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The Marquis de Leech

Tolkien 2.0

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On 5/30/2018 at 6:20 AM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

I am barely refraining from calling you "sweet summer child". I remember several years of speculation and fantasizing about possible LotR movies, casts etc. in the mid-to-late 1990s in the usenet groups dedicated to Tolkien, long before the movies were even planned

I saw the first two movies in the theatre. I found the first decent, if too long and slow at times. The second one has some pretty good stuff but overall I found it so bad that I never watched the last one in any medium. My complaints are mostly different from the ones you mention as having been particularly controversial. I did not like Arwen at the Ford, but it is a minor quibble. The really bad things occur in the second movie:

- the Ents

- the badly animated Warg attack where Aragorn gets lost and later comes back

- Elves at Helm's Deep (more superfluous than horribly bad)

- Theoden and Gandalf as exorcist. I find this so much worse than microwave Galadriel.

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6 hours ago, Jo498 said:

I am barely refraining from calling you "sweet summer child". I remember several years of speculation and fantasizing about possible LotR movies, casts etc. in the mid-to-late 1990s in the usenet groups dedicated to Tolkien, long before the movies were even planned

I saw the first two movies in the theatre. I found the first decent, if too long and slow at times. The second one has some pretty good stuff but overall I found it so bad that I never watched the last one in any medium. My complaints are mostly different from the ones you mention as having been particularly controversial. I did not like Arwen at the Ford, but it is a minor quibble. The really bad things occur in the second movie:

- the Ents

- the badly animated Warg attack where Aragorn gets lost and later comes back

- Elves at Helm's Deep (more superfluous than horribly bad)

- Theoden and Gandalf as exorcist. I find this so much worse than microwave Galadriel.

I rather enjoyed the warg attack.  I was bothered that they made Treebeard out to be as thick as two short planks.

One can point to various flaws, but overall, I enjoyed FOTR and TTT, and the first half of ROTK.

I detested the portrayal of Denethor, the Soap Bubbles of Death making the Ride of the Rohirrim pointless by wiping out the armies of Mordor at Minas Tirith, the Hollywood Military Tactics at the Battle before the Gate, and the cut 'n paste job of Sam and Frodo in Mordor. The confrontation between Eowyn and the Witch King should have used the dialogue in the book.

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6 hours ago, SeanF said:

I rather enjoyed the warg attack.  I was bothered that they made Treebeard out to be as thick as two short planks.

In fairness, for the oldest known being on Middle-Earth (except maybe Tom Bombadil) Treebeard comes across as someone who spent thousands of years not learning a thing. :P Several thousand years after the Ent-Wives disappeared, they sat around going, "Hey, maybe we should go look for them... ?"

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On 6/5/2018 at 6:03 PM, Yukle said:

In fairness, for the oldest known being on Middle-Earth (except maybe Tom Bombadil) Treebeard comes across as someone who spent thousands of years not learning a thing. :P Several thousand years after the Ent-Wives disappeared, they sat around going, "Hey, maybe we should go look for them... ?"

Ents are essentially really,really, lazy alcoholics (The ent droughts)

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On 6/5/2018 at 11:04 AM, SeanF said:

I rather enjoyed the warg attack.  I was bothered that they made Treebeard out to be as thick as two short planks.

One can point to various flaws, but overall, I enjoyed FOTR and TTT, and the first half of ROTK.

I detested the portrayal of Denethor, the Soap Bubbles of Death making the Ride of the Rohirrim pointless by wiping out the armies of Mordor at Minas Tirith, the Hollywood Military Tactics at the Battle before the Gate, and the cut 'n paste job of Sam and Frodo in Mordor. The confrontation between Eowyn and the Witch King should have used the dialogue in the book.

They looked like they were riding over sized gophers or vicious prairie dogs or something, anything but wolves.

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I have no clue about computer generated effects. But the "wargs" looked so obviously horrible and clumsy.

It was also bad because it introduced a stupid, superfluous and clicheed scene not in the books. (I forgot what was cut to make room for it.) At the end, the only good thing about the movies for me is the visual aspect, the landscape, most of the buildings and costumes although I have some quibbles there as well, it is generally beautifully done. Almost everything else is quite flawed. And it is also weird if the most expressive actor in a movie is partly computer generated... ;)

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6 hours ago, Jo498 said:

It was also bad because it introduced a stupid, superfluous and clicheed scene not in the books. 

Ah, an old-school Purist. :)

(Speaking of Purism, I also forgot to mention that there was also the odd phenomenon of movie-first Purists. People who saw the movies first, then read the books, then decided they didn't like the movies taking liberties with the source material).

