The Battle of Pelennor Fields | Quote by J.R.R. Tolkien

“In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

All save one. There waiting, silent and still in the space before the Gate, sat Gandalf upon Shadowfax: Shadowfax who alone among the free horses of the earth endured the terror, unmoving, steadfast as a graven image in Rath Dínen.

“You cannot enter here,” said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. “Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!”

The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

“Old fool!” he said. “Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!” And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.”

via Goodreads | Quote by J.R.R. Tolkien: “In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black s…”.

Gives me chills down my spine every time I read it. One of the few times Peter Jackson was able to evoke the same kind of emotions in the film version was Rohan’s charge into battle.

 

First Impressions of The Hobbit: Battle of (the) Five Armies.

Right off the bat you are going to be entering spoiler country for the movie which premiered last night / today.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

The biggest complaint everyone has had about the Hobbit movies in general has been either 1) It’s bloated 2) It’s different from the book 3) Too much CGI and 4) It’s not The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I don’t have any of these problems with the movie. I don’t think it’s bloated because I left this movie wanting more. I don’t care that it’s different from the book, I already own the book. The CGI is a bit much, I’ll agree with that but ultimately hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the movie. Lastly, I don’t think The Lord of the Rings trilogy is perfect either. In fact, there are some things I like better than in the original.

That’s the movies as a whole but the subject of this post is the third movie. I refuse to add that extra the before Five Armies so please excuse me. I’m going to use a system of what I liked, what was so-so and what I didn’t like.

What I Liked

Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, who is revealed to have taken the Arkenstone during his confrontation with Smaug, steals every scene. He’s the voice of reason where Gandalf fails to be and as the hobbit of the Hobbit he brings the everyman perspective to this giant world of lords and kings.

The final fight between Azog and Thorin on the ice. They did a good job of amping up the threat of Azog from the first movie and mostly absent appearance in the second movie. The two felt evenly matched to me where I thought it was going to be rather one sided.

The purpose of why Sauron wants the Lonely Mountain and his hope of returning the kingdom of Angmar to power. I don’t know if it’s accurate to the geography of Middle-Earth but I did find it really interesting. In addition to this, the appearance of the nine men who received rings of power was fantastic. As minions of Sauron to have armor that was like his but suited to each individual one was a thrill to watch.

In the same scene, from Galadriel’s use of her ring of power to watching Saruman and Elrond take on the nine ringwraiths was one of those “We never get to see this, I am so glad we’re seeing this” moments.

I was also joyfully surprised how much of the siege of Erebor and Bilbo’s involvement with manipulating Thorin for peace wasn’t change all that much.

Bard too was a breath of fresh air, much more of a leader and doomsayer akin to his book version than I believe he was in Desolation of Smaug.

Lastly, a part of the movie I swore was going to be cut, the auctioning of Bag End made it into the movie with a cameo by Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and the company Grubb, Grubb, and Burrows.

What Was So-So

The opening scene that led to Smaug’s defeat at the heads of Bard the Bowman was great but I felt like it should have been the ending of the last movie rather than the beginning of this one. I understand why they put it at the beginning of this one but the ending of the second wouldn’t of felt so abrupt.

Also, the death of the Master. Why was Stephen Fry killed off so quickly? Seemed kind of a waste to me.

What I Didn’t Like

Not enough Bilbo and this is in part due to the ending. Far too abrupt for my taste, which I am sure they did in response tot he complaints of Return of the King’s ending. There was no Bilbo being named Elf-friend after returning those jewels to Thranduil. There was no return visit to Beorn’s house. There was no return to Rivendell, where Bilbo would have Sting’s elf runes inscribed on it.

That weird transformation Galadriel went through in fighting back Sauron looked awful. I liked what she was doing but not how she did it. Also, why did Galadriel become suddenly weak but Elrond and Saruman were fine? Don’t say because she used up her power to heal Gandalf because Sauron clearly says to her that she was losing power before that. Thirdly, I was really hoping Galadriel was going to come in with badass armor. She knows how to fight, she isn’t just this wafting faerie with superpowers. When she finally starts acting badass they just screwed it up by giving her this weird dark aesthetic. It did not work for me at all.

