Christopher Tolkien Trashes Peter Jackson's 'Lord Of The Rings,' Says Films Lack "Beauty And Seriousness" Of The Books

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by Kevin Jagernauth
January 9, 2013 3:51 PM
36 Comments
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The Tokien Estate hasn't been too fond of Peter Jackson's "Lord Of The Rings" films. They've been ever wary of the multiplex spectacle approach to the source material, at one time suing New Line over royalties, but they've also generally stayed out of the media spotlight, preferring to pout in private. But for whatever reason an interview given to Le Monde last summer by the 88 year-old Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien, is coming to light now. And he has ripped into Jackson's trilogy of movies and expressed his concern about "The Hobbit."

"They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25," Christopher said of "The Lord Of The Rings," revealing he turned down an invitation to meet Jackson. "And it seems that 'The Hobbit' will be the same kind of film." And while most families of authors would be thrilled to be associated with a billion dollar franchise (even if, in this case, they only get a small portion of that coin), as Christopher's son notes, that's not the case here.

"Normally, the executors of the estate want to promote a work as much as they can," Adam Tolkien said. "But we are just the opposite. We want to put the spotlight on that which is not 'Lord of the Rings.' "

As for Christopher, he offers a bleak assessment on the legacy of his father and his work, which is now part of a movie machine that won't be going away any time soon. "Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time," he pondered. "The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away."

Is there any merit to his concerns? Or should Old Man Tolkien allow his father's works to be enjoyed for the next generation without complaint? Let us know below. [World Crunch via ComicBookMovie]

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36 Comments

  • Jonathan Higgs | February 7, 2014 1:35 AMReply

    I absolutely love the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I like think the emotions it has are deep, the acting is amazing, it is funny at times, but knows when to be serious, and is beautiful most of the time. The action sequences are done very well, and the special effects are good but not over the top. Plus, it's just so quotable!
    When the first Hobbit movie came out, I was very excited. I went to the midnight premier with some friends, and watched it with interest. That interest dried up very quickly. The movie managed to look like the original trilogy without having much of the feeling, or sense of adventure, and to top it off, it had several scenes that were "Hollywood" over the top, something that didn't happen in the original trilogy and something I was hoping would not happen there. The second Hobbit movie was a step in the right direction, toward the original trilogy, but still a far cry from what it could have been. I agree with Matthew opinion on the White Orc; it was quite a killjoy to see how they played that out.

  • John Martin | February 6, 2014 10:02 AMReply

    Everybody have a different taste, for me, all of Peter Jackson's movie is good and I got the feeling as I got in all Tolkien's book.

  • Linda | February 6, 2014 10:03 AM

    What are u talking about, dude?

  • Matthew | January 13, 2014 7:52 PMReply

    The films, especially the Hobbit 1, are to me flat and lacking a special feeling.
    The books are homely and you get a feeling of tweed, lemon Thea and cozy library room smelling of pipe smoke. Nostalgic and a feeling of a nice fireplace and brandy.

    The trilogy lack this, but are good in the sense that they entertain and follow the story in key aspects. Jackson has lost the vital, but in a film slow, parts of the book that lift them to my above feeling. The meeting with Tom, the homeliness of the green dragon, prancing pony and riven dale when Bilbo lives there are lost and action has filled out the void as a selling point for the Hollywood action generation.

    The first Hobbit film is right up there with the laziness of Nick Perumov in describing the world of Tolkien. Flat, lacking in feeling, and going for gold in the box office by destroying all that is middle earth. The White Orc is Night mare on Elm street gone punk, the dwarves are not a merry bunch but depressed hoboes, and the stone giants get 2/3 of the films special effects.

    I like Jackson's effort but for me the films are a reminder of the empty shallow world we live in.
    Thanks to the films lacking in feeling I have started to read all of Tolkiens books again, just to try and scrub if the stench of Hollywood actions the films gave the story.

  • Sebastian | January 2, 2014 10:38 PMReply

    I believe that the tone in the films, the seriousness and the beauty were perfectly captured. I dare any other filmmaker to try but Jackson and his team have done a wonderful job. Tolkien needs to understand that translating book to film is no easy task and many changes sometimes need to be made, changes that perhaps would be considered ridiculous to an author, but in a film is absolutely necessary. The screenwriters spent many years researching and working on the screenplays and read the works religiously. If Tolkien is displeased with the outcome then perhaps he should have tried writing a copy of the screenplay himself. Bashing the movies in which his father's books were based upon is unethical and remorseful, after all, thanks to these films Tolkien's books will be enjoyed much more for many years to come than without them. And I won't mention anything about the royalties the Tolkien state receives thanks to these films, if anything, Tolkien should be thankful.

  • Richard Oakley | December 9, 2013 8:24 AMReply

    Christopher Tolkien has spent half his life putting JRR Tolkien's notes into something that can and has been published. He spent the first half being the sounding board for his late father's works. He is intimately connected with them.

    The films of LOTR challenged me to go back to the books to see what wasn't Tolkien. I never read the Hobbit and wouldn't have save for An Unexpected Journey.

