195 thoughts on “A Relevant Point Regarding Expectation Management

  1. Glenn:

    Yes, there are three Hobbit films now. There used to be two, but they recut it and now there’s a middle chapter (to be called The Desolation of Smaug).

  2. On the plus side, we know how the story is supposed to go. I don’t think Bilbo is going to have to negotiate a trade treaty between the Lonely Mountain and Dale.

  3. I recently re-read the Hobbit, and I can see why they’re doing a trilogy, especially with the extra material that they’re using to flesh it out a bit and make it tie in a bit better to the LOTR trilogy.

    What has gotten me worried is some of the behind the scenes stuff where they’re talking about some of the action scenes: “how do we make it bigger?” is a question that makes me cringe.

  4. Oh, no, Beorn’s in there – haven’t seen pics of the actor in costume, but one of the production vids includes a bit on the set for Beorn’s house.

    I’m… kind of okay with it being 3 films, given how they’re being done. I don’t mind the material they’re bringing in from LotR and appendices. I’ve quite honestly found it hard to go back and reread the Hobbit like I do LotR (speaking of which, I’m overdue ;)), because of the difference in styles. if it feels more like the LotR movies, I’ll be fine. Even without additions, I’m not sure only one film would do it justice.

  5. It’s cool. I have a 13 year old 10 year old boys. This means Halloween costumes and Christmas presents are covered for the next 3 years. Much like Harry Potter was our go to meme for my 2 older kids. By the time The hobbit is done the new Star Wars movies will be under way.

  6. It isn’t just The Hobbit though, there is stuff from the Silmarillion, The History of Middle-Earth, and even some bits of LotR all folded in. Given the amount of things they had to leave out of LotR to make it work (and even out of the mega-extended editions) as a trilogy, then this is probably a good idea. Its not just a standard book-to-screen adaptation, it is the translation of Tolkien’s entire mythos centred around his first book. And there is still enough of the Silmarillion left for another series of movies.

    Its the 3D that worries me. Too many stories have been ruined by filming them in 3D and I can’t think of a single example where the 3D was actually needed to tell the tale (actually, that is a lie, I can think of one; Freddy’s Dead the Final Nightmare which needed the 3D since it was intended to try and bend around the 4th wall). I shan’t be paying extra to see the 3D version of The Hobbit. I’ll catch a 2D showing (or if they refuse to release a 2D version like Dredd did, I’ll wait and get the DVD).

  7. Following up on crypticmirror’s point, I have long believed that LoTR should have been 4 films and not 3. Wingnut could have dealt with Saruman’s escape and the Scourging of the Shire with ease (plus trimming the running times of each film).

    But I guess the funding wasn’t there for that.

  8. I suppose it really depends on what they add, and how well they do it. Given most of the changes made to LotR, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt at this point.

    @Andrew To be fair, action scenes were not Tolkien’s strong point.

  9. @Marcos: I love that idea!
    @Emos: You’ve just given me an idea for a LoTR viewing marathon where you have to eat one meal for each movie…I reckon we can get in both second breakfast and elevenses.

  10. @Nick from the O.C.
    The only problem with having Scouring of the Shire as a separate movie, is that I can not get the joke out of my head that it follows the same basic structure as a Die Hard (I forget which sketch show did it, it was on either the BBC or C4) movie; where they have to recast Frodo as Bruce Willis in a dirty t-shirt.

    Scourging of the Shire: Die Shorter!

  11. The previews look really good, almost as good as the previews for Peter Jackson’s “King Kong.”
    Uh…wait a minute….I had a point there, a really good point there…somewhere…

  12. I am not freaking out anywhere like as much as I was before the LotR trilogy. I can’t say I expected the Hobbit to be a trilogy, but as far as I am concerned Peter Jackson deserves some trust so I am happy to just wait and see.

  13. Damn you, Scalzi. You had to go there. I wasn’t looking forward to the Hobbit anyway. Now I’ll have nightmares about it!

  14. crypticmirror…I love you. I would love to see The Silmarillion on film. It’s my favorite of Tolkien’s works.

    I’m with Ghryswald, I’m excited to see The Hobbit on film. I spent much of my childhood watching (and rewatching until the Mylar was worn and finally broke) Rankin/Bass’ version hoping that it would be a movie with people one day.

  15. I had to read the comments to understand the full import of what you said.

    Pretty much confirms me in my decision NOT to see it. I already kinda hate Peter Jackson for the 2nd & 3rd LOTR films.

  16. Not sure I’m up for 3, although if they space them out, it might be ok. Certainly improves the bottom line for the studio.

    Totally sick of the 3D craze. Just another excuse to get more money out of you at the box office, in my opinion. I avoid them. They give me a headache. At least it makes the lines for 2D shorter.

  17. Eagerly anticipating the movies. Kinda wish they didn’t make it three movies, when two might have been fine. My 17 year old son and I plan on making the midnight showing on release night. He’s been listening to the Hobbit on audiobook since he was five and recently rewatched the animated movie. I trust Jackson to make an entertaining movie, even if there is divergence in the story line some. That type of thing is expected, I suppose.

  18. Astonishing, isn’t it? What greed can do. This is a short-ish (well, in comparison to any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) volume. How they pretend they can stretch the story over three films and maintain any kind of narrative tension is beyond me. Sigh.

  19. I get your point, John, but I have reason to be hopeful. The adaptation of LotR was done, in my opinion, as well as any movie adaptation could have been done. The filmmakers respected and understood the material, and the changes they made were well in the spirit of the books. There were many defenders of Tolkien in the production staff as well as the cast. Try getting a crazy change past Christopher Lee, I dare you.

    I suspect the addition of a third film to The Hobbit was financially motivated, but that does not mean it won’t be well done. There is plenty of Middle Earth lore to mine. I always thought that The Silmarilion does not have enough narrative structure to be filmable as its own movie. So, including it in the film adaptation of Tolkien’s other works make sense. (I must admit to not reading The Silmarillion in its entirety, so I could be wrong about this point.)

    So, its forward with cautious optimism for me.

  20. I seem to take a different approach to films-from-books than many people do. Was PJ’s LOTR trilogy a completely faithful adaption of Tolkien’s story? No. (Could it have been? I doubt it.) Did I enjoy it to an insane degree on its own terms? Yeah. I love the books – they’ve been at the top of my favorite books since I was nine – and that hasn’t changed. But watching the trilogy as epic fantasy/action adventure film…well, to me, they were a lot better than anything else in those genres that came out in ’01-’03. And given that, I’m anticipating enjoying the Hobbit in the same way – on its own terms, not as a completely faithful adaptation of Tolkien’s marvelous story. I’m also looking forward to seeing what they add in from the appendixes, and how they do it. And all of that strikes me as very different from, uh, another prequel trilogy I can think of.

  21. Yes, a trilogy and I am SO PSYCHED!!!! Sorry, but I adore “The Hobbit” – have probably read it at least two dozen times, and I could not see a single movie doing it justice…

  22. @MadelineAshby – I love the Bollywood concept. The “Death of Smaug” number would be the highlight of the entire trilogy.

  23. I realize it would not have been commercially possible otherwise, but I would have preferred a Hobbit film which had nothing to do with Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson is clearly making this a prequel to LOTR even though The Hobbit is a very different type of story. The trailer I saw made it clear that the story was going to be explicity tied to the whole overarching conflict with Sauron. That’s just not what the Hobbit was about. The tone just looks wrong. I am sure it will still be pretty and I will still probably go see it, but I would have liked to see a different vision.

    As for the original trilogy, it had moments of greatness and some amazing effort on production values. But Peter Jackson had some epic failures in redesigning the plot: not just because they were not true to the book but because they just plain sucked. Arwen as Tinkerbell in the ROTK, the lembas theft spat, Aragorn falling off a cliff, really? Just plain bad scripting, regarless of whether you are a book purist or not.

  24. Eh, I enjoyed anticipating “Prometheus” even though I heard sufficiently dire things about the actual movie that I didn’t actually bother seeing it. It’s all about the anticipation.

  25. There will be nothing from The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales in any of the 3 movies. This is because they don’t have the rights to those movies. They can only use things that were in either the Hobbit or in LOTR.

    And if the third movie is nothing more than bridging The Hobbit into LOTR, then I can probably safely ignore it.

  26. I loved Jackson’s LotR. I love the books, the Tolkien mythology, the look and feel of the movies, the whole shebang. As long as Jackson stays more or less true to what he’s done before, I’m going to enjoy these movies. From what I’ve seen, it looks like he will and I’ll be happy, possibly even sad that they’re *only* three. Also: Martin Freeman.

  27. That’s just cold man.

    On the plus side, we know they’re working from a story that wasn’t written by a drunken baboon, unlike some prequel trilogies I could name. Also on the plus side, The Lord of the Rings movies were some of the best screenplay adaptations ever done.

    On the minus side, Jackson and Co only proved they can do a great job at cutting down from the source material. I am more nervous about their ability to expand on good source material without getting foolish. It just feels like they’re going to have to make up a lot of stuff to fill that much screen time. Or just as bad, not leave anything out of the source material…eliminating the one aspect of adaptation we know they’re good at.

  28. My thinking is along the lines of rynogeny. I read LOTR years ago, long before the Rankin versions which I hated with a purple passion. I adored the books and never thought I’d see a decent version of them on the big screen. When Jackson’s LOTR came out, I disliked some of the changes he made, but still loved the movies. Saw them multiple times in the theater, own the extended versions on DVD. I’ll go see The Hobbit with eager anticipation; maybe even in 3-D!

  29. Reminds me of Yogurt’s line in Spaceballs
    “God willing, we’ll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money”

  30. I can’t wrap my head around the concept of a Hobbit feature film trilogy, given that Rankin-Bass did a fine job of telling the story (minus only Beorn) in a mere 70 minutes.

  31. I hope the battle with those three trolls is like 20 minutes long and involves Gandalf casting lightning bolts & bilbo blowing up the roots of a giant tree with half a ton of dynamite to pin the trolls to the ground while the sun rises and the dwarves fight off an army of 10 foot bats with their war hammers and all.

    I should have been called in as a consultant on this film.

  32. Private Iron: “The trailer I saw made it clear that the story was going to be explicity tied to the whole overarching conflict with Sauron. That’s just not what the Hobbit was about.”

    (SPOILERS. I don’t know if anyone cares but just in case…)

    One could argue that it is explicitly tied, to an extent. I can’t remember whether I read it in The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, but Tolkien wrote that a major reason Gandalf wanted Smaug destroyed was to prevent Sauron from having a dragon in his arsenal should he reappear. Gandalf was in the minority of those in the White Council who suspected that the power in Dol Guldur was Sauron. I’m not a big Hobbit fan but I do believe that was the reason he left the Company for part of the journey: to help the White Council battle in Dol Guldur. Tolkien, himself, rewrote the scene of Bilbo finding the ring so that it would match things as he wrote it in LOTR.

    Tolkien built and rebuilt his mythology. It is true that he wrote The Hobbit before he had any idea he would create LOTR. It’s also true that The Hobbit will forever be interpreted through the LOTR lens, for better or worse. I have no issue with someone’s interpretation taking that approach since it’s one Tolkien took himself, in some measure.

    I don’t know that anyone can say what a movie will ultimately be about from a *trailer*. I do think Jackson seems to have eschewed the lighter, more rollicking tone from the text. He took the boring path of making it in LOTR’s image when The Hobbit has its own charms. *shrugs* I’m gonna check the first film and see what I think.

  33. I am curious, for the people who hate the idea of the book being made into 2 or 3 movies, why are you still going to go see it? Of course it is going to have the same flaws as LotR and we saw those movies.

    At least we know that these will be infinitely better than what hollywood would have done.