One thing everyone can agree on, why did the character of Alfred get so much screen time? If anything he should of been killed by Smaug and his character replaced by the Master. That would of been more in line with the book and Stephen Fry is a very talented actor who would of made a much better comic relief than whoever Alfred was played by.

I didn’t completely hate the Dragon sickness, it is a part of the book I had hoped they would explore but it took up too much screen time. I liked the choice of Thorin starting to sound like Smaug but that scene, and the one where he finally snaps out of it went on for too long in my taste.

A realization that I had during this film about Azog, Bolg and the orcs in this trilogy is that I don’t like the choice to have them only talk in black speech at all. Orcs from Mordor spoke in Westernesse (English or whatever language you’re reading the book in) why do these orcs only speak in another language? I understand why, I just don’t think it was a good choice for all three movies.

Again, I said this in my Desolation of Smaug review but while most people feel tacking on Tauriel was unnecessary I feel Legolas is the part that should be cut. A lot of it was either bad or worthy of being cut in my eyes. The drama with his dad, the information about his mother, the fight with Blog all would of been parts of the movie that I edited out.

In fact, I think Tauriel character serves as a far better foil to Thranduil than his son does. She’s a lower class elf, in the elf king’s eyes, who could of shown him the error of his ways. Instead, Legolas just buts in to prevent her death. The only part I enjoyed with the character was his shooting the orcs in Thorin’s path from the tower, and him giving Orcrist to Thorin to save his life.

Lastly, and this harkens to the ending again, there’s no resolution for so many characters. What happens to Saruman when he says “leave Sauron to me”? Are we just supposed to assume he does something? So Radagast was on top of the eagles, and that’s all we get? No explanation to why he isn’t in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We don’t get to see the burial of Thorin, Kili, and Fili. We get no resolution with Tauriel. Everyone’s already complaining about the movies feeling bloated, that’s never stopped Peter Jackson before. Now suddenly, he’s had a change of heart and tried to make the ending as brief as possible leaving the ending very unsatisfying as far as my opinion is concerned.

The Flash TV Series is a Breath of Fresh Air.

Two episodes in and I am all aboard the band wagon for The Flash. It is unadulterated superhero fun balanced with drama, something that has been lacking in DC Comics media for a long time. Something that Marvel has been getting the balance right in their movies since Iron Man came out.

I love DC Comics but since The Dark Knight came out they’ve been on the grim and gritty train in every aspect with no end in sight for their movies. If Man of Steel and the concept art for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a sign of things to come for their movie universe then I’m glad The Flash TV series exists.

A lot of the reviews and comments about the show complained about the corny lines but to me, the investment I have in the characters in only two episodes in strong enough to actually enjoy them. Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is hopeful, optimistic and the nerdy underdog with the incredible powers I want to cheer for.

Carlos Valdes as Cisco is easily becoming The Flash’s version of Felicity, the techy side character that keeps the show feeling light with his quips while Jesse L. Martin as Joe West steals every scene as the father figure pushing Barry in the right direction.  The emotion in his face in episode two both at the midpoint and at the end just pulls at my hearts strings, but I am the sentimental type. Plus Tom Cavanagh, formerly J.D.’s slacker older brother on Scrubs has me on the edge of my seat at the end of each episode now, wondering what he’s up to while pushing Barry to become a better hero. I never would have thought that Tom Cavanagh would be the type to have such intense scenes.

I don’t mind the corny lines, because it keeps the show light and fun. What’s the alternative? Superman kills General Zod and lets a large population of his city die? Is anyone at Warner Bros. tired of The Dark Knight Returns motif? Does Wonder Woman really need to wear mud colored armor? Isn’t Superman supposed to be a symbol of hope? According to Warner Bros., no, not anymore. So instead I’ll take the Flash and hope its high ratings will show Warner Bros. that grim and gritty doesn’t always necessary mean good. The world is grim and gritty enough.

