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  1. #1
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    Christopher Tolkien Speaks

    English Translation: Christopher Tolkien interviewed by Le Monde
    Original in French: Tolkien, l'anneau de la discorde

    A few highlights:

    What is so special about this interview?

    It's a rare, if not exceptional case. In an era where most people would sell their souls to be talked about, Christopher Tolkien has not expressed himself in the media for forty years. No interviews, no announcements, no meetings-- nothing.

    [...]

    During all these years of silence, his life has been one of incessant, driven, almost Herculean work on the unpublished part of the oeuvre, whose literary executor he is.

    From this mess Christopher Tolkien cobbled together The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth, etc.:

    He also received his father's papers after the death: 70 boxes of archives, each stuffed with thousands of unpublished pages. Narratives, tales, lectures, poems of 4000 more or less complete lines, letters and more letters, all in a frightening disorder. Almost nothing was dated or numbered, just stuffed higgledy-piggledy into the boxes.

    "He had the habit of traveling between Oxford and Bournemouth, where he often stayed," Baillie Tolkien recounts. "WHen he left, he would put armfuls of papers into a suitcase which he always kept with him. When he arrived, he would sometimes pull out any sheet at random and start with that one!" On top of all this, the handwritten manuscripts were almost indecipherable because his handwriting was so cramped.

    Christopher Tolkien’s misgivings about the published version of The Silmarillion:

    First in England, then in France, he reassembled the parts of The Silmarillion, made the whole more coherent, added padding here and there, and published the book in 1977, with some remorse. "Right away I thought that the book was good, but a little false, in the sense that I had had to invent some passages," he explains. At the time, he even had a disagreeable dream. "I was in my father's office at Oxford. He came in and started looking for something in great anxiety. Then I realized in horror that it was The Silmarillion, and I was terrified at the thought that he would discover what I had done."

    Christopher Tolkien’s comments about Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings:

    Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? "They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25," Christopher says regretfully. "And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film."

    Christopher Tolkien’s reaction to the popularity of his father’s work:

    "Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of our time," Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. "The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has gone too far for me. Such commercialisation has reduced the esthetic and philosophical impact of this creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: turning my head away."

  2. #2
    Gee whiz. Christopher sounds utterly miserable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by staveisle View Post
    Gee whiz. Christopher sounds utterly miserable.
    I second that..

  4. #4

    Unhappy A sad man from the sounds of it.

    I'd hate to know how he feels about this game also if he feels this way about the movie.
    Well the first movie did get me to finally get around to reading The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
    Prior to that I had no desire to pick up a 1000 page book and read it.

  5. #5
    I actually sort of agree with what CT says regarding the loss of the philosophy in LotR. It *has* become better known for being a "fantasy" with Elves, and Hobbits, and Orcs, than it has for its ethical and theological positions.

    While I enjoyed the films enormously, there is no doubt that they advanced action at the expense of dialogue. One only has to look at the relative amount of time the Battles of Helms Deep and Pelennor take up in the films compared to the space they take up in the book (very little) to realise that much of what Tolkien wrote simply did not make it to the screen. That's ok: one, because concessions always have to be made when adapting books, but also because there is no doubt that a film focussed on discussions of the heritage of the lines of Númenor would not have captured and held the attention of modern cinema goers in quite the same way as watching Orlando Bloom skate-board on a shield.

    But for me the true victory of the films was the rich and lavish world Jackson and WETA created - the sheer artistry evinced in the sets, props and costumes. My hope is always that in seeing the unquestionable visual beauty of the films, those who haven't read the books will go and discover the linguistic and philosophical beauty of Tolkien's prose.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jahawn View Post
    I'd hate to know how he feels about this game also if he feels this way about the movie.
    I've always felt that J.R.R. Tolkien would have despaired at the creation of a game that so incessantly focussed on violence, but would have liked the attention to detail, and the constant, and generally sensitive way that material from the books is adapted and used to drive the story of LotRO.

