This entry is about movies.
Actually, first a digression about writing. I dunno, just reading different thought pages makes me wonder a lot what it is that makes a writer good. Anyway, this might be obvious, but what I’ve decided is that what I like best in writing is clear communication. Someone who can accurately and clearly articulate their thoughts in writing – that’s a good writer. Again, fairly obvious but I mention it because some writers use amazing language, perfect construction and fancy words but I can’t understand what they’re saying at all. Or at least it takes some effort. And that’s not good writing to me. Lucid articulation is key for me.
There’s other stuff also. Like some people like Scott can be clear but also poetic, which takes it to another level. And obviously, the content matters a lot also. So I think, in order, I like best clear and poetic prose like Scotts, then clear articulate prose like Henry’s, then good content like Dave’s. I don’t like clear articulate prose with content I care nothing about (read: makeup), and I like even less sloppy writing about boring topics.
I have no idea how that’s relevant to what I was gonna talk about, but oh well. So about movies. Over break on successive nights the wife and I saw Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I liked them both. However – and Sauron’s minions will hate me for this – I liked the Harry Potter movie more. Since this is pretty much the opposite of how everyone else feels I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel this way.
So I talked to a few people about it and I think this is what I think – if you read the Lord of the Rings books, you like the movies more. But if you read the Harry Potter books, you like the Harry Potter movies less. The reason I think is this: the Lord of the Rings movies got the spirit of the books, if not every plot detail, right. Whereas the Harry Potter movies got the plot details right but not the spirit of the books. Not a hard and fast rule, but yeah, generally, that’s how people seem to feel about it.
As for me, I never read the Harry Potter books and read the Lord of the Rings so long ago I forgot all of it so I have no idea what the spirit of both of the books are. So yeah, I just have the movies, and again, for me, Harry Potter was more entertaining.
So here’s the problem I have with Lord of the Rings. And again, I liked the movie. But the thing is, the way it is, with such epic themes and elements, it hints at being about something more. But in the end, it’s not about anything more than itself. It’s just entertainment. It took me a long time to grasp this. Just, given the devotion of the fans to every single detail I kept thinking it must be about something more, something allegoric or metaphysical or something. But it’s really not.
After watching TTT I read the intro to the original paperback version of Fellowship of the Ring (the only one authorized by the author or something like that) and he says how people have been looking for allegorical meaning or symbolism or whatever and he pretty much flatly says, there is none. The sole motive he had was in writing an entertaining story. That’s it. At least, that’s the impression I got from the intro. That’s not to say there are larger themes and whatever, it’s just that the primary point of it wasn’t to say something profound about the human condition or whatever, it was just to entertain.
And again, that was hard for me to grasp because the devotion of the fans made me assume there must be something fundamentally deep and profound about it that I’m missing, that the entertaining part of it must be secondary. Once I realized it’s primarily about being an entertaining story, I loosened up a lot.
The problem for me is that purely on an entertainment level, the movies are just good, not great. This is just for me. But like one problem for me is, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Dave’s big on this I think, that a movie surprise him or whatever. But like this story, there’s like nothing that surprises me. Either character wise or plot wise. And again, maybe I’m missing something, but it’s just how I feel.
I think in some part it suffers from the Casablanca / Star Wars syndrome. Meaning, there are movies that when they come out are just very original and interesting, but because of that, they get copied and aped and whatever so that in time they feel cliched. But they weren’t cliches when they came out. Like with Star Wars, the light sabers – totally original. Or the “I am your father thing.” Now it’s just a big cliche for things like Space Balls and Toy Story 2. It’s hard to even watch the movie without thinking it’s cliched. Same with Casablanca and all the famous lines.
So I have no idea of the history of fantasy, but I’m going to guess that Tolkien heavily influenced and probably created a lot of elements that are common today. So it was probably incredibly original when it came out. But now, just seems a little cliched to me. The way the elves, dwarfs, hobbits, humans are, whatever. SN. Are they different races or different species?
So yeah, for me, and just based on the movies, it’s not particularly surprising, a little cliched, kinda repetitive, kinda simplistic, and not particularly profound. The whole Sauron, orcs, and all the evil characters I just don’t get. What’s their motivation? Power? Why? When their side gets in power, given the nature of their ruler it seems like they’re still likely to die at any point. So what’s the reward? I dunno, it’s just painted to simply as being pure evil and that’s not compelling to me.
Not to mention there are certain things that just make no sense to me. I’m sure it’s explained in the books, and I’m sure part of it is my own stupidity, but yeah, don’t get it. For example the Ring. Why does it exist? Why would Sauron make something that he’s dependent on for power and that could potentially be used kind of against him or to save his enemies? I dunno, it doesn’t make sense to me. Probably explained in the book. Not really clear in the movie. My opinion.
The first movie drove me crazy because it’s been clearly established that wearing the Ring is very dangerous, should be avoided at all costs. Then Frodo keeps putting on the freaking ring! Ahh! Every time he did it I wanted to yell at the screen. Don’t put on the ring! Why does he keep doing it? No clue. Nor does it really make sense to me why it has to be Frodo taking the ring. The guy’s character is so weak. Why not give it to like the elf guy all the girls drool over? He seems completely noble. I dunno, probably explained in the books, not clear in the movie.
But the movie had cool special effects. And it’s entertaining. It draws you into its world (unlike Royal Tannenbaums, like I’ve said before, which is also completely sure of its own world but keeps you at a distance). Just, not surprising or deep I guess.
As opposed to Harry Potter. Never read the books, no clue what the spirit of the books are. But for me, the movies were just really interesting and surprising. Lots of things that were really original. Prolly not as original as the books. But I never read the books. And with the Chamber of Secrets, I dunno, I didn’t feel like it was long or extraneous at all. As they got closer and closer to finding the truth, every twist was interesting to me. Again, I think it’s because I never read the book, but I was consistently surprised and I kept asking Jieun, you knew this? I dunno, I was just thoroughly entertained. That’s just me.
And you know what? I found it ever so slightly profound. I’m talking about the quote Dumbledore says at the end. Harry is just thinking about him and Voldemort, and how they’re so similar, so what is it that makes them different? What will keep Harry from becoming him? And Dumbledore says, “It is not our abilities that tell us what we truly are … it is our choices.”
I thought that was really deep in a fortune cookie fortune type way. But it’s true, you know? It’s in line with the whole parable of the talents thing. It’s not how many or what kind of talents your given that determines your reward, but how you use them. I dunno, it just impacted me. It’s not much, but it’s something I can hold onto, which is more than I can say for The Two Towers. What’s a lesson I can grab? Evil tempts good? Evil likes power? Boring. Again, prolly deeper in the book.
Anyway, that’s how I feel about it. Lord of the Rings – good special effects. Harry Potter – original, surprising, thoroughly entertaining, and fortune cookie profound. So I was just more entertained by Harry Potter. And again, I’ve talked to a few people about it and I realize I’m completely, utterly alone on this, but whatever, it’s how I feel.