Here’s hoping “Civil War” is better in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Reported yesterday, Robert Downey Jr. About To Join Captain America 3 And It May Be Civil War. If you don’t know, the basic premise of the Civil War storyline was a rift between Captain America and Iron Man over how superheroes should be handled. After a very public tragedy Tony Stark joins the government in establishing a superhuman registration act where every superhero must register their secret identity with the government and work as a kind of police force rather than vigilantes. Steve Rogers believe this is a violation of every superheroes civil liberties. Be warned after this there will be spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Last chance before spoilers.

Forget the movies for right now. Let’s just talk about the comic for a minute. When it came out Civil War was a big deal for Marvel and selling very well. In the early 2000’s the Avengers had disassembled, gotten back together and reformed with new members so after all these years of building them back up Civil War had a high potential for exciting drama by breaking them apart again. Here’s the problem, it was so poorly executed.

In the main series Mark Millar claims he was trying to show both side of the argument, you know with Iron Man and Maria Hill acting like fascists, cloning their dead friends whose clone kills another one of their friends, imprisoning their friends in another dimension and generally attacking anyone who is anti-registration. We’re not talking about arresting his friends after a trial, Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man planned on imprisoning them indefinitely essentially taking away their civil liberties. Then, at the end, we’re supposed to believe Iron Man is in the right because a bunch of emergency personnel stopping  Captain America from taking Tony out to prevent more bloodshed? It’s such a sloppy ending, trying to put all the blame on Cap like Iron Man isn’t responsible at all for the collateral damage going on. I mean, by the end Iron Man needs to control villain with nanites in order to have people to fight against Captain America and we’re supposed to believe he is in the right?

All the other writers working on their respective titles didn’t help either. While Millar was trying to avoid any one side becoming the underdog in the main title, which I believe he failed miserably,  it was more black and white within the other books. Thinking of it now, if in his mind both sides had a fair point it paints a clear picture of Millar’s politics. Iron Man was clearly the villain and Cap and his team were the underdogs. In the aftermath, Cap ends up being assassinated making him a martyr and Tony is left being the most hated character in the Marvel Universe. It Takes Matt Fraction to make Tony Stark completely braindead and forget all about the Civil War when his brain is rebooted in order to return Iron Man to a more favorable light.

Okay, now onto the movies. Presumably Tony will create Ultron in Avengers 2 as a force for a good to protect the world which will fail. Feeling guilt ridden over this he’ll appear in Captain America 3 to begin the rift between Steve and himself. I’m not sure how they will execute it but this is supposed to lead into a Civil War storyline in Avengers 4.

The problem so far is that out of all the superheroes that exists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe right now, only Daredevil, which has not even been released by Netflix yet, has a secret identity. Tony Stark outed himself in the first Iron Man, Steve Rogers is a legendary WWII veteran, Thor has no secret identity, Black Widow outed herself, Sam Wilson and probably Clint Barton in bringing down S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury is in Europe, Coulson is underground rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Hulk has caused enough destruction at this point that Bruce Banner is probably known.

There’s definitely potential for their to be enough superheroes for a Civil War by the time Avengers 4 comes out. So far we know we’ll have Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Quiksilver, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. So if there are three years between Avengers sequels and Avengers 4 comes out around 2021…

Oh god, 2021? Could they really have long term plans for that long? Will I even care about these Marvel movies?

Anyway, it might be a better idea to have Tony and Steve’s fallout center not around a government legislation as Tony has already proven to not trust the government with his tech but maybe centered around something else, like say, the creation of a killer robot? Maybe that creation of the killer robot is what causes Tony to not trust himself while Steve, due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. fallout from Winter Soldier doesn’t trust the government thanks to Hydra infiltration. Then again, if Tony already doesn’t trust the government I can’t see him trusting it anymore after he learns everything about the Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. scandal.

So there’s potential to have a whole slew of super heroes running around by the time Avengers 4 comes out. For me though, the heroes versus heroes storyline is kind of boring. It may be a trope but I’d much prefer if by the end of Civil War a much larger threat reunites Cap. and Iron Man to take on said threat. That’s just me though.

Never Going to Watch HBO’s The Leftovers.

In The Leftovers, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta and developed by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) a mysterious, a event has occurred making 2% of the world’s population disappear. Both the Perrotta and Lindelof have said here and here have said it isn’t about the mystery but about how the characters react and change to it.

