Monday, August 3, 2009

Belated Thanks to Peter Jackson

L.G.C. Smith

I love to confess. Not being Catholic, that means readers must bear with me when the urge hits, as it has today. Movies, guilty pleasures, crushes from afar, questionable judgment calls…

Today’s secret is that I think Peter Jackson is the sexiest man alive because of what he did with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Bar none. If J.R.R. Tolkien were alive, he’d be top of the list. In his absence, Peter Jackson’s skill, meticulous effort, and creativity in translating Tolkien’s epic into film earns my enduring admiration and gratitude.

I have three university degrees in linguistics because when I first read Tolkien at age twelve, I learned that the things about language that interested me most were called linguistics. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis showed me a career path I embraced: language scholars who also wrote stories. LOTR was almost a sacred text for me.

It never occurred to me anyone could do justice to the LOTR books in a movie. When I first heard that production was underway, I scoffed. It couldn’t be done. Not decently. There was no way to capture Middle Earth in all its specific, detailed glory. Nothing would match the images Tolkien had blazed into my imagination

I was so, so wrong. Peter Jackson did it. Not every single detail was exactly as I imagined, but 90% of them were. Best of all, he used Tolkien’s languages! Be still my heart! The images of the Shire and Minas Tirith…perfect. Gandalf’s white robe when he comes back after his battle with the Balrog …exquisite. The battle at Helm’s Deep…heart-rending. I could go on and on and on. Every time I watch these movies, I am transfixed. Captured. Just as I was when I first read the books.

If Peter Jackson were before me now, I’d gush. I’d thank him for these movies. Yes, he’s done excellent work since, and will no doubt do lots more, but the LOTR movies are a gift every time I watch them. They inspire me to keep at the details in my books, because they matter. They make a story sing.

Mostly, though, these movies make me happy. Happy that Tolkien wrote the books, and happy that Peter Jackson and his army of talented, clever film professionals were the ones to make the movies. Happy that words on a page can touch so many lives and give so much pleasure. Happy that grand stories are vital in our lives, whether in books, movies, music, or art.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. The task of condensing the books, of choosing which storylines to tell fully and which to condence or combine... it must have been daunting. But he and his partner Fran Walsh pulled it off!

The visuals are stunning... but the visual story telling is why these movies really works. It looks like he will produce "The Hobbit" (I wish he'd direct it; there must be some nasty politics involved in him being excluded from that post.)

I can't wait to see District 9. Out soon.

Your fellow PJ fan. -- Denise McKenna

Unknown said...

Brilliant as usual :) I was blown away by the level of detail Jackson used in creating the Shire and I enjoyed the movies even tho I never read the books. :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

Guh. You make me want to go and see them now. You and I really need to go to the movies together (despite last week's bagel street conversation about how we never go to the movies together) - imagine how much fun we would have!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Denise, I almost mentioned Fran Walsh, too, but then I thought, nah. She's not the sexiest man alive. Smart and talented, sure, and she's obviously got good taste in partners.

I wish PJ were directing The Hobbit, too. He's writing the script, isn't he?

Lisa and Sophie, thanks for hanging in there with me while I figure out how to put pictures in and respond to comments. We would all have fun at the movies together. We could fight over whether to dump dots or milk duds into the popcorn.

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