Thursday, September 28, 2006

Actually, YES ... You SHOULD Read the Book

Earlier this month, I posted about a new class at my church. At the time, I expressed some misgivings over the use of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," in a class devoted to exploring a Christian "deep narrative" underlying the books that formed this epic saga of Middle Earth, and the War of the Rings.

We're a few weeks into that class, now, and I think my initial misgivings on that point have been affirmed.

In so many respects, Jackson films are wonderful adaptations of the books. There is an attention to details that show the filmmakers' thorough and loving knowledge of the printed works.

But in one respect, the films - for me, at least - fall short, and that is in character development. In general, the films lack the full range of diverse characters with which Tolkien populated Middle Earth. In particular, individual characters that do appear in the film lack the depth and breadth of traits that gave such color and texture to their print counterparts. In the film, an individual character's traits may be changed considerably, or removed altogether ... with the resulting character on screen trivialized - I believe - to better fit into current 'Hollywood' values and sensibilities.

Is this an important point? If you're just sitting back and enjoying a good film - as I have with LOTR, more than once - then, NO, not at all. But, if you're studying, exploring a Christian narrative underlying Tolkien's story - a narrative conveyed in part by the story's characters and their actions - then, YES, it is a very important point.

But, I'll close this lengthy rant on a high and hopeful note ... with the observation that I am far from the first, and far from the last to whom this point is important. Wednesday night, before class started, a gentleman seated next to me was showing me an annotated "Hobbit/LOTR" that he had recently acquired. He told me he had never read the books before, had never seen the films ... but the class had piqued his interest, and now he was reading. He has just finished "The Hobbit" and is 100 pages into the first book of "LOTR" ... pretty impressive for just one month.

Frodo Lives!

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