The LOTR Movie Site
January 21, 2001

What is This Movie Supposed to Be?
Chris K.

What is this movie supposed to be?

In reading many of the comments made by Tolkien fans I have heard criticism of Peter Jackson's movie interpretation ranging from the sincere to ridiculous. It seems many people want this movie to fail and have objected to almost everything we have found out about the story in the last year. They want this movie to fail because it is not a faithful interpretation of Tolkien's entire work (as if such a thing could be done). I think we should take a closer look at what this movie actually is meant to be. It is a translation of one story into a different media. In any translation (whether it be from book to film or one language to another) some things will be lost and changed. This is done so that the overall message is more comprehensible to those receiving the translation. For example, even though certain armies are expressly written as carrying certain weapons and wearing certain armour if Peter Jackson believes that their true strength or fierce nature can be better shown on film by using other weapons and armour or that certain creatures should appear larger to make them seem more of a threat than this is a liberty which should be taken. This would be the sacrifice of a small detail to maintain an accurate mood or overall impression.

The most controversial aspect seems to be the expanded role of Arwen. While this is no doubt being done mostly for commercial purposes we must remember that the relationship between Arwen and Aragorn does a lot to explain many of the emotions Aragorn feels as well as provide motivation for some of his actions. We must also remember that while she has only a small role in the book, the importance of the relationship is made clear in those small parts. This is something that would not translate well to film. After all you can't really slap on an appendix at the end of the last movie. Another controversial aspect is the exclusion of Tom Bombadil. Since he is by far my favourite character in middle earth it did upset me that he would be excluded from the film. I would really have liked to see this character translated to the screen. However I finally realized that Tom Bombadil is not a character who is integral to the plot of the story but who is essential to the story of middle earth. This difference is important as the entire story of middle earth would be too rich and complex to translate to screen.And I must admit the appearance of  Tom as well as the time spent at his house is in contrast to the somewhat dark and desperate nature of the rest of the journey from Hobbiton to Rivendel. The movie, at it's best, could only follow the main characters and try to capture the overall mood of the books. To try to capture the total wonder of Tolkien's world is beyond the capabilities of film. I have no doubt that the scouring of the shire is also not dealt with in the movies for one simple reason. How successful could a movie be if the entire theme for six hours or more is about destroying a ring and once that has been done it spends another hour tying up loose ends that were not intricately tied in with the main storyline?

One of the best arguments I have heard is that this film may supplant the books as the definitive Lord of the Rings to the general public. I believe however that Tolkien's work is too popular to fall victim to this threat. In comparing The Lord of the Rings to other 'written word to film translations' I would not compare it to books such as Jaws or The Silence of the Lambs. While these books were popular they lost their impact as soon as they dropped off the best sellers list. I would instead compare Tolkien's work to Romeo and Juliet or other such longstanding and influential works. Indeed  The Lord of the Rings is actually taught in some high schools during english class. While the Leonardo DiCaprio(gag) Romeo and Juliet movie was immensely successful it did in no way supplant the play simply because the play was too well established to be pushed aside by a film. The strength of the book, I believe, renders it impervious to challenges from other media. What all Tolkien fans should hope for is that this movie captures the overall mood of the quest to destroy the ring and that it does so in such a fashion that people will enjoy it enough to read the books and discover more of Tolkien's world (After seeing only the trailers my brother, who never reads, is asking to borrrow my copy of the book). This movie should serve only as a primer to the story of middle earth, capturing enough of it's glory and wonder so as to peak the interest of those who might not otherwise read the books. After seeing the trailers, which are admittedly short but do seem to show a decent blend of gritty realism and fantasy,  I for one am looking forward to a movie which brings to film the quest to destroy the one ring of power. I do this knowing that if ever I wish to capture the true glory of Middle Earth there is a hardcover edition of Tolkien's work which has earned a permanent place on my night stand.