  34. Trilogy? They’ll do the Silmarillion next……….it’ll take like, maybe a double trilogy…..what do you call that?

  35. @barbara nowlin a sextet.

    I was good with two movies. Tolkien’s formula always struck me as, “Casually drop a paragraph mentioning cool shit that has gone on in the distant past or in the now, and spend 45 pages describing Tom Bombadil, walking, eating, and other mundane activities.” I understand his intention, but his work suffers for it. He’s a superb world builder but a mediocre storyteller. Kinda like George Lucas, but infinitely more intelligent. It’s why I like what Peter Jackson has done with Tolkien’s properties. He takes that world and tells a great story.

    Curious how they will make three films work.

  36. People–“one book one movie” is not a valid comparison. Most novels are too long and complex to be filmed in two hours, or even three. A novella is generally the perfect size for a movie. People want their favorite novels turned into films, and then they complain that the film is “not as good” because characters and plotlines have been cut out. Get over it. I would have imagined that Jackson would have more cred after the very successful LOTR films, but it seems like haters gotta hate. Sheesh.

  37. Git the joke John, nice work!
    I am actually glad to hear that they decided to stretch the movies out. To me the most painful part of the ‘Ring’ trilogy was all the great stuff from the books that was ignored. The films turned into one gigantic battle scene, great drama not much story telling.

    Now, does this mean the movies will be great? No, nor does it mean they will stink. What I hope it means is that they cared for the story. But I fear it means they figured a way to soak another $8 out of people.

  38. I’M REPLYING TO IMANI’s SPOILER POST. MORE SPOILERS HERE, BUT THIS STUFF WAS WRITTEN BEFORE I WAS BORN SO I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANY COMPLAINTS.
    @Imani: From “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” in The Silmarillion (the book, not the Quenta Silmarillion itself): “There[Gollum's Cave] it[the One Ring] dwelt, until even in the year of the assault upon Dol Guldur it was found again, by a wayfarer[Bilbo], fleeing into the depths of the earth from the pursuit of the Orcs, and passed into a far distant country, even to the land of the Periannath, the Little People, the Haflings, who dwelt in the west of Eriador.” (This was page 302 in my 1977 first edition.)

    The assault on Dol Guldur is exactly what Gandalf was up to when he said “Toodaloo! Have fun in the Mirkwood! Try not to die!”

    @Barbara: They could do a Trilogy of Trilogies! Or an HBO series.

  39. I read Tor.com on a regular basis, so I’d already knew about the trilogy. I’ll reserve judgement on how that plays out until I’ve actually seen the films. I tried reading the Hobbit once, forty odd years ago. I don’t think I finished it. Most likely I’ll enjoy the films, simply because I won’t be constantly comparing them to The Book.

  40. Also, John, you are a Bad Man and I love you. I had a good guffaw, but my expectations are still quite high. Particularly if Jackson is tackling Dol Guldur, there’s plenty of material for three movies, and it’s Jackson filming Tolkien, not Lucas filming Lucas (of which, I’ve only seen 4 out of 6).

  41. I did not know it was going to be a trilogy. Sigh. What a pain in the ass.

    I do think the “prequel” label is a bit unfair. Tolkein wrote The Hobbit, and then LOTR. So, I don’t know that it really is a prequel. More like LOTR was a sequel, but they made that one into a movie first.

  42. I am up for all three films. I think Peter Jackson will do well interweaving the material from TLOR appendicees that touched on the same timeline as The Hobbit (such as the Dol Guldor rise of the Necromancer (Sauron in disguise). Bridging the end of the Hobbit to the beginning of TLOR should work as well. The text is there for the screenwriting to be done to support three films. And after TLORs I trust Jackson to do well.

  43. Arwen as Tinkerbell in the ROTK, the lembas theft spat, Aragorn falling off a cliff, really? Just plain bad scripting, regarless of whether you are a book purist or not.

    Agreed on this. I’m sure the movies will be pretty eye candy and exciting, but I’m wondering what Jackson’s going to add that doesn’t need to be there. Another Brego the Wonder Horse, perhaps? Perhaps Smaug will have a doomed romance?

  44. I’m pretty sure LOTR was *one* book. I think the publisher broke it up, or required Tolkien to do it.

    Also kinda surprised nobody dropped, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Until now. Though I don’t.

  45. Too often in LotR, they dialed it up to 11 when the proper setting was 8.

    The escape from Moria, for instance, worked far better as a frantic run with fighting as strictly necessary to not have anyone on your immediate back – than with taking several minutes to defeat a troll.

    And being saved by the balrog? Dumb.

    Sometimes, less is far more.

  46. I felt genuinely frightened when I read Scalzi’s little observation. Oh, man.
    But I’m all right now. I can deal. It’s not the end of the world if these aren’t any good. I still have the books. They can’t take those away. My precious…

  47. Yeah, it’s a prequel trilogy in movie terms. And I’m not so sure about the third installment, since it seems the first two will pretty much be covering the book’s territory. But The Hobbit has the rare attribute of being a prequel that was actually written first, not just something invented out of whole cloth to flesh out passing references to the past present in an original work.

    People had over 20 years to wonder what the deal was with the the Clone Wars, and it was disappointing to find out (especially since Timothy Zahn’s more interesting notions were discarded). But The Hobbit is a known quantity. Now we’re just getting to see it.

  48. Bilbo shot first.

    Also, a filmed version of The Silmarillion would have to be a pseudo-documentary presented by Simon Schama.

  49. I forsee this going the way of a certian Lucas prequel…. why must they ruin a good book by making it a movie trilogy? *dejected arr*

  50. Oh! (smacks forhead!) I thought it was a re-boot! ;-) I’m happy it is now a trilogy, bring on Dol Guldur and Sau…er, the Necromancer! (I’m a Tolkien fiend, my friend. I read The Silmarillion and I honestly enjoyed the hell out of it!)

  51. As possibly one of the people referred to as a “hater,” let me elaborate. There are a number of ways a LOTR adaptation could have gone. An attempt to directly transfer the text to the screen would have been long and clunky. Very few wanted or expected that. They could have judiciously edited the story with a few changes. I think FotR mostly meets that definition. I loved that movie and barely saw its flaws at the time. (Some of them are more noticeable as precursors to problems with the later work, but at the time I did not see them and would not have cared much if I had.) They could have added and changed stuff at will, hoping it would work. They might have also taken more “notes” from the money as filming went on and the budget grew. TT and RotK fall more in these last two categories. There is more Hollywood crap, more set feel good spots and tension builders which don’t relate well to the overall plot and make little internal sense. I thought TT was a flawed masterpiece. Except for a few parts mostly related to Theoden and Eowyn, I could barely stand watching RotK. I cannot even get through the Rifftrax despite several attempts. My son and I were just commenting on how the Lego game edits the epic into a better story than Jackson did for the later parts of the tale. (Hint, no Denethor at all.)

    Despite that I found the trailer’s version of the “far over misty mountains old” song chilling and we will be there in the theater in a few weeks. We have hope, but it was always a fool’s hope.

  52. Adude @ 1:35
    Tokien presented Allen & Unwin the entire single novel The Lord of the Rings which had chapters organized within six “books”. No way would the public spring for the pounds sterling to purchase it in a single volume, in the view of Allen & Unwin. So they split the novel into three volumes of two books each and named them The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Fellowship was published in the UK in 1954 in hardcover. The other two volumes came out in 1955. It sold reasonably well, but not massively. That waited until ACE in the US published a paperback pirated version (they didn’t pay royalties) in the early to mid-sixties. Then the sales went bonkers as the official US publishers, Houghton Mifflin, brought out the “authorized” version and Ballentine the “authorized” paperback versions. On the back cover Tokien pleaded with readers to purchase the authorized version as it was only fair that he, the author, receive the rightful royalties from sales. Lovers of Tolkien made it a point to buy the authorized versions. That’s my memory of what happened.

  53. I can see three movies. I can even see The Scouring of the Shire as another movie.

    Jackson =/= Lucas; Tolkien =/= Lucas; Campbell =/= Lucas. Maybe those should be greater-thans.

  54. Nah, not a prequel. There’s a prequel before this, Silmarillion. This is a midquel. The Midquel of Middle-Earth.

    And besides, have you watched those production videos? Can you imagine if Lucas had done production videos? He would have revealed Jar Jar. The end.

  55. Patrick Rothfuss wrote a blog comparing The Hobbit trailer to seeing a girl you had a crush on in High School in a porno. Same name. Different person.

  56. Three movie is OK, i’m even willing to pay for them all. But to wait two more years (even longer for the DVD/Blu-Ray) bothers me….

  57. I just want to know if there is something wrong with me. A long time ago I tried reading the Hobbit but couldn’t get past the third chapter, I found it rather dry (least that’s what I remember thinking). Is there something inherently wrong with me? Do I have ADD?

  58. I didn’t know anything about the film version of “The Hobbit”, other than that it was being made. I wasn’t expecting much, since I was pretty disappointed with the most recent Lord of the Rings movie. If they’re going to throw in the scraps they left out of Lord of the Rings and then add some Silmarillion, I think I’ll definitely pass. I bought the Silmarillion, but could never get more than a few pages into it — it was sort of like digging through a math text, except that when you get through a chapter of a math text, you usually have a few good theorems to show for it.

    It seems to me that the filmmakers, like so many of Tolkien’s imitators, fell in love with the kewl monsters and “eldritch” elves and the swords and sorcery and other exotic stuff and forgot (or at least let it overshadow) the human drama, which for me is the only interesting part of it. The hobbits, the orcs, the dwarves, the elves — these are in my view simply expressions of different ways to be human.

  59. If you can read a page in 70 seconds (not hard at all), you’ll be able to read the entire book in the time it takes to watch these movies. And that’s assuming they are only 2 hours each, hahahaha, not likely.

  60. Gary Willis@2:48
    Your account is pretty accurate with only a couple of minor errors. Houghton Mifflin produced a hardcover edition of LoR for the US market about 1959-61, if my memory is correct. (I bought the books as a Christmas gift for my father in 1961, so I know that it was no later than that.) In about 1964-65, ACE published their infamous pirate edition in paperback, and my memory is that they were able to legally do so because of a technicality having to do with the very low sales numbers of the Houghton Mifflin edition, and that neither Tolkien nor the British publisher had taken out a copyright in the US.
    .
    The sales of the ACE version exploded, aided in part (in my opinion) by the arrival at the same time of the hippie movement. No one knew for some time that ACE was not paying royalties. After this avalanche in sales happened, Houghton Mifflin re-issued LoR in hardback, and Ballantine negotiated the rights to a paperback version, which was marketed as the “authorized” edition. When the word spread about the details of the ACE edition, their sales plummeted, and many people swore that they would never again buy anything that was published by ACE. I remember reading that ACE was hurt so badly by the backlash that they retroactively paid royalties to Tolkien, but I don’t know if that was fact or fiction.
    .
    – Tom -

  61. Also, a filmed version of The Silmarillion would have to be a pseudo-documentary presented by Simon Schama.

    HA! Matthew Ernest, you just made my week.

  62. I want to like the Hobbit, but three whole movies? And I walked out of the Two Towers, it was so bad, and never saw ROTK. So…expectations managed.

  63. TNH: I think it’s all too explicable, unfortunately.

    Having seen what Peter Jackson did to the Lord of the Rings, I think he’s going to pad it out with stupid jokes, moronic Star Wars references, and long, boring battle scenes. And he’ll make a TON more money than if he sensibly made it into just one tight film.

    I’m not planning to go to see it. Even though Martin Freeman is, as you point out, perfect.