That’s well and good but it isn’t the kind of storytelling for me. I need both, character development and answers to the mystery. The whole point of even having a mystery in a story is to eventually answer it. What Lindelof loves doing instead is using the mystery in order to explore his pseudo philosophy about the meaning of life, a mystery that he cannot answer. I already have a story like that, we all do, it’s called life and I am not looking for the ambiguity of life in the stories I consume. The problem I have with his style of writing is either he doesn’t answer the question or the answers he provides are so anti-climactic (Lost & Prometheus) that I am left feeling like I wasted my time. The fear of their time being wasted, in my personal opinion, is why people hate spoilers. When you spoil a story for someone you’ve essentially taken the joy of discovery away from them thus watching, reading, listening to it is now a waste of time. With Lindelof everything I have watched by him makes me feel like I’ve wasted my time because his character development doesn’t connect with me, his protagonist often coming off unlikable, ineffectual and his answers are either not there or disappointing.

Modern mystery and thriller novels have the opposite problem. All the stories has is answers, answers I’ve usually figured out early into the book. Without the character development in their protagonist the journey to the answers I already guessed isn’t very interesting to me.

Plus, what I don’t understand is what does that character development even mean if there is no resolution or a poor one? What makes it matter? That’s not what interests Lindelof as a writer. So I am not interested in his writing and I am not going to waste my time with The Leftovers.

A Word on the Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition Trailer

The blu-ray for the extended edition of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug comes out November 4th in the United States. My copy will hopefully arrive that day but in the meantime here’s a trailer that offer two major bits that got axed from the theatrical edition.

First of all, though he looks a little tall to me in the trailer, that is Thráin, Thorin’s father, confronting Gandalf in Dol Goldur and shouting that Thorin must never enter Erebor. Finally, after getting a name drop in the extended edition of An Unexpected Journey perhaps what has happened to the last dwarven ring of power will be explained. Also, with the jumbling of time Jackson has done I can’t wait to see how he explains Gandalf getting the key and map from Thorin’s father before they’ve actually met in Dol Goldur, that being originally how he got it in the books.

Second, there’s Beorn, barely even in the theatrical release it seem, and this is just my guess, most of what was cut from the film involves Beorn. Before the release of the film there was talks of Beorn hunting down orcs at night to corroborate Thorin and Gandalf’s story. The other part seen in this trailer involving Beorn is in his garden with him chopping wood, possibly for a scene of exposition between Gandalf and Beorn or perhaps the introduction of the dwarves and the telling of what has happened to them so far just as in the books. Also, it looks like a scene in the forest involving Beorn and Gandalf is included as well. It could be possible that Beorn escorts Gandalf part of the way to Dol Goldur considering that the wizard has one of his horses.

Also in the trailer, besides reiterating what was in the theatrical release are scenes involving a conversation between Thorin and Bilbo upon arriving in Laketown and one between the Master of Laketown and Alfred of what Thorin’s quest means to him.

Not included in the trailer but released earlier this summer is extended Mirkwood scene mirroring the one in the book where they have to cross the river and poor Bombur falls into the enchanted water and the company is forced to carry him. You can see most of that scene here:

In interview, Richard Armitage mentions Bilbo and Thorin seeing the white stag, just like in the books, but this stag is projection of Thranduil into the forest. Thorin will try to kill it of course, because dwarf king no like elf king.

It’ll be interesting to see what else was cut that are scenes from the book and what Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh made up for their version of The Hobbit.

Goldman’s The Princess Bride is the best adaptation of Goldman’s The Princess Bride conceivable.

After just finishing reading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to watch the movie that was adapted from it.

The movie, I believe, was better for once. A rare occurrence but one that I will argue my case for.

In my opinion, the movie was better.

In my opinion, the movie was better.

It certainly helps that the screenplay was written by the author of the novel. Most screenplay writers when adapting a book make changes to the story to not streamline the story for time but often change plot points, character motivation and character development that they feel fits better in a film and puts their own twist on the story. Nothing wrong with that mind you, change is part of adaptations. What William Goldman did however was instead take the novel he had written and streamlined it for film without cutting any part of what made the story charming and engaging.

