Christopher Tolkien, 1924-2020

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If only. It’s difficult to overstate how thoroughly the Hobbit movies failed to capture either the spirit of the book, the cinematic and emotional impact of the LOTR trilogy or any narrative/logical consistency whatsoever.


Yep. I was so disappointed with the first movie, I’ve yet to see the sequels. Though, I did enjoy the LoTR movies. I still watch the extended versions every other year.


I would argue that only “The Fellowship of the Ring” is a good, even great, movie. The other two had some good moments, at most, especially if you haven’t read the books.

I haven’t seen the Hobbit movies, but at some point I plan to see the 4½ hour “Tolkien” cut.

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Also I think nobody thought there needed to be three Hobbit movies except Peter Jackson, but at that point nobody felt empowered to say no to him.


For anyone who hasn’t, check out the old Rankin-Bass animated version of The Hobbit. It’s much more faithful to the book, with excellent voice talent. They even used Tolkien’s lyrics in writing the songs. Very much unlike the Jackson movies, it would have benefited from a longer runtime, to fit in a couple of subplots that got axed, like Beorn.


it wasn’t Jackson’s call – he wanted two movies, and the studio said no and they demanded three. he had to come in late to figure out how to make two movies into three, which is how they ended up being the way they are.


Have you seen King Kong? Clearly what Jackson needs, desperately, is a good and ruthless editor that he will listen to.

Although, in the specific case of the Hobbit, I believe there were some ‘Hollywood Economics’ contract shenanigans going on, which meant he got nothing (nearly nothing? less than he wanted?) out of the first two Hobbit films. The obvious(?!) solution was to stretch the story out over three films so he could make bank on the final one.

There is/was a really good video review by a superfan who - as part of the review - travelled to NZ to visit the sites, watch the premiere, etc. She was superbummed about how it turned out, and put a lot of effort into the multi-part review, but I’m damned if I can find it now :frowning: AIR, the video started with her on the plane somewhere over the Pacific, clearly excited about the adventure she was on. Does that ring any bells for anyone?


The way I head it it was planned as 2 from the start at studio insistence. But the actual Hobbit plot was only ever meant to be a single film. The second had apparently been meant to be various things over the years. But in the mess that resulted in Jackson the studio pressed him into making three after it had already been shot as 2. So they basically had to go back into shooting and reorganize everything they had to make 3 coherent movies. And that’s how stretching the one plot line across 3 movies happened.

The whole production of those things was an unholy mess of lawsuits, studios nearly going bankrupt and last minute rejiggerings.

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Rob, thank you very much for bringing Christopher Tolkien’s death to our attention. He was the great vision behind Middle Earth, carefully editing and tying up loose knots. His footnotes are masterworks. I didn’t realize how important his work was–or how important all editors are!–until I was assigned a windowless carrel in Stanford’s Green Library to write my dissertation. Just outside my door was the Tolkien collection, almost all of it Christopher’s carefully edited versions of this father’s work. That is where I first read the Silmarillion, the amazing History of Middle Earth, all the annotated versions of his father’s stories and books… Thank you Christopher for your great good work.


I think I am in the small minority that dislikes the Lord of the Rings movies (at least among people who like action/adventure/sci fi movies).

The best succinct criticism I ever read was “too much fantasy, not enough folklore” and I think that hits the nail on the head. I suspect that is part of what Christopher Tolkien meant in his complaint about the movies.

I don’t think Jackson really grounded the movies in the dark ages/early middle ages spirit of Tolkien – interestingly enough, I think Monty Python and the Holy Grail did a much better job.

Jackson’s movies felt weirdly modern to me. They were hung up on Joseph Campbell/Robert McKee formulaic storytelling, full of trope-heavy modern takes on character motivations and story arcs, while the best alternate world movies honor their own anachronistic logic. And Jackson’s direction was horribly paced, filled with constant, constant, constant cuts, and characters who never conversed, only proclaimed.

I’m perfectly fine with some of the major cuts Jackson made regarding the beginning and end of the books. Books and movies are different media, and it’s OK to make cuts. In fact, I wish Jackson had cut out more, simplifying the long Saruman stuff, cutting back on the Denethor-Faramir daddy-son trials, and the endless Aragorn-Eowyn stuff. All of that feels to me like pieces jammed into the movies to fit Jackson’s rigid adherence to McKee rules about what supposedly must happen to make meaning.

In short I think the Hobbit movies are a lot closer to the Lord of the Rings movies than most fans want to admit, and the bloated, nervous, mechanical spirit of Jackson is a constant for all of them.


ahh, that rings a bell. that’s probably correct. i do know that Jackson had to rush at the end and somehow make it into 3 movies. i think there was some legal crap going on between two studios, too, that led to it? something like that. anyway, we can all agree they were a mess, and it would’ve been better being shorter. i do think that Smaug was great, and also i rather liked Bilbo and some of the other dwarves (looking at you, Dori).

I go to my fathers . And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed.”


That one was ruined by the studio which wanted another trilogy when there was 2 movies at best from the source material. Peter wanted only 2 films from what I have heard.

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MGM had the rights to the Hobbit through United artists from back in the day. New Line had the LOTR rights, and the rights to the film series. Since you want the prequels to be related to the hit series. Newline and MGM were going to co-produce.

By that time Jackson was suing New Line for unpaid royalties, based on one of the most egregious cases of Hollywood accounting on record. But was still in negotiations to direct the Hobbit.

New Line wanted to black list him over the suit. MGM wanted him to direct. Jackson used a settlement in the lawsuit as leverage to get the directing job. Wouldn’t sign on without a settlement, wouldn’t settle without the movie.

20th century Fox was supposed to distribute. Then Newline was bought by Warner Bros so WB actually distributed in the US.

Then the Estate sued New Line over unlicensed pachinko machines and video games.

Then Del Toro got involved. And Jackson was just going to produce.

Then MGM nearly went broke, and couldn’t afford to make the movie. So they delayed it repeatedly.

Then Del Toro got sick of waiting and left the project.

Then it seems like Newline and WB took control and convinced Jackson to take over.

Then there was a massive labor dispute in New Zealand.

Then they actually got to shoot a movie.

Reading the Wikipedia summary is like trying to parse an X-Men character’s continuity all in one go.


It really should have been one movie. And it should have been made before LOTR, if at all. Prequels are hard to pull off in the best of circumstances, and in this case it would be downright impossible to capture the tone of the source material since the full nature of the One Ring was firmly established before the movie started.


I dunno. The first film didn’t feel like it was drawn out. The second and third films definitely did. There are a lot of action sequences in the book that are like two sentences to a paragraph at best but those are going to take up screen time. But the love subplot, serious eyeroll time as well as lets throw Legolas in just because. It would have been fine and fun for him to be in a passing scene but the whole lets make him a minor character was just awful.


Respectfully disagree. They included a lot of unnecessary padding including a framing device, gratuitous flashbacks, side quests and a bunch of extra characters that either weren’t in the original story at all or were mentioned so briefly they barely even qualified as characters. Even the escape from goblin town felt 20 minutes long.

If Rankin/Bass could get the whole story down to 78 minutes back in 1977 then there’s no reason Peter Jackson couldn’t have done it justice in 2 hours, 3 if he wanted to make it feel like an “epic.”


Fair enough.


Are you thinking Lindsay Ellis ?