Christopher Tolkien, Not a Fan

Christopher Tolkien has spoken about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, and they are unsurprisingly negative.  The Examiner reported on his interview with Le Mond and he had this to say :

They gutted the book, making an action movie for 15-25 year olds. And it seems that The Hobbit will be of the same ilk. Tolkien became…devoured by his popularity and absorbed by the absurdity of the time. The gap widened between the beauty, the seriousness of the work, and what it has become is beyond me. This level of marketing reduces to nothing the aesthetic and philosophical significance of this work.

Yet, I don’t really buy his argument.  The marketing may be over the top and even “absurd” at times.  But I don’t see how that impacts the “aesthetic and philosophical significance of this work.” Do the myriad interpretations of Dickens at all impact the actual texts and peoples interpretations of those texts?  Perhaps a better parallel would be whether the campy movie versions of Frankenstein affect Mary Shelley’s novel? Do those who are interested in aesthetics and philosophical significance alter their interpretation of Shelley’s novel because of the movies?  I don’t think they do.  They are able to separate adaptations (which in Shelley’s case often deviated from her story dramatically) from the original text.  And I would argue that Peter Jackson’s movies are of a higher quality and take the source material more seriously than some of the Frankensteins. 

Further, Tolkien seems to ignore the most important benefit of the movies, more readers of the novels. David Brawn, the Tolkien editor at HarperCollings says,

In three years, from 2001 to 2003, [the films] sold 25 million copies of Lord of the Rings – English 15 million and 10 million in other languages. And UK sales grew by 1000% after the release of the first film of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring.

Regardless of any residual effect on a readers interpretation of the novels, I think they are outweighed by an additional 25 million readers of the actual texts. Certainly the movies have their faults, but they surely have a bit more depth than Tolkien is willing to give them. (h/t Aidan Moher)

%d bloggers like this: