Friday, October 23, 2015

Millennials in a Post-Jackson World

Most young people today do not have the privilege of reading The Lord of the Rings before watching Peter Jackson’s film adaptations.  While I don’t want to bash the films (they’re pretty good for what they are), they certainly seem to be the cause of a lot of issues.  Jackson’s films were my first encounter with Tolkien in any form.  As such, they have given me certain visions and expectations of his novels.  I would even argue that it made it more difficult for me to read the books than if I hadn’t seen them.  I had a lot of questions.  Who the heck is Tom Bombadil? Why is Tolkien spending so much time just talking about Sam and Frodo? Shouldn’t we be seeing more of Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli by now? Why did the Ents let Saruman go? Shouldn’t he have fallen off of Orthanc? At times I got bogged down by the differences that it made reading more difficult than it would have been otherwise. 

Even now after I have read them, I still feel that my understanding of the novels is somewhat tainted by the movies.  This seemed very evident to me and some others in class yesterday during our discussion of Swann’s music versus Shore’s score. I can see this also in my concept of Frodo and Sam’s relationship.  For me it has always been one of friendship, not master-servant.  I don’t feel that I am fully able to appreciate to changing nature of their relationship.  What other areas do think your perception of Tolkien’s work is affected by Jackson’s films?


Ulmo said...

I think that for me, the physical aspects of the characters in "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" were affected by the movies. I too watched the movies before I read the books, and the looks of the characters while I was reading matched up with the actors almost regardless of Tolkien's descriptions. Although this was a little frustrating because I sincerely wish that I could have come up with their characteristics using only Tolkien's detailed descriptions, it did help in keeping track of the characters. The mass of names in his works is incredible, but being able to think back to the movies did help keep track of the different Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, men, wizards, and countless other creatures.

Nessa said...

I was fortunate enough to have read the books years before seeing the movies, so I feel that I suffer less from many of the problems that stem from watching the movies first. However, many things are still tainted. For instance, I had not yet read the Silmarillion, so my only mental image of the Balrog was that of the movie version. However, now that I have read the Silmarillion my mind is torn between what I have seen and what I have read.

The same, too, has happened retroactively with the Hobbits, Aragorn, and Arowyn. The other characters, more or less, matched with my preconceived images of them, but these completely conflicted! Now, every time I read the books, I have to remind myself that Elijah Wood is not likely what Tolkien had in mind when he imagined Frodo.

I also have to keep in mind my original image of the Dwarves now. I know they are written as silly characters, but did you see Dori, Nori, and Ori? They were utterly ridiculous, yet I still struggle to keep the movie dwarves from being the ones I think of when I hear those names.

Yavanna said...

I think what is most fascinating about this discussion is how the specific diction we are using automatically implies that the movies are somehow worse than the books. I think there is a memetic idea to automatically assume that the books are better than the movies, in any case, because the books have more time to flesh out, develop, and complicate matters and characters as to make a more whole, unifying, and better experience.

In many cases, I would agree. But, that is not to say that the original material is always better than the replicas; Fight Club is by far the most stunning example, and one where even the author believed it to be better than his novel. In the case of the Lord of the Rings, I am unsure.

Both are good, no doubt, but (and don't automatically kill me here) the movies I find to be more cohesive, logical, and better. Motivations are better spelled out, and random things such as the Ents letting Saruman go, the relationships between Sam and Frodo, the Ringwraiths being chased off, etc. make more sense in the movies than they do in the books.

Again, not ragging on the books, they're great, their complexity allows Tolkien to better explore the world and its nature, but it very obvious that criticisms against Tolkien are often dismissed out of sheer intellectual snobbery and not as true arguments and defenses of his works. There are numerous problems in his stories, and in his writing, but we don't talk about those for some insane reason, really.

But, that's just my opinion. Take it as you wish.

Lórien said...

I think the biggest effect on me after having seen the films is my sense of scale. The films provided Middle-earth with a feeling of grandeur and overwhelming spectacle. From the scene of the falling stairs in Moria to the massive battle on the Pelennor Fields, I have an expectation that when I read Tolkien's writing there will be exciting action sequences and a clashing of grand armies. In Tolkien's world the ideas of war and of death are much less noble. War and the battlefield in his writings is a place of horror and atrocity. Even though I believe the films treat the theme of death very seriously, it just doesn't quite capture Tolkien understanding of war. As a combat veteran Tolkien knew that there is nothing sensational about battle, the films can't quite seem to escape this. Additionally, the sheer numbers of Orcs and Riders from the films have irrevocably scarred how I envision the books. I simply cannot see Helms Deep as not being three hundred peasants and a battalion or so of Elves against Saruman's massive army of ten thousand Uruk-Hai. This is neither the figures nor the focus of this section of the book, but my perspective is altered and even though I am aware of it, I simply cannot read the books in any other way.