Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The dangers of obsession

As I have noted several times here I was a passionate fan of The Lord of the Rings from the beginning of my formative adult reading. From somewhere in my mid to early teens all the way into my thirties I read the ink right off the pages of those books. Not only have I read the books dozens of times, I've read the books aloud in full and in parts, and they are one of the lenses I look at life through. Though my extreme familiarity with the books finally squelched my ability to read them I still feel a deep attachment to them.

And so like anyone sensible and informed I am not particularly fond of the films. I won't give my lecture on just why, here, now, but I give that lecture an awful lot.

So today at the front desk of the library I work at a man came to get a new library card. He was wearing a shirt that said:

"The book was better"

It warmed my heart a little. I said "I have a theory about that, your shirt."

The man gestured assent to hearing my theory, or perhaps a resignation that I was probably unstoppable.

"A great book will always be better than any movie made of it. Even a really good book will be. But It is possible to make a movie version that is better than a mediocre or poor book." I lectured.

"I can see it." The man said.

"Wizard of Oz, mediocre book, great movie. The Godfather, fairly entertaining pulp, masterpiece of a movie." I said for example. And he got it.

"Right." He replied. "I can see it. And then even no matter how great the movie is of To Kill a Mockingbird, the book is better."

I nodded, very satisfied. Then he added, musingly "Now Lord of the Rings, that was about equal."



  1. Oh come on. The movie's Balrog was way kewl, and Kate Blanchett was fabulous as Galadriel.

    1. No, no, you're right of course. I suppose that's what pushes it into obsession.

      And I'm not saying those movies were without virtue. Perhaps it is even their high number of virtues that make their failings so bitter to me: great casting (yes, Cate Blanchett, and Gandalf was wonderful too, Gollum, Sam, but almost everyone was good), the natural setting was great and some of the visual effects were too. But...

      In problems we have:

      The Hamletification of Aragorn (and also isn't there a ridiculous fake death added in the movies. Hadn't Gandalf already cornered the market on that one?). This is one of my most hated sins.

      Rivendell was pretty disappointing,a very plywood and styrofoam elfland.

      Making more characters of the orcs, and elevating their best to some kind of personal enemies of the Fellowship members was a disservice to the books and flattened the lore.

      In general the stronger visualization of the enemy. It seemed there was more attention to orcs on their own and to a pictured sort of Sauron. Though it was a novelistic device to not visualize the enemy much, it gave them a great power that the movies visualization diluted.

      This, of course, is all I remember now, many years beyond last seeing the movies. I do think the movies are good, er, okay, in their own right. But in the fundamental point of which is better, it is the book here, and it's not remotely close.

  2. You're right on all the points you've made. Rivendell was lame, i think it could have been some awesome Arte Nouveau wonder. You're distain for showing so much of the hideous enemy is very interesting.
    The score had some decent parts though it could also be scattered and fragmented and sometimes cheesy.

    1. And not to bring it up too much, or risk my case, but compare this then: three mildly successful movies, half of wonders, half generic, all a little too pictured too clearly, vs. a bottle of frangelico shared out by a wood stove fire in a cold rural Northern California winter, where the story, all its elegant language, is woven out of the pages of a book to dance collectively in our minds.

  3. Yes, i spelled "your" wronge. :^p

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