    I also think his appreciation of it would have significantly increased if someone had brought him along to some of the lore-heavy RP sessions on Laurelin (probably other servers too - but I have no experience of them myself). I find it difficult to imagine him hating Green Dragon Fridays, for instance

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    so he wrote a book, he want people to read it but its not allowed to imagine it your way because???
    Tolkien's son sounds somewhat arrogant, he's not the owner of people's mind and he shouldnt complain that someone bothered making movies of it at all. I like the movies, I like the books, but Tolkien's son.... He shouldnt even be working with the text

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    He sounds a lot like Gollum talking about the Ring... Middle-earth is his preciousssss.

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    Quote Originally Posted by staveisle View Post
    Gee whiz. Christopher sounds utterly miserable.
    Just a typical bitter old man who sees something he cherished evolve .. and frankly, what he did with some of his father's work was equally un-JRRT IMO, Chris tried to be a literary figure like his father and clearly failed.

    Sad old man is sad.

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    I completely understand what he's saying to be honest. I imagine Tolkien (JRR) would hold general disdain for how commercialised and obvious, in your face the world has become. The Lord of the Rings would bomb if it was released now. No one cares about literature any more, much less literature that you have to read and re read to take everything in.

    I think he'd find the idea of the PJ films absurd really. He was no doubt intelligent enough to understand that to do well with today's audience they'd have to be so far removed from the books, then why make them at all, I imagine would be his question.
    The whole "franchise (ugh)" has become so "americanized" today, games, films, action figures (probably) etc. The Lord of the Rings these days is a brutish straight forward behemoth of "fairly good story and loads of fighting". It's no longer the delicate behemoth of story telling it used to be.

    I don't think CT or even JRRT would be bitter about the popularity at all. The LotR, Hobbit and even Sil were very popular indeed before the films came out, certainly in the UK. Most peripherals like table top rpgs etc I assume were much more true to the books then, and even if not, they'd be small - time enough not to cripple the public perception of what LotR is.

    I was talking to someone the other day who was trying to tell me that the general concept and world of Harry Potter is better than LotR. It turned out, of course, they'd never read the books from LotR. They'd read HP, and seen both sets of films, and deduced that since the HP films were a good representation of the books, the LotR ones must be too. They were wrong, obviously. I think this is what CT is bitter about, if he is really "bitter". The films have become more popular than the books, at least on a global scale, and they completely miss all the subtleties of the books that make them so brilliant. I mean, there's a flaming eye glued to the top of Barad-Dur. Really..

    Lord of the Rings as a concept has become twisted and corrupted by the popularity of the SUPER ACTION MOVIES (tm) and even the surrounding games. Battle for Middle Earth, War in the North etc. Certainly BFME is a solid rts game that could do well with its own story (it did, as CnC) but it took LotR instead and rode that to success. LotRO is better, in some ways. It certainly introduces and teaches more about the original texts than anything else I've ever played or seen. Even then though, it's still wildly removed from Tolkien's stories.

    You know how much Lucas has messed with the original Star Wars? They've certainly been lessened and belittled by everything he's done since. Imagine then if you'd wrote Star Wars, and Lucas did it to your story and characters. Only 10 times worse. And it was your dead father's idea. You'd be irritated, I know I would.

    EDIT: It turns out this sums up what I mean much better than I have above

    The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has gone too far for me. Such commercialisation has reduced the esthetic and philosophical impact of this creation to nothing.
    Last edited by Curandhras; Jul 29 2012 at 12:25 PM.

  11. #11
    It sucks that New Line tried to screw him out of the profits, I've heard that's a common tactic in the movie business. Apparently they treat free cross promotion as expenses. As an example, if Universal makes a movie, and NBC promotes it on the Today show, even though they're both owned by GE and the promotion cost nothing, they make up a figure for appearing on Today and charge it against the profits of the film before they pay out. It's crooked accounting and it should be illegal, but that's what happens when the politicians are as corrupt as they are stupid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiedman View Post
    It sucks that New Line tried to screw him out of the profits, I've heard that's a common tactic in the movie business. Apparently they treat free cross promotion as expenses. As an example, if Universal makes a movie, and NBC promotes it on the Today show, even though they're both owned by GE and the promotion cost nothing, they make up a figure for appearing on Today and charge it against the profits of the film before they pay out. It's crooked accounting and it should be illegal, but that's what happens when the politicians are as corrupt as they are stupid.
    I would take that story with a pinch of salt, considering where it came from...

