20 December, 2014

The Hobbit: The Legend of Legolas

The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were books that I read as a kid that introduced me to the world of mythology. While the books themselves weren't deep philosophical texts, they sparked my interest in Plato, Chinese Philosophy and Classical and Greek Myths. The Lord of the Rings is a richly textured, beautiful book and the Hobbit a fun read(although not as deep as The Lord of the Rings).
I won't bore you with the oft cited quip "the books are better than the movies", although they most definitely are, I will ask you to wonder - do they have to be?

The Lord of the Rings as a movie trilogy is quite close in plot and characterization to the books, but it diverges because it focuses primarily on battle scenes and plot points, whereas the books focus a lot more on the characters and the creation of a richly detailed world- both in philosophy and mythology.

According to Marshall MacLuhan, author of "The Medium is the Massage", "the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived." If you take that as a given and take into account the popularity of action, superhero and epic movies and the need of studios to make sure they make money, the fact that Lord of the Rings turned into a set of epic movies for it's film portrayal is not surprising. It was and is a popular film series, but due to the fact that it was a Hollywood film series, it was changed quite a bit. A few of the best examples I can think of of the changes in Lord of the Rings are the elimination of Tom Bombadil- a diversion in the book which would have slowed down the progression of the movies arc and the extension of the battle of Helms Deep- a chapter in the book but at least an hour in the series.

Books by the nature of them not being bound by budget or time constraints are more able to go into small details, more willing to delve into smaller plot points and character arcs. Film, especially mainstream film is quite expensive and so often follows a formula. Charcters are assigned mythological roles and a strict "act" structure is followed. While a lot can be done to experiment with the act structure, movies rarely run outside of the 90 minute to 150 minute mark and rarely experiment too much so as not to alienate their viewers.

I have to say I have mixed feelings, still about the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. I still vastly prefer the books, feeling that the movies are a schmaltzified, CGI-fest with unrealistic action and set pieces, but I did still see them all in the theaters and I'm not sure why, but I still get excited by movies even as the same time I am aware of their shortcomings.

The cynic in me says that movies are getting more superficial and more predictable all the time, but the optimist in me is still there, still hoping that these movies will rise above their medium. That they would be authentic recreations and additions to their source material. As it stands now, the Lord of the Rings movies seem more geared toward getting kids interested in "cool fantasy video games" rather than mythology, history and philosophy, but my hope is still there.

Maybe one of these years, someone will do a "Game of Thrones" style adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings".

But I'm not holding my breath.

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