Peter Jackson has made of himself a worldwide name bringing to the masses the trilogy adaptation that was The Lord of the Rings. Now, as he moves on to The Hobbit, his fans are looking forward to see what he brings to the table this time. But as it turns out, one of the people who should matter the most, none other than the son of scribe J.R.R. Tolkien, isn’t such a big fan of Jackson’s work. In fact, Christopher Tolkien has had some pretty nasty things to say about the way his father’s books were changed by the Hollywood paradigm.
The underlying belief has always been that the Tolkien estate wasn’t too excited with the movies. Using the legacy of Tolkien to rake in piles of cash is just the way Hollywood works, regardless of the perceived sacredness of the project. But in Christopher Tolkien’s own words, he says that “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25…” Wow, pretty harsh, but is it an altogether false statement? He went on further to talk about how the philosophical content of his father’s original work was stripped bare and the serious nature of the books completely ignored.
Personally, I’ve only ever given the trilogy a single read (there’s very few books I’ll pick up a second time), and though I enjoyed the films, I wouldn’t consider them to be the best movies in the world when it comes to presenting a serious storyline. It’s epic fantasy on the screen and the subtlety of Tolkien’s work definitely suffers due to the transition. But there’s another side to this, one that concerns the massively elevated sales of Tolkien’s books following the release of the first in the LotR trilogy.
According to the stats, books sales went up by a ridiculous 1000 percent in the UK alone! If the movie is causing people to go out and purchase and read the books, isn’t this a good thing? Is Christopher Tolkien failing to see the big picture?
Tolkien was an amazing writer and many will walk away from reading his books with new insights. But in an age where books are becoming less and less the national pastime, replaced by exploding movies and exploding video games, any way to entice readers to go back and explore the origins of Lord of the Rings is a good thing in my opinion.
Each incarnation is simply another story, not quite the same as the original but possessing its own merits. I don’t feel that Lord of the Rings is any different, regardless of its amazing popularity. And though the films may not end up being the classics that the books are, they will be watched and loved. J.R.R. Tolkien’s original stories will now and forever remain at the heart of matters and those who take the time to go back and read them will understand why, even if it was a movie that motivated them to do so.