    Christopher Turkel, that would be nice. But I just don’t trust Peter Jackson. If people tell me there are no fucking dwarf-tossing jokes in this movie and the moronic Star Wars references are kept to a minimum, I may change my mind. But I see no reason to give Peter Jackson any of my money, not that I have any anyway.

    crupticmirror: It isn’t just The Hobbit though, there is stuff from the Silmarillion, The History of Middle-Earth, and even some bits of LotR all folded in.

    Oh BARF. That stuff doesn’t belong in there! The Silmarillion stuff is really gory, almost all of it. Yeah, I really want a bunch of kids to see the story of Túrin Turambar (incest and death; might as well take them to see Siegfried). Sounds like I was right.

    David: as far as I am concerned Peter Jackson deserves some trust

    I dropped my jaw when I saw this. While I respect your right to your own opinion, I cannot imagine what can possibly lead you to such a conclusion. Would you be willing to elaborate?

    Redski: Astonishing, isn’t it? What greed can do. This is a short-ish (well, in comparison to any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) volume. How they pretend they can stretch the story over three films and maintain any kind of narrative tension is beyond me. Sigh.

    Hear, hear.

    Chris: The adaptation of LotR was done, in my opinion, as well as any movie adaptation could have been done. The filmmakers respected and understood the material, and the changes they made were well in the spirit of the books.

    I couldn’t disagree more. Fucking dwarf tossing jokes are not in the spirit of the books. Neither is that stupid bit where Legolas surfs down the heads of the orcs. Those were Peter Jackson’s stupid sophomoric “sense of humor.”

    PrivateIron: I realize it would not have been commercially possible otherwise, but I would have preferred a Hobbit film which had nothing to do with Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson is clearly making this a prequel to LOTR even though The Hobbit is a very different type of story. The trailer I saw made it clear that the story was going to be explicity tied to the whole overarching conflict with Sauron. That’s just not what the Hobbit was about. The tone just looks wrong. I am sure it will still be pretty and I will still probably go see it, but I would have liked to see a different vision.

    Hear, hear. I couldn’t have said it better.

    I’ll read some more later.

  64. xopher: Fucking dwarf tossing jokes are not in the spirit of the books. Neither is that stupid bit where Legolas surfs down the heads of the orcs. Those were Peter Jackson’s stupid sophomoric “sense of humor.”

    I can’t recall, but I believe the body-count contest between Legolas and Gimli in the movie is also in the book. Tolkien fought in the trenches of WW1. I recall reading somewhere that he and his friends developed a bit of a gallows humor as a way to survive what was otherwise the sheer brutality of war. My guess is if some of the jokes they told each other in the trenches made it into the book or movie, most people would be aghast. So, I didn’t find the dwarf tossing joke or the sheild surfing to be so bad as to condemn the movie.

    The bigger issue, but the one that people accept because it is part of the trope, is the idea of “good vs evil” inherent in the Lord of the Rings. i.e. that orcs and trolls are inherently evil, which easily translates to racism, nationalism, and various other “ism”s in the real world. WW1 wasn’t really much in the way of “black versus white” or “good versus evil”. It was a political mess, driven by pride, vengeance, and folly, on all sides, as much as anything else.

    But Tolkien didn’t invent the good-versus-evil trope, so I’ll give that a pass.

    I read the books just before watching the movies and the one thing that truly stood out as stupid was Faramir’s wisdom of not wanting the ring in the book was changed to him being just like any other selfish, shortsighted human in the movie. In the book, Faramir is proof that ordinary men can resist the ring. In the book, Faramir is proof that the time of men has a chance of surviving. In the movie, the only ones capable of resisting the ring are wizards and elves.

    I thought the movies did a fairly good job of capturing the character drama and development. Frodo’s burden of the ring was fairly palpable. The issues of trust and betrayal between Frodo, Sam, and Gollum were well presented. Boromir’s betrayal and then realizing what he had done, his desparate attempt to make things right. Gimly and Legolas were mostly comic relief but could show a serious side, and I think that’s how they were in the book, iirc. Aragorn’s reluctance to take his place at the throne for fear he would make the same mistake as his ancestors showed well. Wormtongue’s manipulation of Theodin was present. The revalation of the betrayal of Saruman was potent.

    When folks dis the LOTR movies as nothing but orc-slaying fests and no character stuff, I just don’t get it. There’s lots of blood and guts, to be sure, but there are lots of characters developments as well.

    I was looking forward to seeing Jackson’s version of The Hobbit. But I must say that I can’t fathom how he will extract three movies out of one novel and keep the momentum of the story going. Movies aren’t books. Movies use a different set of physics than books. They don’t have the same dynamics. The story telling has to follow different rules. And my concern is turning the Hobbit into 3 movies will cause the momentum of the story to be lost. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but my expectations of a 1-movie version of The Hobbit were quite a lot higher than they are now that I know its 3 movies.

  65. The dwarf-tossing joke in Two Towers was flat-out stupid. It was also, however, one line in three movies. There were other things the movies did that bothered me a lot more, like making Aragorn “die” in the middle of Two Towers, which served no purpose, or minimizing the scene between Gandalf and Saruman (I can understand why they put it at the beginning of RotK, I just don’t see why it only got 5 minutes), or replacing Glorfindel with Arwen (though from a pure Hollywood perspective I can see why they did that) or removing the scene with the Barrow Wights or Tom Bombadil (though from a scriptwriting perspective I can see why they did that) or removing the Scouring of the Shire (I mean you couldn’t add another half hour and ONE MORE ENDING?).

    There were a lot of things that were done in the movies that I Don’t Get. But when I see the movies I still pretty much see the Lord of the Rings. It’s not like he replaced Gandalf with a wisecracking dragon and made Pippin a talking cat.

  66. Oh, the other thing I really didn’t get was what Greg mentions above, i.e. The Stupidity Of Faramir. In the book Faramir isn’t an idiot. In the movie Jackson made Faramir an idiot in order to add Hollywood Tension. And yet even with that, the movie is recognizable, because they resisted the urge to turn Shelob into a tapdancing chorus line.

  67. I dropped my jaw when I saw this. While I respect your right to your own opinion, I cannot imagine what can possibly lead you to such a conclusion. Would you be willing to elaborate?

    Wait, what?

    Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is widely* considered to be a filmic masterpiece in it’s own right, and about as good an adaptation of the novel as one could ever reasonably expect. You’re acting like David just said the President was born in Kenya. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but let’s not pretend yours represent the conventional wisdom. If you want to hear why someone might be willing to extend Jackson some “trust” in regards to his choices for The Hobbit, I suggest your check out The Internet, ca. 2001 and later.

    *I said “widely”, not “universally”. No movie is universally beloved. For instance, I don’t think The Empire Strikes Back is any better than Star Wars. Hell, a not insignificant number of people find Casablance to be cliche and predictable, though I wonder how many see the irony in that assessment.

  68. Hell, a not insignificant number of people find Casablance to be cliche and predictable, though I wonder how many see the irony in that assessment.

    When I showed my then-girlfriend Casablanca for the first time, she was pointing out things that she thought came from decade’s worth of movies, like, every two minutes. I was simultaneously proud and annoyed at this.

  69. @ Greg

    The bigger issue, but the one that people accept because it is part of the trope, is the idea of “good vs evil” inherent in the Lord of the Rings. i.e. that orcs and trolls are inherently evil, which easily translates to racism, nationalism, and various other “ism”s in the real world.

    I’m not sure the comparison holds up. Tolkien explicitly stated in the Silmarillion that the race of Men were the only children of Eru Iluvatar bequeathed free will. Everyone else, from the Valar to the Orcs were compelled to follow a moral script. Even Morgoth’s rebellion was indicated to be part of that script. Tolkien was a hard-core Christian, and the intent behind his stories cannot, IMO, be understood without taking that into account. The Orcs and Trolls are stand-ins for demons, just as the Elves are lower angel substitutes below the Valar (Seraphim) and Maiar (Ophanim). I suppose you could argue that angels and demons are racist concepts, but that seems far fetched.

  70. I don’t mean to pile on Xopher here, but pointing out a couple of dumb jokes and a few overly obvious eye-winks at geek fans as fatal flaws in something like ten hours of running time (just in the theatrical releases!) seems to be missing the forest for a couple of leaves on one branch on one tree.

    As Doc Rocketscience noted, Peter Jackson’s LOTR is viewed both inside and outside of genre circles as a tremendous achievement. Overall, it brings both the epic scope and smaller moments of the books to the screen in a way that is both accessible to those that hadn’t (yet!) read the books and satisfying to many (most?)long-time fans.

    Are the movies perfect? Of course not. But frankly, I like them better than I like the books. While I appreciate the work that Prof. Tolkein invested in his creation and I admire the skill of his writing, I find the books reflect his personality as an Oxford Don too much for me to connect with them. Although the movies sometimes aim too low-brow, overall I feel that they translate the grandeur of Middle Earth as a creation (with truly breathtaking visuals) while taking some of the “stuffiness” out of the storytelling.

  71. Greg: orcs and trolls are inherently evil, which easily translates to racism, nationalism, and various other “ism”s in the real world.

    Gulliver: I’m not sure the comparison holds up

    I wasn’t saying Tolkien was racist, or nationalist, or any other “ism” in the real world. I’m saying his story of inherent good in evil in the characters of fiction has no real world equivalent, other than in prejudice or some such.

    The Orcs and Trolls are stand-ins for demons, just as the Elves are lower angel substitutes below the Valar (Seraphim)

    That’s sort of my point of “good and evil”. In the real world, there are only humans, and their goodness and evilness are defined by their actions, not by their construction. Fiction which lumps a group into the camp of “evil” based on their construction is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t care for the “good-versus-evil” trope when the good and the evil are defined by construction rather than behavior.

    Tolkien’s world has orcs, etc, which, as far as I can tell, are evil before they’ve even done anything.

    Character-alignment-enforced-by-race is a pet peeve of mine. That’s all I’m saying. It’s an old trope though. As old as humans. So, I wasn’t going to let it slide that Tolkien used that trope.

  72. gah, stupid fingers can’t type anything right:

    That should have said: “So, I WAS going to let it slide that Tolkien used that trope”

  73. Why do people insist on calling this a prequel? The book of The Hobbit came out before The Lord of the Rings; that they did the movies backwards does not make The Hobbit a prequel.

  74. The Jackson stupidities jarred me out of the story. It wasn’t that they were huge, it’s that they broke my immersion, and that IS a fatal flaw.

    I don’t expect everyone (or even most people) to agree, no. But “he’s earned our trust” still strikes me as a very odd thing to say.

    Mac, the MOVIE is a prequel to the other movies. And it’s for no very good reason a trilogy. Therefore, prequel trilogy, and the other famous prequel trilogy was a horrible disaster (and on that I DO expect most people to agree). John was trying to induce wincing. For my money, he succeeded.

  75. DC Spartan, you and I are just never going to see eye to eye. No rancor or animosity implied; I just…well, I’ve been known to say “of course the book was better than the movie. Books are better than movies!” So there’s this chasm of aesthetic preference that can’t be easily bridged.

  76. I’m a little stunned by people’s reaction to The Hobbit being released as a trilogy. I for one am extremely excited because this way they can keep in ALL the good stuff. Unlike some people I thought LoTR was great and would of been even happier if it had been 4 movies. That way they could of kept in a lot more details, put in scenes that they were forced to leave out. Like Tom Bombadil, the full story of the ents involvement, what went on in Gondor with Denethor, and most definitely what happened with Saruman and the scouring of the Shire. But then again I’m an absolute Tolkien junkie; I have the Silmarilion, Unfinished Tales and even The Lays of Belriand. And honestly between the Hobbit and the Appendices from the LoTR (which is all they are legally able to use) I think there will be enough to make a really good trilogy. Hopefully it will work out the same way the LoTR movies did not as good as the book but still really good in a different way. But to each their own.