Goldman managed to make a film version of his novel without cutting anything that makes it great.

Goldman managed to make a film version of his novel without cutting anything that makes it great.

Let’s get the negative parts of the adaptation over with that way we don’t have to dwell on it too long.. Out of all the characters the one that suffers most from the change from book to film is Prince Humperdink. His character looms over much of the plot in the book. A  much more intimidating, sociopathic and physically capable figure who poses a major threat to Westley and Buttercup’s romance. His abilities as a great hunter and tracker are explored with greater detail to back up his claim, rather than in the film when the characters just state it as fact. It could be argued that his tracking of Westley and Buttercup in Guilder showcase his hunting skills in the movie but I was never really sold by it too much. 

While Chris Sarandon did a great job as Prince Humperdink he comes off as more of a sniveling schemer who is in fact quite weak compared to the strategic military-like mind of the Prince Humperdink of the book.

What else the reader will get from the book that we don’t get as much in the movie is the backstories of Inigo Montoya and Fezzik. If you love those characters then I highly suggest you read the book. You get both of their upbringings, their trainings and how they end up with Vizzini. Their friendship blossoms in the book as well as Fezzik’s love for rhyming that the film just lightly touches upon.

Speaking of Vizzini, while I would never want to lose Wallace Shawn’s portrayal of the character we don’t get a great understanding that he is fact the planner of the trio. He just comes off sort of silly and dimwitted next to Westley. With the use of backstory we learn that the trio had been successful before in doing mercenary work like this in the past using Inigo’s fencing skills, Fezzik’s strength and Vizzini’s plans. Lastly, and this isn’t the movie or the books fault, but if you’ve seen the movie before you read the book the surprise of the Westley being the Man in Black is ruined for you as it is hard to disguise someone’s look and voice to make that surprise work especially considering when it came out.

Details is what is key. If you like details I highly suggest reading the book because you get better details of every main character and some characters who never get named in the movie. That was what was a shocker for me, that those small characters didn’t get cut from the movie at all. Yellin, the man who has the key to the castle, the Albino who helps Count Rugen torture Westley, Miracle Max’s wife, the lady who boos Princess Buttercup and even Prince Humperdink’s parents who do nothing to move the plot along in the book at all still make appearances in the movie. What else is significant is all the best lines from the book make it into the movie as well. In this day and age book readers usually have to prepare themselves for their favorite line or character to be cut. Not so with The Princess Bride, everything from As You Wish down to To The Pain make it into the movie. Reading the book in a sense was like reading more detailed version of the script while also getting new details about all the best characters.

What was removed from the movie that it benefitted from was two things. First of all, while entertaining, the framework of Goldman translating S. Morgenstern’s much longer version of The Princess Bride into the short version his father read to him as a kid tends to go on too long and interrupt the flow of the story. The part the movie uses involving the grandfather and the grandson in place of Goldman and his father still has the great framework of the story being read to a child without so many interruptions like in the book.

The other part that the movie loses from the book is the horrible ending. Not horrible in the sense it was poorly written or ill conceived but it is so anti-climactic and covered in loose ends that it reduces the rating I gave the book by a whole star on Goodreads, all to sell this weird theme of life isn’t fair. The movie has a much more satisfying ending to both cap off the main characters of Inigo, Fezzik, Buttercup and Westley and ends sweetly with the Grandfather and Grandson. The book’s ending fails on on all fronts.

Inconceivable! A movie would actually have a better ending than the book? It's true.

Inconceivable! A movie would actually have a better ending than the book? It’s true.

So do I recommend the book? I certainly do as I am the type of reader who enjoys the little details along with a good plot. Ultimately though I do believe Goldman did a better job of taking his novel and making into a much better screenplay and film.

Jackson’s The Desolation of Smaug expands Tolkien’s The Hobbit for Film

 
     The director of The Hobbit film trilogy expands the film version of Middle-Earth for it’s second outing. While some have called turning the children’s novel into a three part film a stretch, Jackson manages to flush out the Tolkien’s world and characters. In the second part of the film trilogy Jackson continues to do without the slow pace some critics complained about in An Unexpected Journey.

