Friday, August 29, 2014

LOTR is the New Star Wars

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

I love Star Wars. I talk about Star Wars all the time. It’s my most favorite of favorite things in the world.

But it’s not my only favorite thing.

Another film series that’s in my top five is Peter Jackson’s adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s novels “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” Lately, though, I’ve been feeling pity for Peter Jackson, because I feel as though history is starting to repeat itself.

Let’s see, movies beloved by most? Check.

Big Break for a formerly small independant director? Check.

Sprawling fantasy world? Check.

Pushing the boundaries of special effects? Check.

Every film released so far exploding the box office? Check.

Long wait between the original films and a new set of films detailing the backstory? Well, Star Wars fans had to wait twice as long, but still check.

New films just as good as the last ones? Check.

“Fans” complaining because it didn’t match their expectations? Check.

“Fans” jumping to conclusions before the final film is even released? Check.

“Fans” complaining about overuse of CGI when it’s no more than a normal film of this type? Check, and in this case it’s really no more than what was used before.

“Fans” not even bothering to figure out why certain artistic choices were made before bashing the newer films? Check and check.

Now, granted, the griping from the geek mainstream for the Hobbit films isn’t quite as bad as that for Episodes I-III…yet. But remember, as the films were coming out, the haterbase was relatively small, and the idea that the films were “bad” didn’t really hit full mainstream until part-way between Clones and Sith, and the Hobbit films are coming out faster than the complaints can gain steam.

There’s also the difference that Return of the King had that ridiculous Oscar sweep back in 2004, where each Star Wars film after New Hope had to scrabble for the measliest of technical awards. Add to that that it’s not original; Peter Jackson is working with JRR Tolkien’s world, so naturally more people would be fair if they thought it wasn’t completely faithful (not that I agree, but it’s true enough that it’s not really Jackson’s  story).

But I think that the biggest sign for me is that nobody is really talking about the Hobbit films like they did about the Rings films. They’ve become overshadowed by other popular movies. In spite of the Lucasfilm hype machine being much better with I-III initially, nobody seemed to care in the years between except for the hardcore true fans. And I ache, because I really don’t feel like having to spend my life defending yet another set of prequels whose first episode happens to be my favorite of the franchise.

Yes, I like “Unexpected Journey” best of the films released so far. It’s got Gollum and Goblins and Trolls and Dwarvish songs so how could anyone dislike that?!

So, with this correlation in mind, I want to bring it back to the reason we’re all here: Star Wars. I can’t help but think of the old graffiti during the original printing of the “Rings” novels: “Frodo Lives.” I think it’s time those of us who are fans of the Star Wars Saga, fans of Episodes I-III as much if not more than IV-VI, should have an image to prove to the world that we’re out there. I give you a slogan and logo of my own design:

 So wherever you see a clear space on the internet or in the real world*, leave this there to fight the dark power and show our solidarity as fans! Just don’t forget to credit where it’s due if anyone asks.

*NOTE: Jedi News and Nilbog’s Storybook Land do NOT endorse nor condone vandalism or lawbreaking in general. Please fight dark powers and show solidarity responsibly. I am seriously starting this movement, though.


  1. What's worse is that unless the LotR franchise expands to include the Silmarillion or something else in the same universe, there's no real equivalent for what the new trilogy will do to the Star Wars hatedom. I would like Episode VII to succeed although all the strains of prequel-denying I seem to be getting hints of don't bode well to me and I am just bracing myself for what happens if the Star Wars OT-purists all realize they still don't have get to have their nostalgia-driven sequel and a good movie at the same time...

    I don't know...

    1. I know what you mean. As I said I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers and rumors and keep an open mind because I don't want to judge it on my own expectations.

      As for Silmarillion, that's never happening because Christopher Tolkien despises Jackson's films and will never release the rights.

    2. Huh, I didn't know that.

      I haven't really read any of the other books that the Tolkien estate has published based off of his writing fragments but I know there are kerfuffles with the book purists and those who like the films. I actually liked the films because they were very story-oriented and the books were not. Really, I had one book purist rant about how they should have included Tom Bombadil and I was like... no... That's a 3 hour film per installment already. I don't need more.

      So, I think the LotR franchise is a good analogy for the current state of the Star Wars film franchise but once the sequel trilogy comes out, it'll actually make the Star Wars franchise a very rare trilogy of trilogies film franchise. Yes, you could argue that other film franchises have just as many films, if not more, but I doubt many have them planned out as three story arcs within three story arcs within another three story arcs. (The last nesting is based off my own speculation as to what the sequel trilogy will do to the greater saga story arc)

      I do wish that maybe the prequels could have taken a page from LotR's page and released an extended edition. I know the prequels were released before the trend to release 2+ hour movies was established by LotR but I think a lot of the deleted scenes from the prequel would actually help tighten up the story/characterization without adding too much time. Of course, this would just lead to more accusations of the prequels not being Star Wars with an added arbitrary time limit on the films to make them fun or whatever.

      Really, I am just bracing myself for the drama and hate because I'm pretty sure we can't escape it once Episode VII hits, regardless of what quality it is.

    3. Technically, every release of Phantom Menace from the 2000 DVD onward has been an extended edition...even if all they extended was the podrace.

    4. Oh, and P.S., while they don't even touch LotR's running time, no Star Wars film has ever clocked under two hours.

    5. Then it must have something to do with Lucas' editing since he always makes it so efficient that sometimes at its extreme, it feels like he cut off way more than he should have. I'm not quite sure how to explain it. And no, I'm not a subscriber to the conspiracy theory that the storytelling success of the classic trilogy has to do with his ex-wife. That is just 9/11 and birther level of insanity right there.