    Anyway, it sucks CT feels that way, but I simply cannot agree with him. For me the PJ films perfectly captured the spirit of the books, even with the changes that were made. And their existence has drawn millions more people to the Tolkien mythos as a whole, so they deserve credit for that at least.

    I realise that how you perceive the films is based almost entirely on subjectivity, it's just a shame he couldn't enjoy them for what they are.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curandhras View Post

    You know how much Lucas has messed with the original Star Wars? They've certainly been lessened and belittled by everything he's done since. Imagine then if you'd wrote Star Wars, and Lucas did it to your story and characters. Only 10 times worse. And it was your dead father's idea. You'd be irritated, I know I would.

    EDIT: It turns out this sums up what I mean much better than I have above
    Ummmm What....

    George Lucas Wrote Starwars it was a Movie First or a series of Movies Books came
    later based on the George Lucas Movies.
    George Lucas owns Starwars he did not rewrite or change anything.


    There was no paper series of Star Wars until George Lucas created the films. The confusion about this stems from the fact that once the subsequent movies have now come out, fans and officials are calling the original movie "Star Wars: New Hope" so you may find sites that claim that is 'the book the series is based on' ... but its not. It simply refers to the original movie. After the success of the series, Lucas gave permissions to Bantam Books to begin producing the novels. There have also been several comics. Some of the books contain characters from the movies, and some introduce completely new characters never seen on screen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John_Webb View Post
    Ummmm What....
    You've missed the point here. The original Star Wars trilogy is held by many, including myself, to be the pinnacle of Star Wars' existence. The subsequent changes, additions and remakes licensed and encouraged by Lucas have lessened the impact and meaning of the original three films.

    Those changes were carried out by the original author. He did write the story and screenplay long before the films were released, so in that sense he is the author of the stories. In the case of LotR similar additions and changes (on a much grander scale) are being carried out by people not even affiliated with JRRT. That was my point.

    I don't think there's confusion regarding the later books and comics, these are exactly the type of peripherals I am talking about.
    Last edited by Curandhras; Jul 29 2012 at 01:52 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Curandhras View Post
    --- No one cares about literature any more, much less literature that you have to read and re read to take everything in.
    I can happily tell you that things aren't quite as bleak as that, yet. There are still those kids (7-10 year olds) who will forgo every other form of entertainment in favour of books. Including books alike Tolkien's.

    The only complaint I'll mention regarding the movies applies to every other visual adaptation of book-material as well: when I heard about the Lord of the Rings films, I was worried that it'll 'lock' the visuals people's minds. That, for example, Aragorn's looks will get 'locked' into being those of Viggo Mortensen.
    That worry's been since proven right; go look for character images, and too many of them are either modified film images or drawn from said images. Just like the rings' designs, or the mallorn leaf brooches...

    That's the single reason why I haven't let my kids see the movies, yet. I want them to imagine the characters and details all by themselves, first.
    It's not just LotR; same applies to HP franchise, too, and others. Please, no mentioning Earthsea.

    But in order to comment something on topic...
    Christopher Tolkien has my sympathies. I can't even begin to imagine the workload he's had, trying to decipher his father's writings. I can understand his nightmares about Silmarillion: it's a grand work, and knowing even a smidgen of how many times JRR rewrote things, how many times he changed his mind... I'm just happy we have Silmarillion.
    Not to mention Unfinished Tales and the rest.

    Thank you, oldbadgerbrock, for this!

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    Too bad Christopher Tolkien only sees the bad side of this situation.


