Tolkien and Technology.

I disagree with much of this essay by J. Holberman, but it is still worth reading. In my recent re-read of The Lord of the Rings, I indeed concede that much of the magic of reading it for the first time—and even the second—has been lost in the subsequent ubiquity of Peter Jackson’s films. I think, however, that speaks, at least partially, to the strength of his vision, and his improvements over Tolkien’s occasionally flabby plot. That’s part of the tyranny of successful films: how they can slowly subsume your own vision and imagination of a novel, destroying it utterly.

My take on the recent film version of The Hobbit is one of slight disappointment. It was too long and slow, but the problems seemed more structural (screenplay) than the common complaint of most reviewers, that of stretching it too long (the middle is not as flabby as the beginning). (I still enjoyed it overall.) But Holberman is just plain wrong when it comes to observations like this:

The Hobbit [is] less a movie than a promotion for its inevitable ancillary computer game…

While there have always been videogame tie-ins, Lord of the Rings videogames are not in the same league of popularity as truly large-scale titles, and the movie’s international box office business will likely be the biggest chunk of its revenue. (This is a tired complaint of many movie reviewers for special-effects laden films; it’s cliche by now.) Part of Tolkien’s magic will always be his appeal to the imaginations of children, and of being able to tie some depth and verve to plots and scenarios that spark the young’s view of the world.