[LMB] LOTR, Modern Fantasy, and Chalion

David Klecha dklecha at i2k.com
Sun, 30 Dec 2001 20:02:04 -0500


I saw the movie last night and enjoyed it a great deal.  Of course, I
haven't (*gasp*!) read the books so I did not carry a lot of preconceived
notions into it.  As far as I was concerned, I thought the movie hewed very
closely to what I perceived to be the central theme, and that was of the
Fellowship itself.  Most everything else played a subordinate role to that.
And, in my mind, that was fine.  This story, the story that Jackson seems to
tell, is about the people that surround Frodo and his quest to cast the ring
into Doom.  Much of the characterization is aimed squarely at those that
make up the Fellowship and their bonds and conflicts.  The last couple of
scenes, especially, drive this concept home:  Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn
debate accompanying Frodo and Sam, but then decide to set out after Merry
and Pippin.  Sam and Frodo with their brief, but telling, conversation upon
entering Mordor.

For good or ill, this is Jackson's focus in telling the story.  Does the
rest of Tolkien's material suffer?  Probably.  Tolkien created a world and
brought forth an episode in its history.  Jackson, on the other hand, is
concentrating on this story and this alone.  Everything exists for the sake
of the story, and that's probably the crucial flaw, the crucial difference.
I wonder, then, if it's a coincidence that the movie begins with the
infodump monologue with the screen entirely black... before the movie there
was nothing?  *grin*

Anyway, pointing back to On Topic... I think one of the main issues that
both Tolkien and Bujold face is what I'll whimsically call the predominance
of fanboy culture in fantasy and SF.  Rather than appreciating literature
for its merits, as many here seem wont to do, especially with Tolkien, the
fanboy culture seizes on works as epic and imaginative as LotR and subverts
their finer qualities in favor of the, for lack of a better term, grosser
ones.  Not that this is necessarily a value judgment, just a statement of
how that cultural outlook views Tolkien.  And what do the ineffable They
see?  Swords, sorcery, magic, hot elvish babes, hardcore evil baddies, huge
battles and sweeping landscapes.  I'll wager a lot of money that they don't
notice the hair, or the meals, or whether the Prancing Pony is a cozy, warm
inn or a dive.  The history, to that outlook, serves as a backdrop to the
story, not a living, breathing *part* of it, as I suspect it is with
Tolkien.

And so we come to The Curse of Chalion which I, damnit all, haven't read
either.  But, given The Spirit Ring as an advance notice of what LMB can do
in fantasy and having read a couple of chapters of CoC, I'll go ahead and
make the bold statement that Her Ladyship's work is not necessarily fanboy
friendly, where Eddings or Jordan may just be.  Or at least moreso.  The
"problem" as I see it is that of most any form of cultural expression:  You
have the good stuff for the people who can appreciate the good stuff and you
have a whole bunch of stuff that appeals to the LCD.  And then there's stuff
like Tolkien that can transcend the gaps.

I highly suspect Peter Jackson has something of the fanboy in him.  FotR
reflects that, to me.  Not that it's bad, not that I didn't enjoy the living
heck out of it, but it's there.

I need to go eat dinner.

Dave (the not-so-fanboy)
http://www.daveman.org