  77. “Tolkien’s world has orcs, etc, which, as far as I can tell, are evil before they’ve even done anything.”
    Orcs are manufactured products created by those who would do evil. We only know them through their actions which are to do their evil bidding. There are asshole Elves, and Morgoth was a Valar, so the real distiction of the orcs is the lack of agency and motivation, not of inherently evil beings aligned against inherently good beings.

    “replacing Glorfindel with Arwen (though from a pure Hollywood perspective I can see why they did that) ”

    That replacement was done for sound movie adaptation reasons: Glorfindel was a tiny character so even in a sprawling film there would not have time to set him up and just to throw him away. However, you still need one of the Elves there, so either Elrond is coming out to get them himself or he sends Arwen.

    If you want to complain about Elvish shenanigans, try Helpful Haldir at Helm Hammerhand’s Hornburg. Though I supposed you’d run out of H’s before you could finish. ;-)

  78. Evette: I for one am extremely excited because this way they can keep in ALL the good stuff.

    And if they do, that will be great. But Jackson is the guy who left out the Scouring of the Shire in favor of long and in my opinion boring battle sequences, so I’m not sanguine about him leaving in the good parts of the book.

    Matthew: That replacement was done for sound movie adaptation reasons: Glorfindel was a tiny character so even in a sprawling film there would not have time to set him up and just to throw him away. However, you still need one of the Elves there, so either Elrond is coming out to get them himself or he sends Arwen.

    I entirely agree. That was one change I had absolutely no problem with.

  79. A quick aside on the subject of Lucas-hate: You all do realize that if it weren’t for him, there’d be no such thing as Star Wars to protect from his meddling, right? When, exactly, did that story universe cease to be his to screw up (and I fully agree he screwed it up)?

    @ Greg

    I can understand that, and I basically agree. Something must have choice to be good or evil. I guess the trope of Born to Be Bad just doesn’t bother me as much in fiction. I acknowledge that fiction isn’t restricted to the moral reasoning of real life.

    @ Xopher

    While I agree with most of your criticisms, I suppose SF/fantasy films have so consistently lowered the bar for me that I can’t get too bothered when a movie does pretty good except for a few stylistic departures from the source material. Plus, I long ago gave up comparing books a movies. I accept that when I watch the movie, I’m getting the Peter Jackson LoTR, not the Tolkien original. Likewise, when Old Man’s War hits the silver screen, I fully expect it will disappointing anyone expecting to see Scalzi’s tale unmolested*. I say this as someone who merely really likes the fiction of Scalzi and Tolkien. If it was an author I was all super-fan over, I’d probably be less charitable, so I won’t be throwing stones at anyone else’s glass houses.

    *I know, I shouldn’t have, but some puns make themselves.

  80. @Xopher Halftongue: “well, I’ve been known to say “of course the book was better than the movie. Books are better than movies!” So there’s this chasm of aesthetic preference that can’t be easily bridged.”

    Maybe you just haven’t seen the right movies yet? If books are your aesthetic preference, okay, sure, you’ll always prefer books. And this is the comments section on a novelist’s blog, so, okay, sure, go with the stuff you prefer.

    But, setting aside debates about the LotR films (I love the films, but there are better films), or about filmed adaptations of books (feature films are closer to short stories anyways, or novellas at most, in terms of how much ground they can cover in one sitting), the filmic medium itself is capable of great things. Maybe try some non-mainstream stuff? Or non-Hollywood stuff? Or documentary?

    All that said with no intention of trying to change your opinion on the LotR films. Just asked with, I guess, the opposite perspective, as someone who prefers the filmic medium to prose. (Though prose is great too, obviously.)

  81. Oh Hell, do we have to pick sides on this one, too? I want to like movies and books equally and not get kicked out of either club. If I have to choose I suppose I’m willing to be kicked out of both clubs just for the hipster cred.

  82. One book equals one movie, right?

    Must it? Everyone complains when their favorite bits from the novel are cut for time and most books have a 3 act structure anyway, so why shouldn’t books be made into trilogies? (Or 6 part miniseries, or 12 part limited series?) Just because we’re used to being disappointed when filmmakers compress the contents of a novel into a cliff notes version of the book, plus explosions but scoff at the idea of giving the novel elbow room to explore the characters and settings at a more leisurely pace?

  83. From the previews I’ve seen, I can already tell I won’t like these as much as LOTR. Where they are going wrong is in the very same way that the Star Wars movies went wrong…introducing comedy. Star Wars was awesome when it took itself seriously, i.e. in the first two movies. Once it started down the dark path to comedy, i.e. Ewoks, it began to slide downhill. Jar Jar Binks was the death knell. The Hobbit movies seem to be doing the same. LOTR took itself seriously. The Hobbit seems to want to play for too many laughs.

  84. There is absolutely nothing you can say that will make me less excited to go see The Hobbit. I acknowledge that there’s a remote chance it won’t be as good as I think it will be, but until I see it for myself, I can and will fanboy all over the place.

  85. From the previews I’ve seen, I can already tell I won’t like these as much as LOTR. Where they are going wrong is in the very same way that the Star Wars movies went wrong…introducing comedy.

    @Ted: I’m seriously not trolling for a fight (and the malleting that follows as night follows day) but have you actually read The Hobbit? Tolkien wrote a perfectly charming childrens’ novel, not bloody War and Peace with short people, and there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. I really hope Jackson is going to resist his urge to grandiose self-indulgence. Turning King Kong into a tedious show reel for Weta Digital was bad enough. My expectations are successfully managed, but they’re basically non-existent to begin with. If I’m still awake at the end, Jackson’s one up in my book.

    Everyone complains when their favorite bits from the novel are cut for time and most books have a 3 act structure anyway, so why shouldn’t books be made into trilogies?

    Nothing at all — in the end, Warners and MGM don’t mind at all. If media reports are to believed, they’ve taken a half-billion dollar crap shoot that this trilogy is going to be more Dark Knight than John Carter. But I’ll put it this way: I’m more likely to keep wearing a groove in my BR of Gone With The Wind (which redacted Margaret Mitchell’s thousand page novel like Freddy Kruger on crack) than bother hate-watching Zac Snyder’s fan-wank Watchmen.

  86. I am not sure why I read people talking about doing the Silmarillion as a whole. If it were done, it would be best to take specific pieces of it and do those as stories alone, such as Beren. That would make an awesome series of movies. Then you could do the Children of Hurin. It would be a bit bleak, but still awesome to see, if done well. Break it up, don’t try to do the Silmarillion as a whole.

  87. Cranapia, I’ve read The Hobbit many, many times. But I’m one of those who prefers to view The Hobbit as a part of the entire Middle Earth history rather than as Tolkien originally did it, as just a kids story. I prefer that its tone mesh with that of LOTR. I really believe the comedy aspect will weaken the movies.

  88. Hmm. I know the original post is in jest, but my expectations are already so thoroughly managed that I have no interest whatsoever in seeing these movies. What was the most badly treated character in the LotR movies? You know? The one that was written in an embarrassing way from start to finish? Aaah, yes, that’s right… the dwarf. Most of the main characters in The Hobbit are dwarves. Yeah. No.

    Also? In my own tiny dysfunctional mind, I just don’t think dwarves look like male models in colorful fancy dress.

  89. It seemed to me that the movies of LotR deviated more from the books later. For example, are the Ents going to be emotionally blackmailed by a young hobbit an insignificant fraction of their age once they have made a carefully considered decision? That looked to me much less believable than the version in the book.

    Stretching The Hobbit to three movies, even after writing extra material, may risk turning out like AI, where a short story was stretched out to make a whole movie. “Like butter scraped over too much bread.”

  90. Personally, I’m quite happy that it will be multiple movies. Pulling in material from the appendices and the Silmarilion will ensure there is plenty of legitimate material upon which to draw. Will it deviate from the book(s)? Almost certainly so, as the needs of the movies will have different goals than the written material. All in all, I’m looking forward to revisiting that vision and that world. The Hobbit has had multiple treatments over the years and they won’t suddenly disappear or be invalidated, especially the source material.

    The biggest difference will likely be the tone of the movies being somewhat darker than the original book, but Tolkien himself tinkered with his work constantly throughout his life, as well. Could the adaptions have been closer? Certainly. I have some disagreements with some of Jackson’s choices up until this point and will again…but that doesn’t invalidate what I consider an amazing cinematic achievement.

  91. @WizardDru and others I’ve seen state the same idea–from what I’ve read, they were not allowed to use any material from the Silmarillion or anywhere else outside of the LotR appendices. That’s very sad, as it really limits what they could do.

  92. I would just laugh off the mention of the prequel trilogy if Denny’s wasn’t offering a special The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey menu.

    I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

  93. I would just laugh off the mention of the prequel trilogy if Denny’s wasn’t offering a special The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey menu.

    I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

    Here’s a reality check to go with the expectation management. Warners, MGM and Wingnut Films (Peter Jackson’s production company) would like to see a substantial return on their nine-figure crap shoot. And the bigger the better. Merchandising and tie-in like this aren’t pretty, but they’re nothing new.

  94. I’m so conflicted about this. Martin Freeman is my woobie, but I despise Tolkien, and didn’t watch the LotR movies. The books alternately bored and aggravated me, but… MARTIN FREEMAN. I wibble and I wobble and I might fall down…

  95. I completely agree with replacing Glorfindle with Arwen. Glorfindle’s role was no more than what he did in the books (despite his backstory). Arwen could do that same thing without altering the import of those scenes from the book one jot. And it gave more space and context for both the Appendixed romance and another woman in the cast.

    I also completely agree with dropping Tom Bombadil (I guessed before they even started filming he’d be dropped). I also agree with dropping the barrow-wight scenes (and laughed when Aragorn dumped the swords on the Hobbits at Weathertop. I’d wondered how they were going to arm them.)

    BUT. In addition to Xopher’s diatribe, and even more important IMO than the stupid Dwarf tossing and Orc surfing, is the emasculation of both Faramir and Aragorn.

    In the books, Aragorn embraces and has, for the past 60 or 70 years, been preparing for overthrowing Sauron and claiming the Throne of Gondor. It’s his destiny. It’s going to happen in his lifetime if it happens at all, and he’s actively working for it with Elrond’s help.

    Elrond, while not loving the idea of his daughter marrying a mortal and eventually dying, supports this to the extent that provided Aragorn can claim the throne of Gondor he blesses their marriage. Arwen aint going to give up her immortality for anything less than founding the new line of the Kings of Gondor, however. (Besides, if she marries Aragorn before he’s King and gives up her immortality, and then Sauron wins, she’s stuck in Middle Earth. So Elrond is being merely prudent by having them wait.)

    There is no Elrond contemptuous of Men. There is no Aragorn fleeing from his destiny. There is no lying about Arwen dying. There’s none of that crap. It’s purely for cheap tension in the movie. But this story doesn’t need that tension. It’s got plenty of tension of it’s own.

    As for Faramir, good God. The whole damned point of that was that a good man can resist the lure of the ring. It’s hard. It takes an enormous amount of will. It’s wrenching. But it can be done. Boromir (who, granted, had more exposure) failed, as did Isildur. Faramir won. The Race of Men still has mighty scions. But not in the movie. There’s no difference between them. If anything, Boromir resisted more successfully since he had months of fighting against the ring and Faramir had mere hours (granted, the ring was probably more powerful being closer to the source).

    None of which even touches on the Franjean and Roolness of Merry and Pippen. Not as bad as JarJar but bad enough. At least in the beginning. I am afraid of the JarJaring of some of the Dwarves.

    And that bit where Frodo tells Sam to go away before they get to Shelob, ARGH! Pointless cheap manipulation.