    Quote Originally Posted by Daeross View Post
    The only complaint I'll mention regarding the movies applies to every other visual adaptation of book-material as well: when I heard about the Lord of the Rings films, I was worried that it'll 'lock' the visuals people's minds. That, for example, Aragorn's looks will get 'locked' into being those of Viggo Mortensen.
    That worry's been since proven right; go look for character images, and too many of them are either modified film images or drawn from said images. Just like the rings' designs, or the mallorn leaf brooches...
    There are some artists who draw their inspirations from the books even after watching the films.GoldSeven here is my favourite Tokien artist.
    http://gold-seven.deviantart.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Curandhras View Post
    You've missed the point here.
    No I did not miss any point you claimed that Lucas changed rewrote the original Starwars.
    That is not the case the Original Starwars was never released in its entierty as of yet.

    it was written and concieved of in a 3 part series of trilogies.
    There has been no rewrite from the original just beacause you and others have not
    been allower access to all of it at once does not mean things have changed.

    Perhaps the First 3 were the best your entiteled to that oppinion but you can not claim the person
    who originaly wrote and owns the franchise has made unothorized changes to it in such away it does not
    appear to be its origanl structure. He Owns it He can make of it what he will he needs no ones permission to do so.
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    Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? "They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25," Christopher says regretfully. "And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film."

    It's the same old "if you enjoy this you are uneducated" statement I see in Tolkien and military game forums. I really cannot stand stuffy intellectuals. One of my very early Japanese Karate teachers was like that. Thought there was only one way to go or you were stupid.

    I just cannot agree with how he feels. All I see is a bitter old man.
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    One last time, for fear of derailing the thread..

    Quote Originally Posted by John_Webb View Post
    No I did not miss any point you claimed that Lucas changed rewrote the original Starwars.
    That is not the case the Original Starwars was never released in its entierty as of yet.
    The original three films have been changed by Lucas since release. This is a fact. Han not shooting Greedo first, all the CGI on Tatooine, etc, etc, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by John_Webb View Post
    it was written and concieved of in a 3 part series of trilogies.
    There has been no rewrite from the original just beacause you and others have not
    been allower access to all of it at once does not mean things have changed.
    See above, he has made changes.

    Quote Originally Posted by John_Webb View Post
    Perhaps the First 3 were the best your entiteled to that oppinion but you can not claim the person
    who originaly wrote and owns the franchise has made unothorized changes to it in such away it does not
    appear to be its origanl structure. He Owns it He can make of it what he will he needs no ones permission to do so.
    Once again, I can claim it. He has changed it. It is many peoples' opinion that his changes were not needed or beneficial and actually detracted from the original material. Much like the changes inflicted on LotR by PJ's films, games etc.

    My point is changes were made to both things. Not the same changes. I'm not saying that SW was originally a book, or that GL wrote new books, or that GL did anything that he didn't do. In both cases you have changes that detract from the original. In one case someone is doing that to his own work, which is his choice. In the case of LotR it is being done to someone's work by other people. His son does not like this. This is my point. It has nothing to do with order of films, books, games, comics, later films with jar jar binks in, nothing. Look past the literal words and see that I am talking about changes to source material that people cherish, either by their creator, or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nymphonic View Post
    It's the same old "if you enjoy this you are uneducated" statement I see in Tolkien and military game forums. I really cannot stand stuffy intellectuals. One of my very early Japanese Karate teachers was like that. Thought there was only one way to go or you were stupid.

    I just cannot agree with how he feels. All I see is a bitter old man.
    I understand where you're coming from with this, what he's saying doesn't come across in the most humble or sensitive way. But then we must remember that he is an upper-middle class Englishman (j/k... Or am I?)

    In all seriousness though I don't think he's saying "if you enjoy this you are uneducated". I certainly enjoy the films for what they are. As a trilogy of motion pictures they're really very good. His reason for being upset about this is, I think, that LotR is about as far removed from an action film "for 15-25" year olds as you can get. His inclusion of the age range with such apparent disdain is symptomatic of the way the older generation view us "horrid youths" in the UK and probably all over the world. For diplomatic reasons he probably should have left that out. I see his point though. I don't think he has any problem with people enjoying the films, at least not directly. Maybe out of grudge for the "fans" in the same way its very easy to dislike a very popular band simply because their fans are irritating, even though you don't really have anything against the musicians or music. I think more he dislikes the way that the films are dumbed down in comparison to the books. That isn't to say that anyone who watches them is dumb, simply that they are without doubt less deep or "thought provoking" than the books.