As for the warg scene, I'd have liked the wargs to be a bit more wolfish, but I'm broadly happy with it. It allows a nice little action scene before Helm's Deep gets going, thereby showing conflict with Saruman, the vulnerability of our heroes, and Theoden as a competent fighter. They rather crowbar Arwen in there while Aragorn is passed out, but it's not too over-the-top.

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I was traumatized as a ca. 11-yo. The first movie I watched in a theater was the first "Neverending Story" movie. This had been one of my favorite books for a year or so and was looking forward to it. I accepted that there would be *some* changes but not that it would be merely half of the book and have such a silly ending. (Although in hindsight that movie is fairly decent and it would clearly have been impossible to get the whole book into one movie. I was also not quite smart enough to understand that a book about books and reading could never keep its magic as a movie. The author, Ende, was still alive in the 1980s and thoroughly hated the movie.)

That said, I would have been fine with even more cuts of not so relevant stuff in the first LotR movie because it drags, especially at the beginning. But under almost no circumstances I would be fine with adding trite stuff in a movie project that will in any case need to cut fairly important stuff for reasons of time. So, yes, ceteris paribus I am against changes, unless there are very good reasons. There are no good reasons for the warg attack nonsense and the scene itself is badly done, partly because the wargs look so ridiculous.

But yes, I basically am a purist. I an hardly think of any good book where I like (or even prefer) the movie. (But I am probably forgetting some exceptions.) There are some decent multi-episode TV shows, though, e.g. the 1990s "Pride and Prejudice" and a few others. I also saw two rather good Dickens adaptions (Great Expectations and Little Dorrit) a few years ago.

 

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My first encounter with an adaption of a book I loved was a television re-run of the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - which Dahl famously hated too. It's an adaptation I genuinely liked - the Oompa Loompa songs are very catchy - though the twist at the end where Wonka (apparently) turns on Charlie was disturbing as hell for 8 year-old me.

The movie version of The Neverending Story was actually a childhood favourite of mine (the Sphinxes were an unforgettable scene) - I only read Ende's book as an adult.

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It's been a long time that I watched it but another famous book by Ende, "Momo" was made into a far better movie (still not superior to the book, but the author approved of that movie as well). I guess there were a few cases where as a kid I was so happy about having ANY movie/TV show of a favorite book that I did not mind that it did not quite live up to the expectations or that some things were obviously "wrong" (i.e. different from the book). Again, my recollection is dim, because this must have been around 1980-81, but I think the British TV series of Blyton's "Famous Five" was such a case.

But the Neverending Story experience put an end to that. Afterwards I tended to prefer no movie at all to one I found a travesty of the book.

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19 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

They looked like they were riding over sized gophers or vicious prairie dogs or something, anything but wolves.

They looked to me like hyenas.

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On 5/30/2018 at 12:28 AM, Yukle said:

Is anyone familiar enough with Beowulf to know if Tolkien's translation of it is worth a read? I assume everything he writes is top-notch, obviously. I saw it in a shop but didn't buy it, as I already have it. Just not his translation.

From what I gather, he wasn't entirely pleased with his translation and opted not to publish it. But I've read some of his lectures on it, and he is pretty much a great authority on it.

I'm a bit late answering this, but I wouldn't recommend buying his translation if you're interested in getting a good perspective on the Beowulf text itself. It is however an interesting read if you're interested in Tolkien's personality and the way he read Anglo-Saxon poetry.

His translation shows the obsessive and borderline maniac reading he had of Beowulf. Although it's a prose translation, he decides to remain close to the Anglo-Saxon syntax, which makes for a hard text to read, and one that does not even try to render the poetry of the original through any creative translation strategy.

Tolkien's view of translation is that it could only serve as an aid to study of the original text, and that's exactly what his translation is. And probably not the best aid at that.

I just want to quote an extract from his commentary of his translation of the kenning hronrade to show how obsessed he was with how any specific word sounded to him and how this very sensitive phonesthetic acquaintance with language made the original text and its poetry untranslatable in his mind.

Quote

The word as 'kenning' therefore means 'dolphin's riding' i.e. in full, the watery fields where you can see dolphins and lesser members of the whale-tribe playing, or seeming to gallop like a line of riders on the plain. That is the picture and comparison the kenning was meant to evoke. It is not evoked by 'whale-road' - which suggests a sort of semi-submarine steam-engine running along submerged lines over the Atlantic. (HarperCollins Pocket Edition p.142)

P.S. I wrote a short essay comparing three translations of Beowulf: William Ellery Leonard's, Tolkien's and Seamus Heaney's. Keep in mind I am a Translation Student and not an Anglo-Saxon scholar, but I'd be happy to send it to you if you're interested.

