage to get so excited about films, books and TV series that those things become a way for them to define themselves. But what can I say? I read The Fellowship of the Ring at the age of 11 and was smitten with the thing, and have remained so ever since. I'm one of the few people in the world to have read The Silmarilion several times over. I know all the competing theories as to who Tom Bombadil really is (but not why he's so annoying). I've even physically forced myself to try to read some of Christopher Tolkien's History of Middle Earth books.

To a person like me, the films are full of great moments, but characterised by real own-goals, like how the elves suddenly turn up at Helm's Deep to help the Rohirrim, when the entire point of the books is that the elves don't give a crap anymore and it's for humans to do everything for themselves. I suppose it's symptomatic of the fact that it's a film made for a mass audience, whereas Tolkien was just writing the things as a hobby to keep himself occupied between fighting wars. And if Peter Jackson had been too true to the books, we might very well have ended up with Brian Blessed popping up as Tom Bombadil half way through the first film, with the consequence that nobody would turn up to watch the others.

The moral of the story being, I suppose, that I wish people wouldn't make films of my favourite books. But I know that's never going to change.

I'm faintly embarrassed by this entry, but there you are: I like fantasy literature and that's that.


Caffeinated Librarian said...

Nothing to be embarrassed about - there's nothing wrong with fantasy. But I like the LOTR movies myself and I always enjoy watching them, no matter how many times I've seen them already. 'Course I didn't read the books until my junior year of college and my first exposure to the stories was the old 1970s cartoons that they'd show on TV. Good old Glen Yarbrough. Man, I loved those old movies - corny though they were.

But I'm dreading to see what Hollywood does with one of my childhood favorites, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. They're sure to screw those books up.

Bilbo said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you...I loved the LOTR movies, even though they did take some liberties with the original story (worst was turning Arwen into Supergirl facing down the Nazgul at the ford to save Frodo). I had seriously doubted whether anyone could adequately film the trilogy, but this came as close as anyone is likely to come. To me, one of the greatest moments was the sequence of the charge of the Rohirrim at the Pellenor fields...when Theoden rides out to the front and looks at every orc in the world and the city on fire, his face just sags and you can tell he's thinking "oh, boy, are we screwed!" But then his face hardens, he rallies the troops, and they charge, even without hope. I actually get tears in my eyes when I watch that scene. To each his own, I guess...but I sure did love the movies!