The LOTR Movie Site
November 20, 2000

An Appeal to Max B.
Robert Van de W.

I am a philosophical theist and a Born Again Christian. As you pointed out in an earlier post, this means that I cannot argue the more abstract merits of being a Tolkien "purist" with you. The disjoin between our philosophical starting points prevents me. I can, however, make an appeal based on practicality, and this is what I intend to do. (In fact, I am not so much making an appeal to you as I am defending the appeal that Tolkien "purists" such as myself have made to Peter Jackson.)

Have you seen the LOTR movie site voting booth question, "Thus far in film history, what is the greatest fantasy movie ever made?" Have you looked at the choices that are available? If you have not, do so now. Can we not agree that good fantasy movies are a rare commodity?

Until the mid 1990's, I was content with the infrequent appearance of my favorite genre on the big screen. Simply speaking, the technology didn't exist to make good fantasy movies and I would rather have no fantasy movies than shoddy fantasy movies that detract from, rather than enhance, my own imagination.

In the last five years, however, things have changed. The technology now exists to make excellent fantasy films and I would dearly love to see that happen. I am sure that, whatever our other differences, you would like to see that happen as well.

Don't you understand that what is needed is a really solid blockbuster? A breakthrough movie that convinces Hollywood executives that there is money to be made in making good fantasy films? This is why Peter Jackson should stick to the Tolkien story line as much as is cinematically possible. Let's do the math.

If the Tolkien fan base is 50 million persons worldwide and each person that makes up that fan base saw each of the three LOTR movies one time at a cost of 5$ per ticket, this would be 5$ x 50,000,000 = 250 million dollars for each film or $750 million dollars in box office receipts. This does not include videos, shirts, posters, action figures or lunch boxes. Now if each member of the Tolien fan base goes an average of 2 times and takes one other person with him/her once, that makes more than 2 billion dollars in box office receipts alone. "But", I can hear you protesting, "making Arwen a warrior princess will not make the movies a bomb" This is the heart of our disagreement.

You display a certain ignorance when you wrote in a previous post, "(bad ring-hobbits and friends go on a journey-lots of heroism-bad ring destroyed-check)". Do you think this is what separates LOTR from the mass of other fantasy novels that are out there? Have you ever read any of them? These elements, far from being the distinguishing factor, are the elements which are common (albeit in a general way) among fantasy novels too numerous to count.

What is it that distinguishes Tolkien's work, then? This is a subject beyond the scope of this brief note, but may I suggest that it has something to do with the many years (decades?) that the esteemed professor spent working on the history of Middle Earth and its languages and cultures? May I suggest that making casual changes can only result in degrading the story and the world that Tolkien created which has generated such excitement and enjoys such cross-cultural appeal? May I suggest that the fact that Peter Jackson recently acknowledged giving up on some of the ideas he had early on in favor of doing things the way they are done in the books supports this claim? But allow me to give you an example.

In your earlier posts, you defended the idea that Gimli would bond with Arwen in the same way as he did with Legolas. Did you realize when you said this that in all of LOTR books, nobobdy even mentions the name of a Dwarven female? The reason for this is that Dwarven females are few in number and very protected in Dwarven society. This is one of the reasons why Gimli has such a reverence for Galadriel and it is a interesting bit of Dwarven culture.

Now you may say that people wouldn't notice such things in a movie and that this kind of thing doesn't matter, but it DOES matter to the Tolkien fan base which can make these movies a success that dwarfs Titanic or Star Wars.

Now I would enjoy seeing other fantasy stories brought to the big screen and I might even enjoy a movie where an Elf princess goes off to war with her betrothed and faces down the Dark Lord with a blazing sword. The problem is that these other stories do not have the fan base or cross-cultural appeal enjoyed by Tolkien's LOTR and probably won't get their chance on the big screen if Peter Jackson makes a bad movie.