The LOTR Movie Site
June 18, 2000

An Answer?

I had decided not to write another article regarding the LOTR films until they were released. In all fairness, nobody has any idea what is going to be presented in these movies, yet. However, I have read more and more frustrated people trying to decide why a certain rumor, should it come to pass, would be devastating or worth less than a cringe. I believe I have come up with something like an answer.

As I have said before, there is an immeasurable difference between adaptation and destruction. I understand the boundaries of film-making. The entire story cannot be told, alas! Some of the story must be cut and these gaps must be compensated by slight alterations in some of what is kept.

I remain convinced that there is no cause to alter more than what is required for time limits, etc. In the first place, the story does not need to be rewritten because it is one of the best tales of all time. Also, each instance in which so much as a word is changed or deleted, a great hazard arises. No one is going to win an argument in which they state that Frodo could be cut from the script. Why? Because it would change "too much." This is an obvious statement. However, some of the other characters and situations are not so easily distinguished. One question more needs to be asked. How would it change "too much?" By remolding the plot line. What not everyone perhaps realizes is that these circumstances do not apply only to major characters. Everything in this story has a branch like a wire into the system of Tolkien’s work. The deep question that must be asked is: which wires are safe to cut without the system shutting down?

There is yet another angle to examine in this situation. I have read that Jackson adapting the books for film is no different than Tolkien adapting several myths that are wound into the trilogy. No one will know this for certain until the films are released. What will determine the answer is this: how true will Jackson stay to Tolkien? Many people have argued that this is inconsequential, but I completely disagree. Yes, Tolkien drew on stories he had heard and experiences from his life. That is the very definition of writing. It is just that he did so with astounding talent and craft. He did not take what he wished to incorporate into his story and toss it in however he wanted. He studied these stories and used them in ways that would make sense according to their original theme. This is Jackson’s task now. People have been asking all along, "What’s o.k. to change and what isn’t?" The answer is "Whatever change does not affect Tolkien’s theme is acceptable. What strays from the author’s purpose or reasoning is going too far." For popular example, Jackson cannot take Arwen, who Tolkien deliberately made a symbol of peace, and send her to war.

Now a new question arises, "How can Jackson be certain his script meets the requirement of what has been named ‘Tolkien purity?’" He must draw only on what can be proven in Tolkien’s writing. If Arwen is to be "expanded" than what enlarges her character can only relate to her situations in the books. This is Jackson’s movie, not Jackson’s story. If it is to be a success, then it must comply with the world, creatures, and events in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

The true reason so much controversy has raged about the making of this film is that fans of the books are terrified that Tolkien’s mastery will be "edited for time and content" as well. Whatever Jackson does to distance the story from Tolkien will be what causes its deterioration. Audiences (both Tolkien fans and others) could be left with the thought, "Good movie, but, you know, something was missing." How many, if any at all, such changes will be made, remains to be seen.