The Ultimate Movie Critics

As usual, our first-rated, prime-time, fastest-in-Arda radio station "The Mouth of Sauron" accomplished the impossible: To interview nobody else but Mr. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien himself about the recent cinema blockbuster "Lord of the Rings", directed by Peter Jackson. We are proud to give you the Mouth's overwhelming interview unabridged and LIVE:


M.: Unfortunately, Sir, you were indisposed while Peter Jackson's movie version of "The Fellowship of the Rings" was on screen. Yet we understand that you were sufficiently irritated by the product. Would you tell us what, if you had seen the movie, you would have replied to its producers?
JRRT.: They may be irritated or aggrieved by the tone of many of my criticisms. If so, I am sorry (though not surprised). But I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciations of what it is all about.
M.: Movie producers argue that the effort to retell a story as complex and intricate as the Fellowship of the Ring within three hours of screening time cannot be achieved without a considerable amount of abridgement. Could you tell us then why you do not agree with Mr. Jackson's decisions?
T.: An abridgement by selection with some good picture-work would be pleasant, & perhaps worth a good deal in publicity; but the present script is rather a compression with resultant over-crowding and confusion, blurring of climaxes, and general degradation: a pull-back towards more conventional 'fairy-stories'.
M.: Or more conventional 'computer games', as some critics commented. Others have argued that Mr. Jackson relied too much on visual effects and not sufficiently on the depth to the story. What is your opinion, Sir?
T.: The canons of narrative art in any medium cannot be wholly different; and the failure of poor films is often precisely in exagerration, and in the intrusion of unwarranted matter owing to not perceiving where the core of the original lies. He has cut parts of the story upon which its characteristic and peculiar tone principally depends, showing a preference for fights; and he has made no serious attempt to represent the heart of the tale adequately: the journey of the Ringbearers.
M.: You would not agree then that Mr. Jackson did your book justice?
T.: He does not read books. It seems to me evident that he has skimmed through L.R. at a great pace, and then constructed his story-line from partly confused memories, and with the minimum of references back to the original. I feel very unhappy about the extreme silliness and incompetence and his complete lack of respect for the original (it seems wilfully wrong without descernible technical reasons at nearly every point).
M.: Let us examine this more closely. There is for example that firework during Bilbo's birthday party which Mr. Jackson presents quite differently from the book.
T.: I prefer my own choice of fireworks.
M.: But the technical reason for these changes evidently is to introduce the rather comical characters of Merry and Pippin as they are designed by Mr. Jackson.
T.: I should resent perversion of the characters (and do resent it) even more than the spoiling of the plot and scenery.
M.: Would you at least agree then with the subsequent contraction of events? In the book, many years pass between Bilbo's farewell and Frodo's escape from the Shire with the Ring. In the movie, this seems to happen only weeks after. A plausible argument may be that Mr. Jackson wanted to introduce his main actors from the very beginning of the movie on without considerable signs of aging.
T.: I may say that I fail to see why the time-scheme should be deliberately contracted. The many impossibilities and absurdities which further hurrying produces might, I suppose, be unobserved by an uncritical viewer; but I do not see why they should be unnecessarily introduced.
M.: Even more heavily amended were some crucial dramatic scenes, such as the attack on Weathertop.
T.: An example of what I find too frequent to give me 'pleasure or satisfaction': deliberate alteration of the story, in fact and significance, without any practical or artistic object (that I can see); and of the flattening effect that assimilation of one incident to another must have. It is based on a misconception of the Black Riders throughout, which I beg to reconsider. Their peril is almost entirely due to the unreasoning fear which they inspire (like ghosts). They have no great physical power against the fearless.
Strider does not 'Whip out a sword' in the book. Naturally not: his sword was broken. Why then make him do so here, in a contest that was explicitly not fought with weapons? There is no fight. Why has my account been entirely rewritten here, with disregard for the rest of the tale? I can see that there are certain difficulties in representing a dark scene; but they are not insuperable. A scene of gloom lit by a small red fire, with the Wraiths slowls approaching as darker shadows - until the moment when Frodo puts on the Ring, and the King steps forward revealed - would seem to me far more impressive than yet one more scene of screams and rather meaningless slashings.
M.: What did you think of Lurtz, of the duel of the two Istari, of the cave troll or Aragorn's solitary fight against a horde of orcs?
T.: If details are to be added to an already crowded picture, they should at least fit the world described.
M.: I see we are unfortunately quickly running out of broadcasting time now. Let me just ask one final question, Sir: What advise would you give to Mr. Jackson for the subsequent two movies?
T.: The narrative now divides into two main branches: 1. Prime Action, the Ringbearers. 2. Subsidiary Action, the rest of the Company leading to the 'heroic' matter. It is essential that these two branches should each be treated in coherent sequence. Both to render them intelligible as a story, and because they are totally different in tone and scenery. Jumbling them together entirely destroys these things.
M.: We thank you, Sir, and hope you will further-on have an undisturbed rest.

(All of Tolkien's statements authentically reproduced from Letters L201, L207, L210.)