    Obviously this had to be the case for the films to be successful. Maybe it's that key point that CT isn't acknowledging, by choice or ignorance. I think he's upset that the films make the story so obvious and "action film" like, which is fair enough. We must remember that these are his dad's works and many of these characters and stories were probably ones he grew up with and was told about at nights as a child. It's only natural that he's so protective of the works. He comes across as a bit of a bitter old man I agree but I think it's unfair to judge him so harshly for what he's saying here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Witch0King View Post
    so he wrote a book, he want people to read it but its not allowed to imagine it your way because???
    Tolkien's son sounds somewhat arrogant, he's not the owner of people's mind and he shouldnt complain that someone bothered making movies of it at all. I like the movies, I like the books, but Tolkien's son.... He shouldnt even be working with the text
    If I remember correctly, when JRRT first wrote The Hobbit, it was for his children. So in a way, it was written for Christopher and his siblings. Eventually, a publisher got a hold of it and convinced JRRT to publish it. As for Christopher working with the text, if he didn't we wouldn't have anything other than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. When JRRT died, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales were just that, unfinished. Without Christopher "touching" these, we wouldn't even have them, let alone things like The History of Middle Earth.

    I have to admit, I haven't read much beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I'm glad that we have more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Curandhras View Post
    I was talking to someone the other day who was trying to tell me that the general concept and world of Harry Potter is better than LotR. It turned out, of course, they'd never read the books from LotR. They'd read HP, and seen both sets of films, and deduced that since the HP films were a good representation of the books, the LotR ones must be too. They were wrong, obviously. I think this is what CT is bitter about, if he is really "bitter". The films have become more popular than the books, at least on a global scale, and they completely miss all the subtleties of the books that make them so brilliant. I mean, there's a flaming eye glued to the top of Barad-Dur. Really..
    I think that at least part of the difference is that J.K. Rowling was deeply involved in the movies. I still feel a lot was missing from the movies, but I'm afraid of what it would have been without her involvement to keep it as close as possible. I wonder how different LotR and The Hobbit would be if Tolkien was involved in the filming.

    Of course, having the author involved is not always a good thing. Just look at what Terry Goodkind did to the TV adaption of The Sword of Truth

    Quote Originally Posted by Curandhras View Post
    You know how much Lucas has messed with the original Star Wars? They've certainly been lessened and belittled by everything he's done since. Imagine then if you'd wrote Star Wars, and Lucas did it to your story and characters. Only 10 times worse. And it was your dead father's idea. You'd be irritated, I know I would
    There are a few things with the update to the original trilogy that were good, but outweighed by the bad. I liked the addition of a younger Jaba, but adding 10 times as many storm troopers to every fight made it overkill. The prequel trilogy just was not as good as the original, but I did enjoy most of the story itself. I don't think we will ever see the third trilogy. I do have to admit, I enjoy the post trilogy books and read as many as I can get my hands on.
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  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by swattz101 View Post
    I think that at least part of the difference is that J.K. Rowling was deeply involved in the movies. I still feel a lot was missing from the movies, but I'm afraid of what it would have been without her involvement to keep it as close as possible. I wonder how different LotR and The Hobbit would be if Tolkien was involved in the filming.

    Of course, having the author involved is not always a good thing. Just look at what Terry Goodkind did to the TV adaption of The Sword of Truth
    And is that not part of the problem. CT wanted nothing to do with the films because of what they turned them into, but he didn't try to do anything about it. Added to that his disowning of his own son for being involved.