    All going to say that I agree with Xopher that Jackson hasn’t earned my trust that he will respect the essence of the story and the characters—if he even grasps what that is. Or even that Jackson will resist the cheap emotional tricks on the audience that Scalzi rails against in Redshirts.

    Jackson has probably earned my trust that it will be beautiful and epic. And way too damned long.

  96. Oh, come on, Jack Lint! What better way to market a movie about Hobbits than hawking second Breakfasts?

  97. Stretching The Hobbit to three movies, even after writing extra material, may risk turning out like AI, where a short story was stretched out to make a whole movie. “Like butter scraped over too much bread.”

    Well, consider that when A&E did a made-for-TV remake of Pride and Prejudice, which is a considerably shorter book than The Hobbit, the total running time (sans commercials) came in at a little under six hours. It’s considered a pretty faithful remake, but it adds a few scenes to put things into context, and still leaves out a few things and glosses over a few characters.

    There is more than enough content in The Hobbit for three movies, especially if they’re going to add tie-in stuff like Gandalf’s investigation of “The Necromancer’s” keep.

  98. And what will you have for your second breakfast? Gandalf’s Gobble Melt? Radadast’s Red Velvet Pancake Puppies? Build Your Own Hobbit Slam?

    I did like the Ring Burger. One Burger to rule them all.

  99. Xopher: The Jackson stupidities jarred me out of the story. It wasn’t that they were huge, it’s that they broke my immersion, and that IS a fatal flaw…. (for me).

    I think if you add those two words on the end, that might help the conversation a bit.

    The main issue I think is book versus movies.

    I think the book-to-movie conversion process has to deal with a couple of different issues. First, people who read books are into books, and being into books means you have to be able to manage a big chunk of information about who did what where and when they did it to whom. People who read books will invest hours and hours of their time over the course of days or possibly weeks for a singular payoff that is the finale. Readers often feel rewarded when they piece the clues together ahead of time, feel rewarded when some minor character detail from way back that they remembered actually makes a difference in the big finale, and so on. Readers often appreciate easter eggs. They appreciate depth, complex moral issues, psychological conundrums, subtle character shifts, and books are a great medium with which to reward them for their efforts.

    Movies… are not.

    A ten-thousand word short story might translate word-for-word into a two-hour screen play. A 150,000 word novel just won’t convert into a singular movie withotu losing something. It might convert into a mini-series or such, but then you have to change the format so that every episode has some sort of mini-finale while the entire series holds the greater plot and character arcs of the novel. A one for one conversion from novel to book would end up with an hour long episode about nothingl.

  100. Gandalf’s Gobble Melt? Are you kidding me? I take it all back. Your bad feeling is putting it too mildly.

  101. @Ultrgotha – It’s Glorfindel, not Glorfindle. Sorry, that was bugging my eyes.

    I don’t actually give a fig whether movies are true to books, if they are entertaining movies. More time spent in Middle Earth? Bring it on. Books are books and movies are movies.

    If you guys want to really get your argument on about the Hobbit films (or the LOTR films) you should take a gander at the message boards on TheOneRing.net.

  102. Ultragotha,
    I think it’s important, when analyzing changes made in the adaptation of a work for the screen, is to ask, “Does this story (still) work?”

    In the case of Aragorn’s motivation, does the story (both the overall story, and his personal character arc) work? I think yes, it does. I think making Aragorn a reluctant hero and an outsider makes him sympathetic. Also, it sets him apart from pretty much every other human character. One of the themes of the (movie’s) story is how men’s desire for power makes them vulnerable to the Ring. If Aragorn has spent a mortal lifetime preparing to take power, you have to deal with why this does not make him susceptible. In the interest of economy, all of that is dealt with in the stories of Boromir, Theoden, and Sauroman. No need to spend valuable screentime (and audience patience) having yet another human character struggle against the ring with Aragorn, or for that matter, Faramir. Yes, this choice does relegate Faramir’s role to that of plot device in Denathor’s story. But, my FSM, there are a lot of characters in this story already, aren’t there?

    Now, bear in mind, this has nothing to say about whether or not these choices result in a more compelling story. One can certainly quibble about that, and I will quibble that Aragorn’s story is not in any way “cheap”.

  103. The people complaining about comedy are amusing me. As a previous poster said, have you actually *read* _The Hobbit_? If it’s at all true to the book, it’s going to have a lot of comedy, and that’s a good thing, it’s a different book than LOTR.

    (If you indeed haven’t read the Hobbit, spoilers below)

    I have some qualms about the movie, especially the post-filming stretching to three, but part of the essential character of the Hobbit is how light comic moments turn far more serious, encapsulating in minature the progress of the book from the dwarves teasing Bilbo in domestic comedy to the tragic death scene of Thorin and his kin.

  104. “I don’t expect everyone (or even most people) to agree, no. But “he’s earned our trust” still strikes me as a very odd thing to say.”

    Why?

    You aren’t excited because you didn’t like the first three, and expect Jackson to do the same stuff you didn’t like again. People that are excited are also expecting him to do the same stuff they did like. So you are, in fact, trusting that he will do a bad job – it’s the same reasoning. Taken as a whole, the above statement is basically “anyone having a different opinion than me is weird”.

  105. ultragotha: In the books, Aragorn embraces and has, for the past 60 or 70 years, been preparing for overthrowing Sauron and claiming the Throne of Gondor. It’s his destiny. It’s going to happen in his lifetime if it happens at all, and he’s actively working for it with Elrond’s help.

    Hm. I don’t remember all those details being in the LOTR novels. I certainly didn’t get the impression in LOTR that he embraced his inheritance and was actively pursuing his throne from the beginning.

  106. actually, I thought the whole point for Aragorn was he was the “reluctant king”, reluctant to assume the power that he inherited, which was, I thought, indicative of why he could resist the ring. Power wasn’t his thing. If he was actively pursuing his throne for half a century before LOTR even started, then it kinda makes me wonder why his drive for the power of King wouldn’t likewise drive him towards the power of the Ring.

  107. Anyone having a different opinion to mine is weird.

    But aside from that…

    @Tavella – Yes, The Hobbit is full of light, gentle humor. Humor that’s intrinsic to the feel and flow of the book. Unfortunately that has nothing in common on any level with the “Humor” that Jackson and Walsh used in the LotR movies. That “Humor” was clumsy, crass, deeply lacking in anything approaching wit, and utterly out of keeping with the feel and tone of LotR (yes, even the the movies themselves).

    Nobody dislikes the humor that’s present the books of both The Hobbit and LotR. What I think many people do seem to dislike, though, is the peurile and jarring nature of Peter Jackson’s “humor”.

  108. Well, rats… I did something wrong, and my comment didn’t make it through, I think.

    In more of a nutshell (since others have since made similar points):

    I think that the problem with Tom’s “introduces comedy” statement is that it makes it sound as if TH is a book without comedy, and it’s somehow being shoehorned in. If you just want to rest on the statement that you’d PREFER an adaptation of TH dispense with the lighter tone and comedy, that’s a somewhat different point than lamenting that the filmmakers will follow the book’s lead.

    Bob v.17.4.0: while I’m not going to engage in a vigorous defense of all of the humor in the LOTR films… “puerile and jarring” are, when you get down to it, personal value judgements, not universal truths. You can say fairly, that a lot of folks share your opinion of the humor. But it’s a topic that’s very difficult to pin down. Look, I don’t even really like the plate-throwing song from TH the book itself, OR the Cockney trolls, and I didn’t like the Rankin Bass adaptation, either. It doesn’t make me throw out the entire thing, obviously, and I’m not going to slag off people who love those old adaptations, nor who love that comedy in the book.

    To bring this back to Xanthro’s puzzlement — the reason I trust Jackson with TH more than I don’t is that from everything I have seen, he has a great deal of love for the material. I was able to fee that in LOTR. Yes, he made some changes folks don’t agree with, but he didn’t make those changes because he fundamentally doesn’t GET the material — he made them because he has a differing interpretation of the material than others who are strong fans of it. Similarly, the most I think you can accuse him of, with respect to the humor bits that he added, is that he possibly didn’t vet them as widely as he should have. (See above, under: humor is very personal, and what one person finds stone-cold hilarious, another person sees as lowbrow and insulting.) In other words, I think his heart was in the right place, which is why I tend to trust him more than not.

    Finally, on the subject of the trilogy — it’s never bothered me. Christopher Wright above said it more succinctly, but I’ll also just point out that there is an audio-book verson of The Hobbit available that takes 11 hours to be read. If it takes the book 11 hours to read, then it shouldn’t be a surprise if it will take nearly (but less than) that long to depict in action, even before you get to added material.

    Tolkien’s narrative style in TH is a lot more brisk and breezy than in LOTR, and I was surprised to find upon rereading it recently (after not having touched it for years) that there was a lot more packed into the story than I’d remembered. (Not as drastic a situation as a friend of mine who read the book as a child and who recently, when we were discussing the trilogy, looked at us and with a perfectly straight face said, “Wait, there’s a dragon in The Hobbit?” I know, I know.) If people find the writing of LOTR too dense and detailed, TH is the opposite, often glossing over action in a paragraph that will take far longer to show on the screen.

    The Pride and Prejudice analogy is great, and I wish I’d thought of it. I really wonder if people would have blinked had the BBC said they were going to air an 8-part TH mini-series.

    (Apologies if my other comment does eventually show up and this one winds up being repetitive in places.)

  109. Likely I have the most extensive Tolkien library between Fort Worth and El Paso, Texas, here in West Texas. Point? I am a Tolkien fan–ultragrade. My only serious disappointment with the Peter Jackson film treatement of LOTR was I thought many of the battle scenes over-long. Plus I would have included some of the quieter moments that were left out of the screenplay. So I trust Jackson will do well with his three films of The Hobbit amplified with LOTR appendix material. Just someone close to Jackson, please tell him battles can be over-long to the point of the film viewer losing interest in them midway through. I kinda did, but then I knew how they had to end, having read LOTR some 14 times through to date. Were it me, I had kept the barrowdown sequence and Tom & Goldenberry in LOTR by cutting back those battle sequences. Leaving out the scourging of the shire was just criminal as it made Tolkien’s point that all is never the same afterward, even when you win the war. Yep, those battle scenes by being overlong meant Jackson made cuts that were sad to see made–by us ultrafans of the literary texts. Nevertheless, expectation management? I trust Jackson will do well with the three Hobbit films.

  110. I tend to treat movies-from-books as translations more than adaptations. Film and writing are two very different languages and need a translator who knows both but also has some poetic imagination of (in this case) his own. Plus some skills at improvisation and idiomatic expression.

    While this doesn’t reduce my expectations (it’s The Hobbit!!!), it does put them in context.

    PS – Mr Scalzi: I know this is off-topic, but I’m just curious. How many times has someone said in the comment sections, “Damn you, Scalzi!”

  111. Greg, yes in the movies you’re right. Aragorn flees from his destiny.

    All through FOTR the book, there’s bits about Aragorn actively pursuing that goal. As one small example, look at his poem—From the Ashes a Fire shall be woken/A light from the shadows shall spring/Renewed shall be blade that was broken/The crownless again shall be King. Bilbo wrote that. He certainly knew Aragorn’s goals (and about Arwen). They weren’t a secret from his friends.

    As another contrast, in the books, the Elves re-forge Anduril before Aragorn sets out with the Fellowship. Boromir’s dream tells him to “Seek for the Sword that was broken” in Rivendell and he finds it. In the movies, Aragorn emos about the broken blade but doesn’t actually possess it until Elrond shows up in Rohan at the beginning of ROTK and gives it to him. It was still in pieces when the Fellowship left Rivendell. Jackson used it as a metaphor for Aragorn taking up his destiny. Tolkein didn’t need such a metaphor.