    If the films raise JRR Tolkien to new heights of popularity and ensure his works will continue to be read by generations to come, how can the Estate regard it as a bad thing?

    If indeed our time is one of absurdity, it's not made so by Peter Jackson's film adaptations.

  • Julie-Anne Michael | December 2, 2013 11:58 PMReply

    I disagree with these movies being for 15-25 year olds. I was over 40 when The Lord of The Rings came to the big screen and I LOVED IT! I have equally loved The Hobbit so far. I think the films has opened up Tolkein's works to a wider audience and has given people renewed interest in the books. Tolkein left an amazing legacy but so will Peter Jackson! So sad that Christopher can't see how loved the Tolkein characters are in both the books and movies.

  • William | July 29, 2013 12:18 AMReply

    Interesting anyone should say that because the Tolkiens decide to dole out much of their inheritances on humanitarian and educational efforts not fritter it away on Mazzerattis.

  • William | July 29, 2013 12:17 AMReply

    Interesting anyone should say that because the Tolkiens decide to dole out much of their inheritances on humanitarian and educational efforts not fritter it away on Mazzerattis.

  • Shadow | July 26, 2013 9:48 AMReply

    The tolkiens can always give their money to charity... oh wait, they probably won't ... right?

  • Carley | May 16, 2013 9:41 PMReply

    I'm 14 and I enjoyed the books and the movies
    though the movies had a lot of differences it was still good, other books get ripped to shreads.
    the movies really helped popularize the books for younger generations.
    Yeah the books are beautiful but peter jackson is no one to hate, for he came kind of close (i mean who could make them exactly alike) and more realistically: helped the book sell.

  • Julie-Anne Michael | December 2, 2013 11:58 PM

    I completely agree.

  • Mike | October 13, 2013 10:24 AM

    Nicely said. My thoughts exactly

  • carleyyy | May 16, 2013 9:45 PM

    yet i can see why christopher doesn't like them... he probabaly knows the books better than anybody and noticed even more changes in the movies than we did... remember these amazing books are his life..

  • Melissa | May 12, 2013 2:38 AMReply

    While I love the books as I'm a massive book reader I also appreciated the films for what they were... People have to realise books are different to the movies... One thing the movies have done is bring new younger readers.. My teenage daughter is now reader the rings trilogy she probably wouldn't have picked the books up before watching the movies....

  • Ridahoan | February 17, 2013 5:52 PMReply

    Christopher Tolkien is right on. Let me borrow from the comment below and say the movies "look fair but feel foul," or should we say "not all that glitters is gold."

    Now that the miracle of CGI seems a little less miraculous, I hope we can finally see the movies for what they were: tripe. For me, the soundtrack says it all: layer on sentimental neo celtic vapid pop to make up for character development being sacrificed to eventually boring battle scenes, despite having 3 long movies to do more than chop heads.
    I think C. Tolkien is wrong though, many 12 year old Tolkien fans would have preferred not having their classic stripped of its beauty. And no, at 5 years old I didn't like Kipling's Jungle Book blathered by Disney either. And yes, this is the way of things.

  • Mike Horah | February 5, 2013 3:19 PMReply

    It is of course a great pity that Christopher Tolkien and the estate have been unable to find a reasonable and fair accommodation with the makers of LOR etc and that Newline and others have exploited the oeuvre beyond the limits of the original sale of rights. And ironic that this should have happened, given the Hollywood's paranoid febrile and futile war world wide against copyright infringement, but I dare say typical Corporate hypocrisy . If you look for Mordor you will find it there - what Corporates cannot buy they will steal at the point of a gun (and in some other nations too .) I am surprised extraordinary rendition has not been used and a period in Guatanomo to persuade him to sign away the rights. They look fair but feel foul.

    But the genie is well out of the bottle . Like Shakespeare Tolkien is becoming owned by all and soon will be legally. Look at the way his work and the Arthurian legends have been treated – from the sublime to the ridiculous, the latter most recently - “ Merlin” by the BBC.

    I have been a Tolkienista since I first read LOR at the age of 19 in 1968. I gave Jackson only seven out of ten for LOR. Great visuals props etc , great score- both very evocative but indifferent script sometimes indifferently acted, which makes me cringe , at times (This may not be the actors’ fault).The best delivered lines were straight from the text . So keep Peter J well away from the Bard -or Melville for that matter. I care not about the Hobbit which is among the lightest of the works. I will not watch it in a movie theatre and probably not it on DVD. Maybe watch it on Sky when its available “ on demand”.

    But Christopher Tolkien has been the guardian , compiler editor nurturer and fosterer of all of the great man’s posthumous unpublished works which were not part of the copyright sell-on deal when he yet lived. He has the right to be jealous of that work. The Silmarillion is not suited to the same movie treatment- much less dialogue than is usable and more Homeric in style ( Look at the movie “Troy” – the only thing not wooden was the weapons). For some stories eg Beren and Luthien opera would be a better treatment

    Many of the comments I have read on the web about Christopher are ignorant, selfish , cruel and unworthy of those who claim to love this body of work.