     Right out of the gate the hobbit, the wizard, and the thirteen refugee dwarves of Erebor are still on the run from Azog the Defiler and his orcs. From there the breaks in the action are very short transitioning from Beorn’s House to Mirkwood to Thranduil’s Kingdom to Lake Town to Erebor. Beorn himself and the encounter with the spiders receive the short shaft of this film sure to be expanded upon in the extended edition.
     The second film is far more removed from the source material, but in doing so Jackson makes a better film than the first one. Adapting literally means to make suitable to requirement or conditions and Peter Jackson does a wonderful job in this film. It is different from the book and in one of the rare cases this change made it a better movie than if they strictly stuck to it.
     While Thorin continues down his path to Shakespearean-like tragic hero, Bilbo’s characterization takes a step away from the books that was refreshing. Bilbo struggles with the power of the ring, Unlike Frodo, who has information about the ring during The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo has no idea there is an outside force working against him. This makes his struggle with the power he now has a more inner conflict he needs to work out. In that way, he becomes a better foil to Gollum’s struggle with the ring then Jackson tried to do with Frodo.
     What is highly interesting is Jackson’s depiction of where Gandalf went off to during the journey. Technically, Jackson and company cannot use any material from Tolkien’s other works other than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that explains exactly what Gandalf was up to when dealing with the Necromancer. Instead, Jackson surprisingly skirts around the story depicting what happens differently while remaining as close as possible to how it Tolkien canon it actually went. This also gave him the opportunity to backtrack over his mistakes in The Lord of the Rings with his depiction of Sauron as a giant eye.
     Like the Riddles in the Dark scene in the first firm, the highlight of the second was easily Bilbo’s interaction with Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch was the perfect choice to depict Smaug, which the trailers so far do no justice to how incredible of a dragon he is. Even the often criticised scene of the dwarves and Smaug together is enjoyable just to see more Smaug. The dwarves cowering outside of the Lonely Mountain as depicted in the book would not have worked for this film.
     Complaints of Tauriel’s inclusion will come unfounded as her addition add great dramatic conflict to Thranduil’s philosophy of withdrawal from the problems of the world. Legolas’ inclusion comes more into question as he remains there for pretty action scenes. Despite this, another criticised moment that was highly enjoyable was the barrel action scene depicting it in a fun way that shows off Legolas’ action and a good transition to Laketown what would otherwise be a slow moment.
     Laketown and it’s inhabitant was another expansion of the small scene in the book that served to make a better movie, as Bard the Bowman, The Master and the town itself are more flushed out to make a better conflict for the story. Overall, with a few minor quibbles like changing Bard’s ancestor from a king to a lord and the shortened scenes involving Beorn and the spiders of Mirkwood, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is an example of a film where change is welcome.
     J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit will still remain the way it is, and this film does no harm in highlighting what is great about the author’s creation.

How Faithful Are ‘The Hobbit’ Films to Tolkien’s Books? by Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor

The Desolation of Smaug Review by Aaron Diaz, author of webcomic Dresden Codak

Movies Will Never Be Books, and TV too! by Me

Movies will never be books, and TV too.

 

If you’re reading this, it is safe to say you are living in the 21st Century. I don’t imagine this blog will find its way in any century besides this one. Therefore, you most likely have some experience with novels, television shows, and movies.

     Anyone who has ever had a favorite book or merely just a book they were the slightest bit fond of has an understanding of the adaptation whether it’s for television or the theater.
     Adapting novels to a visual medium isn’t anything new and it isn’t limited to movies and television but what I am focusing on here is the adaptation in the age of information.
     It seems like people often believe Hollywood has not experienced economic turmoil with the rest of us over the last thirteen years. You read about these ridiculously high numbers going to the cast’s salary, the budget, and at the box office and it’s more money than most people have ever had in their life. However, like the rest of, film studios have had to adjust to rising cost of, well, everything along with dealing with people’s expectations of what a movie should look like.
     Along with dealing with this they’ve had their struggle adjusting to the digital age. The way in which we are able to watch film and television has drastically changed in the last thirteen years as evidenced by the Netflix or other service streaming on your television, desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
     This is no way a defense for the film industry as I’m sure they’re lobbying for the next version of CISPA and SOPA, a tactic to control the chaotic frontiers of the internet out of fear of piracy instead of adjusting to change. It does, however, help explain the rise of the franchise.
     The first year of the 21st Century saw two film franchises begin based on very popular books. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings were both highly ambitious adaptations setting precedents with their production, presentation and box office sales.
Alongside this, the superhero franchises are just beginning their rise with the likes of X-Men and Spider-Man. The success of these films displayed you could establish franchises in genre fiction that wasn’t there before, as well as adapting what previous generations of Hollywood filmmakers deemed “unfilmable.”
So we have…