    I am skeptical that Jackson will refrain from the same kinds of weak-willed character twisting. Add to that things like Aragorn falling off a cliff and Frodo telling Sam to go home right outside Shelob’s lair as cheap emotional gimmicks, and no I don’t think Jackson has built much trust in that direction.

    That said, I will watch at least the first movie. If for no other reason than –>Martin Freeman!<–

  112. Ultragotha, while Aragorn doesn’t exactly shy away from his heritage in the books, he does routinely question whether he is fit to be a leader. For most of the book he keeps saying something along the lines of “gee, I made another bad choice AGAIN!” or “I want to do this, but I think I should do that, but what I’m completely wrong?” etc etc etc. Aragorn wasn’t the guy who rode in and made all the right decisions and felt completely comfortable with those decisions. He wanted to go to Gondor, he felt obligated not to. After Boromir’s death he questioned whether he was the right choice to be leader (assuming I’m remembering all this stuff correctly. Been a while.)

    And I don’t think that would come across on a movie screen very well. Not while all this other stuff is going on. There’s not much room for the guys sitting around the fire listening to Aragorn say “well chaps, I don’t know, I guess I want to do x, but we have to do y instead. Oh! If only I knew y was the right call! Am I doing this wrong? Am I betraying everything by not doing x? Why did Gandalf have to go and die! OK, let’s chase orcs.”

    I don’t know that making Aragorn the reluctant hero was the right substitution for it at all, but I can see how it would allow the audience to get some of the same kind of resistance Aragorn had through the story by keying into that trope. But let’s not deny that there were times in the book that Aragorn was clearly unhappy with having to be the go-to guy, Heir of Elendil or not.

  113. @Eregyrn:- We don’t need to fall out over differing opinions on some movies. That would be silly. We can at least be in firm agreement that we disagree. Or something.

    The thing is… when I read “…he didn’t make those changes because he fundamentally doesn’t GET the material” I made strange “Nnnn” sounds, and that’s because, actually, really, honestly, everything else is detail, and the one core thing I think about the LotR movies is that Jackson fundamentally doesn’t get the material. As an attempt to briefly illustrate why I think that’s true, I’ll point at Helm’s Deep. The important (in terms of dramatic impact, at least) thing about Helm’s Deep is that they fall back and then fall back again, they lose ground as one defense after another fails, until they’re without hope and, finally, they’re cornered and trapped. It’s a simple and obvious yet effective dramatic staple. In the book there’s an overwhelming sense of doom as the good guys are taken further and further down until everything seems hopeless. This is the fundamental and important overall shape of that entire section of the story. If you like, at that point, that *is* the story. It is at least the *point* of the story. In that way when Gandalf turns up, it comes as a great dramatic relief.

    In the movie, Jackson gives us none of that. There’s no sense of inescapable and impending doom. Aside from anything else, earlier in the film Jackson telegraphs Gandalf riding to the rescue so blatantly that he might as well have had a flashing caption onscreen saying “This will happen later!” Jackson completely fluffs the entire dramatic meaning of Helm’s Deep. It’s as if he read all of the events in sequence in the book and all he thought was “Cool!” and simply wasn’t able to understand what the emotional buildup and payoff was meant to be.

    It’s just an example, but if he can completely miss the most basic point of such a large chunk of the book, then… well… I just don’t think he understands any of it. At all. As supplementary evidence I’ll just point to every single other film he’s made and say “Meh. Lumpen.”

    I did like the first LotR movie. Just not the rest.

  114. ultragotha: As one small example, look at his poem—From the Ashes a Fire shall be woken/A light from the shadows shall spring/Renewed shall be blade that was broken/The crownless again shall be King. Bilbo wrote that

    Well, that’s Bilbo writing about it some time after the events happened, knowing full well how events would turn out. And the poem is a prediction of those future events, not a declaration that they are already true. It says Fire shall be woken, not Fire has been awake for the last 50 years, and is hungry.

    Next time I read the books, I’ll have to keep this possible interpretation in mind. But with a fuzzy memory, it would seem that there are interactions Aragorn has with various people in positions of power, and if Aragorn was secretly plotting to get his throne back from the beginning, then it would seem that means Aragorn is lying and manipulating people he is interacting with. I don’t recall him announcing he intends to take his throne back at any point. Though it would have been relevant to some of the discussions at hand.

    Bob: In the movie, Jackson gives us none of that. There’s no sense of inescapable and impending doom.

    None? Maybe I got to see the extended version in my theater. It seemed like they kept getting pushed farther and farther back.

    Jackson telegraphs Gandalf riding to the rescue so blatantly

    Well, this is the problem with the movie format. You can only bury information about an hour before its relevant. And because dialogue is so scarce compared to books, even one line can become far more weighted than it was intended in the book. A passing indirect comment in a book that hints at Chekov’s gun that won’t be picked up again until another 40 or 50 thousand words, in a movie becomes a line of dialogue with the camera on the actor’s face to draw attention, that references something that will come true, at most two hours later.

    In a book, readers might feel rewarded if they remembered the on line 50 thousand words ago that mentioned Chekov’s gun, and sure enough, the characters pick up the gun and shoot a bad guy. In a movie, it’s a whole lot harder to bury stuff like that and make it feel like a viewer reward for holding onto an easter egg.

    If you watch enough crime shows, you can usually figure out who the bad guy is simply by keeping track of all the actors with dialogue who aren’t regulars on the show, and cross them off the list as the cops cross them off. At which point, there’s a commercial break just before the end, that lets folks think about it and maybe get one step ahead of the cops. Then the commercial is over, and the cops pick up the real bad guy. And if you figured it out, you get a reward pellet from Skinner’s box.

    Gandalf had to tell someone that he would arrive with help in three days, otherwise it would have been deus ex machina. It would have been, literally, the cavalry showing up at the end out of the blue to save the good guys.

    Anytime Gandalf’s power would make a huge difference or would have solved a major problem, Tolkien had to make sure he was somewhere else. This wasn’t Jackson’s problem. This was something Tolkien did that Tolkien was able to hide fairly well in the novel. But in the movie, it becomes fairly obvious: Whenever Gandalf is missing, he is the ace in the hole to bail out the characters when shit hits the fan. He is the tank who takes on the Balrog. He leads the Cavalry who save the otherwise lost cause at Helms Deep. He is the special ops on a UH-500 picking up Sam and Frodo on Mordor as it self destructs around them. And so on. When Tolkien needs the characters to solve a problem, he has to get Gandalf out of the picture. Mostly, by having him ride around, explaining his absense by the huge distances he must travel.

    Gandalf is, for all intents and purposes, pure plot handwavium. And Tolkien has to keep him really fucking busy or the main characters aren’t needed for anything. In a novel, this is obscured withing several hundred thousand words of story. In 7 hours of movie tension, it becomes pretty obvious. And you just have to shrug it away or the whole movie is destroyed. Not because of anything Jackson does around this, but because Jackson only has a few hours of movie time within which to hide the fact that Gandalf is pure power and the other characters aren’t actually needed.

    Even then, before the movie existed, readers were left wondering, if Gandalf could have ridden eagles into Mordor to save Frodo and Sam, why not just use Eagles to drop off the ring to begin with? Or drop them at a good entrance point at least? Tolkien created a great and amazing world. But some of his plotting had holes.

  115. Bob v17.4.0: we can agree to disagree, at least knowing that we seem to agree on a high opinion of FOTR. (While I also like the other two films, FOTR is my favorite, and the one that I think hangs together the best overall.)

    Greg: I’ve heard a lot of reasons given for why the Eagles couldn’t be used to get the Ring to, or near, Mount Doom. I think that some suggestions are more convincing than others. But yeah, just the fact that so many are left to wonder about it seems to mean that something was missing, that would otherwise have made it clear.

    Speaking of telegraphing, I’d love to hear from someone who didn’t know the books whether the Eagles were just-sufficiently set up and then NOT telegraphed for their rescue at the very end to be a genuine surprise, or not. (I was going to say, there’s a good example of Jackson being able to show that card, and then hide it in his hand until the audience had “forgotten” Gwaihir’s rescue of Gandalf… but I can’t actually remember when the last reminder of that falls within the films.)

  116. Even if you don’t expect to like the movie, I think this will amuse you: http://debbieohi.com/waitingforbilbo/
    For Sam, who didn’t like The Hobbit. It was originally a bedtime story, it’s written meant to be read aloud. I read it to each of my children when they were in kindergarten. And then LotR, which isn’t written for it. The language is very different.

  117. There are two criticisms of Jackson here: 1) he did not adapt the story well and 2) he did something which works badly for the story he did choose to tell. I can go on all day about the first kind, but it can just be dismissed as well he adapted the story for film. But there are honking big second category problems as well.

    Arwen will die unless Frodo claps his hands loud enough is bad melodrama. Aragorn’s cliff diving useless tension builder that builds no tension. Faramir agreeing to let the Ring go after watching Frodo go crazy and almost give the Ring up to the Nazgul. WTF? Denethor’s son is dead and orcs have been attacking his kingdom for years, but his main problem is he does not take the threat seriously and is an incompetent glutton. WTF twice. Theoden is sitting in a fortress surrounded by enemies and Aragorn’s big advice is Keep Fighting. In the film we know Gandalf said he was going to be there at x time. Why the hell wouldn’t Aragorn and Theoden be talking about that strategically instead of exchanging useless lines? Why is Theoden shown to be uninterested in fighting again and again and needing his eyes opened by Strider again and again? How could we believe the Ents didn’t know Saruman had burned down a third of their forest? Isn’t that what they were mad about in the first place? [And I believe that PJ has said that he does NOT "get" the Ents in the commentaries.]

    Frodo is passive from the very start of the film. He just flops like a fish or furtively puts on the Ring at any and all of the worst times. You don’t see him slowly wear down. He is already gone at Weathertop at the latest. The lembas theft. Really. I cannot even begin to express how stupid and wrong that scene is. Even if you think Jackson’s Frodo is that stupid. His Sam is even more of a superhero than the book’s. No way he walks off. Gollum does not want to drive Sam off. Gollum wants nothing that could possibly disturb them from quickly getting to the lair. As far as he is concerned Sam is just spider second breakfast. No one would seriously think Sam would make a difference when Ungoliant’s spawn appears. And seriously is there any reason why the struggle with the orcs in Cirith Ungol would not have made kick ass action drama? Plus added more weight to Sam’s development as a heroic figure. Plus given us more Orc based humor/”humanizing” drama which usually worked pretty well in these films. (Meats back on the menu.) Instead we get a rousing Olympic torch lighting ceremony over in Minis Tirith.

  118. Greg: Well, that’s Bilbo writing about it some time after the events happened, knowing full well how events would turn out.

    No, Bilbo quotes that poem in the chapters in FOTR that happen in Rivendell. He wrote it during the years between when he left the Shire and when Frodo shows up in Rivendell. The point being that while, yes it is predicting the return of the King, that is such an important thing to know about Aragorn that Bilbo puts it in that poem.

    Christopher Wright: Aragorn in the books intends to go with Frodo all the way to Mount Doom because that’s the best way to defeat Sauron, which is the whole point of all these battles and quests. Along the way he feels he has made mistakes, which he acknowledges. But he yearns to go to Gondor. The choice Frodo makes when the Fellowship breaks up allows Aragorn to go to Gondor’s aid as he’s wanted to (after he rescues Merry and Pippen). It’s not so much dithering as knowing the BEST way to solve this does not involve doing what he REALLY wants to do.

    If things had turned out as Aragorn intended, they would have all snuck into Mordor, destroyed the Ring, and then gone to Gondor afterwards. Much shorter book. ;-)

    PrivateIron: Yes, exactly.

