Posts Tagged ‘J.R.R. Tolkien’

Considering why the original ‘Star Wars’ was such a hit and why the animated ‘Lord of the Rings’ was not

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2015

As I wrote earlier today:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity.

By contrast, I saw the original Star Wars during an extended first run in 1977, and I immediately fell in love with the movie: I instantly wanted to buy all of the Kenner toys based on George Lucas’s movie. For years, I bought and devoutly studied novelizations of the original trilogy of movies as well as original Star Wars novels. (In the latter category, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and Brian Daley’s trilogy of Han Solo adventures held prized places on my bookshelf and in my heart.)

So why did I cotton to Star Wars so thoroughly while The Lord of the Rings left me cold? Part of it was the quality of Bakshi’s movie — as discussed earlier, I generally found it to be adequate, whereas I thought Star Wars was out-and-out thrilling. But there are also major differences between the narratives woven by Tolkien and Lucas, and I wanted to explore those.

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Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was an interesting but muddled creation

October 7, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2015

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy-adventure trilogy first printed in 1954–55, was a seminal publication. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings, an animated feature based on Tolkien’s work that was released in 1978, is an obscurity.

There was probably a time when Bakshi’s movie was prized by a certain subculture. When it came out, the fantasy-adventure genre was only beginning to emerge from fringe culture. The fantasy-adventure role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons — which owes a great debt to Lord of the Rings, like countless other fantasy books, movies and games — had been released in 1974. By the time of the Bakshi animation’s release, D&D had sold out multiple printings and inspired both a burgeoning line of supplementary products as well as a brand-new magazine. (The Dragon switched from bimonthly to monthly publication in April 1978.)

I have extremely vague memories of having seen Bakshi’s movie in a theater when I was (very!) young. But aside from a nightmarish sequence or two involving the hideous Nazgûl, the movie didn’t make much of an impression. The narrative was too convoluted, the plot too sprawling; there were too many things that went over my head.

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Like father, like son? Identity is inextricably tied to parentage in Nick Harkaway’s ‘Angelmaker’

December 18, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 18, 2014

Absent parents loom large in the fictional realm. A key component of the original Star Wars trilogy is Luke Skywalker’s gradual discovery of the particulars of his parentage (especially the villainy of his father, the genocidal Darth Vader) and Luke’s struggle to develop his supernatural powers without being consumed by his own dark, angry impulses. The rebellious nature of the alternative timeline’s James Tiberius Kirk is shaped in large part by the absence of his father, George, whom director J.J. Abrams killed off in the opening sequence of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Likewise, the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man makes the research and relationships of Richard Parker, father of the orphaned web-slinging Peter Parker, a key plot point in both of the series’s first two outings.

I’d wager that matters of parentage are even more prominent in British fiction. After all, the United Kingdom has been ruled for centuries by a hereditary monarchy, with power passing (at least in theory) from one generation of royalty to the next.

A major storyline in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy involves Aragorn assuming the position of king of Gondor that, according to genetics and custom, is rightfully his. My recollection of the books is hazy, but in Peter Jackson’s wonderful movie adaptation, when the audience initially encounters this character, he goes by the name of Strider and appears to be a well-trained woodsman accustomed to operating on his own — hardly the résumé of the standard fantasy prince.

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Fourteen short men traverse a forest and see wondrous things in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

December 31, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 31, 2013

Director Peter Jackson’s latest take on the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. This, the second entry in Jackson’s trilogy based on The Hobbit, begins with a brief prologue setting up the quest at the heart of the story: The wise, powerful and quirky wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) arranges a meeting with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the heir to a dwarven kingdom that the dragon Smaug has conquered, dispersed and occupied.

Gandalf tells Oakenshield what he told the dwarf’s father: Rally the seven dwarven armies and drive the fire-breathing lizard from its roost in the dwarven-carved caverns beneath the Lonely Mountain. Oakenshield is willing to try this, but he has a problem. His people’s armies will only unite under the command of he who wields the Arkenstone, and that gem is among the jewels and precious metals that Smaug is lounging upon right now. Gandalf smiles upon hearing this, for he knows a thief that might be able to spirit away the Arkenstone… 

Cut to the present moment. Gandalf, Oakenshield, a certain Hobbit thief (Martin Freeman) and a company of 12 dwarves are working their way toward the Lonely Mountain whilst being hunted by a band of powerful, bloodthirsty orcs. Gandalf leaves the group just before they enter the foreboding Mirkwood Forest. The short-of-stature travelers are captured first by hungry spiders and then by irate elves. Heroism by the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins by name, is required in both cases to extend the quest.

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