The LOTR Movie Site
April 17, 2000

True Fans Getting Bad Rap
Joshua M.

With the last few poignant (and I might add well written) articles in this forum defending Peter Jackson and his adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece, I now feel it is time for someone to come to the defense of the "true fan". Speaking as a true fan myself (meeting the criteria, I suppose, of having read every Tolkien work several times and having taken up a position of firm opposition to any alteration to the LOTR trilogy) I will now offer a true fan's rebuttal. With adjectives being bandied about such as nasty, mean spirited, and bull-headed (OK, I may have to concede bull-headed) I feel that true fans are getting a bad rap, or at the very least are being greatly misunderstood. It has been suggested that deep down, true fans do not want these movies to succeed at all, or that we have automatically given the effort a thumbs down before even giving it a chance. I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. As evidence, I feel I need look no further than this forum itself. The mere fact of it's existence, and the interest generated by the debates contained within, point to a fan base who is extremely supportive of the film effort and want nothing more than for these to be some of the greatest movies ever made. Having said this, I will now attempt to clarify the arguments of at least one true fan (myself) in hopes that they come close to representing the feelings of many true fans. I'm not necessarily stating that we are right in our views, only that they are based on true feelings and not some deliberately malicious attempt to undermine the movies or ruin them for other people.

First let me counter the argument that because we have yet to see the script, we are being premature in voicing our complaints about the movies. Please note, I will be using the Arwen debate as the focus of my arguments, since this is the only one that I see as a serious threat to the movies. While it's true we cannot be certain of the extent to which the role of Arwen has been altered, there is a good amount of evidence pointing to Arwen being a warrior, fighting Orcs and perhaps even Nazgul. If this is the case, then there has already been more alteration to the story than any of us true fans deem acceptable. Stacy Bautista states that if the changes work to the film's advantage, we should not care what motivated the changes. Let me be 100% clear on this point; to us Tolkien fans, absolutely NO changes of that magnitude to any character or aspect of the story can possibly work to the film's advantage, PERIOD. Call us stubborn, closed minded, bull-headed, etc., but there is just no way to convince us that changing the story in the manner that is being pointed to by all of the evidence we've seen is in any way beneficial, or even necessary. I'm not saying that the result won't still be a magnificent movie, or a wonderful story, but to the true fan of Tolkien, it will be tainted. This is not at all to suggest that any attempt to alter or expand a character will ruin the story. On the contrary, I think there are wonderful opportunities to include more of Arwen in the story. This expansion, however, must remain true to the spirit of the character, and what we're seeing might be done to Arwen will change not only her, but also the characters around her. And please, no more trying to convince us that we don't understand the complex art of adapting written work for a visual medium. That point may work for the Bombadil debate, but it has nothing at all to do with the alteration of the Arwen role, and I think we all know that.

The other reason we are not being premature about our complaints is that if we waited until the movies were produced, as Stacy suggests doing, it will be too late to have any impact on the outcome. And make no mistake, I do believe we can have, and may already have had, an impact. 1.7 million people downloaded the trailer in the first day, surpassing the downloads of The Phantom Menace trailer. Does everyone realize the significance of this? This movie may possibly be generating more interest and anticipation than TPM. TPM only went on to become the third highest box office grossing movie ever, not to mention another $100 million in video sales in the first week! I truly believe that the success of these movies lies with us fans; the ones who will see the movies three or four times; the ones who will purchase the videos and DVD's the instant they are available; the ones who will tell all of our friends who have never read the books to go see the movie (instead of telling them that the movie is b.s., and they shouldn't waste their time, they should read the books instead). We are a force to be reckoned with, and if Peter Jackson and the Newline execs don't realize the ENORMOUS risk they run by upsetting the true fans, they are fooling themselves. Don't forget about an important phase of the production which still remains called editing. Any part of the story which could possibly cause these movies to not make as much money as possible can easily be edited out.

Look, us true fans aren't simply trying to bash the movies and Peter Jackson. I agree with every single positive statement I've read about the films, and about Peter Jackson especially. All signs point to the fact that he has done a marvelous job, perhaps even beyond my highest hopes, of bringing this story to life on the silver screen. As I sat in front of my computer, arms covered in goose bumps, lump in my throat, nearly with a tear in my eye from merely watching a 100 second preview, I realized just how excited I am about these films, and how well Peter Jackson has done so far. It is the fact that these movies have the potential to be so good that motivates me so strongly to want to ensure that they are not ruined for the absolute wrong reasons. In my mind, I would liken the tainting of these movies by changing Tolkien's story to da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa and then deciding to draw a moustache on her. It would be ruining a masterpiece for something that is foolishly motivated and easily avoidable.

So please, try to cut us true fans some slack. We know these films won't be perfect. We know that at best they will only be condensed versions of our beloved story. But we also know that with the technology available to film makers, and with a genius like Peter Jackson at the helm, these movies can truly be magical, and it would be a shame if all of the money and hard work goes for naught because someone thinks to be able to tell this story better than the Professor himself.