  119. PI: that’s quite a list. I disagree with just about all of it. However, this:
    I cannot even begin to express how stupid and wrong that scene is.
    is pretty weaksauce, dude. :)

    Besides, one of the problems with novel!Frodo and Sam’s story at this point is that, well, nothing much happens. At least, not enough to justify the amount of screentime you want your protagonist to have. These additions may be melodramatic, but, a) they’re not nearly so out-of-the-blue as you suggest, and b) melodrama is more interesting to watch than no-drama.

  120. PrivateIron: his main problem is he does not take the threat seriously and is an incompetent glutton.

    A common way for movies to quickly telegraph that someone is a bad guy is to show him with slicked back hair. I’ve lost count of how many times a male shows up in a movie as seemingly good guy, but with slicked back hair, and I’ll call out “BAD GUY!”, and then have it come true. I figured the gluttony was simply a different way of telegraphing the same thing. One problem with story telling is you can’t please everyone with your markers. You generally can’t simply mark someone as incompetent/bad/etc once. If you do, then you end up with a lot of readers/audience who miss it and then it feels like a deus ex machina when that informaiton they missed becomes important. If you mark them multiple times, then you get them up to speed, but then people who are intimately familiar with the story, have read the novel multiple times, seen the movie multiple times, get bored and complain “OK! We get it!”

    In the film we know Gandalf said he was going to be there at x time. Why the hell wouldn’t Aragorn and Theoden be talking about that strategically

    I can’t remember what he told Aragorn. I remember he was specific about the time frame, but I don’t remember if he mentioned, “I intend to bring in a massive army on horseback who will be able to open a second front on this battle”. My memory is that Gandalf is vague,probably to keep it a secret from the audience so the cavalry charge is a big surprise. At which point, Aragorn and Theoden can’t really strategize based on “Gandalf said something significant would happen in 3 days, but we have no idea what it is”. Aragorn who apparently has a butt load of combat experience should have grabbed Gandalf by the throat and demanded to know what exactly he intended to do. But even then, the issue would still be, would Gandalf be able to find them? Would they be able to travel the distance in time? Logistically speaking, I can’t quite understand how a massive army of horsemen feed themselves and their horses with zero logistical support from the king and kingdom.

    His Sam is even more of a superhero than the book’s. No way he walks off.

    If you’ve ever been in a fight with a spouse, even if they’re completely wrong about you and what you did, sometimes you have to walk away at least long enough for them (and yourself) to cool off. I took it to be that Sam stormed off in anger, but he would cool off, and then come back.

    No one would seriously think Sam would make a difference when Ungoliant’s spawn appears. And seriously is there any reason why the struggle with the orcs in Cirith Ungol would not have made kick ass action drama?

    Sam would make no difference fighting one big honking spider, but he could single handedly take on an outpost full of orcs? I would think the exact opposite. If I were gollum trying to lure frodo to the spider so she can eat him and I can get the ring, I would be concerned that Sam might be enough of a threat that the the spider wouldn’t try to attack Frodo at all. On the flip side, if Sam had taken on all the orcs at the outpost as it happened in the book, then it would be difficult to pull off. In a book, when the text says Sam sneaks through the outpost of orcs, the reader can imagine just the right number of orcs and space them just far enough that he can sneak. In a movie, the director has to choose how many orcs, where they are, and where Sam is. It might be believable to the director, but it won’t be believable to all the viewers.

    This is a fundamental difference between books and movies. In a book, the reader can imagine just the right amount of visual so that it is believable to the reader. In a movie, the visual is presented, and then it has a chance of being unbelievable to some viewers.

    ultragotha: The point being that while, yes it is predicting the return of the King, that is such an important thing to know about Aragorn that Bilbo puts it in that poem.

    Predictions in any fiction are NEVER to be taken as gospel. Even when a story hinges around some “destiny” that the characters are supposed to fill, it is almost expected that how everyone THINKS the destiny is supposed to be fulfilled and how it REALLY gets fulfilled is different. If it’s exactly the same, then its boring.

    And we already know that Bilbo is an unreliable narrator. Tolkien changed the details of how Bilbo got the ring and explained it by way of having Bilbo hide the truth in the first version of the story, and eventually have him tell the true version later.

    Really, a single metaphorical poem from an unreliable narrator predicting something about another character isn’t what I would consider sufficient in and of itself to say that the LOTR novels show Aragorn actively pursuing his throne for the last 50 years. If this is something that gets retconned in other sources, then one can say its canon. But being canon isn’t the same as being clear in the novel. One could say that it is canon that Dumbledore is gay. But the novels don’t actually transmit that very clearly and other interpretations, based on just the novels, would not be unreasonable.

    If there is more in the LOTR novels that indicate Aragorn was actively pursuing his throne for the last half century, then I’d be curious what it is so I can look for it the next time I read it. But I’m not convinced that Tolkien though of Aragorn that way as he was writing the LOTR novels. It could be that he retconned Aragorns intentions in later works, the way Tolkien retconned how Bilbo got the ring.

  121. I don’t remember the lembas theft scene, PrivateIron, so if you could summarize it and actually articulate reasons its wrong and stupid, that would help. And I say this as someone well-primed to see major faults in the movies.

  122. The best thing I ever did, prior to seeing the first three LOTR films, was to not read the books. I only knew The Hobbit from shadowy memories of the LP audio adaptation of the Rankin & Bass animation, from when I was 5 or 6 years old. And I’d repeatedly resisted admonishment from friends that I must read LOTR, as a proper rite of want-to-be-authorhood. I was therefor seeing the films (2001, 2002, 2003) with a “clean slate” and no expectations. I came away enormously satisfied. And when I did sit down to read the LOTR trilogy after-the-fact (listened, really — I obtained the audio versions as read by the delightful Rob Inglis) I was perfectly happy with the changes Jackson had made.

    Because the pacing of LOTR as-written does not seem well suited at all for cinema. This is often true for book-to-film adaptations. Screenwriters and directors have to do a lot of juggling to take a good book and make it into a good film. I think Jackson and Co. got it right with the first three LOTR movies. The commercial and popular success of those films would seem (to me) ample evidence of their quality? Had Jackson and Co. gotten it wrong, it’s probable the reaction would have been poor to harsh. Jackson was, after all, treading on sacred ground. Any major slips, and Jackson would have been called on the carpet for it — at the box office.

    Having listened to Inglis’s rendition of The Hobbit I think there is plenty of material, both extant and implied, for three films. Jackson’s earllier handling of the LOTR trilogy would indicate that he knows this universe in his heart as well as his head, and I don’t think there’s much reason to suspect he’s going to turn in turkeys with his filmed renditions of The Hobbit. If I am wrong, I am wrong. But Jackson’s essentially resurrected all the same winning components for these next three installments, as were present for the first three installments. I’ll be greatly surprised if The Hobbit isn’t as immersive, glorious, and entertaining as the LOTR movies. I really will.

  123. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum going through the mountains of Mordor. While Sam and Frodo are sleeping, Gollum takes their lembas bread and throws it down the mountain. Gollum then tells Frodo that he saw Sam eating the bread while Frodo slept. Sam denies it. They both look and there is no bread left. Frodo, I assume under the paranoid influence of the Ring, believes Gollum and believes that Sam ate the bread. Frodo tells Sam to go away. Sam protests. Frodo basically says “you’re dead to me”. Sam leaves. Cut to a shot of Gollum grinning.

    that’s how I remember it anyway.

    One problem here is that the novel takes place over the course of 13 months. The movie tries to shlep time into something much shorter. I’m not sure how long Frodo and Sam hiked thorugh Mordor in the novel, but in the movie, it seemed like it was a few days. In the novel, the loss of the lembas bread was the loss of anything to eat for possibly weeks, and therefore the goal becomes impossible. In the movie, with the shortening of timelines, the loss of lembas bread might mean they could still succeed because they were only a day or two or three from Mt Doom by that point.

    Logistics in fiction almost never make sense. As long as the plot doesn’t hinge on logistics, it doesn’t draw attention to the fact that lthe logistics make no sense. Generally speaking, it is assumed that some character in any magical setting has a bag of holding to deal with the hundreds of pounds of food, water, and gear they would need to do whatever it is they’re out to do. Lembas bread is a way to handwave some of this. But having Gollum throw the lembas bread out makes the focus on the logistics. If the bread is gone, what will they eat? What have they been eating and drinking up to this point?

    For me, I jsut shrugged the logistics off. Because realistically portraying logistics is boring. Hannibal crossed the alps with elephants and won every battle he fought, but the Romans finally solved the problem by refusing to fight the battle Hannibal wanted to fight and punished anyone who gave Hannibal food. Hannibal was a great tactician but he was defeated strategically partly because of logistics. People remember Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants, they don’t remember how he was defeated. The battle of thermopylae was won strategically because the greek navy wiped out the persian navy, making it impossible to resupply the persian army. But what people remember and the stories told about it are the 300 Spartans at the hot gates.

    logistics is boring. it makes for boring stories around the campfire. It makes for boring movies. It makes for boring novels.

  124. Aragorn fears becoming a tragic hero, bringing down himself, his people, and their destiny.

    That’s how I remember Gollum throwing away the bread and blaming Sam.

    These discussions were endless in the middle 1960s, and we had only the four books to talk about!

  125. As an interpretive note: in my last comment, I was trying to stay within the universe of the film and not refer to comparisons with the book much. For all the verbiage, I have not actually seen much in the way of refuting my points. And despite my rhetorical flourish, I think I did at least allude to some of the specific things wrong with the lembas scene.

    Greg: it’s acceptable to mark someone as a mustache twirling villain, but my point was more in how his actions, villainous or not, don’t make a lot of sense within the universe.

    If I understand Doc’s message: I am not going to name specifics but your pose of not naming specifics really disappointed me.

  126. I’ve come to the conclusion – based on this thread and many others like it on the Greater Internets – that people pontificating about Tolkien is even more obnoxious than people pontificating about politicians.

  127. Well nobody has actually insulted anyone else’s character yet. And no one has outright called anyone else stupid, as far as I can tell. Nor has anyone accused anyone else of various crimes against humanity, society, liberty, or equality. There may have been accusations that good taste has been violated.

    The fact that it’s an ongoing and never ending argument is just a given since it’s fanpeople bickering, but it’s been fairly low key in my opinion.

  128. PrivateIron: it’s acceptable to mark someone as a mustache twirling villain, but my point was more in how his actions, villainous or not, don’t make a lot of sense within the universe.

    He was competent in much of his job, but completely blind in certain areas. This actually makes him more human, more realistic, in my mind. People expect fictional characters to be either good or evil, competant or incompetant, black or white, etc. Einstein was brilliant, but got it completely wrong about quantum mechanics.

    The main problem Tolkien had to deal with there was that Aragorn could not take the throne if the Steward of Gondor was well liked and doing a great job. it would have made Aragorn look like a bit of an ass to a lot of readers. The two options boil down to “kill the king in glorious battle” or “make him incompetent”. And he already killed in battle the competent, well-liked, king of Rohan, so he had to do something else for the Steward of Gondor. So, Tolkien made him incompetent, then readers wanted Aragorn to take the throne. If he was competent, well-liked, couragous, smart, and a neat eater, then readers wouldn’t be as drawn to have Aragorn replace him.

  129. Doc: !Frodo and Sam’s story at this point is that, well, nothing much happens. At least, not enough to justify the amount of screentime you want your protagonist to have

    This was ringing for me, and then I finally remember where I saw it:

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1313

    I think Shamus captured the issue of splitting the party pretty well. Frodo/Sam were saving the world, but their problem manifested as “Ugh, ring so heavy”. The rest of the group got involved in all sorts of battles, but they never saw the main bad guy, they never made any direct difference in the success of the main mission of destroying the ring (except for the very end where they attacked the Gate in an attempt to distract Sauron from seeing Frodo creeping around with the ring). Helms Deep could have been overrun, Gondor could have been overrun, and just about everything else that Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli do could have failed, and Frodo could still have made it to Mt Doom and destroyed the ring.