Edited by Pilusmagnus

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On 5/31/2018 at 10:51 AM, Yukle said:

And this might be a low-hanging fruit, but at least LOTR didn't have this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kNqc5Hrh0M

Whatever its faults, I'm sure we can all agree that Peter Jackson's LOTR was way better than Ralph Bakshi's. I remember all the piss takes like

"How to spot an elf.  It has eyes like Bambi, a stupid grin on its face, and sappy woodland music is played in the background," or "Sam the Aborigine."

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On 6/9/2018 at 6:38 PM, Pilusmagnus said:

I'm a bit late answering this, but I wouldn't recommend buying his translation if you're interested in getting a good perspective on the Beowulf text itself. It is however an interesting read if you're interested in Tolkien's personality and the way he read Anglo-Saxon poetry.

His translation shows the obsessive and borderline maniac reading he had of Beowulf. Although it's a prose translation, he decides to remain close to the Anglo-Saxon syntax, which makes for a hard text to read, and one that does not even try to render the poetry of the original through any creative translation strategy.

Tolkien's view of translation is that it could only serve as an aid to study of the original text, and that's exactly what his translation is. And probably not the best aid at that.

I just want to quote an extract from his commentary of his translation of the kenning hronrade to show how obsessed he was with how any specific word sounded to him and how this very sensitive phonesthetic acquaintance with language made the original text and its poetry untranslatable in his mind.

P.S. I wrote a short essay comparing three translations of Beowulf: William Ellery Leonard's, Tolkien's and Seamus Heaney's. Keep in mind I am a Translation Student and not an Anglo-Saxon scholar, but I'd be happy to send it to you if you're interested.

Hey cool, thanks! PM me, if you're happy to! :) Is it understandable to someone who is a history, rather than translation, student?

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On 6/8/2018 at 1:39 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Ah, an old-school Purist. :)

(Speaking of Purism, I also forgot to mention that there was also the odd phenomenon of movie-first Purists. People who saw the movies first, then read the books, then decided they didn't like the movies taking liberties with the source material).

As for the warg scene, I'd have liked the wargs to be a bit more wolfish, but I'm broadly happy with it. It allows a nice little action scene before Helm's Deep gets going, thereby showing conflict with Saruman, the vulnerability of our heroes, and Theoden as a competent fighter. They rather crowbar Arwen in there while Aragorn is passed out, but it's not too over-the-top.

I don't mind the scene, since it's a shorthand way of showing Saruman's emerging evil. He does it specifically to target people at their most vulnerable. In that sense, it also serves a purpose within the story. It also shows just how threadbare Rohan's defences are, adding stakes to the coming battle.

Everything lead up to, and including, the narrative arc at Helm's Deep I really like. Even the elves lending a hand.

The wargs bother me only because that's just not how I picture them in my head. To me they're grey, and look like wolves but with really long snouts, teeth sticking out of their lips like a crocodile, a shaggy ruff making them look more menacing and built more or less like a wolf, just bulkier. Strangely, I don't picture them very large, despite descriptions of them, since I don't picture goblins as particularly tall. When I read The Hobbit I pictured all of the characters as the same height except Gandalf, elves and humans, who tower over all others. Including orcs and goblins, despite this not matching the descriptions in the former case.

I was disappointed when I saw the wargs mostly because they didn't seem as scary as what I'd pictured, but it's also worth mentioning that we all have different ideas of what's scary. And by my own admission, when I first read the books, I wasn't always paying close attention to the words and so sometimes made the wrong mental images based on what's provided.

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5 hours ago, Yukle said:

I don't mind the scene, since it's a shorthand way of showing Saruman's emerging evil. He does it specifically to target people at their most vulnerable. In that sense, it also serves a purpose within the story. It also shows just how threadbare Rohan's defences are, adding stakes to the coming battle.

Everything lead up to, and including, the narrative arc at Helm's Deep I really like. Even the elves lending a hand.

The wargs bother me only because that's just not how I picture them in my head. To me they're grey, and look like wolves but with really long snouts, teeth sticking out of their lips like a crocodile, a shaggy ruff making them look more menacing and built more or less like a wolf, just bulkier. Strangely, I don't picture them very large, despite descriptions of them, since I don't picture goblins as particularly tall. When I read The Hobbit I pictured all of the characters as the same height except Gandalf, elves and humans, who tower over all others. Including orcs and goblins, despite this not matching the descriptions in the former case.