  • SgtZim | January 16, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    Bet he wasn't complaining whilst cashing those sweet royalty cheques. What a sponge.

  • JHarper | January 14, 2013 11:32 AMReply

    Lord of the Rings is one of the few movies that my grandparents will actually watch with me and enjoy it. It really is a film for all ages.

  • Pipsqueak | January 11, 2013 8:52 AMReply

    Dear oh dear, Christopher. You want to lighten up buddy. When are people ever going to realise that movies and books are radically different media? I loved the books, and equally love the films. Okay so there are a few things I would change, but really, can we expect anything better? Jackson's interpretation and visual representation of the books is nothing short of miraculous.
    And berating it for being an action movie? What????? Erm, Chris old son, there is a fair amount of "action" in the books wouldn't you say?
    Sorry, but my take on this is: grow up. A movie is a movie, a book is a book. They are and will always be, very different beasts.

  • Julie-Anne Michael | December 3, 2013 12:04 AM

    My sentiments exactly.

  • Midnight | July 26, 2013 2:06 PM

    Well you have no idea about what Christopher Tolkien published. Before he died JRRT made Christopher Tolkien his literary executioner. Don't you think that since he was his literary executioner he should've published the 9 boxes filled with papers that he inherited after his father died?

  • PIPSQUEAK | January 11, 2013 8:57 AM

    And another thing.... Christopher Tolkien, how can you have the bare faced front to talk of commercial exploitation of Tolkien? When you have built your ENTIRE career on rehashing and rewording the same Tolkien writings and musings for ever more irrelevant books "written" by JRRT ? Hypocrisy.

  • Andi | January 10, 2013 10:28 PMReply

    Wow, Christopher. Bitter much? To label the franchise as made for 15-25 year olds is completely ridiculous. I work at a nursing home and we had a LOTR marathon there on the day the Hobbit premiered, and those elderly woman and men obviously aged a lot happier than C. Tolkien! They were very excited for the Hobbit coming out and there was a lot of reminiscing over the hype of the LOTR movies. Of course, Christopher Tolkien should also keep in mind that -while he has every right to disagree with choices P.J made on the movies, PETER JACKSON ACTUALLY MADE THE MOVIES. He brought J.R.R Tolkien's works to the big screen and the world (especially many who had previously had no incentive to read the books and later did) loves the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit all the more for it.

  • Peter not friggin Jackson | June 7, 2013 12:41 AM

    @Pipsqueak Where precisely does Christopher claim his books were written by his father? No one is more explicit of his research into Tolkien lore than Christopher, honest and always accurate. Yes, the films were tripe for teenagers and shallow pseudo-epic d&d gamers.

  • Northern Star | January 9, 2013 7:30 PMReply

    Christopher Tolkien is just a bitter old curmudgeon, he should be thanking Peter Jackson - whilst respectfully disagreeing with some creative decisions made - for bringing the works of his father to a whole new generation in such a vivid and accessible fashion. The '...Rings' trilogy simply couldn't have been made better than was, although I believe 'The Hobbit' should have been made as two 3-hour films rather than three padded-out films with far too much appendices material included (which will inevitably change the tone of the tale unnecessarily)... but it's just my opinion, of course...

  • Midnight | July 26, 2013 2:03 PM

    Well, you obviously don't know what your talking about. The books were as accessible as the movies to me. Christopher Tolkien is right to hate Peter Jackson, he watch Peter Jackson take the books that were his life and tear the story in half. I do agree with you that the hobbit was made WAY too long.

  • Derrick | July 19, 2013 10:38 PM

    The film's could have been made better? Are you serious? Do you claim the films are perfect? I think they're great, but there have been better movies, and like with everything in this world, they aren't perfect. I would have added more realistic gore, Tom Bombadil, and I would have done the Army of the Dead that helps Aragorn more true to the book.

  • hank | January 9, 2013 7:09 PMReply

    Nailed it, Christopher.

  • deadguyknows | January 9, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    Think 'Lord of the Rings' as interpreted by Terrance Malick ... now that's a partnership of material and artist that I could imagine as being both beautiful and serious.

  • MongooseCmr | January 9, 2013 9:27 PM

    Three films of walking through tall grass

  • rme | January 9, 2013 9:06 PM

    ... you cannot be serious.

  • Xian | January 9, 2013 4:28 PMReply

    Tom Bombadil LIKES this.

  • bohmer | January 9, 2013 4:09 PMReply

    I remember having the same complaint at the time of its release but came to term with the movie as time past since I read de book. There's no way a studio would finance a more serious, actionless fantasy trilogy. Jackson version's fine.

  • Mark | January 9, 2013 4:08 PMReply

    He's absolutely right. And it's just as well he hasn't watched the movies, if he saw how Jackson had 'improved' the storyline he would probably have a stroke.

    They're fun movies, but that's all.

  • yer | January 9, 2013 5:16 PM

    I am glad there are so many level-headed commenters. If Chris Nolan had directed the trilogy and these comments were made oh man watch out!!

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