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    So Badger you raise this as a discussion point but dont offer an opinion?.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Diggis View Post
    And is that not part of the problem. CT wanted nothing to do with the films because of what they turned them into, but he didn't try to do anything about it. Added to that his disowning of his own son for being involved.
    There's very little he could have done I think. The films were going in the direction they were going in. His input wouldn't have changed much, I don't think. After all Newline wanted the films to make money, not to be perfect translations of the book.

  24. #24
    Bitter old man, I agree.

    I can see Christopher Tolkien's disappointment, I can see why he deplores different motivations in adapting the books to the movies - Peter Jackson's especially (I'm not a fan of the horror effects or the puerile humor that's coming out to play, and I'm already dreading the fatty-jokes that Bombur is definitely going to be the butt of in the Hobbit adaptations), but the Rankin-Bass Hobbit (the Mirkwood Elves! Yeugh!) has its own downsides. I believe the term is adaptation decay.

    Commercialization and making the material palatable for a mainstream audience will need to sacrifice some of the grandeur, but adding in superfluous cheap tricks (Legolas' skateshielding down the stairs at Helm's Deep, sliding down the oliphaunt's trunk at the Pelennor, Gimli's stupid jokes...) not a fan. Tolkien himself, regarding the early LotR fandom, talked about his "deplorable cult", and again, I can see why - especially with fans who took their love to extremes, had no regard for personal boundaries and suchlike, I'd have been perturbed as well.

    On the other hand, including ideological differences in and for a different generation - not reprehensible. No, Tolkien probably wouldn't have enjoyed that Arwen (and now Tauriel) took over roles who were (probably, as the elven guards or army in the Hobbit were never named or described) male, but in general I do think adding women in non-traditional female roles are a great choice that will accurately reflect sensibilities today. But then I don't think women should be confined to kid and kitchen (unless they decide they want to), and showing them at all in the adaptation reflects reality within the fictional universe far more accurately than leaving them out completely or relaying them to sidelines and pure love interests. It's not casting a negative light on the abundance of male characters, it's just showing that it's more than just noodle soup (pardon the term). Similar to how the movie adaptations by default can't cheapen the books. They stand wholly independent and untouched, their words didn't magically realign (or were rewritten) to reflect the movies. Even if a reader (not me, I have my own images of the characters and had ever since childhood, though Martin Freeman comes pretty dang close to the idea of Bilbo I've had for 22 years now - perfect casting!) may see Sean Bean and David Wenham as (yeugh!) blond Boromir and Faramir or (double yeugh!) Hugo Weaving as Elrond. Superficialities like that will not change the writing.

    Last of all: Han shot first. End of story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EllisIstarnie View Post
    Last of all: Han shot first. End of story.
    I do agree with your post, it is true that the content of the films will be taken as is by an discerning audience and so will not do anything to the content of the books. I do think CT has a point, as I've said before in the thread, that some of the (imo) needless changes (Aragorn falling off a cliff.. I.. I don't.. Even..Gah) and watering down, if you will, in a way "sullies the good name of LotR". I accept that his stance is slightly over the top and not very understanding of people or the world today but I also completely understand where he is coming from in his criticisms. Your examples of the puerile humour and "gimmicks" are good ones, and while they do make good cinematic viewing they certainly aren't at all in keeping with the feel of the setting. It's things like this I think have "blinded" CT to the reality of the situation. The films are, as he so brashly put it, action movies for kids. That isn't to say that older people who have read and thoroughly enjoyed Tolkien's works shouldn't enjoy them, or even be able to enjoy them, clearly that's not the case. The films need to appeal to that younger audience though to be successful and I think he resents that compromise.

    Again I do think his stance is maybe a little unreasonable, but I don't think we should be so hard on him for holding it. It's a stance that I certainly could imagine myself falling into if it were me in his shoes, and probably quite a lot of other people would too.

    As an aside, can we explain:
    -WK breaking Gandalf's staff
    -Elves at Hornburg (Particularly Haldir's death there)
    -Sauron being an eye

    These three things make me cringe every time I see them. It's things like this that really make my sympathise with CT.

    Also, +rep. Han shot first.

 

 
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