I was disappointed when I saw the wargs mostly because they didn't seem as scary as what I'd pictured, but it's also worth mentioning that we all have different ideas of what's scary. And by my own admission, when I first read the books, I wasn't always paying close attention to the words and so sometimes made the wrong mental images based on what's provided.

Yukle,

My problem with the Elves at Helms Deep is not that they were there.  My problem is they never explain how they got there.  The Uruk Hai were hot on Aragorn’s heals as he rode into Helms Deep.  How the heck did that large column of Elven soldiers get there without having to fight their way through the Uruk Hai who had invested Helms Deep?

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Yukle,

My problem with the Elves at Helms Deep is not that they were there.  My problem is they never explain how they got there.  The Uruk Hai were hot on Aragorn’s heals as he rode into Helms Deep.  How the heck did that large column of Elven soldiers get there without having to fight their way through the Uruk Hai who had invested Helms Deep?

They weren't right on his heels. Aragorn gave them the slip outside the valley and then rode in. The Uruks likely halted to rest and regroup before the final advance. The elves were likely not far behind Aragorn and managed to get into the valley just ahead of the Uruks, then arrived at the castle as they were mustering.

Amongst the many egregious problems with logic in the movie trilogy, that was far from the worst.

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2 hours ago, Werthead said:

They weren't right on his heels. Aragorn gave them the slip outside the valley and then rode in. The Uruks likely halted to rest and regroup before the final advance. The elves were likely not far behind Aragorn and managed to get into the valley just ahead of the Uruks, then arrived at the castle as they were mustering.

Amongst the many egregious problems with logic in the movie trilogy, that was far from the worst.

Wert,

Aragorn spots the Uruks marching as he rides in.  He’s not even straining to see them and then pushes his horse to make it to the keep.  There are then the whole “should we stay or should we go...” stuff with Aragorn Gimli and Legolas (all the while the Uruks should be getting closer.  Then we have the “call for help from Gondor” which Theoden loudly rejects.  Again the Uruks should be closing their cordon at this point.  Then, the Long column of Lothlorien Elves come marching in as though there wasn’t an army up the Deeping coombe that should have closed off the approach.

Hell, it would have made more sense for them to hit the Uruks from the rear after they started their attack and ground them up against the keep and walls defense, but, as you’ve said in the past Jackson doesn’t think real hard about the tactics the armies in his films use.

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17 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Wert,

Aragorn spots the Uruks marching as he rides in.  He’s not even straining to see them and then pushes his horse to make it to the keep.  There are then the whole “should we stay or should we go...” stuff with Aragorn Gimli and Legolas (all the while the Uruks should be getting closer.  Then we have the “call for help from Gondor” which Theoden loudly rejects.  Again the Uruks should be closing their cordon at this point.  Then, the Long column of Lothlorien Elves come marching in as though there wasn’t an army up the Deeping coombe that should have closed off the approach.

Hell, it would have made more sense for them to hit the Uruks from the rear after they started their attack and ground them up against the keep and walls defense, but, as you’ve said in the past Jackson doesn’t think real hard about the tactics the armies in his films use.

I do wonder if we're just nit-picking over such things, because it's clear most viewers enjoyed the Battle of Helms Deep (I enjoyed it too).

But, I wish that film-makers would actually take advice from soldiers, or military historians, or someone like Bernard Cornwell, if they are going to have battle scenes.  And in this case, Tolkien had plenty of military experience, and his descriptions of battle tactics make sense.  So, according to Tolkien,  the Rohirrim shoot the uruk hai as soon as they come within range, rather than chivalrously allowing them to assemble before the walls of Helms Deep;  they take the armies of Mordor in the rear at Minas Tirith, rather than have them form up with pikes to receive the charge;  Denethor unleashes his cavalry against infantry who are almost at the gates of Minas Tirith and taken unawares, rather than having them charge against soldiers defending a ruined city; they shoot down the elephants from a distance, rather than charging them head on.  

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On 6/10/2018 at 1:30 AM, SeanF said:

Whatever its faults, I'm sure we can all agree that Peter Jackson's LOTR was way better than Ralph Bakshi's. I remember all the piss takes like

"How to spot an elf.  It has eyes like Bambi, a stupid grin on its face, and sappy woodland music is played in the background," or "Sam the Aborigine."

Yes but honestly I feel more fond about the Bakshi version (nostalgia is great) then Jackson's.... films.  FOTR is good mostly (if you can ignore the Peter Jacksonisms that he puts in all his stuff) but the other two aren't good and drag down the first as a result.

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