  • Hit series of films based on a book and comic books in Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men, and Spider-Man.
  • New technology in special effects including but not limited to CGI
  • Economic turmoil increasing the cost of production of movies.
  • Ease of access to information through innovation in higher speed internet and the rise of desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

All of this blended together leads to what we’ve seen in Hollywood the last thirteen years and beyond. Books and comic books to an extent have an established audience and likewise so do sequels. Why take a risk on an original script when adapting a series of books proven to sell on the New York Times Bestseller Lists is a much lower risk?
So here we are, watching our favorite books become movies step by step. With a few taps of the keyboard and a few clicks we know who bought the films rights, who is writing the script, who is directing, who is cast as the main character, what the costumes will look, what changes the story were made. Change is the keyword here, a common fear amongst everyone, not just exclusive to book adaptations either.
Here’s the thing fellow bibliophiles and regular readers, Movies will never be books and TV too. You all know the inner monologue is the first things to go when it comes to the adaptation, but it isn’t the last.  With books, there is no limit to the imagination but with film and television there is nothing but limits that often are stretched much further than deemed possible by the filmmakers themselves.
Money, is, of course, the number one limit to the adaptation of a book. Everything has a financial limit and this often leads to sacrifices. Sacrifices that have a cost to the storytelling as well. There might be the technology to pull off that epic battle scene in your favorite novel, there might be the perfect actor who fits exactly what the protagonist looks like and sounds like, and there might be the perfect director who loves the script, loves the novel and always imagined bringing its world to life. None of these factors are free, though, there’s a reason writing novels isn’t called the novel business but making films is called the movie business.
None of these people are going to be free and sometimes sacrifices are going to have to be made in order to get one of these factors over another. You may have to settle for the second choice actor in the film in order to get the special effects budget you need or, on the other hand, you get the actor you wanted but that battle scene needs to be scaled down.
There are so many factors that could go wrong on a movie. In filmmaking you are lucky to get your movie made, for it to be any good, and then for it to be successful which is what an adaptation of a series needs in order to make books two through the final book.
These all difficult and daunting tasks that don’t necessarily happen for the majority of movies. Scripts get multiple writings and revisions by writers who are usually not the author of the original novel, all of with their own takes, voices, and perspectives that they are trying to convey through someone else’s story. There’s no guarantee that these writers are passionate about the novel they are transferring to film. The same goes for the director, the actors, the producers, and the studio distributing it.
My advice to readers? Let go. You can’t think of film or television version of the novel as the visualization of the novel. Corey Olsen, also known as The Tolkien Professor broke it down fairly for readers when discussing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on an episode of his podcast, Tolkien Chat 12: Adaptation and the Hobbit Movies when discussing film adaptations that you can apply to TV as well.

I’ve often said a movie is different from a book. The first thing you have to keep in mind when you are going to see a film adaptation of a book is you’re not going to see a book on screen and it’s not fair to evaluate the thing you are seeing as if it were simply a transposition of the book on screen. It’s not a translation. It’s an adaptation. It’s a retelling. This is another version of the story. This is not Tolkien. This is Peter Jackson’s retelling of Tolkien’s story on screen and those are two different thing. You have a different person telling the story and you have a different medium in which the story is being told.

Believe me, I understand. One of my favorite books is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the film version failed to capture the satirical intelligence of Douglas Adams writing but these are not sacred text and as long as they keep making money Hollywood will continue adapting books to film. Your favorite book will still be there even if you don’t like the retelling of it in the film. The book was better,