Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, February 13, 2004  

Bored of the Rings?

Megan Basham writes a marvelous story about the cast and folks of the Lord of the Rings movies and their obtuseness regarding Tolkien's faith informing the story.

This is further support of my previous criticisms of the films. If you don't really grasp the original content and subtext of the story, you cannot possibly do it justice.

Megan writes: All art in one way or another takes on the worldview of its creator, and so it did in the case of this Christian writer. Tolkien acknowledged as much when he called his trilogy a “fundamentally religious work,” and said he resented criticism that his stories “contain no religion.” But if the people behind the films are aware of these sentiments, they are, for the most part, unwilling (or unable) to consider them.

At the recent press junket I attended for The Return of the King, some of the actors, the screenwriters, and director Peter Jackson begrudgingly paid lip service to Tolkien’s well-documented Christian worldview. However, deeper questioning revealed that they had little understanding of how that worldview manifested itself in Tolkien’s work.

Asked specifically about the religious elements in the trilogy, actor Orlando Bloom (Legolas) made a vague reference to an awareness of the “spirit” and “energy” ...he seemed to strain for words, speaking once again about the film and his own experience rather than the book in question: “It’s very positive. … It’s about a group of strangers, of mixed races, putting aside all of their … differences to come together to make a difference. … And New Zealand, which is a classless society in many respects … that we were all treated with equality there had an effect on us when making this film. … ”

Jackson. . . demonstrated a profound lack of understanding of the trilogy’s defining struggle: “The ring is obviously a metaphor for the machines, the factories, that enslave you, that take away your free will.”

Flying in the face of Tolkien’s own assessment, McKellan stated, “I wouldn't say there's an appeal in this story to any particular set of beliefs… I note with delight that Hobbiton is a community without a church. … There is no set of beliefs in this story, no credo.”

True to biblical philosophy, Tolkien’s characters believe very much in the concept of absolute evil, that there is a terror in the East that must be defeated. Most of Jackson’s cast and crew very much did not.

. . . Viggo Mortensen the actor was reluctant to pass value judgments, or even admit that the trilogy does so: “It's [The Lord of the Rings] not necessarily promoting one particular philosophy … but saying that if you accept that there are differences in the world and are prepared to embrace those differences, to approach the world in a positive, loving way, you may actually be able to change the nature of the human race.” One wonders how the Fellowship would have fared had they simply “accepted” and “embraced” the Orcs “differences.”

Screenwriter Philippa Boyens also seemed particularly offended by the notion that the battles in the books are predicated upon a fixed sense of good and evil: "The fight [in 'Lord of the Rings'] is not about [an] … agenda-driven sense of right or wrong. Rather it's about Tolkien's humanism … because you don't trust these things when you're a humanist — these tub-thumping notions of what's good and what's evil." Questioned about what constitutes tub-thumping, she answered, slamming her fist into her palm, “You know, those people who go, ‘THIS IS WHAT’S RIGHT AND YOU’RE GOING TO FOLLOW IT.” The notion that the Fellowship was ultimately forcing Sauron to follow their particular version of right evidently did not occur to her.

Later in the day, though, one person was finally able to judge something as wrong. When asked what he would do with the ring of power if he had the opportunity, Andy Serkis (Gollum) stated, "I would banish all religions first of all."

Screenwriter Fran Walsh . . . claiming that Tolkien was "passionately arguing for the goodness that resides in men." She went on to say, “If anything, Tolkien’s faith informs the third book — faith that the enduring goodness of men will prevail. … It’s about the enduring power of goodness that we feel in ourselves and perceive in others. … ”

Yet if evil is a mere creation ideology, then The Lord of the Rings is nothing more than the story of a group that forces it’s ideology on another group. Why, then, did actors, screenwriters, and director alike revel in the round defeat of Mordor? If evil is merely a creation of ideology, then the victory of the Fellowship deserves our celebration no more than, say, colonialism.

Well, I certainly abused "fair use" in quoting so much of this essay, but, well, that's the blogosphere, isn't it? I provided a link, and she had much more to report and comment on, so go ahead and read the whole thing.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:21 AM |