      I am a bit worried about what J.J. Abrams and his crew will bring to the table in this regard because if the charge was leveled at Lucas for surrounding himself with too many yes-man, I would argue that Abrams has done the same. Even though he has left the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek 3 is essentially being taken over by Orci who is one of his partners and possible yes man as well as responsible for the crime against humanity that was the white Khan (Orci is a 9/11 truther so he is alleged to try to fit an allegory about 9/11 into Star Trek: Into Darkness, which lead to the unfortunate implications related to Khan's whitewashing and even with the prequel comic's retconning, it's just all a hot mess).

      I don't know if the nostalgia fever that seems to have overtaken everyone working on and the fans looking forward to Episode VII would be a good thing simply because nostalgia and pandering and fan service tends to lead to an inefficient editing process. I liked the silences and omissions where everyone could create their own head canons although obviously too little exposition is also a problem. But this drive to explain every little itty bitty detail, which for the most part Star Wars has relegated to the EU and with LotR was in the appendices, I don't know if it'll be successfully contained anymore with the sequel trilogy.

      Eh... all in all, my cautious expectation has been slowly ground down into a sad pessimism. I'll be thrilled if Episode VII turns out well but now that I've seen Into Darkness, which for me completely tears down whatever hopeful optimism I had for the possibilities posited in the Star Trek reboot, I don't really have faith that J.J. Abrams will be able to create a film that's solid enough to build an entire trilogy that won't collapse in on itself into a hot mess.

      Anyway, thanks for letting me use your blog to vent a little. I have feelings about this whole thing and it's nice to air out the mixed ball that they are.

    6. I liked "Into Darkness." A lot, in fact. But as I said in my review here: while I feel the approach is appropriate for Trek it will be entirely inappropriate for Wars.

      I didn't see Kahn as being Whitewashed, just Cumberbatched. I'm actually planning on bringing up something similar in my upcoming review of the new TMNT.

    7. "And no, I'm not a subscriber to the conspiracy theory that the storytelling success of the classic trilogy has to do with his ex-wife. That is just 9/11 and birther level of insanity right there."

      It's less a conspiracy theory and more an acknowledgement of the involvement Marcia Lucas had in the editing of the OT (not the 'storytelling success', as it were). Women are frequently overlooked in the history of film, so it's nice to acknowledge the people who have these known contributions.

      It's also something that's evidenced in the films themselves- editing can be a hard thing to pick up on, but speaking as someone who's studying as one there's a pretty marked difference between the ways the OT and PT are edited- and this isn't even getting into opinions about whether it's a good difference or a bad one, just that a difference *does* exist. And given that Marcia Lucas is the only constant editor in the OT, I don't think it's stretching too much to suggest the difference was down to her.

    8. I wouldn't necessarily call it a marked difference. I agree with your point about unsung people in the industry, especially women, but I feel like over-emphasizing her involvement is as bad as overlooking her completely.

      We weren't there, and everyone has their own version of events, so why quibble over fine details we'll never prove?

    9. Well, like I said, it's hard to get into without getting annoyingly granular about it (because editing as an artform thrives on the granular- often it's literally the difference between cutting one frame earlier or later that causes some editors agony in the cutting room), but I do believe there are some crucial differences to the rhythm and pacing of scenes between the trilogies that affect how the films move and flow- again, not saying anything good or bad here, just that it's different.

      And I don't think I'm exactly over-emphasizing her involvement here, either - I'm just saying that I think the editing of the film (and specifically the drastic jump in quality between the rough and final cut of the original) is mostly down to her, with my evidence being that she was the one to make the decision to edit for pace rather than actors (which drastically altered how the final cut was approached), and that the trilogy has on the whole consistent editing while she's the only consistent editor of the films. I think as it stands that's a reasonably accurate argument to make (and I do think it's important to quibble in this case, as editors and primarily female editors are too often overlooked in our judge of a film, but that's another argument for another time).

    10. Was she involved in all three , though? Empire I can see, but she and George were on the outs during Jedi...

    11. Yeah, she's credited for both Star Wars and Return, and did uncredited work on Empire.

  2. I'm forced to admit I've had a fifteen-year-long bad habit of resenting the success of any widely praised "fantastic" movie, and the first three Lord of the Rings movies seem to have qualified there. (That does make me think you must have been lucky, or perhaps "unluckily lucky," to only get the impression curt dismissals of the new Star Wars movies "went mainstream" years later; it may only be unqualified through specific condemnations these days.)

    There was, I suppose, one specific moment in each of the Lord of the Rings movies I just sort of contrasted to what was in the novels/my own impression of the novels and said to myself "Oh, come on!" However, I haven't found any moments like those in the first two Hobbit movies and can simply accept them as the attitudes of the previous movies painted onto the structure of a single, simpler novel, so I do understand your lamentations.

    1. I didn't start to hear badmouthing of I-III until after Clones was released, and even then it was extremely rare until Sith was ramping up.

      I saw Fellowship before reading any of the books, and read them all before the others came out. Not only did I have no problem with any artistic license, I felt the films fleshed out parts of the books that I felt were hard to follow (of course, I only watch the EE's now...). I was a little uneasy when I heard Hobbit was going to be three movies, but I've been pleasantly surprised by what they've done and am looking forward to seeing the payoff of the story expansion.

      Sadly, mainstream geekdom hates giving chances to things that don't go exactly as they think it should.