  130. Greg, in the book Denethor wasn’t incompetent. He was driven insane by Sauron because he’d used the Palantir to spy on Mordor. That made him dangerous and kind of tragic, but he was sharp. Gandalf said as much when he was telling Pippin not to lie to him on their first meeting.

  131. Christopher: in the book

    I’m not sure if you’re providing information or trying to explain why the movie is wrong for deviating from the book.

    Denethor wasn’t incompetent. He was driven insane

    If he’s insane, how competent can he be?

    The point is that Aragorn wants Denethor’s job. If Denethor is competent, a wise ruler, and I suppose we could add sane, then the reader/audience is going to see Aragorn’s desire for Denethor’s job as a bit of a dickish move. Tolkien can solve this a number of ways. Tolkien can have Denethor die in a glorius battle demonstrating his leadership and courage, and then Aragorn can reluctantly take his place. But he already killed Theoden this way, so don’t want to get too repetitive.

    Alternatively, Tolkien can have Denethor NOT be as good a ruler as Aragorn, at which point the audience/reader will see Aragorn’s desire to be king as an improvement of things, and they can get behind him. Making Denethor insane makes him less competent than Aragorn. At which point, having Aragorn take Denethor’s place is an improvement of rulers, at which point, the audience/readers can get behind Aragorn’s desire for the throne.

    The problem is that the audience/reader has to get behind Aragorn’s desire for the throne, else they won’t like him. Tolkien solved this by making him insane and suicidal, and thereby making Aragorn look like a major step up.Jackson solved this in a similar fashion (showing Denethor to not be as good a ruler as Aragorn), but with different details, such as the gluttony scene.

    I don’t see a problem with these changes as movies have less time to make their point, so points are generally made more directly and bluntly. In this case, the point is exactly the same: Aragorn would be a better ruler than Denethor. Therefore the audience/reader can get behind Aragorn’s quest for the throne. Only the details of how the point was delivered was changed.

  132. Greg, you were talking about what Tolkien had to deal with (check your post), so I was referring to the book. If you were referring to what Jackson had to deal with I’d have referred to the movie instead.

  133. The other part I want to quibble with is that Aragorn doesn’t want Denethor’s job. Denethor is the Steward of Gondor. His job description specifically says “hey, you’re in charge until the king comes back.” Aragorn doesn’t need Denethor’s job–he’s the actual king. He’s the “until the king comes back” part.

    Now, whether Denethor actually wants the king to come back is another matter entirely…

  134. Christopher: you were talking about what Tolkien had to deal with

    OK. I said: The main problem Tolkien had to deal with there was that Aragorn could not take the throne if the Steward of Gondor was well liked and doing a great job. it would have made Aragorn look like a bit of an ass to a lot of readers.

    And as far as I can tell, that still stands.

    The other part I want to quibble with is that Aragorn doesn’t want Denethor’s job.

    So what. Aragorn wants (title1) and it will require Denethor to surrender (title2). They’re mutually exclusive titles. If Denethor was kind, generous, wise, graceful, helpful, competent, and sane, and Aragorn was cruel, theiving, stupid, clueless, spiteful, incompetent, and crazy, then I dont think many readers would identify with Aragorn’s quest to become king and have Gondor turn to shit under his rule.

    So, Tolkien had to make sure that Aragorn was a better person than Denethor for the job (or he would have had to kill Denethor and have Aragorn reluctantly take his throne).

  135. PI: well, I kinda did make a specific comment, about how the melodrama between Sam and Frodo and Gollum not only follows a consistent, logical, easy to follow story arc, it also means that something happens on the way to Mordor. Also, nothing personal, but “I can’t even describe how dumb that is” is on my personal list of too-clever-by-half rhetorical flourish pet peeves, along with the phrases “Wow. Just wow.” and “So wrong it’s not even wrong”. Yes, I realize “Too clever by half” could go on that list too, but doesn’t, so there. :-P

    Greg, regarding Jackson’s attempt to time-compress the story: there are a lot of temporal issues with the way they ended up editing The Two Towers and The Return of the King together. For what I suspect are reasons of pacing, they keeping cutting back and forth between the different groups of characters*. Now, when a storyteller does this, the audience is likely to infer that these are simultaneous events, that we’re cutting back and forth because the different sets of action are happening at the same time, and we don’t want to miss anything important. But if you pay any attention at all to things like the dialog and the settings, you start to realize that in LoTR, events are not happening simultaneously. And that even the very passage of time varies from location to location.

    For instance, a few times we’ll cut from a day scene with Aragorn, to a night scene with Sam and Frodo, back to a day scene that appears to be the same day. Or, the most egregious example (which, admittedly, I didn’t piece together until the third or fourth viewing**): Faramir encounters Sam and Frodo sometime in the second half of TT. Early in RotK, Gandalf leaves Edoras for Minas Tirith, saying the trip is “three days ride, as the nazgul flies” (suggesting the trip may take longer, I don’t know). Some time after he arrives in Minas Tirith (might be the same day, might not), he learns that Faramir had seen Frodo “not two days ago”. So, the audience saw Frodo in Ithilien before Gandalf left Rohan, but Frodo was actually there at least one day after Gandalf headed out. Wibbly wobbly timey whimey. And yet, Aragorn and company arrive at the Black Gate just moments before Frodo and Sam enter Mount Doom.

    Timing is everything, I guess.

    *I recall once reading some advice to aspiring writers that they never split up their characters like that. It creates a set of problems that can’t so much be solved as managed.

    **Apropos to the discussion: FILM CRIT HULK VS PLOT HOLES AND MOVIE LOGIC

  136. Doc, never split up the Party

    Mostly it comes from role playing games because whoever is game-master then has to deal with two sequences of events, try to keep the players from not knowing what happened in the other party, and whichever party the GM is dealing with, the other group is just sitting around, bored, or alternatively, doing horrible things to the GM’s pet.

    I seem to recall some point watching one of the ROTK movies and realizing that the scenes shown in sequence weren’t actually in temporal sequence, and it was a tad annoying.

    Also, I think its always nighttime in Mordor. Isnt it?

    Lastly, I don’t know if I agree with FILM CRIT HULK if his point is that its wrong to want logic in our movies. I want logic in my movies. I’m also willing to cut the movies some slack. The thing is no one can really tell anyone else how much slack they should cut the movie. It’s sort of a personal barter we do on a continual basis. And the things we value highly may be a thing that someone else sees as worthless.

    Put another way, if we took the person who points out all the holes in LOTR, I’m sure we could ask that person what their favorite movie is, and we could proceed to point out a laundry list of plot holes in their favorite movie. It’s their favorite movie because it had something in it the person valued enough to miss or ignore the plot holes.

    And there’s nothing that can be done about the personal bartering. Teens love teeny bopper music because its made by teens just like them and that can be enough for them to ignore the fact that the music is horrible.

    There’s not much point in pointing out that the music sucks, because you’re not going to tell them anything that will change anyone’s mind. It had something more valuable to them that outweighed the suckiness of it.

    I don’t know if that means there’s no point in any conversation about (particular work of art) or not. Sometimes I learn things that I didn’t notice when I watched/read it, and that can be cool. Especially if I plan on reading/watching it again at some point, then I can look for it.

    Simple/dumb example is how many people when the saw Star Wars A New Hope for the first time in theaters back in 1976, how many people noticed the Storm Trooper guy hit his head and laugh in the middle of an otherwise dramatic, tense, scene? Not many is my guess. Because there were lots of other stuff going on to distract from the head-bump.

    But then the question becomes, what is the point of the art-critic then? If pointing out the head-bump or the plot hole or whatever is irrelevant, then why bother? I think the answer is that it helps poeple who didn’t like a work to understand why they didn’t like it. Maybe it helps people understand what their personal value-barter-system is.

    I long ago realized that I place no inate value on the horror genre. It provides nothing of value that I’m looking for in a story. I see all the plot holes, I see all the stupid actions charaters take. All because there’s nothing of value in those movies to distract me.

    so, the point of the art critic isn’t to point out the wrongness of the movie, but to point out the personal trades the critic made when watching the movie, to communicate what they value and don’t value, so the reader can understand the trade, and possibly so the reader can understand their own trading/system, and maybe at least get a sense of the art from the point of view of someone who truly wel appreciates it the core value of the movie, as well as the poitn of view of someoen who doesn’t appreciate the core value of the movie and can see all the plot holes.

    And then for people who VALUE meta-conversations about movies or books, then they have a place that provides the thing they truly value. I think some people value talking ABOUT star wars than they value watching Star Wars itself.

  137. See, as described, the lembas scene may exacerbate the logistics issues but it definitely fills an important role in the character arc. I don’t see anything problematic about it.

    Dwarf-tossing and elephant surfing, on the other hand…

  138. I wonder how much of being a fan (of anything) is being “in the know”. I wonder how much a fan’s dislike of the changes from one version to another, changes when a series is “rebooted”, changes when something is converted from novel to movie, and so on, have nothing to do with the quality of the final work in the new version, and everything to do with the fact that the fan was no longer “in the know”.

    Say some fan spent the time learning to actually speak Klingon. Then the next Star Trek TV series comes out and they decide to completely redesign the Klingon language from the ground up. It wouldn’t affect the quality of the new ST series, but the fan could be quite upset.

    I wonder how much of fandom is defined mostly by being “in on the joke”, or “in the know”, and therefore doesn’t like changes to the story, not because of any question of quality, but because they did not know the change until they saw it along with everyone else. How much of fandom is the draw of sharing, essentially, a secret language (such as the Vulcan hand gesture for “live long and prosper”) and any change to that language, even an improvemnet, is resisted because it, essentially, “kicks” them out of the secret club of which they were proudly a member.

    Changing “to boldly go where no man has gone before” to “to boldly go where no one has gone before” is, as far as I can tell, absolutely no different in any sort of qualitative linguistic, artistic, measure. But the change is an improvement in that it doesn’t land as potential sexism for some in the audience. The only reason I can see objecting to the change is because, well, its change. It means the person who used to be in the secret club is no longer a member until they memorize the new language.

  139. Greg, that might be where I saw it, thanks. Similarly with the issue of Frodo and Sam and the Very Long Walk.

    Of course, now I have tabs open to TV Tropes and DM of the Rings, so there goes any chance of productivity for the wekend. Goddammitallsomuch.

  140. @ mintwitch
    I listened to the books (LoTR, Hobbit, Silmarillion) unabridged on CD back in college during the long cross-country road trips poor college students were wont to take when gas was less than half the price it is nowadays. I have my doubts that I could make it through the whole of Middle Earth with my eyeballs, but it was fine after my road-mates and I got tired of listening to each other’s music. I agree that the movies were too long, the interminable battles scenes were especially tiresome, but they were visual feasts.

  141. Jackson has a large, but not unlimited, reserve of good will after _mostly_ getting LOTR right (although making the Ents so clownish and Farimir such a wuss are mistakes that really have not gotten better with age). I’ll go, take any of my kids who’ll go with me, and most likely I’ll have a great time. That said, my expectations were effectively managed by King Kong.

  142. I know nobody is reading this thread anymore, but I had to say Scalzi (although not being serious) called it — Hobbit did remind me of Phantom — it felt like there were too many places where they were thinking, “what cool toys and video games could be based on this scene?” Half a dozen times I said, “that’s not in the book” although half of those turned out to be technically wrong — they took throwaway sentences in the book and turned them into major plot elements. Overall, a soul-sucking money grab way beyond LOTR’s excesses.

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